GERMANIA FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY BOWERY BUILDING, 357 Bowery, Manhattan
Built 1870; architect, Carl Pfeiffer; builder, Marc Eidlitz
Designed by a prominent German-American architect and built in 1870, the Germania Fire Insurance Company Bowery Building recalls the time when the Bowery was a major thoroughfare of America’s leading German-American neighborhood. Known as Kleindeutschland, this neighborhood was home to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers of German descent, and was “in fullest bloom” when this building opened.
The Germania Fire Insurance Company was founded in 1859, counting many prominent German-born New Yorkers among its executives and directors; the firm was prospering when it constructed this building to house its Kleindeutschland office, although it moved this office farther up the Bowery after little more than a decade. The building housed tenants from the time of its opening, and by 1880, its residents included Irish, German, and Chinese immigrants. Between 1900 and 1920, industrial tenants displaced its residents, and in 1929, the building was purchased by members of two families who manufactured barber-shop and beauty-parlor equipment in the building into the early 1970s. Residents started returning by the mid-1970s, and today, the building is entirely residential. – NYC Landmark Preservations Committee