The four-story building on the corner of 84th Street and Broadway looks distinctly modern. The Broadway Fashion Building, located at 2315 Broadway, is constructed almost entirely of glass and metal, the style of much of the city’s latest architecture.
Looks can be deceiving, however. A trained eye might notice the white terracotta and the wavy design of the roofline, which, along with the overall design of the building, indicate its original, Art Deco roots. For nearly 90 years, the Broadway Fashion Building has managed to look modern, maintaining a timelessness that is rarely seen in architecture.first opened its doors in 1931 after careful planning by architecture firm Sugarman and Berger. The firm, led by M. Henry Sugarman and A. G. Berger, had gained prominence in the city after building the massive New Yorker Hotel in an Art Deco style.
While the New Yorker Hotel was being built in Midtown, Sugarman and Berger were approached by Abraham Gevitz (also spelled Gewirtz), owner of the Broadway and Eighty-Fourth Street Corporation. Gevitz wanted to capitalize on the booming Upper West Side economy and utilize the prime retail space that comes with a corner building on Broadway. Although the project paled in comparison to the New Yorker Hotel, Sugarman and Berger saw a chance to separate themselves from traditional Upper West Side architecture. In lieu of stone blocks or ornate, Parisian flair, the architects made the then uncommon decision to build with glass, white stainless metal, and terracotta.
Gevitz began his career in the fashion industry, primarily manufacturing dresses, before he transitioned into real estate. The new Broadway Fashion Building on the corner of 84th Street was intended to merge his two businesses by renting retail space along the street and housing three floors of fur and gown makers. Construction was underway on the building when, on October 29th, 1929, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. Undeterred by the events of Black Tuesday, Gevitz pushed onward and ensured that the Broadway Fashion Building was completed on schedule. While Gevitz was likely hard-pressed to find retail tenants for his storefronts during the heart of the Great Depression, he kept control of the building.
By 1941, the corner real estate was home to Whelan’s Pharmacy, a gift shop, and various fashion retailers above street level. Also occupying the building was a shoe store, but not Harry’s Shoes for Kids, a current tenant of the Broadway Fashion Building. Incidentally, Harry’s Shoes first opened in New York City in 1931, the same year that the Broadway Fashion Building was completed.
As if anticipating future trends, Sugarman and Berger enabled the Broadway Fashion Building to be right at home among the glass towers that have spread across the city. Despite its modest four stories of height, the curved corner windows, elaborate lighting, and Art Deco style ensure the building is still a formidable presence on the Upper West Side.