Quoting Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation website 14th Street and Union Square: A Preservation Plan: "The Spingler Building is located on the west side of Union Square, between the Lincoln Building and what once was the Tiffany's cast iron building headquarters. This Classical-inspired building was built in 1896 by architects William H. Hume & Son, appointed by the firm of James L. Libby & Son, who designed it as a commercial building that housed a variety of uses such as stores, showrooms, manufacturing enterprises and industrial lofts. It represented a new typology in the distribution of space required by the flourishing garment industry of the area, which demanded spaces for showrooms and manufacturing processes, all in the same place."
The sign is over the entrance to 5-9 Union Square West. The building is L-shaped and has another sign beneath the pediment at 20 E. 15th St. (click for image).
"In 1762, Elias Brevoort sold twenty-two acres of his farm, extending from the Bowery westward between the present Fourteenth and Sixteenth streets, to John Smith, from whose executors the farm passed in 1788 to Henry Spingler, a shop-keeper of New York, for nine hundred and fifty pounds. Spingler's farmhouse stood within the limits of Union Square... The hotel known as the Spingler House stood for many years on the west side of the square on the site now occupied by the Spingler building... Among the prominent shops which occupied the west side of the square was the great jewelry house of Tiffany & Co., which moved here from Broadway and Broome Street in 1870, occupying a site upon which formerly had stood the Spingler Institute." - The Greatest Street in the World: The Story of Broadway, Old and New, from the Bowling Green to Albany, by Stephen Jenkins, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1911.
Henry Spingler (also known as Christian Heinrich Spengler, Henry Spingles, and Henry Sprengler) was born 22 November 1747 in Neckartenzlingen, Germany, and died 29 January 1814 in New York City. His second wife was Mary Monsall Spingler. She survived him and was listed in New York city directories from 1814 to 1841 living for much of that time at 14th St. near 6th Avenue. It was Henry Spingler's heirs who erected a building on Union Square where the New Seminary for Young Ladies (founded in 1843 by Gorham Dummer Abbott (1807-1874)) moved in 1848. This then became known as the Spingler Institute, and it remained in this location until 1861 when it moved again, this time to 5th Avenue and 34th St., where it was renamed the Abbott Collegiate Institution.
The Spingler House hotel then replaced the Spingler Institute on Union Square. The Spingler House Hotel dated from 1864 to 1878. A stereoscopic view of the hotel is found in the Dennis Collection at the New York Public Library.
Spingler House in turn was replaced by the first Spingler Building in 1878. On 2 June 1878 the New York Times reported: "The Spingler Building, on the site of the old hotel, has been completed at a cost of $115,000, and the block is now occupied by uniform buildings, the new structure being exactly equal in height to that of the Messers. Tiffany, which it adjoins. The front is of iron, imposing in appearance, and the shops and lofts are of the first class." This building was destroyed by fire in 1892. "Spingler Building, 5, 7, and 9 Union Square, a five-story, pedimented structure, nearly 200 feet deep, with an L 70 feet deep in Fifteenth Street, was wrecked to the beams of the second floor yesterday by a 'basement fire' which broke out at noon and caused a loss of more than $600,000" (New York Times, 22 Jan. 1892, pg. 1).
The 1878 Spingler Building was replaced by the present Spingler Building in 1896. "A blot caused by fire on Union Square West, next to Tiffany's, has been removed to make room for the new Spingler Building that is to be eight stories in height" (New York Times, 8 March 1896, pg. 29).
A later version of the Spingler House Hotel was located at 38 E. 14th St. (southeast corner of University Place) from 1889 until the early 1920s. A view of the Spingler House in this location in 1910 is found in the Picture Collection at the New York Public Library's Mid-Manhattan Library.
Around this time (1890 or so) Spingler House became the property of George Hillen (ca.1837-?). George Hillen appeared in New York city directories in 1870 as a "Wine and Liquor Dealer" at 77 Sixth Avenue. He was recorded in the 1870 U. S. Census (2nd enumeration) living at this address, when he was 33 years old, an immigrant from Hannover, Germany. He also appeared in the 1880 U. S. Census age 43, living on West 16th Street. A story from the New York Times, 1888, referred to George Hillen as "the owner of liquor saloons in various parts of the city." In 1891 the Common Council of the City of New York passed a resolution permitting George Hillen to place an ornamental lamp-post and lamp in front of Spingler House, in University place.
1894 saw the death of Mrs. Mary Spingler Fonerden Van Beuren in her mansion at 21 West 14th Street. She was the daughter of James & Eliza M. S. Fonerden and granddaughter of Henry Spingler.
In 1902 the New York Times, 1 Feb. 1902, pg. 9, reported, "Mary Louise Van Buren Davis, widow of John W. Davis and the daughter of Michael M. Van Buren died yesterday in the historic old house, 21 West Fourteenth Street, which for over half a century has been known as the Van Buren mansion." She was one of the heirs of Henry Spingler.
This obituary includes the following on Henry Spingler: "Henry Spingler was a market gardner. He lived at the end of the eighteenth century on the Bowery, at the corner of that thoroughfare and Broadway, now Fifteenth Street and Union Square, and owned a vast tract of land that now is covered with splendid business buildings. The house was a quaintly built Dutch structure. It was said that he had inherited the house and lands, or, rather, acquired them, from being the steward of another man, who had given them into his keeping and who had gone to Europe and never returned. He was, however, shrewd and industrious, and improved and increased the estate. He died in 1814 and left two children, one of whom married Lieut. James Fonerden, son of the famous Baltimore Abolitionist. The daughter of this union was Mary Spingler Fonerden. She married Michael Murray Van Buren. It was a love match. The young man had been a mechanic. They removed in 1833 to a house built on the site of the present one [21 W. 14th St.] which stands in the centre of the Spingler estate, the boundaries extending to Seventh Avenue on one side, and to Union Square on the other."
Robert A. M. Stern, et. al., New York 1880: Architecture and Urbanism in the Gilded Age, 1999, (pages 710 & 711) has photographs showing the Spingler House at 11-13 Union Square West ca.1870 and the Spingler Building ca.1885. Both were adjacent to Tiffany & Co. at the southwest corner of 15th St.
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