105 Mercer Street
Location: 105 Mercer Street
The last time I photographed this building, it was coated in teal with brilliant white on the details. The color would stand out in any neighborhood, but practically bounced off its neighbors in SoHo; most buildings here are white or neutral if they’re cast-irons, or deep red if in brick.
The owners stripped the paint last year. That’s the fashion for old townhouses like this: most of the brick we’ve seen so far has been nude. Maybe it’s the expense of upkeep, and maybe it’s the charm in exposing the raw facts of a building’s history—like here, the awkward arch over the replacement window, or the nonconforming brick patterns on the top floor.
According to Bricks and Brownstone, though, this contemporary fashion for unpainted brick is anachronistic: “During the early-nineteenth hegemony of the Federal style, the brick fronts of New York row houses usually were painted red or occasionally gray or cream…” adding, unbelievably, “and then false mortar lines added between bricks in white.” Fake mortar lines? I cannot think of a single building in Manhattan painted like this. It’s a gross and fussy and sort of pointless idea, like picking out all the rind from a jar of marmalade.
The last time I wrote about this building, I noted that it had a brothel at some point. So did the those in our 1773, 1789, 1794, and 1817 entries. It was a not-uncommon fate for buildings once the rich started to abandon a neighborhood, as they abandoned (what would later be known as) SoHo in the 1850s.