635/641 Avenue of the Americas is conveniently located in the heart of Chelsea between 19th and 20th Streets. Once home to the Simpson Crawford Department Store, the buildings have recently been redeveloped into Class A office buildings featuring a new lobby, elevators, state-of-the-art building systems and a one-of-a-kind penthouse rooftop that includes a bocce court and event space. Completed in 2015, the building is now one of the most desirable office properties in its sub-market.
One of the great flagship department stores to line what became known as The Ladies’ Mile, 635/641 was designed in 1900 as a block-wide replacement for an earlier Simpson Crawford store of 1878. The location was by then one of the most popular with female shoppers (thus the appellation of “Ladies’ Mile”), but Simpson Crawford was far more exclusive than its neighbors. Famed for never using price tags (which would imply that their clientele cared about the cost of things) the company enlisted the architectural firm of William H. Hume & Son to produce a dignified and majestic palace, featuring extraordinary materials and detailing, exuding calm, order and privacy.
During its construction, the New York Times reported enthusiastically about the building, saying it was “one of the most architecturally elaborate stores” on the Avenue, singling out “the large entrance in the middle of the block, with a vestibule 50 feet in width and 13 feet in depth – the largest of its kind in the city – flanked by monolith columns of polished granite and with richly carved caps and entablature” as “the most striking feature.”
If the architectural detailing was discreetly elegant, other features were among the most innovative in the city. The building’s escalators were the first installed in any building on Sixth Avenue while the plate glass for the ground story windows, far larger than standard size panes, were custom-made. The windows were peopled by another innovation – the mannequin, a new concept that gave viewers the impression of what the featured garments would look like when worn.
Simpson Crawford closed in 1915 but its commitment to quality and innovation lives on in 635/641. In the center of one of the most exciting districts in New York, it is a landmark of New York’s business community.