New York Consolidated Card Company Building

    by

    To start with, this giant was built during the winter, in 1914.

    We’re used to this sort of thing these days, seeing enormous structural works of reinforced concrete being constructed willy nilly all over the place during all sorts of weather, but in 1914 – this building represented a revolutionary step forward in the construction business.

    The Turner Company erected this 456-foot-long, five-story, 210,000-square-foot gargantua in Dutch Kills for the New York Consolidated Card Company, using a clever system of steam coils and heaters to keep ice from forming in the mixers and lines as they pumped the concrete into its forms. The technique they developed became the defacto standard methodology for winter construction. The structure was designed by the architecture and engineering firm of Ballinger & Perrot, of Philadelphia.

    More after the jump…

    bsQ_073114_cardco_002

    Its mailing address in modernity is 36-36 33rd Street, but it used to be 32-15 37th Avenue. That was before 1999, when Alma Realty’s Steve Valotis acquired it for $6.6 million smackers. An extensive and expensive renovation began, which replaced and modernized the windows. The former industrial space was converted over to offices.

    A quick scan of the address reveals that there is a heterogenous series of tenants based here, with every sector from medical to legal and financial represented. The space offers high ceilings and incredible views, or so I am told. It’s a fireproof building, the floors can handle 175 pounds per square foot, air conditioned, and the columns are said to be widely spaced.

    bsQ_073114_cardco_003

    There’s also a 200 car multi-level parking garage, a cafe, and all sorts of amenities at the site. Mr. Valotis christened the place “CityView Plaza.” The building’s entrance is on 33rd Street, and it is found between 37th and 36th avenues. It is essentially half a city block in size.

    What’s missing is a plaque describing the history of the place, something which I find frustrating.

    bsQ_073114_cardco_004

    Conflicting reports describe the New York Consolidated Card Company as having anywhere between 500 and 1,000 employees at its height. They were manufacturers of playing cards, the sort you’d use for Bridge or Poker. Three smaller card companies had merged in 1871 to form the corporate giant, which moved to LIC from its cramped digs in Manhattan in 1914.

    Incidentally, back then, this wasn’t 33rd Street at 37th Avenue, this was the corner of 4th and Webster Avenues and playing cards were a big business. Big business is what eventually did the company in and after several mergers, it was acquired by the United States Playing Card Company in 1962.

    Check this page out for examples of the company’s offerings.

    bsQ_073114_cardco_006

    Turning onto 32nd Street, the structure looms large over the compact two story homes which line the block.

    In 1947, the Brooks Brothers company acquired the place. It became their main alteration facility, and the manufacture of ties and cummerbunds for the garment magnate was also carried out onsite. Brooks Brothers left the location in 1999, as I understand it, and that’s when the building passed into Alma’s hands.

    bsQ_073114_cardco_008

    Back on 33rd Street, the parapets which once carried the company’s signage persist although the branding is long gone.

    bsQ_073114_cardco_007

    Certain NYC Department of City Planning documents consulted for this post state:

    Ballinger & Perrot and the Turner Construction Company were innovators in the reinforced concrete building industry of the early twentieth century. The New York Consolidated Card Company building is one of a long list of their accomplishments. Given that at the time of its construction in 1914, this building was considered one of the largest buildings of its type in Long Island City and also as an innovation in the successful use of large- scale reinforced concrete construction techniques during the winter, the New York Consolidated Card Company factory is significant under Criterion C in the area of engineering and design. In a letter dated April 14, 2008, LPC determined that the New York Consolidated Card Company appears eligible for listing in the S/NR.

    Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.

    What's Happening