A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from November 21, 2006
Printing District

The Printing District is (or was) centered around Hudson and Varick Streets. The old printing district—originally located in what is now the Financial District at Manhattan’s tip—was thriving from the late 18th century until the end of the 19th century. Around 1920, the printing and engraving industries moved to the location around the then-new Holland Tunnel (Hudson/Varick Streets). Few printing businesses still exist in this area, however; other industries and some residential conversions have entered the district.

Lower Manhattan Info
Since 1693, when William Bradford opened Manhattan’s first print shop near what is now 81 Pearl Street, downtown has been home to the city’s printing industry. With a high concentration of shops and businesses offering a diverse client base, the area surrounding Hudson and Varick Streets quickly emerged as the heart of the industry. In the early 18th century, the industry began to flourish; by the 1850s, New York City had more than 1,000 printers, surpassing Boston and Philadelphia to become the printing center of the United States. During the 20th century, printing remained one of the city’s three foremost industries. Fifth-generation printer Jimmy Udell, whose grandfather opened a Hester Street print shop in 1910, described Lower Manhattan during this era as “a viable community where opportunities were endless.” While the historic Hudson-Varick printing district still exists today, it is a struggling yet determined enclave in the center of an industry that has faced the challenges of time, technology, slowing economies, gentrification, and the 9/11 attacks. This once-thriving downtown industry still pulses with entrepreneurial spirit as new businesses such as Visual Print Solutions (250 Hudson Street), which prints this newsletter, continue to open their doors in Lower Manhattan. Udell, who grew up amid the down-town printing community, sums up the area’s determination:“As we embrace the convergence of new technologies, we continue to build our infrastructure and invest in education so that we may provide the free press that is the basis of our city’s… and our nation’s vitality.”

27 September 1998, New York Times, pg. 33:
For Printers, an Eviction Notice
Landlord Are seeking Cleaner, High-Paying Tenants
Mr. Russell’s landlord, Trinity Church, has put him and dozens of other printers on notice that the church will not renew their leases in its building in the 70-year-old printing district, near the Holland Tunnel.
Trinity Church, at Broadway and Wall Street, is not the only landlord with printing tenants, but it is the largest in the printing district, which extends west from Avenue of the Americas to Hudson Street and north from Vestry Street to West Houston Street.
(...) (Pg. 40—ed.)
Printers began moving to Hudson and Varick Streets in the 1920’s to escape congestion in lower Manhattan and to be closer to the Holland Tunnel, then under construction. At the time, nearly a quarter of all the commercial printing in the country was done in New York.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNeighborhoods • (0) Comments • Tuesday, November 21, 2006 • Permalink