The five-story Haughwout building was constructed in 1857 by architect John Gaynor using traditional cast-iron architecture modeled on a 16th-century Venetian library. The owner of the building opened a luxury shop within it, E.V. Haughwout & Co., which sold upscale items and catered to famous visitors. One such patron was Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary, who purchased custom-made china for the White House there. Along with its remarkable cast-iron architecture, the Haughwout is famed for being the first building to install a safe passenger elevator. Elijah Armstrong Otis, the founder of Otis Elevators, was hired to install a hydraulically powered elevator within the structure to permit customers better access to all floors of the shop. The Haughwout elevator revolutionized city life as we know it, enabling property developers to build the multi-level skyscrapers that decorate skylines worldwide.Ornamental Facades
The intricate detailing along the top of the building’s identical columns and on the underside of the overhang was created from the decorative molds in which the cast-iron was set. At the time, the use of these molds was a cheap way of making the building look more expensive. Today, it is a rarity to find such details.