This was supposed to be a quick post.
I would have started off by saying “Who you gonna call?” before talking about the fire station (Hook and Latter 8 on the corner of N Moore and Varick in TriBeCa, NYC) used in the 1984 movie, Ghostbusters. I’d have told you it was built in 1903 by the Fire Department’s in-house architect, Alexander Stevens (page 300 of his pdf for more). It would have been great.
But as I looked at the photograph I took, something felt… off. It’s an odd building. I’m sure that’s why they chose it for the movie. Too tall for its width. A pint-sized fire station. But that wasn’t the problem: as I looked at the picture, I could tell something was off-kilter about it. Something wrong.
That was last night. Today it struck me: the door and window aren’t centred. They are slight—only slightly—to the left. In the picture, it’s easiest to see by comparing the space to the left and the right of the entrance. How odd.
Intrigued, I looked up the history of the building. What had happened to it? I quickly found this image:
It was taken within a decade of so of 1903. It shows the fire company in front of Hook and Ladder 8. As you can see: it used to be twice as wide as it is now!
Between 1914 and 1919, Varick Street was widened and joined to Seventh Ave. As well as making the street more accessible to cars, the project also allowed the 1, 2 and 3 Subway lines to be built. I wonder, too, if it was widened to cater for the Holland Tunnel (built 1919-1927), which emerges right by here.
The thing is, if you’re going to widen a street, you have to do something with the buildings in the way. The Fire Department calculated that the cheapest option would be to simply demolish the west half of the building. They then build a new façade onto Varick Street. And for some reason, it’s slightly wider on the west side than the east.
This got me to thinking: this can’t have been the only building affected by the road-widening. And it isn’t. Half-buildings litter the road. The road widening even created a sliver-shaped public space, Finn Square. Check out this great NY Times article which includes photos of other buildings halved during the road-widening.
I think the history of Varick Avenue and the Holland Tunnel merits further investigation, don’t you?
The Ghostbusters Headquarters/Hook & Ladder 8
Address: 10 N Moore Street, TriBeCa, New York City