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Germania Bank Building (New York City)

Coordinates: 40°43′16″N 73°59′39″W / 40.72111°N 73.99417°W / 40.72111; -73.99417
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Germania Bank Building in 2009

The Germania Bank Building is a historic building at 190 Bowery, on the northwest corner of the intersection with Spring Street in Manhattan, New York City. It was the third building of the Germania Bank, which was founded in New York City in 1869. The building was designed in a Renaissance Revival[1] or Beaux Arts[2] style by Robert Maynicke and was built in 1898–99. The building became a New York City designated landmark on March 29, 2005. As of 2022, the building contains EmpireDAO, a coworking space for cryptocurrency and blockchain ventures.


The building has six stories, built of brick supported by steel girders over a concrete basement. The Bowery and Spring Street facades are both clad in Maine granite, with the original public spaces contained in a rusticated base with large, deep-set windows surmounted by rounded arches. Above this, the facades consist of banded stonework with three identical bays of paired windows facing the Bowery and six facing Spring Street. The third, fourth, and fifth floors have projecting piers and paneled spandrels between the windows; the sixth-floor windows have round arches. A cornice with modillions runs above the first story, and a heavier cornice decorated with fillets, ovolos, and cyma moldings above the fifth. At the roofline is a copper parapet, in the style of a classical sima, which features anthemia, rosettes, and waves and would have been noticeable including from elevated trains.[2]

The main entrance is in an angled corner bay and consists of a projecting portico with bluestone steps, while a second entrance in a portico facing the Bowery is at street level. Both porticos have free-standing Tuscan columns and elaborate wrought-iron gates; the main doorway also has paneled pilasters on either side and is topped by an arched transom.[2]

The other two facades are of brick, as are the roof parapets. The north side has windows protected by steel shutters. The original sash windows were in place as of 2005, but transoms over the main entrance and ground-floor windows were blocked with acrylic panels. Interior changes include modification of the banking hall in 1922, the addition of more stairs in 1924, additional fireproofing by the 1960s to accommodate storage of records on the upper floors,[2] and later alterations for residential use, including the creation of a basketball court in the former banking hall.[3][4]


During the middle decades of the 19th century, rising numbers of German immigrants in New York led to the development of a neighborhood called Kleindeutschland or Little Germany, which became the most important German-American center in the United States. It had a commercial center on the Bowery north of Division Street. The Germania Bank of the City of New York was established by local businessmen in 1869 in leased premises at 185 Bowery; its first president was Christian Schwarzwaelder, owner of a furniture store on East Broadway, and the vice-president, Joseph Kuntz, owned a brewery on Houston Street and lived on the Bowery.[2]

In 1878 the Germania Bank moved to a purchased loft building at 215 Bowery; in the early 1890s it expanded into 217 Bowery next door. To accommodate continued growth, in December 1896 the bank bought three lots at the northwest corner of the Bowery and Spring Street. Plans for a new freestanding, fireproof building were filed on January 3, 1898; it was designed by the German-born architect Robert Maynicke and is considered one of his major works. The construction firm of Marc Eidlitz, an American of German descent, built it at a cost of around $200,000. Construction began on February 4, 1898, and was certified complete on January 21, 1899. The bank had already opened for public inspection on December 28, 1898, and for business on January 3, 1899, the one-year anniversary of the plans being filed.[2]

The president of the Germania Bank at the time was Edward C. Schaefer. The building originally contained a public banking hall on the first floor, safe deposit vaults in the basement, and office spaces including the president's office and the meeting room for the Board of Directors.[2][5] In 1900 the bank published a promotional pamphlet emphasizing the security of the vaults.[2]

Main entrance in 2013

The Germania Bank changed its name to the Commonwealth Bank in early 1918, probably as a result of rising anti-German sentiment during World War I. In the mid-1920s, the Bowery was the location of several banks, the Commonwealth Bank being one of five between Division and Houston Streets. Starting in 1923 with the opening of a branch on Lexington Avenue, Commonwealth expanded to other parts of Manhattan and to the Bronx and Brooklyn. It was then acquired in 1927 by the Manufacturers Trust Company, which became the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company following a 1961 merger.[2]

Manufacturers Hanover operated 190 Bowery as a branch bank up to the mid-1960s. In 1966, it sold the building to Jay Maisel, a commercial photographer, who purchased it under the name Archival, Inc.[3][6] Maisel maintained his residence, studio, and gallery there, was married there in 1989,[4] and between 1966 and 1968 rented the second and fourth floors to artists Adolph Gottlieb and Roy Lichtenstein, respectively.[3][7] The building, known locally as "The Bank", was widely thought to be abandoned.[8] The building cost $300,000 annually to maintain, including heat and taxes.[9] In August 2014, it was quietly put up for sale;[10] on February 5, 2015, it was sold to Aby Rosen.[11]

A 2019 film by Stephen Wilkes, Jay Myself, documents Maisel's move from the building after 49 years.[4][8][12] The same year, clothing brand Supreme opened a store within 190 Bowery.[13] By 2022, the Germania Bank Building was home to EmpireDAO, a co-working space for cryptocurrency and blockchain ventures.[14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Dolkart, Andrew S.; Postal, Matthew A. (2009). Postal, Matthew A. (ed.). Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1. p. 47.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Presa, Donald (March 29, 2005). "(Former) Germania Bank Building Designation Report" (PDF). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 27, 2021. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Goodman, Wendy (September 21, 2008). "Is 190 Bowery the Greatest Real-Estate Coup of All Time?". New York.
  4. ^ a b c Liebman, Lisa (July 31, 2019). "What Happened When the Bowery's Most Famous Collector—Or Hoarder?—Had to Declutter and Move Out". Vanity Fair (interview). Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  5. ^ "Germania Bank's New Home" (PDF). The New York Times. December 29, 1898.
  6. ^ New York City Automated City Register Information System Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ White, Norval; Willensky, Elliot; Leadon, Fran (2010). AIA Guide to New York City (5th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19538-386-7. p. 93.
  8. ^ a b Ricciulli, Valeria (July 31, 2019). "The story behind one of NYC's most mysterious buildings and its longtime owner". Curbed New York.
  9. ^ Jay Myself, documentary film by Stephen Wilkes, 2019
  10. ^ Carlson, Jen (August 7, 2014). "Landmarked Bowery Mansion on the Market". Gothamist. Archived from the original on October 23, 2014.
  11. ^ Clarke, Katherine (February 5, 2015). "Real Estate Jackpot: Photographer who bought Bowery Building for just $102,000 sells for $55M decades later". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  12. ^ Baldwin, Eric (August 5, 2019). "New Film Explores Photographer Jay Maisel's Move from His Iconic 6-Story New York Home". ArchDaily.
  13. ^ Rizzi, Nicholas (October 9, 2019). "Streetwear Brand Supreme Staying Put at 190 Bowery". Commercial Observer. Retrieved June 11, 2022.
  14. ^ Margolies, Jane; Apisukh, Lanna (May 31, 2022). "The Crypto Bros Are Snapping Up Manhattan Real Estate". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 11, 2022.
  15. ^ Armstrong, Annie (June 2, 2022). "Thief Steals Artwork From the Whitney Biennial, Frank Stella's Son Donates to Ted Cruz to Spite Dad, and More Art-World Gossip". Artnet News. Retrieved June 11, 2022.

External links[edit]

40°43′16″N 73°59′39″W / 40.72111°N 73.99417°W / 40.72111; -73.99417