The terminal stores was built to serve the railroad lines that dominated the middle Hudson River waterfront after the 1850's. Lumber yards, mills and factories opened between 14th and 59th Streets and required easy access to cross-Hudson railroad-car ferries and freight lines leading north. In 1891, William Wickes Rossiter built the most ambitious riverfront structure yet, the Terminal Stores, a $650,000 complex of seven-story warehouses.
Designed by George B. Mallory, an engineer and naval architect, the Terminal Stores -- also called the Central Stores -- look like a medieval fortress, with brick parapets and few windows on the main front facing 11th Avenue. Twin rail lines originally ran through the buildings from docks on the Hudson to a surface-level freight line running up 11th Avenue.
The 1893 King's Handbook of New York City stated that the million-square-foot warehouses were the only ones in New York with direct river, road and rail access. Mallory divided the buildings into 25 compartments with special fire doors between each section. The buildings were not designed for long-term storage, but as a transfer point for merchants receiving or shipping goods or products in or out of the city.
Research by the industrial archaeologist Thomas Flagg indicates that although the buildings were erected by Rossiter, they were controlled by the New York Central Railroad. Edward V. Rossiter, William Wickes Rossiter's brother, was treasurer of the New York Central.
In 1900 a watchman discovered a fire in Store No. 1, at the corner of 27th and 11th; firefighters needed so much time to batter in the protective iron shutters that the fire did $150,000 in damage. The Thonet Brothers furniture company lost $30,000 in bentwood furniture, and the actress Julia Marlowe lost the scenery from her hit play, ''Barbara Freitchie,'' in which she had starred earlier that year. Seven firefighters trapped on the seventh floor had to slide down the elevator cables to escape.
In 1910 and 1912 the architect Otto Beck replaced some of the midblock structures with nine-story buildings.
Article section written by CHRISTOPHER GRAY, - New York Times, August 27, 2000