Then and Now: Unique Tenement Fire Escapes on Elizabeth Street

Posted on: December 13th, 2013 at 11:16 am by and
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268 Elizabeth Street has long been a favorite, mainly due to its unique network of fire escapes. The ironwork on this pre-war construction somewhat resembles something out of New Orleans…

What’s equally awesome is that this building has remained almost unchanged in over a century. Now check out this photograph by Lewis Hines from 1912. Leaving aside the character in question, we can see the old (previously Cafe Colonial, now Rag & Bone) on the corner, and a tenement on the lot which would one day house Billy’s Antiques.

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268 Elizabeth photographed by Lewis Hines in 1912

You may notice that those fire escapes don’t have an egress to the street level. Back in the day, firefighters would extend ladders to the lowest escape terrace, or there might have been ladders that folded up and laid flat. Or, most commonly since fire fighters barely showed, you ran out and and climbed across to the adjoining tenement building.

What’s not awesome, however, is the cost of living here today. 268 Elizabeth is owned by Stone Street Properties, and is dubbed “The Leo,” offering 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom residences. That luxury costs at least $6,200 per month…

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