Printing presses, particularly newspaper presses, were extremely large machines demanding high ceilings and sturdy floors capable of supporting the heavy machinery. With the presses permanently stopped in much of New York, those high ceilings now provide added light to grandly high-ceilinged apartments—not to mention a touch of nostalgia for keen marketers to use.
“To get the huge printing machines in and out of the factory, you needed high ceilings, so the ceilings are all 11 and a half feet, whereas the standard nowadays is 8 feet, 3 inches,” said Michael Sheinfield, a Douglas Elliman agent who represents a listing at 345 West 13th Street, a former printing factory built in 1890 but converted into lofts 12 years ago. “This apartment is on the sixth floor but because you have three extra feet on every floor, it’s like it’s on the seventh floor.”
Thick concrete floors, originally intended as industrial ballast, are now helpful in eliminating the sounds of noisy neighbors. At The Times Building in Ridgewood, Queens, which printed The Ridgewood Times for half a century, until the late 1970s, the converted lofts have ceilings up to 13 feet high and concrete floors 6 inches thick, the building's listing agent, Mike Allen told The Observer.
The Printing House at 421 Hudson Street, a swanky gym and condo development, converted in 1979, was erected at the end of the 19th century as a printing house. “There were lots of printing facilities in that area, but that one is one of the premier buildings,” said Carter B. Horsley of The City Review.
The Times Building was first converted into a special-needs high school, and then reinvented as loft condominiums several years ago. The developers found and displayed the original Ridgewood Times placard in the lobby to remind prospective buyers of the building’s roots.
Mr. Sheinfield said of 345 West 13th Street: “When the developers converted the building into apartment units, they maintained the details of the factory, like the old brick and the exposed beams and steel columns.” David Kramer, vice president of Hudson Lofts—the building’s developer—confirmed that “Sub Zero refrigerators will be next to 100-year-old original columns.’’
In Red Hook, Brooklyn, Charlotte Kidd and Dustin Yellin bought the warehouse that is now their home, workspace and gallery in 2007, when it was still configured as a Hasidic printing press for Matzah labels and T-shirt tags, among other things. Before that, the building, at 133 Imlay Street, was one of Snapple’s first bottling depots.
The space consists of a central building flanked by two more recent additions. The central building is a turn-of-the-century stable bookended on each side by industrial warehouses built for printing. Besides living and working in the space themselves, the owners rent out parts reconfigured as art studios, a gallery and a photo and computer lab. One of the original printing presses has been left in place as a nostalgic nod to the space’s history. — Chloe Malle