On the south side of West 26th Street immediately after the High Line can be found the vast buildings which once housed the successful H. Wolff Book Manufacturing Company. To anyone of a certain age the name H. Wolff Book Manufacturing Company means “big book manufacturer”, with echoes of “the end of book manufacturing in New York City”.

As may be seen from this photo, someone has taken a chisel to the name sign and chopped off an “F”. Seems a pretty silly gesture.

Looking down the street from the High Line gives an impression of the scale of the building(s), 508 and 518 W. 26th, which now seem to be filled with art galleries. This is Chelsea, and the space is great. The  building farther away, #518, was the first one constructed; it was built specifically for the H. Wolff Company, and was completed in 1910. Their expansion led them to construct, in 1926-27, the adjacent building, 508 West 26th, shown in the first photograph and in this one to the east (left) of the original structure; (508 is the grey building, and 518 the pinker one). The expanding company made further acquisitions in the neighborhood, and also subcontracted space to Grosset and Dunlap, George H. Doran, van Reese Press, and Greenwich Lithographers.

Photo: 14 to 26th Street (where you can find a detail which enables one to see the sign a bit more clearly)

And here, viewed from the west is the no-longer visible evidence (you can see a new building going up in the previous picture) of their location in barely legible white paint on the brickwork, immediately below the Grosset and Dunlap sign which just shows below that reddish line.

The High Line we think of as a sort of aerial park, but it isn’t all that long ago that it was functioning as a means of hauling industrial goods to the railway station, or to the docks. H. Wolff leased and in 1957 purchased 259 Tenth Avenue (just along 26th Street) which had a private rail siding linking in to the High Line. Traffic along the High Line was halted in 1980, when its northern extension was demolished to make way for the Javits Center. A 5-block section at the southern end was demolished as recently as 1991.

Certainly by 1962 when members of the Guild of Book Workers toured the plant this New York location was only involved in binding books. Printing was done in their plant in New Jersey, or came from different printers. They’d turn out 100,000 bound volumes a day. The Guild members were shown around by Jerry Bloom who I knew in a different capacity later on!

In 1968 the company was sold to American Book-Stratford Press who had just constructed a large plant out of the city in Saddle Brook, New Jersey. Harry Wolff, who succeeded his father in the business, died in 2013 aged 86. It’s surprising how little information about this huge company is readily available online.

Advertisements