Crate & Barrel Honors the Architecture of the Flatiron District

4 Min Read

By Bart Boehlert

With a thoughtful and successful restoration of an historic nineteenth century cast iron building, the Crate & Barrel store that was previously located at Broadway and Houston has moved to a new open and airy Flatiron District retail space. After the demise of Bed Bath and Beyond and near demise of ABC Carpet & Home, the new Crate & Barrel New York City flagship store—located at 881 Broadway at the corner of East 19th Street—is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, offering a stylish selection of home accessories, furnishings, bedding, and decor.

For the new 2,300 square feet, two-floor flagship, the Crate & Barrel in-house architecture and design team carefully preserved the original character of the Victorian building. Previously the space was an outpost of ABC Carpet & Home, which filed for bankruptcy in 2021 and was bought by a consortium of rug importers. Originally, the building was home to the Arnold Constable and Co. department store and known as the "Palace of Trade."

Arnold Constable and Co. in 1894 stretching from Broadway to Fifth Avenue. King's Photographic Views of New York (copyright expired)

Arnold Constable and Co. began as a small dry goods store on Front Street in lower Manhattan in 1825 before moving to Canal Street, and then up to Broadway and 19th Street into a new building in 1868. Designed by architect Griffith Thomas, the majestic marble facade features a rhythmic arrangement of stacked, tall arched windows topped by a romantic two-story mansard roof inspired by French Second Empire architecture popular in Paris at the time. In 1876, the store extended west, stretching all the way from Broadway to Fifth Avenue, creating what was noted to be one of the largest business establishments in the world.

The two-story, French-style mansard roof at 881 Broadway

The store's fine European goods, including gowns by the House of Worth, French china, and imported silks, attracted the ladies of the Vanderbilt, Morgan, Carnegie, and Astor families. Mary Lincoln was a customer. Arnold Constable and Co. was one of the first pioneer stores in the neighborhood, which became known at the "Ladies Mile Historic District," marked roughly by 24th Street to 15th Street and Park Avenue South to the Avenue of the Americas. In this neighborhood, which was designated a historic district by the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission in 1989, the ladies of the "carriage trade" arrived by horse-drawn carriages to shop at iconic American department stores, including Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany &  Co, and Lord & Taylor.

Interior of the Crate & Barrel store. Photo by Bart Boehlert

Now Crate & Barrel continues the tradition of destination shopping with its new flagship, which merges the classic building with clean, modern style. Inspired to offer beautiful and durable products for the home at affordable prices, Crate & Barrel was first founded by Gordon and Carole Segal in Chicago in 1962 and acquired in 2011 by the Otto Group, a German-based e-commerce conglomerate. Inside the new flagship, tall unadorned windows bring in natural light, and the super-high ceiling creates a soaring space. Slim, elegant, original neoclassic columns were preserved, and the floor was opened up with a staircase to the lower level.

 The first floor with a view down to the lower level. Photo by Bart Boehlert

Within the store, 30 designers on staff help customers with their decorating needs. The pretty botanical shop offers an assortment of dried botanicals for do-it-yourself arrangements or arranging by an expert. Downstairs features the retailer's largest kids and baby department. Throughout the store, a sense of spaciousness and calm invites the customer to linger and enjoy the setting.  In a natural palette of neutrals and whites, the well-edited and uncluttered space shows how good design can create a serene and peaceful feeling.