The Decker Building (33 Union Square West) is the sole survivor among the buildings designed by the anarchist architect John H. Edelmann. Though Edelmann worked in the offices of Alfred Zucker, a prominent and successful commercial architect, his politics were so radical that he was expelled from the Socialist Labor Party, prompting him to found the anarchist group the Socialist League in 1892. Edelmann is also credited with having introduced the young Luis Sullivan to Dankmar Adler—Edelmann worked with Adler—and having given Sullivan the idea for his famous expression, “Form follows function.”
Originally built in 1892, the building served as the headquarters for the Decker Brothers Piano Company, replacing their previous headquarters, which Leopold Eidlitz had designed in 1869. Years later, the 6th floor was home to Andy Warhol’s second factory and also the site of his attempted murder by Valerie Solanas (check out our piece on the failed assassination here).
It was designed in the Moorish Revival style with intricate Islamic geometric patterns detailed into the terracotta paneling. Intermittent windows are punctuated with either a Juliet balcony or a strong Moorish arch, and above the second floor the frieze with the building’s name slightly bulges proud. The bands of windows on both the 2nd and 10th floors are framed by a heavy border that plays off the light interstitial columns, and although it is now gone, the short tower was also once capped with an ovoid dome. Since the building is only 33 feet wide, about 140 feet deep, and located one lot off the corner, its main source for natural light, beyond the limitation of the street facing windows, is the series of north windows on the adjacent lot; that is, as long as 35 USW remains short. To further accentuate this “borrowing” of light, the terracotta paneling of the street façade is also wrapped one window width around to the north side. Since the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, it is not likely that these side windows will be blocked any time soon.