New York City preservationists are the protectors of our historic structures, and on occasion architecturally significant buildings are reused to serve contemporary needs.
The building which houses the Baruch College Library and Technology Center, 151 East 25th Street, is a building with a past, part of which is revealed in the December 14, 1895 edition of the Record and Guide which is part of our Durst Collection.
The article tells us that: “The building which has just been completed for the Lexington Avenue Cable Road to be known as the Lexington Building, is a monument of strength and beauty, and marks the era of a new departure in modern and progressive building for that vicinity.”
Although the Metropolitan Street Railway Company occupied the lower portion of the building, offices were available on the upper floors, and the publishing houses that were making their home in the surrounding area were possible new tenants.
McClure’s Magazine, beginning in 1896 (Trow’s, 1896) occupied 141 East 25th Street (the address of the building was 141-151 East 25th Street) and remained a tenant through 1903 (Trow’s, 1903). McClure’s Magazine is significant in periodical history for having started the tradition of investigative journalism known as muckracking, which helps define the reform movements of the early 20th century. Some of the contributors over the years were Willa Cather, Lincoln Steffens and Ida Tarbell.
At the same time that McClure’s Magazine occupied 141 East 25th Street, our distinguished alumnus, Upton Sinclair was attending classes two blocks away at 17 Lexington Avenue, the home of the College of the City of New York, graduating in 1897. After college he achieved his fame when he joined the ranks of the muckrackers. His investigation of the Chicago meat-packing industry, resulted in his writing The Jungle in 1906 which immediately became a success.
The experiences of Upton Sinclair during his years as a student at the College of the City of New York were the seeds from which his genius grew. Upton might have walked past 141-151 East 25th or he might even have visited the offices of McClure’s. We will probably never know, but we do know that this building has undiscovered ghosts which remain for the researcher to discover.