Originally built in 1847 as a townhouse for the family of a sashmaker, 632 Hudson Street was converted to a general store and produce market late in the 19th century by Hugh King, whose name appears on the pediment.
Purchased by the Esteve family in the 1930's, the building became home to an import export business and chorizo sausage factory, which it remained until 1992.
In that year the present owner acquired the building, restoring and renovating it over a period of twenty years which led to its present incarnation as 632 on Hudson and 632 Below.
Part 1: Early History
Both 630 and 632 Hudson Street were built in 1847. At this time nearby Abingdon Square was essentially still farmland.
The Landmark Designation Report reads:
"These two brick houses are four stories high, rising slightly above their neighbors to the south. They share a cornice with dominant central pediment, added at a later date. There are stores at the ground floor and windows above them, all of nearly equal height. They were built for Stephen Kane (No. 630) and for the estate of Richard Towning (No. 632) as part of the development of the area."
Part 2: Hugh King and his Fine Foods Store
In 1881 both buildings were purchased by Hugh King, who had arrived in New York from Ireland to make his fortune, reputedly with only ten dollars in his pocket.
He operated an import business and general store, purveying fine whiskies, wines and brandies among other goods, and owned the buildings until the start of World War II.
This particular owner left a clear imprint on the buildings; from across the street one can make out the faded letters of the words "fine whiskies and wine", and "Hugh King 1881" is visible on the pediment to this day.
Part 3: The Sausage Factory
Before the Meatpacking District took on its current nightlife hotspot personality, it was home to businesses such as the Esteve Packing Corporation, which acquired 632 Hudson Street in 1939 in order to operate an import export business and sausage factory.
Among the imports were Spanish nougat, guava products from Cuba, Canadian salt codfish, as well as rice and beans. Manufacturing mainly Spanish-style sausages such as sobrasada, butifarra and longoniza, the factory also produced Esteve brand olives, olive oil and capers.
Due to a Federal regulation overseeing the packing of meat at the time, a small window-less office was home to an ever-present inspector from the Department of Agriculture.
Part 4: A dream
By 1992 the old sausage factory was a rotting ruin, the walk-in refrigerators, the meathooks and meatracks and chopping tables, the rope-operated elevator long abandoned. The condition of the building was such that visitors were forced to sign a liability waiver before entering.
But to future owner Karen Lashinsky, the place was full of wonder and opportunity. It reminded her of a great ruined theater; she imagined a large open space in the middle where there was at the time nothing but a simple elevator shaft.
Lashinsky fell in love with the derelict building and with her mother, Dr. Bertha Lashinsky, a psychoanalyst, ended up purchasing it, determined to transform the vacant factory into a beautiful home.
Part 5: New Again - the Renovation
Lashinsky, an actress, had been gathering inspiration and artifacts from every corner of the globe while on tour with the experimental theater company The Wooster Group, and now came a chance to put it all to good use.
The building was completely redesigned and reconfigured in a year-long renovation. The centers of the third and fourth floors were torn out to create a soaring 40-foot atrium, wrapped in a grand staircase with railings salvaged from an Upper East Side hotel. At the top of the atrium, the rooftop cabin that housed the old elevator became a cupola, its underside painted by a set designer to mimic a Renaissance mural complete with flying cherubim.
Whenever possible the original historical elements of the building were preserved; old floorboards cleaned and treated and reused, beams and brick left exposed. In some cases it was necessary to get creative; the concrete of the "new" fireplace was rubbed by hand with coffee and mustard to give it an aged-by-time feel.
The building is a never-ending labor of love for the owner, and for this reason it is full of fantasy, romance and imagination. Following the filming of The Real World's 10th season within its walls, Lashinsky took the opportunity to share her work with others, making the building available for photo and film shoots, celebratory events as well as for living. The personality and history of the building remain strong and ever-changing, growing with each new visitor.