Up on 134th Street and Riverside Drive is a curious building, reminiscent of a Greek temple, which houses a Manhattan Mini Storage. Although it currently has one of Manhattan Mini Storage’s famous billboards (this one: Stop showering at the gym because your skis are in the tub.”), the facade of the building has a Greek pediment, fluted and non-fluted engaged columns and other Neoclassical ornamentation. There’s also a faded ad behind the billboard which include the word “MOVING” on it.
We thought these details, put together, suggest a prior history likely going back before the moving companies. Here’s what we found:
City documents regarding the Manhattanville Rezoning for use by Columbia University gives a brief history of the building, which was always a “temple” of commerce. It was built in 1927 as the Lee Brothers Storage Building and designed by George Kingsley, a Chicago architect who seems to have had a specialty in historically inspired warehouses, according to The New York Times. The building is eligible for NYC landmarks and listing on the State/National Register for Historic Places. The city document reads:
Details include medallions, swags, borders, and a central composition featuring an urn. The striking façade was manufactured by Northwest TerraCotta, a Chicago company. A contrasting “base” of black stone (or terra-cotta) bears the inscription “LEEBROTHERS INC.” The portion of the building below the viaduct is functional rather than ornate, built of concrete with rectangular window openings. The building continues today to serve as a storage warehouse.
In 1944, it wasx listed in the Customs House Guide, published by the Alexander Hamilton United States Custom House. In 1964, the Methodist Church was using it as a warehouse and packing facility, as noted in their Report of the Division of World Mission. In 2012, Manhattan Mini Storage launched a campaign for photos of the building’s roof pre-1961 and offered a $10,000 reward–suggesting that they were also looking for some history as well. Manhattan Mini-Storage has owned the building since 1984.
There are over 1000 storage rooms and vaults inside spread over 14 floors–most which are below street level.