6. Unnamed Building on Lafayette and Howard

General Services Administration building on Lafayette Street

A small Art Deco building that sits at the corner of Lafayette and Howard Streets in Soho/Nolita often makes people turn their heads, but most never figure out its real function. The facade is only tiled on the ground level, using a combination of white and turquoise green tiles. The columns are adorned with angular decorative details, giving it a rather retro vibe. To fill in the setback difference between the building and the one adjacent to it, the wall peels away from the facade diagonally to form a small room. The walls are posted with a myriad of warning signs, like “These premises are protected by the federal protective service division,” that adds to the mysteriousness of the space behind theses walls.

In 2010, Scouting NY revealed its rather humdrum backstory. Built in 1933, this General Services Administration building’s official address is 203-209 Centre Street, meaning the Art Deco facade is actually its back. The end that faces Centre Street is a five-story garage structure. Prior to its administrative use, the building housed a drinking-house named “The Smile,” a wood manufacturer as well as a brass manufacturer by the name “Hudson Brass Works.” There are speculations that the Lafayette side was formerly a gas station, or a little annex office for the building’s customer services, but has not yet been verified.