Charles “Broadway” Rouss’s exuberant spirit is reflected in this ten-story building, the tallest structure using cast iron in SoHo. Rouss, who came north after the Civil War, placed a sign at the construction site in 1889 reading: “He who builds, owns and will occupy this marvel of brick, iron and granite, thirteen years ago walked these streets penniless and $50,000 in debt. Only to prove that the capitalists of today were poor men twenty years ago . . . .” As a tribute to the street which helped him produce his fortune, he adopted Broadway as his middle name and emblazoned it in bold letters across the second story, where it can be seen today.
Rouss was as proud of the large plate-glass display windows at street level as he was of the steam heating system, the electric lights powered from a generator in the basement, and the conveyor-belt system by which merchandise was transported through the store.
True to the Rouss spirit, the flamboyant Broadway facade is a bold design employing cast iron and granite, while the less important, less commercial Mercer Street facade uses conventional brick.