Counting Houses
34-38 Water Street

Saved from destruction by the landmark conservancy (1970s) this block contains genuine examples of counting houses -- the commercial buildings of early 19th century New York. Precursors of the New York office building, counting houses were an adaptation of residential row houses to commercial purposes. Built along the water's edge, these buildings served New York's active port. The simple four story structures functioned as stores, storerooms and accounting offices for early 19th century merchants.

In the above photograph, the house with the green circular sign (at center) is notable for being the best surviving counting house of this row. Only the addition of an early 20th century fire escape alters its original appearance. Notice how the windows line up in this row of buildings even if changes to individual units have been made. It is clear this was once a row of counting houses that looked exactly like the center unit.