If you want a little piece of New York time travel, make an appointment—if only on a pretext—to enter the Dickensian world of P. E. Guerin, the oldest decorative hardware firm in the U.S. right here on Jane Street in Greenwich Village.
The firm remains defiantly 19th century, the manager, Martin Grubman, says people are always exhorting them to modernize: “It’s really annoying.”
As the photographs reveal, the whole building is a piece of old New York, all the more thrilling because it is not a museum but a living, working environment, part of a thriving business that now has six showrooms and several foundries in Europe.
Started in 1857 by Pierre Emmanuel Guerin, the business moved to its current location on Jane Street in 1892 and was passed down through the generations.
We were lucky enough to watch a metal pouring session, which they still do twice weekly on the top floor of the building. It remains an ancient, magical and alchemical process even if they were only making (beautiful) door knockers.
In fact the whole experience was slightly unsettling, setting era against era.
Stepping out afterwards into trendy Jane Street, where people were on their BlackBerrys, sipping expensive coffee in paper cups and parking their SUVs felt slightly depressing—like all comparisons with past and present, it’s so hard to know what has been gained and what has been lost.