Ramon, Streit’s Mazo; © Joseph O. Holmes
6sqft’s series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, Joseph O. Holmes shares his photo series of Streit’s Matzo Factory, the now-shuttered LES institution. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
In 2015, after nearly 90 years in operation, Streit’s Matzo Factory on the Lower East Side closed its doors. But before the property’s new owners demolished the site to make way for luxury condos, the Streit family let photographer Joseph O. Holmes tour the space. Through photos of the four-building factory, its old-school machinery, and its workers, Joseph captured the final days of this neighborhood icon. “If I hadn’t shot it, most of it would be forgotten,” Joseph told 6sqft.
Although Streit’s closed more than four years ago and condo building 150 Rivington has since risen in its place, Joseph’s poignant photos were given new life this month. The developer purchased some of the photos to hang permanently in the lobby of 150 Rivington as an ode to the building’s industrial roots. Ahead, hear from Joseph about what it was like to photograph the maze-like factory and why he finds old machines so beautiful.
See inside and meet Joseph
The closing of Streit’s Matzo Factory last year was difficult for many long-time Lower East Siders to stomach. The factory was a near century-old institution that represented a bygone era untouched by gentrification. Unsurprisingly as a result, the condos designed to rise on the storied site have come under the scrutiny since their debut. But those grievances reveal just one side of the story.
In two fascinating interviews ahead, Cogswell Realty developer Arthur Stern and Gluck+ architect Charlie Kaplan share with us how they approached the redevelopment of the historic building located at 150 Rivington, as well as their inspiration for the glassy new structure that will replace it. The pair also speak about their relationship with Streit family throughout the process, and why the Streit’s departure ultimately had little to do with cost or gentrification.
READ THE INTERVIEW WITH THE DEVELOPER HERE…
READ THE INTERVIEW WITH THE ARCHITECT HERE…
If you’re getting ready for this evening’s seder, you’ve likely picked up a box of matzo, and chances are pretty good that your unleavened bread comes from Streit’s. For 90 years the company produced matzo at the rate of almost 900 pounds an hour at 150 Rivington Street, but in early 2015 news hit that the country’s last family-owned matzo factory would be relocating to Rockland County. Developer Cogswell Realty bought the site for $31 million, embarking on plans for a condominium, and today, ironically timed with the first day of Passover, the first rendering of the project has been revealed.
The image was published in a New York Times article about Lower East Side institutions being replaced by condos. Design-build firm Gluck+ are the architects, and they’ve created a fairly standard, seven-story, glass box with some planted terraces along the top-floor setbacks. Though the design lacks any reference to the iconic business, the developers have said they plan to include Streit’s memorabilia in the lobby.
This way for pricing details
Image by Leo London/Flickr
When word hit that the Lower East Side‘s Streit’s Matzo Factory would be shuttering, it was sad news not only for longtime residents in the neighborhood, but a horror for New Yorkers worried about the city’s transformation into a sea of characterless new constructions. The Real Deal now reports that the site of the historic institution has officially changed hands, closing yesterday for $30.5 million. According to city records, Midtown developer Cogswell Realty is the new owner of the four-building property which totals 50,000 square feet.
So, what’s next for this site?
© Joseph O. Holmes
Whether you celebrate Passover or not, you’ve undoubtedly seen the pink boxes of Streit’s Matzo in the grocery store each spring. For 90 years, Streit’s has been churning out this iconic product at the rate of almost 900 pounds of matzo an hour on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side. But at the beginning of the year, New Yorkers received the sad news that the last family-owned matzo factory in the U.S. was purchased by a developer and the company would be moving its operations to New Jersey (a move also echoed this week by Junior’s Cheesecake).
But before they head across the Hudson, photographer Joseph O. Holmes has captured the final days of this fifth-generation working-class landmark, which Fast Co. Design aptly describes as “New York’s Jewish Willy Wonka Factory.” His black-and-white photos are somber, telling of his personal feelings about the loss of Streit’s and the gentrification of the Lower East Side.
See all the photos here