The Asch building was designed by
architect John Woolley.
According to owner Joseph J. Asch, it
was fireproof. And by the
standards of the time, it was true. No
law required fire escapes,
fire sprinklers, or outward opening
doors. All of this was up to
the discretionary power of the Building
Against the objections of the
superintendent, the architect asked
for and obtained an exception to the
rule that required three
enclosed staircases for the 10,000
square feet of the building's
floor space. He was allowed to put in
place only two staircases,
claiming that the fire escape ladder in
the rear would serve as
third staircase and therefore as a
means of egress in case of fire.
This would eventually prove to be
The building, now called the Brown
Building, has landmark
status and is owned by New York
University. It stands at 23-29
Washington Place (aka 245 Greene
Street) in Manhattan, NY.
Read more about the building's
history and structural
characteristics in the report on its
Photo: From the collection of NYU.