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Some Cool High Line History Unearthed During MePa Renovation

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Once the coolest spot in the whole Gansevoort Market, the old Manhattan Refrigerating Company building opposite the High Line?now the humongous West Coast Apartments?is getting a retail re-do down low. In a corner spot at 812 Washington Street, below where the elevated rails ran right through the building, architects at Beyer Blinder Belle are overseeing the revamp of 2,000 square feet of space. Inside they've exposed the underside of an old section of the High Line, with beams of riveted steel spanning the ceiling. Wide sheets of glass will face onto where the recently approved High Line Maintenance and Operations building will grow. This corner will also see Renzo Piano's new Whitney Museum, slated to break ground in 2011. All this fancy stuff is a far cry from the raunchy streets of yore, back when meat of all sorts was up for grabs.

In 1898 the Manhattan Refrigerating Company brought the new technology of cold storage to the blocks around the old Gansevoort Market. The MRC operations eventually covered a full city block, from Horatio to Gansevoort, and Washington to West Streets, with a storage capacity of 1,600,000 cubic feet. It encompassed distinct structures, one for power and others geared toward the specific chilling needs of meats, furs, and assorted items. Where the new storefront is going used to be a corner for apples and eggs.

Power was supplied by four 150-ton machines, insuring that proper temperatures and air circulation were constantly maintained. Heavy brine, supplied by saltwater pumped in from the Hudson River, was circulated throughout the building. Besides keeping their own building cool, the Manhattan Refrigerating Company sent chills through the neighborhood via 5,000 feet of underground pipes that extended throughout the meatpacking district, bringing modern refrigeration to packers and food producers. Now this spot at Gansevoort and Washington, where downtown cool down was born, could generate some cold cash when the retail renovations are complete.
· Listing: 812 Washington Street [RKF]