Traffic Building

163 West 23rd Street
Abraham Fisher

This six-story commercial building is notable for its striking façade and unusual name, a reference to the “Traffic Cafeteria” that occupied the lower two stories in the late 1920’s. “Traffic” referred to the trucking industry in its nascent years. Cafeteria-style restaurants catering to budget-conscious urbanites became popular in the 1920s. Designed by littleknown architect Fisher, the building is a wonder of patterned brickwork and rich, Celtic-inspired terra cotta ornament. Rather than bearing weight, this façade is a “curtain wall” held up floor-by-floor by the building’s concealed steel frame. Fisher’s treatment of the Traffic Building’s façade as a tapestry and use of diagonally-laid brick acknowledge this up-to-date reality. At the same time, traditional elements make it seem anachronistic. It is one of those buildings which, when noticed, rivet and reward.