An Unplanned Visit to “Cadillac House”

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were in downtown Manhattan, where we spent a pleasant afternoon at the new Whitney Museum. Our trip into New York County was via the Staten Island Ferry, and while we had taken a taxi from the ferry terminal to the museum, the afternoon weather was pleasant enough for us to make the return trip to the terminal on foot.

Much of our walk took us south on Hudson St., through the West Village and SoHo. These areas are full of trendy bars, coffee shops, and galleries, and autumn’s Sunday warmth had lots of people out and about.

 

Just about the last brand name I expected to see in SoHo
Just about the last brand name I expected to see on a building in SoHo

 

I’ll be the first to tell you that my eyesight isn’t that great … except when it comes to spotting cars. A few blocks past Houston St., in the glass window of a building across the street from where I stood, was the unmistakable chrome face of a 1958 Cadillac. “Wait, wait”, I yelled to my wife, whom I knew would have no choice but to follow me. “What is this place? Wait, the Cadillac emblem is on the front of the building!”

 

The view that first caught my eye
The view that first caught my eye

 

My wife went in first; I wasn’t even sure they were open. But sure enough, they were. We scooted past two young adults who were building some kind of display, and entered the first floor ‘showroom’, all glass and mirrors and chrome. Oh, and several Caddies from the ‘50s and ‘60s.

 

Public area on first floor is all hard surfaces
Public area on first floor is all hard surfaces

 

We wandered around a bit. There was a hipster coffee bar, and a small clothing boutique in the rear. A large placard gave details about an upcoming Andy Warhol exhibit. The space is open seven days a week, and “hanging out” is encouraged.

 

Sit, stay a while, enjoy the views
Sit, stay a while, enjoy the views

 

Cadillac + Andy Warhol - who knew?
Cadillac + Andy Warhol = who knew?

 

We didn’t stay long, and on the way out, I asked the young woman at the desk if this was in fact Cadillac’s headquarters. “Oh yes” she exclaimed enthusiastically. “All the upper floors are where all the offices are. We like it here, because this is a great neighborhood.”

 

Fun with mirrors, part 1
Fun with mirrors, part 1

 

Fun with mirrors, part 2
Fun with mirrors, part 2

 

The Cadillac brand, in an attempt to establish independence from its General Motors parent, moved its national operation to New York in 2015. This is all part of brand chief Johan de Nysschen’s grand plan to take the luxury car maker upscale.

 

Say "tailfins", and most will conjure up an image of the '59 Cadillac
Say “tailfins”, and most will conjure up an image of the ’59 Cadillac

 

My presumption had been that their offices would be somewhere in Midtown: perhaps near Bloomingdale’s (and Trump Tower), or maybe around the corner from Rockefeller Center. So Johan wants to be where the young trendsetters are. Hasn’t this been tried before?

 

1963 Cadillac, in black, natch
1963 Cadillac, in black, natch

 

I had one more question for our hostess: “Where are the new cars?” She said that they had all been moved out in preparation for the Warhol event. For now, these behemoths from Cadillac’s heyday had the floor to themselves. Here’s hoping that Cadillac finds its muse somewhere in lower Manhattan.

 

The organic coffee sign symbolizes the distance between this '58 and its trendy surrounds
The organic coffee sign symbolizes the distance between this ’58 and its trendy surrounds

 

All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

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