nancy miller, artist

New York City

Nancy & Edmund Miller
Senigallia, Italy 2002

In 1979 Nancy and Edmund Severn Miller bought a loft in the SOHO neighborhood of Manhattan.

In August of ‘79 we went to Canada, on the way home Ed looked at me and said “ as soon as we get home pack your bags.  We are going to New York.” And so we did, leaving in less than a week.  We spent 10 days looking first for loft buildings but, unable to find anything sutable, we then looked at  lofts.  We found  a very large one, over 5000 sq. ft. with 16 foot ceilings. We planned on double decking it. The one thing I didn’t like about it was that it was very dark. Large windows across the front but a very small one in the back. We made an offer which was accepted.  We returned to Ohio leaving it in the hands of our  lawyer. In November he called us and told us that he did not think we should buy it because we would not be able to get a C of O. As I was very busy, Ed went back to New York to scout once more. He found  three possibilities. I flew into New York to look at them. One was at 112 Mercer Street.  We loved it because it had an atrium in the middle with large windows and was full of light.  So that one we bought.

It had been a sewing factory making kids clothes.  The floor was half rotted, the windows were a disaster, it was all open except against  the wall where the kitchen is there were three or four toilets and a sink.  What I really liked about it were the windows.  Every other loft that we’d looked at was very dark in the back, at best there might be one small window. In our loft we even have the two windows in the bedroom. We went back to Ohio while the deal was being finalized.  It took almost a month to actually own it.

Once we moved in then it became very interesting because there was this sort of dichotomy between the visual artists on the one side and the dancers on the other side.  We have commercial space in this building and at that time we were getting $2000 a month rent for our space.  We now get over 1 million
a year for the Broadway and Mercer store fronts. This building is a real and profitable business.

When we first came here Geraldine Ferraro’s husband was our building manager, he was considered low-level mafia.  He collected the rent and paid the bills that was about it.  The building was poor, nobody was really making that much money, not that they were starving but it was a big building and it was expensive to run so we were always scrounging around.  The building needed continual repair.  We had so many citations, we would go to court, each one of us takeing turns, we had to go for the whole day and wait for our case to be called.  Somebody had to be there at nine A.M.  Living here was totally illegal, we were told not to put plants on the windowsills.  Loft Board meetings turned my stomach, the members were always arguing, I mean screaming, ranting and raving; although I have heard stories of boards were people even took guns.  If you could show that you did large pieces you could live here you had to get a certificate from the New York City Cultural Arts Commission and provide your biography.  That turned out to be a joke, in a way, because there were a lot of Wall Street bankers who bought some artist portfolios so their wives could claim they had done it.

The main reason that we can all still live here is that we did not sell our commercial space, we held onto that no matter what. At one time we were offered a hundred thousand dollars, later we were offered $1 million and we turned it down, because we knew it was probably worth more, also because we’d never have any control over what type of tenants we would have. We’re one of the very few buildings that the original people are still living in.

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