Since 1991, jewelry designer, sculptor, and metalworker Jill Platner has worked out of a studio space in one of the neighborhood’s most historic buildings at the intersection of Crosby and Bleecker. The building has a long history, one that’s deeply intertwined with Jill herself.
“I moved here from Massachusetts in the late 80’s and fell in love with New York City as soon as I set foot downtown,” recounts Jill. Upon moving to Manhattan, she quickly found her way to the neighborhood, and rented out a studio space in the building. The building at that time was centered in what was then was the drug infested, garbage-filled neighborhood of NoHo, was affordable and perfect for exploring her newfound passion for metalworking. Jill studied metalworking at Parsons School of Design and describes her first class as the ultimate lightbulb moment, “like being struck by lightning.” She’d found her passion. Three years later, Jill had graduated from the school with majors in furniture design and metalworking, and was eager to continue metalworking in large scale as a sculptor and in the small scale as a jeweler.
After years of working in the building and feeling a special connection to it, Jill decided to dig deeper into its past and discovered city documents detailing its incredible history. The building was initially constructed in the 1823 for James Roosevelt, the great grandfather of FDR. In 1857, Elizabeth Blackwell, America’s first female doctor, rented the building to open her first hospital, The New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children. It was the first hospital to be staffed by women, treated women, and trained women to become the next generation of doctors and nurses. Read more about the Blackwell legacy in Janice Nimura’s book: https://www.janicenimura.comI In the next one hundred and fifty or so years between the Blackwells and Jill’s studio, the ground floor was mainly a restaurant and the upper floors were manufacturing lofts. As crime rose in the city in the 1970’s, many of the historic windows and storefronts were filled with cement blocks. Amazingly though, the bones of the building were in fantastic condition. By this point, Jill’s studio had been there for years, and she considered herself a steward of the building, and its history.
Jill is now part owner of the building, but recalls her years of being a tenant here and the “worry that somebody would buy the place, not care about its history, and tear it down.” Luckily the building, along with many others in the neighborhood won Landmark protection as part of the NoHo Historic District, formed in 1999. Since her discovery of the its history, Jill has aimed to spread the story of Blackwells to help make them a household name. In 2017, she and her partners worked with Village Preservation to get a plaque honoring the building’s history installed on the façade, and the rest is history!!!
Meanwhile, her jewelry and sculpting found continued success. She has had a store in the neighborhood since 1998. For over 20 years her store was one block south on Crosby st in SoHo. It’s always been of vital importance to Jill that her work be “made in New York, by hand, with love and soul,” and as such, all her jewelry was and still is produced under the same roof. Everything from creating the jewelry in silver and gold, hand fabricating and assembling the pieces together, to building her larger scale sculptures is still done on Crosby Street. After an extensive renovation of the ground floor of the building in 2021, Jill was able to move her storefront to the same building that’s long been home to her studio.
Jill immaculately restored the long-neglected Crosby Street storefront at 165 Crosby st and brought it back to life. “Even though my store just opened in this location, it feels so natural, like it’s meant to be here. Thomas Porter, a friend of mine, built the amazing steel storefront, and I’m proud that we were able to really restore the building for the next two hundred years of its life.” The store itself is beautiful, home to her popular jewelry line and accented with her sculptures is as wonderful inside as it is out. “The bones of the building are just incredible, you can’t build something new that’s better than the original brick and wood beams already in the space,” Jill shares.
Her storefront isn’t the only new life in this old building, Sabah, a shoe brand, is moving into the corner retail space on Bleecker Street. The small but mighty group of tenants that calls the building home is made up of her store and studio, Sabah, plus additional artist’s studios upstairs, are all “like-minded people who want to do right thing for the building.” Jill considers herself lucky to be at the center of the community that’s formed around her building.
Alongside the building’s community, Jill considers the NoHo community to be incredibly important to her. Many beloved spots in the neighborhood have come and gone over the years, like the corner deli that sold phenomenal cafe con leche for less than a dollar, to National Wholesale Liquidators, where you could find any possible thing you needed, but the incredible community in NoHo has held steadfast. Around the time she up her shop here, Il Buco also opened, and Donna Lennard, the restaurant’s owner, has been a close friend ever since. April Barton of Suite 303, set up shop for her wondrous hair cuts in in the back of Selima’s space on Bond st. in 2012. Throughout the years Jill has become close to many of the women who call NoHo home, and even co-founded the Women of NoHo, a group that raises money for charitable causes, alongside her friends and fellow female business owners Donna and Maria Cornejo, a NoHo-based designer. “We all support each other, we trade product, we send clients to one another,” shares Jill, “I can’t imagine being anywhere else”.