Driving around aimlessly one time, I came across this stunning building the length of one whole city block in the western edge of downtown on 18th Street. I did a little research, and have determined that the Butler Brothers were some sort of whole-sale company that led to the founding of the Ben Franklin nickel and dime stores. It was founded by Edward Butler whose biography is here. I also found this old New York Times article about the company.
The building was either a warehouse (there are loading docks out back), or was an actual department store. I don’t know for sure. The cornice of the building features some wonderful lion heads.
Like many turn of the century commercial buildings, the Butler Brothers is divided into three registers: the lower street level, the large central portion, and the more ornate cornice story on top.
Here is a detail of the transition from the ground level to the middle level.
The picture below illustrates the massive, formal front entrance on 18th Street alluded to on the sign. It is severe in character and not ornate like many downtown department stores.
Below is the transition from the main, colossal order pilasters interspersed with windows and the cornice level.
Here is a closer look at the ornate corner, which appears to be made of terracotta. I have a feeling from the neighborhood and the architecture of the building that it was probably a warehouse for distributing goods out to stores or mail orders.