Matt Taylor

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Matt Taylor & Son
15 State St. N.Y.

The Matt Taylor Paving Co. was listed at 15 State St., New York City, from 1884 to 1894. Only in 1887 was the name given as Matt Taylor & Son. Matthew Taylor (ca.1830-1897?) himself was recorded in the U. S. Census reports of 1870 and 1880 at age 40 and 50, an immigrant from Scotland. A naturalization petition from 6 Sept. 1881 gave his occupation as contractor and his address as New Brighton, Richmond County (Staten Island), NY.

The Matt Taylor Paving Co. is known to history for its failure to lay adequate asphalt paving on New York's 8th Avenue in 1889/90. Around that time a company known as the Barber Asphalt Paving Co. held a near monopoly on paving streets in U. S. cities. Taylor outbid them on the 8th Ave. job, but through inexperience the work was not done well.

"The Matt Taylor Paving Company on May 28, 1890, contracted to pave, with asphalt on six-inch concrete base, Eighth Avenue, Thirteenth Street to Fifty-ninth Street. Prior to this date asphalt paving was an experiment in this city, and the business in this country was practically monopolized by two contractors, who had theretofore controlled the importation of Trinidad asphalt and the skill which existed in the business. In view of the prospective use of asphalt pavements extensively in this City, the Matt Taylor Paving Company - a concern inexperienced in laying them - have had an independent supply of asphalt, undertook to compete with the monopoly in this field, and secured, at the date named, the contract in question. Owing to their lack of the requisite knowledge of how to mix and lay asphalt pavements, and to the absence of expert supervision on the part of the City, this job was a failure; the wearing surface began to disintegrate at once, and shortly after, the contractor defaulted. The true cause of this failure and the advantage taken of it by the monopoly explained [below] ...
Failure of Eighth Avenue Pavement in This City. A striking illustration was the paving of Eighth Avenue, from Thirteenth to Fifty-ninth Streets, in 1889, by the Matt Taylor Paving Company. This concern, inexperienced in the business, undertook to lay this pavement with anti-monopoly Trinidad asphalt obtained from land adjoining to the so-called Pitch Lake. The asphalt was examined prior to its use, and approved by an eminent chemist in this country. Immediately after the pavement was laid, it began to disintegrate, and was promptly and properly condemned. The asphalt monopoly took up the hue and cry, and have since exploited this failure throughout the country continually." (Asphalt Paving. Report of the Commissioners of Accounts of the City of New York. February 3d, 1904.)

(The history of The Barber Asphalt Paving Company and its monopoly over asphalt imported from Trinidad, can be read in "The Asphalt Consolidation" in Corporate Promotions and Reorganizations, by Arthur S. Dewing, 1914, available on google books.)

The son in Matt Taylor & Son was Ronald Taylor (1863-1926). Ronald Taylor was born in Brooklyn, 9 Dec. 1863. A photo of the Ronald Taylor Co.'s new warehouse at 520 E. 20th St. appears in an article in The Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide, vol. lxxiv, no. 1895, 9 July 1904, pg. 59, which includes, "At 520 East 20th Street, this city, Mr. Taylor will combine under one roof all the departments of his business and bring them under his own immediate supervision. He moved his office on July 1st from 156 Fifth Avenue, is closing his laboratory in Brooklyn, is withdrawing from his factory at Cold Spring and giving up his yard in this city. By this concentration Mr. Taylor expects to secure greater efficiency in every department. He has been in the business of making concrete floors longer than any of his contemporaries, being constantly engaged making fireproof flooring for twenty-five years, having entered into this business during the lifetime of his father. Mr. Matthew Taylor was its founder nearly forty years ago. The older Mr. Taylor for many years was a member of the New York Stock Exchange, a banker, and a member of the firm of Stoker, Taylor & Co. Soon after the Civil War he became interested in asphalt and was one of the early pioneers in developing the asphalt business in this country. He was the FIRST to import the well-known Trinidad Lake pitch which is now in use in all cities in this country. Among his earlier contracts was the paving of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington from the Capitol to the Treasury and the paving of nearly all the Public Squares in the City of New York. ..."

Ronald Taylor and his father were written about with great praise in The Architectural Record, vol. xx, no. 3, Sept., 1906: "The products known as 'Granolithic' and 'Taylorite' possess all the merits enumerated. They have stood the tests of the laboratory and the tests of time, and are practically acknowledged to be ideal as building material. ... The noblest buildings, hotels and residences of the city are using 'Granolithic' or 'Taylorite' and they may be seen in various stages of service measured by years, and found to be more than was ever claimed for them. ... The celebrated Tiffany residence at Seventy-second Street and Madison Avenue, New York, was the first building in which Mr. Ronald Taylor first installed 'Granolithic,' under the direction of the famous firm of architects, McKim, Mead & White, and the Hamilton Hall, Columbia College, was the last. Mr. Taylor has made the subject of perfect flooring a life-long study, and his advice has been sought as well as his active interest, in the construction of concrete and other floors as well as those of 'Granolithic' or 'Taylorite,' during the past twenty-five years."

Ronald Taylor's obituary, New York Times, 18 Nov. 1926, read, "Ronald Taylor, former President of the Ronald Taylor Paving Company and widely known in trade union circles in this city, died on Tuesday at his home, 275 Clinton Avenue, Brooklyn. He was in his sixty-third year. The funeral services will be held in the Greenwood Cemetery chapel tomorrow afternoon. Mr. Taylor was born in Brooklyn and in his youth entered business with his father as treasurer of the Matt Taylor Paving Company. He was an organizer of the Building Trades Employers Association and was its President during the World War period. Mr. Taylor is survived by his widow, Mrs. Sadie J. Wood Taylor; a son, Major Roy Taylor; a brother, Matt Taylor, and a sister, Mrs. W. L. Mellon."

The Ronald Taylor Co. had a page in Sweet's Catalogue of Building Construction for the year 1911, available on the internet in google books.

Other Matt Taylor vault lights are found at 135 W. 31st St.

This ad for the Matt Taylor Paving Co. appeared in the Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide, vol. xliv, no. 1112, New York, 6 July 1889.

This ad for Ronald Taylor appeared in a publication called the Princeton University Directory in 1908.

This ad for Ronald Taylor Co. appeared in the Year Book of the New York Society of Architects, 1916.

There is also a Matt Taylor plaque in the sidewalk at 273 Henry St., Brooklyn Heights. The term granolithic used in the plaque is explained as follows at the website Concrete Construction: "The floor finish plays an important part in the successful operation of a factory. Basic requirements for an ideal floor finish are that it should be economical, resistant to wear, impervious, sanitary, fire resistant, skidproof, inert, easy to maintain and to clean. There are two types of concrete floors used in industrial plants: monolithic and granolithic. Monolithic slabs make good structural concrete but the surface does not stand up well under severe wear. By contrast is a granolithic floor. A special "absorption process" granolithic floor topping has a high density, although it consists of essentially the same materials as found in conventional concrete floors. These floors get their exceedingly high wear resistance from the method used to lay them. By using the absorption process and withdrawing the excess water provides a topping of unusual density and durability."

Wikipedia has an article on granolithic. The article includes the image of an interesting sidewalk plaque by Hervey F. Armington Inc. of Brookline, Mass.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Grutchfield