John's One-Room Apartment at the Bronx YMCA
Photography by John Fass
John Fass worked in Manhattan for most of his career, while living in a one-room apartment at the Bronx YMCA on East 161st Street. Many YMCAs rented rooms for single men during that era. John also maintained residence in a house he owned in his hometown of Lititz, PA. His mother lived in that Lititz house, with John's sister Esther and Esther's husband Clarence Wert.
John created his most iconic works at the Bronx YMCA: limited editions printed on a tabletop printing press, with the name Hammer Creek Press. He was as precise with his YMCA room decor as he was with his book design. Herman Cohen, owner of the Chiswick Book Shop, collected John's work and wrote a Hammer Creek Press bibliography. Cohen described John's YMCA room as the most organized room he had ever seen, despite the room being filled with printing and photography equipment. (John stored his cases of printing press type under his bed.)
In 1962 John moved to the Pierrepont Hotel in Brooklyn, after the Bronx YMCA discontinued rental residences.
John's Harbor Press Seahorses:
The seahorse was the pressmark logo of John's Harbor Press, which he co-owned and operated with Roland Wood in the 1920s and 30s. John carved and crafted more than 100 wooden seahorses during this time, to give to his friends and to decorate his apartment.
John also created many of the bookshelves and cabinets in his YMCA apartment.
Above: Boxes created and photographed by John Fass
John Fass was a conoisseur of beautiful wood and its craftsmanship. He was a skilled woodworker, and made miniature printing presses, cabinets, and boxes. John created these boxes for his own pleasure, and as gifts for his friends. Today, the location of these boxes is unknown. The boxes are scattered and anonymous, except for this photograph.
Above: Asian snuff bottles collected and photographed by John Fass
John Fass was an enthusiastic collector of varied and assorted objects and artifacts. He had an eye for beautiful objects of art, in many form. He collected Japanese matchbox covers, turtle figurines, canes, Asian block-printed paper, marbled paper, coins, postage stamps, books, dog figurines, and printed ephemera. Plus leaves, rocks, and assorted minerals.
He carefully organized and displayed his collections in his YMCA room, and in his home in Lititz, Pennsylvania. Fortunately for posterity, he also photographed some of these collections, not knowing those objects would be here on this webpage.