This week and next, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

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30 Cliff Street today. The metal bar “Iron Horse” located in background.

At dusk, bearded men dressed in suits take hurried strides towards 30 Cliff Street, a nondescript building on a relatively quiet strip between busy Fulton and John Streets. Through metal and glass doors reminiscent of a hospital, men file into the prayer room and prostrate in unison on a floor covered in cheap knock-offs of Persian rugs, the mosque’s only pretension to traditional Islamic grandeur. Very little about Masjid Manhattan says mosque the way the word is understood in Istanbul, Tehran or Lahore: no grand domes and minarets, no call to prayer over a loudspeaker; it’s almost as if the place doesn’t want to call too much attention to itself, and it isn’t hard to understand why.

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