There are hundreds of individual landmarks in Manhattan alone – many in Greenwich Village, NoHo, the East Village and surrounding areas. In celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Landmarks Law, enacted in 1965, we’re taking a look at some of these important sites, one of which is the Andrew Norwood House at 241 West 14th Street.
The Norwood House could easily get lost in the jumble and hub-bub of West 14th Street, but if your eyes do focus on it, it is certainly an impressive sight. Built between 1845 and 1847, the Norwood House is not only one of our neighborhood’s individually designated New York City landmarks, but is also listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places (read more about the distinction between and meaning of these designations here).
By way of background, Norwood was a successful merchant during the first half of the 19th century. He built three homes at 239, 241 and 243 West 14th Street, all of which still stand.
According to the designation report, “The site of these three houses lies within the boundaries of a farm acquired in about 1647 by Cosyn Gerritsen an Putten, an early Dutch settler. In 1741, Sir Peter Warren, a famous Irish officer in the English Navy, purchased the property. The area surrounding the site on which the Norwood house now stands remained rural until the 1830s, despite the fact that Seventh and Eighth Avenues had been opened to traffic a decade earlier. As the city expanded northward from Greenwich Village, Union Square and 14th Street became a fashionable residential district. During the 1840s many blocks of fine town houses were constructed along and north of 14th Street.”
239 is the home of the Spanish Benevolent Society and 243 was home to the Tammany Tough Club, a club founded in 1865 associated with Tammany Hall. 241 is the only one of the three properties that enjoys landmark status; while there are historic architectural details remaining on both 239 and 243, much has also been lost or changed on the facade of these two houses, while 241 retains much of its original Greek Revival and Italianate splendor.
According to the Daytonian in Manhattan, 241 has served a variety of purposes over the past 159 years since Norwood’s death in 1856. This includes a boarding home for unmarried school teachers, New York Deaconesses Home of the Methodist Church, and a funeral home. It served as the private home of real estate broker Raf Borello from 1976 until his death in 2005, who preserved the interior of the building including 13 fireplaces, mahogany doors, and intricate plaster crown moldings.
Although the exterior is a landmark, preservationists were worried when the house came on the market that the interior’s intricate historic details would be lost during a renovation. As GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman told the NY Times at the time, “In the Village, when an intact gem of a house comes on the market, you hold your breath….sometimes it’s lovingly restored on the inside, and other times you see all of the historic fabric just ripped out.” Unless a building is also an interior landmark, landmark designation only regulates and preserves the exterior of the building. By law, only spaces which are customarily open to the public (excluding religious institutions) can be considered for designation as interior landmarks; given that the Norwood House was a private home, in spite of its treasure trove of intact architectural detail, its interior could not be landmarked.
But the property was purchased by a private members-only club, who have stated their intention to preserve the interior details and thus far have seemingly done quite an admirable job of it. The private Norwood Club’s membership is open to artists and the creative community. Founder Alan Linn describes the Norwood Club as a “club for the curious.” View images of the Club’s interior here.
Want to find out more about the Andrew Norwood House? Read its NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation Report, its State and National Register Listing Report, or view photos from the State and National Register designation. Click here to see more of the individual landmarks of our neighborhood.