An Unfortunate Facelift on East 12th Street
A 19th century row house on the south side of East 12th Street between Second and Third Avenues is currently undergoing a facelift, though we can’t say it’s for the better.
No. 224 East 12th Street was constructed in 1852. Since this year pre-dates the formation of the New York City Buildings Department in 1866 an original new building permit does not exist. We instead looked to the tax assessment records to find this date; as such, we are unable to identify an architect, but the person was likely a local builder who also worked on the neighboring row houses. The original owner was someone named “H. Theriot” who likely either lived here or was the developer of the site. Its tinted concrete facade once sat in harmony with and looked very much like its three row house neighbors to the west. This information was obtained as part of a neighborhood-wide survey GVSHP has conducted for the entire East Village.
Unfortunately, the building has been stripped of all ornamentation as seen in the photo above. The cornice has been removed and the window openings lack the dimension that is so characteristic of 19th century row houses. The fixed single pane windows contribute to the stark look of the facade. The former ground floor entryway, though simple in design, added depth to the facade, as did the curved window openings and projecting window sills in the floors above. Historic permits that GVSHP has on file for this building reveals that the original parlor floor stoop was removed in 1925 to create this ground floor entrance. This is a typical historic alteration in row house development as more and more converted from single-family to multi-family houses in the early 20th century.
The name of the project on the construction wall reads “The East Village Brownstone” – a misnomer given the fact that the facade is made of a rather harsh, orange-red brick. Although the term “brownstone” is a popular term for row houses of any building material, it technically refers to a type of soft, brown stone that is historically used in row house construction.
Without protection from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, it is much easier for unsympathetic alterations such as this to occur to historic buildings in our neighborhoods. If this building was, in fact, in a historic district, the owner would have had to present the proposed work to the Commission and it would be hard to imagine them approving this new facade. To that end, we’re hoping that our advocacy efforts in this neighborhood will lead to more landmark protections. You can see more of our survey work in this area through a presentation we held in 2010 here and here.
For now, the 2008 re-zoning of this area that we fought hard to obtain keeps alterations such as this to a small scale. Had it not been for this, the building could have easily been a much taller one. You can read more about our efforts in the East Village here.