A Big Week in History for South Village Landmarking
While we received some incredibly good news last week about possible future landmarking in the South Village, this week also marks the anniversary of some critical past victories in South Village landmarking efforts.
Let’s see what good fortune mid-May has brought to us in years gone by…
One of the Village’s earliest designated individual landmarks was Judson Memorial Church, Campanile, and Hall, designated May 17, 1966. This incredible ensemble of buildings at #51-55 cover the entire blockfront of Washington Square South between Thompson and Sullivan Street, with the exception of the NYU Kevorkian Center at the western end of the block at #50 (GVSHP in fact argued that Kevorkian should be included within the South Village Historic District to be considered by the City because, among other reasons, it did such a fine and respectful job of relating to the landmarked Judson Memorial Church and Hall it adjoins).
It’s hard to summarize the incredible architectural, social, and cultural significance of this complex of buildings, which is among the most important and most beloved in New York. You can get a taste by reading the landmark designation report for Judson Church HERE, and for the Hall and Campanile HERE.
Like Judson Memorial Church and Hall, 83 and 85 Sullivan Street (between Spring and Broome Streets) were designated as a pair, in this case on May 15, 1973, so they’ll be celebrating their 40th anniversary as New York City landmarks tomorrow. While newer as landmarks, 83 and 85 Sullivan Street are considerably older than their turn-of-the-century counterparts on Washington Square South; built in 1819, they are among the oldest extant structures in the South Village.
In fact, 83 & 85 Sullivan Street were built as part of the very first stage of urban settlement of this part of town, even before the particularly virulent yellow fever and cholera epidemics of 1822 famously sent New Yorkers permanently packing from their downtown homes to the more salubrious, rural climes of Greenwich Village to the north of the city.
While 83 & 85 Sullivan reflect the settlement of modestly successful craftspeople in this area (in this case, carpenters), Judson Church, built at the end of the same century (and at the other end of the South Village) reflects a later stage of the neighborhood’s development, and the dramatic changes which took place here over the intervening decades. Judson was built specifically to tend and appeal to impoverished immigrants who had moved into and come to define this neighborhood by the late 19th century, its Italian architecture partly a reflection of the desire to reach immigrants from that country. By the time Judson was built, many of the houses like 83 and 85 Sullivan Street had been demolished to make way for tenements, altered and “tenementized” with new floors added to accommodate multiple families, or at the very least divided up into multiple units (read more in the 83 Sullivan Street designation report HERE and the 85 Sullivan Street designation report HERE).
116 Sullivan Street was also landmarked on May 15, 1973. Built just 13 years later in 1832, one block further north, and ostensibly in the same Federal style as 83 and 85 Sullivan Street, 116 Sullivan Street nevertheless reflects a very different stage of the South Village’s development. Compared to 83 and 85, 116 Sullivan is grander in every respect, reflecting the increasing wealth found in New York, and particularly in this area, as the early 19th century progressed. 83 and 85 Sullivan’s modesty and simplicity is replaced by an opulence and elaboration of detail, at least around the doorway, unusual for a Federal style house. Among the unique features of 116 Sullivan Street’s doorway is the carved wood made to look like drawn curtains surrounding each of the doorway’s sidelights (read more in the 116 Sullivan Street landmark designation report HERE).
116 Sullivan Street, like 83 and 85 Sullivan Street, originally had a peaked roof with dormers, which was replaced with a full floor and flat roof in the early 1870’s, as waves of immigrants began to saturate the neighborhood during its post-Civil War stage of development. Appropriately enough, 116 Sullivan Street’s new cornice is bold and prominent, while 83 and 85’s new additional is modest and restrained.
The three Sullivan Street houses, Judson Memorial Church and Hall, and the seven other individual landmarks in the South Village had for many years been tiny islands of protected historic resources, while their surroundings remained vulnerable to entirely out-of-scale and out-of-character new construction.
The 2010 designation of the first phase of our proposed South Village Historic District captured three of these individual landmarks within a historic district, while the proposed second phase of the district, now set to be voted upon before the end of the year, would capture at least another three (depending upon how the boundaries are ultimately drawn, Judson Church and Hall would be either directly adjacent to or possibly within the new district). The rest await designation of a third and final phase of our proposed South Village Historic District to protect their contexts.
Landmark designation of the South Village, like the neighborhood’s development, seems to come in stages.