Happy Birthday MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens Historic District
If you have ever noticed the beautiful row houses along MacDougal Street and Sullivan Street between Houston Street and Bleecker Street, these are part of the MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens Historic District. There are 22 houses included in the district. The addresses are 74-96 MacDougal Street and 170-188 Sullivan Street. The houses were built in 1844 (MacDougal Street) and 1850 (Sullivan Street), originally in the Greek Revival style. It was forty-eight years ago yesterday on August 2nd, 1967 that the Landmarks Preservation Commission made this designation. Here is an excerpt from the designation report:
“This block owes its very existence today to two factors: the policies of the Low family, which owned it for 125 years, and the farsighted philosophy of a real estate developer in the period after World War I. Both ran counter to the prevailing real estate practices of their times. The estate of Nicholas Low in 1844 built the rows of three-story and basement houses, in the then fashionable Greek Revival style, on MacDougal and Houston Streets. A similar row was completed on Sullivan Street in 1850. The last of the four block fronts built on Bleecker Street (1860) had four stories and dormered roofs.
Sufficient evidence is available from Building Department records of the 1880’s to indicate that the original plan probably included shops at the ground floor. A real estate corporation, “Hearth and Home”, purchased the entire block in 1920 from the estate of Nicholas Low, Inc. However, only the rows on Sullivan and MacDougal Streets were remodeled. Their architects, Francis Y. Joannes and Maxwell Hyde, wisely retained, on the MacDougal Street side, the original handsome, continuous cornice ornamented with modillions and the original well-proportioned six-over-six paned windows with plain lintels. These houses, taken together, give a strong rhythm and unity to the entire block front.
The stoops were removed, and the basement entrances and former doorways were remodeled in the neo-Federal style so popular after World War I. The new entrances have six-paneled doors and side lights. The original paired doorways at the former first floor level were changed to windows and treated in alternating styles. The houses … were remodeled in a similar neo-Federal style, which was skillfully adapted to the original row. As the houses here were built singly, rather than paired, the wooden fan-shaped panels have been added to the individual doorways. Hyde and Joannes achieved a most practical and handsome solution to their problem of modernization. In the 1920s modernization generally involved the removal of stoops; nonetheless, these neo-Federal alterations are in harmony with the original elements of the Greek-Revival houses.”
The renovation of the buildings was completed by 1921, and the garden by 1923. The houses were sold to individual owners in 1924, with the integrity of the project maintained by the MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens Association.