Ten Years Ago Today — Landmarking Success in the Far West Village
Ten years ago today, three historic structures GVSHP fought to have preserved were designated as New York City landmarks: 159 Charles Street, 354 West 11th Street and 150 Barrow Street, aka the Keller Hotel. These designations represent just part of GVSHP’s ongoing campaign to preserve the Far West Village, which has also resulted in three historic district or historic district extension designations, zoning changes, and other individual landmark designation that we have fought for and won since 2003. This campaign has included community events such as town halls and rallies and, although the fight is not over, we have secured many protections for this historically and architecturally significant area in order to prevent out-of-scale and inappropriate development.
The first stage of this successful effort actually came in 2003, when GVSHP got the city to landmark most, but not all of the Meatpacking District, as far south as Horatio Street and as far west as West Street. After this, GVSHP and a coalition of local community groups set their sights on the remainder of the Far West Village, an area which had come under intense development pressure in recent years, and where more and more of the old industrial buildings and rowhouses were being replaced with new glassy condos.
In 2004, GVSHP submitted a proposal to the LPC for a Far West Village/Greenwich Village Waterfront Historic District which included all historic, non-landmarked buildings in the area between the newly designated Gansevoort Market Historic District and Barrow Street (where the West Village Houses, built in the mid-1970’s, began). In 2005, the LPC came back with a proposal to landmark about half of that area, part as an extension of the existing Greenwich Village Historic District (the first in its history since 1969), part as a Weehawken Street Historic District, and part as a series of eight individual landmark designations. At the same time, the City agreed to downzone much of the rest of the Far West Village, which GVSHP also proposed, which stopped several out-of-scale projects and imposed height and bulk limits for any future developments, which occurred in 2005.
The two historic district designations came in 2006. The first group of individual landmarks were voted upon on March 6, 2007.
159 Charles Street was constructed about 1838 and is a relatively rare surviving residential building of the early period of development in the Far West Village. Built in the Greek Revival style by Henry J. Wyckoff, it was one of nine such row houses constructed on the former site of the Newgate prison, and the only one which survives. 159 Charles Street is a significant reminder of the history of this waterfront community. The most notable architectural feature of this largely intact row house is its handsome entry incorporating a stone surround with pilasters and a heavy entablature, tall wood pilasters framing a paneled doorway, sidelights, transom bar and toplights. Click HERE for the designation report
354 West 11th Street was constructed c. 1841-42 also in the Greek Revival style and housed various residents over the years who were engaged in the surrounding industry and maritime related services. Wonderfully intact, this row house features machine-pressed red brickwork laid in stretcher bond, areaway and stoop wrought-ironwork and a pressed metal cornice, most likely added in the 1870’s. Click HERE for the designation report.
150 Barrow Street, better known as the Keller Hotel, was constructed 1897-98 in the Renaissance Revival style and designed by Julius Munckwitz. This hotel initially served visitors who arrived at the nearby docks for the ferries and transatlantic cruise ships. Later it housed transient sailors and, following the decline of the maritime industry on the Hudson River, the Keller hotel became a single-room occupancy hotel and the Keller Bar at the corner storefront became a popular bar catering to a gay clientele. Recently, the Keller Hotel came before the Landmarks Preservation Commission with an application to restore the building, as well as add a rooftop addition which GVSHP opposed. The Commissioners rejected the proposed rooftop addition with the exception of elevator and stair bulkheads and vestibule, click HERE for further information and click HERE for the designation report.
As part of our continued efforts in the Far West Village, earlier this year, we successfully beat back a move by the Mayor to roll back the zoning protections we had fought for and secured for the Far West Village. Click here for more recent news about the Far West Village including the Hudson River Park Pier 40 Air Rights Issue. Click here to see a Far West Village rezoning and landmarks map. Read more about the rezoning here.