This Day in Preservation History: Home of Alexander Hamilton (Jr.) is Landmarked
York City landmark on October 19, 2004. Landmark designation of the house was part of a proposal by GVSHP and the NY Landmarks Conservancy to seek landmark designation of thirteen (like the thirteen colonies) federal houses in Lower Manhattan in 2002 (nine were individually landmarked and one was included in a historic district).
GVSHP has succeeded in helping to secure landmark designation and/or National Register of Historic Places listing for one hundred thirty six Federal houses in the last twenty years. But whether it’s because of its “trashy” recent history or its more genteel origins, 4 St. Mark’s Place stands out among them, and retains a special place in our hearts.
No. 4 St. Mark’s Place was built in 1831, as part of an entire block front in the most fashionable residential area of New York City at that time. According to the LPC designation report, the building is a significant example of a late Federal-style house, constructed with Flemish bond brickwork. Today, the building still retains its original high stoop, long parlor-floor windows, white Gibbs surround with triple keystone and vermiculated blocks around the entrance, and double segmental dormers. The house is a rare surviving intact example of a late, grand Federal-style row house, and its history is as interesting as its architecture (currently the house is being renovated; see our Landmarks Application webpage for details).
This Federal style row house was built by English-born real estate developer Thomas E. Davis, whose business extended between Third and Second Avenue. In 1833, the house was sold to Col. Alexander Hamilton, son of the late first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury (and current Broadway/hip-hop icon). Many historic figures have resided here, including several members of the Hamilton and Van Wyck families.
By the 1850s, however, this once-fashionable area had lost its cachet and 4 St. Mark’s Place was no longer a single-family dwelling. Following that the house was sometimes used as offices; from 1901 to 1967, it served as a hub for music and theater programs, such as the musical instruments firm of C. Meisel, Inc., Tempo Playhouse, New Bowery Theater, and Bridge Theater, etc.
The primary construction period for Federal rowhouses was from ca. 1790 to ca. 1835. After the Revolutionary War, this rowhouse form was considered as ideal to meet the need of a fast growing population in New York City. Derived from English Georgian architectural standards, the modest Federal rowhouse style is considered as the first native housing style in this newly found country, which shares its name with its era. Today Federal period row houses can be found in older cities along the eastern seaboard.
In New York, Federal rowhouses are mostly located in Lower Manhattan, Greenwich Village, and the East Village. It not only reflects the local building traditions and materials, but also the patterns of speculative development of property and the beginning of the metamorphosis of New York City from modest town to prosperous city in the early 19th century.
Securing landmark designation of Federal rowhouses like 4 St. Mark’s Place is a top priority of GVSHP. In 1997, GVSHP received a grant from the Preserve NY program of the Preservation League of NY State and the NY State Council on the Arts to document and advocate for the preservation of surviving federal houses in Lower Manhattan. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of that grant and to mark its impact, GVSHP recently released a report showing every one of the one hundred thirty six federal houses we have been able to help get landmarked and/or listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which included thirteen individual landmarks and ten historic districts or historic district extensions. To further celebrate the federal house and preservation efforts, GVSHP is holding a program on Tuesday, October 24th on the topic with some illuminating experts in the field; find out more about and register for this free event here.