A Prince of a House: No. 203 Prince Street
On February 19, 1974, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate 203 Prince Street an individual landmark. This three-story house with red Flemish bond brickwork and brownstone basement was built in 1833-34 in a transitional style between Federal and Greek Revival. In 2016, GVSHP got the house and about one hundred seventy-five neighboring structures landmarked as part of the third and final phase of our proposed South Village Historic District, known as the Sullivan-Thompson Historic District. In 2017, the longtime owner of the house generously allowed us to include it on our Annual Benefit House Tour.
The land on which 203 Prince Street stands (and the rest of the block) had formerly been part of Richmond Hill, the estate of former Vice-President Aaron Burr (who, by coincidence was arrested and charged with treason on February 19, 1807; he was later acquitted, but the charge and his killing of Alexander Hamilton so tarnished his reputation in America that he fled the country, eventually selling his property such as this). By 1833, leather inspector John P. Haff owned the property and several additional lots on the black. According to Daytonian in Manhattan, while Haff’s official profession was inspector of sole leather, he was also an authority on agricultural techniques and a speculative builder both in New York and New Jersey. In 1833 Haff began building three handsome Federal-style residences on Prince Street where well-to-do merchants had begun settling. Among these was No. 203, a Flemish bond brick home two stories tall with a dormered attic. The Haff family leased the property until ca. 1865, when it was sold. At this time, the neighborhood around No. 203 Prince had dramatically changed. No longer an enclave of the wealthy merchant class, the Eighth Ward had a growing population of poor immigrants.
In 1877 the Episcopal Church of Saint Ambrose at Thompson and Prince Streets opened a mission house in 203 Prince Street, headed by the Rev. D. G. Gunn and managed by Mrs. Mary Laidlaw. Its purpose, according to The Churchman on October 13 of that year, was “to give assistance to the worthy poor, to visit the sick and needy, to relieve the distressed, to feed the hungry, and to give employment to those out of work.”
Originally 2½ stories tall, the house had a full third floor added in 1888, when the original attic floor was removed. The architect carefully lined up the windows with those below and designed nearly-identical sills and lintels. Note the change in the brick pattern above the second-floor windows, from Flemish bond — alternating long and short sides of brick — to running bond — all bricks with long side exposed. Flemish bond brickwork is characteristic of federal architecture, while running bond is more common to late 19th-century construction.
Check out the designation report for 203 Prince Street on our Resources page to learn more about its elegant Federal doorway and other great tidbits about this beautiful South Village landmark.