Even More Charm Added to Greenwich Village Historic District Tour

Even More Charm Added to Greenwich Village Historic District Tour

This is one in a series of posts marking the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District.  Check out our year-long activities and celebrations at gvshp.org/GVHD50

On April 29th, 2019, we launched our new interactive map, Greenwich Village Historic District, 1969-2019: Photos and Tours, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Greenwich Village Historic District. In the months since we have been expanding the map, adding both new tours and new entries to previously existing tours. Now, beyond depicting images of every one of the over 2,200 buildings in the Greenwich Village Historic District as they looked in 1969 and today, we have included over 800 sites that appear on various tours exploring the architecture, history, and culture of New York City’s largest historic district.

One particular set of recent additions appear on two tours on the map — our “Most Charming Spots” tour and our “Daytonian in Manhattan” tour (just got to www.gvshp.org/GVHD50tour and click on the links for either tour).  Let’s see some of those charm spots!

The Lockwood De Forest House – No. 7 East 10th Street

One of the unique gems of Greenwich Village that never fails to delight and surprise.  Birds, elephant forms and crescent moons stand out from the facade, all carved in teak!

It was in  1887 that painter and Aesthetic Movement leader Lockwood de Forest worked with architect Van Campen Taylor to design this one of a kind townhouse for himself.   Artisans at the Ahmedabad factory created the architectural details, which are as eye-catching today as they were when first installed over 125 years ago. Lockwood de Forest was an heir to a New York family’s shipping fortune.  He studied with the painter Frederic Church, and partnered with Louis Comfort Tiffany in founding the company known as Associated Artists, which though it had a brief existence, was a major leader in the American Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau movements.

Detail

Christopher Gray wrote in the New York Times, “Even on the picturesque streets of Greenwich Village, people stop and stare” at this house. You too can stare at this landmark of the Aesthetic Movement in American architecture just off Fifth Avenue. As blogger Daytonian in Manhattan puts it: “Today the De Forest House remains the attention-grabber that it was over a century ago. The teakwood carvings are still crisp; having withstood the severity of New York City weather better than the eroding brownstone buildings around it.” In 1900 The House Beautiful called it “the most Indian house in America.” It is a must-see in the Village.

The house is now New York University’s Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life.

The Little Half House at No. 35 West 12th Street

Walking by here you can’t but help to notice this cute oddity cramped between two much larger structures.  It raises the question — was it always this small?  The answer: no.
Built in 1840, this brick residence was originally a more conventional  Greek Revival house, a spacious 25-feet wide.  In 1868 the fish-scale mansard roof was added, adding a full story, with two arched dormers.  So why is there only one now?

In 1893 the buildings to the east at Nos. 33 and 31 were demolished for the construction of a large stone apartment building, and the developers purchased half of the lot on which No. 35 stood to construct their building as well.  Thus about half the house had to be demolished, leaving the cute cut-in-half home we see today!

According to blogger Daytonian in Manhattan, “Here in the 1930s lived the lyric soprano of the Metropolitan Opera, Minnie Egener, her husband Louis Hasselmans who was the conductor of French opera at the Met, and their daughter Geraldine. The diva died in the house on January 15, 1933. In the last half of the 20th century a modern apartment building was built on the west side of No. 35. The skinny appearance of the house was suddenly intensified as it became squashed between the two goliaths.”  And yet it stands tall.

The Romantic Compound at No. 93 Perry Street

In 1924 the New York Evening Post ran a column entitled “Little Sketches About Town” portraying this hidden courtyard and the quaint wooden buildings of No. 93 Perry Street.  That article caught the eye of author H. P. Lovecraft, and according to his biographer, S. T. Joshi in his A Dreamer and a Visionary, he sought out the location that very day.

From that article:

“Everything about [93 Perry Street] is lost. Name, country, identification of any sort…One boarded house, with several layers of steps leading up to a heavy frayed balcony, seems to have been left over from the past centuries, and the wash basket hanging neglected from the side wall appears utterly neglected. Behind a fence, clotheslines swing from house to house, fluttering fitfully with community apparel that may never be reclaimed by the rightful owners.”

The Lost Lane

Lovecraft used No. 93 Perry Street as the setting for the end of his story “He.”  From the  story:

“Then, on a sleepless night’s walk, I met the man. It was in a grotesque hidden courtyard of the Greenwich section, for there in my ignorance I had settled, having heard of the place as the natural home of poets and artists. The archaic lanes and houses and unexpected bits of square and court had indeed delighted me…

And from the ending:

The man who found me said that I must have crawled a long way despite my broken bones, for a trail of blood stretched off as far as he dared look. The gathering rain soon effaced this link with the scene of my ordeal, and reports could state no more than that I had appeared from a place unknown, at the entrance of a little black court off Perry Street.

I never sought to return to those tenebrous labyrinths, nor would I direct any sane man thither if I could. Of who or what that ancient creature was, I have no idea; but I repeat that the city is dead and full of unsuspected horrors. Whither he has gone, I do not know; but I have gone home to the pure New England lanes up which fragrant sea-winds sweep at evening.

Museum of the City of New York, Charles Von Urban [93 Perry Street] DATE:1932 Between Bleecker and Hudson Streets.

According to blogger Daytonian in Manhattan: “At the time Lovecraft discovered No. 93’s hidden courtyard, Greenwich Village had become the center of Manhattan’s artist community.  For over a decade old houses were being transformed to studios and their facades remodeled to Mediterranean, Tudor and other romantic fantasies.  In 1927 builders MacKathryn & O’Sullivan purchased No. 93, announcing on April 17 they would “remodel the premises into studios.

The firm hired architect Floyd McCathern to design the project.  He moved the entrance of the main house to the side, accessed through an arched opening.  The wooden buildings were coated in thick stucco; and the front building was given a second story Spanish balcony.

Among the myriad residents who came and went over the next decades was author and journalist Lamar Middleton.  His extraordinary career included working for The New York Daily News, the Paris Herald, and the Paris edition of The Chicago Tribune.  His several historical books included The Rape of Africa; Revolt U.S.A., which analyzed 10 minor American riots; and Heirs Apparent: The Vice Presidents of the United States.  He was 67 years old when he died, living here, on May 2, 1969.

It was also the home of Iranian-born Puppeteer Rod Young.

You can see some cool pictures of the back building and the interior courtyard here via Scouting New York.

The Georgian-looking 183-185 West Fourth Street

A classic row of early 19th c. federal style row houses on West 4th Street (left and center), followed by something similar but very different (r.).

Our blog title “Off the Grid” gets its name from the streets of Greenwich Village (and some of NoHo and the East Village) that escaped the grid plan of 1811.  Where West 4th Street angles sharply northwest from 6th Avenue towards Sheridan Square, it too suddenly goes “Off the Grid” (in fact, west of 6th Avenue it’s a pre-grid street which was joined to West 4th Street and renamed to make them one).  This forms a triangle where a classic of row of Federal-style houses are followed by two unique buildings that reference that same early 19th-century style, but are anything but.

As blogger Daytonian in Manhattan describes:

Here in Manhattan sit two quaint Georgian-looking houses, like a slice of old London transplanted into New York. Their cozy, antique appearance exudes the romance of a Currier & Ives lithograph of 18th Century domesticity.

They are in reality only about half that age and their beginnings are not so romantic.

The little two story house at No. 185, which deftly appears to be a single story, started out life as the carriage house for the owners of a townhouse on Washington Place. In 1917, as horse-drawn carriages gave way to motorcars and Greenwich Village saw the beginnings of its Bohemian attraction, it was converted into a residence.

The architect, reportedly named Fayerwhether, embraced the Colonial Revival style that had become trendy with the 1876 Centennial and would last for another few years. A simple arched doorway topped by a fanlight and two multipaned windows with paneled shutters gave the little house a Revolutionary period flavor.

As the renovation was being completed, Annette Hoyt Flanders was serving with the American Red Cross in France, during World War I. Flanders earned her B.S. degree in botany at Smith College in 1918 before leaving and would go on to study landscape architecture at the University of Illinois, civil engineering at Marquette University, and design, architecture and architectural history at the Sorbonne.

She became famous through landscape architecture and opened her own office in New York in 1922. Around this time she moved into No. 185 West 4th Street.

In 1936 the little house got another facelift when it acquired its modified mansard roof with Chinese Chippendale railing. Grills set into the broad cornice board disguise the small windows of the second story and echo the railing’s motif.

And Daytonian goes on:

By 1962 when wealthy art dealer Armand Hammer discovered the two buildings, No. 185 had “two one-half apartments on each floor.” Hammer purchased both structures on October 15, 1962 and set about converting them into a single home (on the same day he purchased three contingent Federal houses on Washington Place).

Manhattan 1940s Tax Photos, NYC Department of Records and Information Services

These are just some of the hundreds of entries on our map.  Explore the rest of the “Most Charming Spots” tour and you’ll find artist’s studios, hiden coutryards, alleyways, picturesque churches, and “squares” that aren’t really squares.  Explore the rest of the “Daytonian in Manhattan” tour for all of the spots located in the Greenwich Village Historic District written about by expert researcher and architectural historian Tom Miller has written about in his blog Daytonian in Manhattan (Tom hails from Dayton, Ohio originally).

The development of this map is a labor of love, and depends upon the feedback, questions, and suggestions from the public. We look forward to hearing from you about other individuals and events that have shaped the Village over time!

Visit the map here.

Our current tours include:

  • Immigration Landmarks
  • Course of History Changed
  • Transformative Women
  • Most Charming Spots
  • Social Change Champions
  • Artists’ Homes
  • Churches
  • Homes and Haunts of Great Writers
  • Theaters
  • Houses with Dormers
  • Buildings Designed by George Frederick Pelham
  • Street Name Origins
  • Edward Hopper’s Greenwich Village
  • Mid-Century Modern
  • Music Venues
  • African-American History
  • LGBTQ Sites
  • Pineapples, Pinecones and Acorns of the Village
  • Musicians’ Homes
  • Movie and TV Show Locations
  • Wood Frame Houses
  • Buildings Designed by Emery Roth (& Sons)
  • Little Flatirons of the Village
  • Homes of Preservationists
  • Daytonian in Manhattan
  • Firehouses
  • Click where the red line points to access all the tour mentioned above!

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