Ghostly outlines of long-gone New York buildings

New York is a city of layers. Not just the layers below us—the subway tunnels, sewers, and landfill containing trash-turned-artifacts going back 400 years.

The city also has layers on its sides: the rarely visible faded outlines of older buildings that were torn or fell down.

Catching sight of them is like getting a secret glimpse into the city’s past. New development obscures them fast.

One of my favorites is this pattern of what looks like a Federal-style roof on West 15th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues (left).

Whatever it was—a 19th century single-family home? A stable?—sat between a townhouse and a tenement until it was bulldozed.

This one on Sixth Avenue and 26th Street below doesn’t look so remarkable . . . but the three chimney outlines and what looks like a roof access area are so well preserved. What was it?

The ghostliest of all is this perfect pattern of a Federal-style house—chimney, roof, and dormer windows all clear—on Hudson and Dominick Streets in Tribeca.

Luckily its twin still stands, letting us know what a little 19th century gem of a home was lost.

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15 Responses to “Ghostly outlines of long-gone New York buildings”

  1. The Edmonton Tourist Says:

    I love this! It reminds me of the book The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. That poor little house that was squished by new development until someone moved her out to the country. Sadly, I don’t think that was to be the fate here. However, I do like to think about what might have happened :)

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    I wish I knew. I’m betting it was bulldozed though….

  3. rocco dormarunno(akafivepointsguy) Says:

    I love these “phantoms”. I see them all the time in Tribeca. As much as the area has been claimed by the employers of dogwalkers and nannies with strollers, these wonderfully stubborn reminders of the past are all over the place.

  4. BabyDave Says:

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  5. barbara Coverley Says:

    Great stuff, and wonderful photos! I love it!!

  6. Sex Mahoney Says:

    This is fantastic. And one of my favorite things about walking around any city. Also, broken sections of road/wall that reveal previous building materials and uses. Just this morning, I found a buried set of train tracks.

  7. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks–I hope that last one isn’t covered up anytime soon. It’s so eerie, in a good way.

    Half-exposed train or trolley tracks are great too. There are some in Brooklyn and they deserve their own post…..

  8. petey Says:

    great post!

  9. evita Says:

    And NYU is responsible for the “ghosting” of many buildings!

  10. Big Sis Says:

    Very cool.

  11. Ruby Lee Says:

    this is so cool and sad all at once

  12. gimelgort Says:

    400 centuries?

  13. Faded outlines of phantom Manhattan buildings « Ephemeral New York Says:

    [...] of these ghost buildings, remnants from an older New York, are visible for just a short period of time—between the bulldozing of the old structure and the [...]

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