A new co-op reveals a bit of old Hudson Street

For a few years, scaffolding had obscured the facade of what was once the Village Nursing Home, a faux-colonial, six-story residence on the corner of Hudson and West 12th Streets.

Lauraspelmanhall

Now the scaffolding has been removed. And the entrance to the building—newly converted into a luxury co-op called the Abingdon—displays a clue to its illustrious past.

“Laura Spelman Hall” is carved above the doorway. It’s the formal name of the building from 1920 to the 1950s, when 607 Hudson Street was a women’s residence run by the YWCA.

Trowmartinn1906Named after the wife of a Rockefeller, Laura Spelman Hall functioned as a home for “working girls,” as any unmarried woman who had a job was called in 1920.

To score a room there, a woman could earn no more than $30 a week. The cost: “$8.65 to $12.65 a week with two meals weekdays and three on Sunday,” reports this old city guidebook.

Not a bad deal . . . and a lot cheaper than the going rate for a place there now. One of the penthouse apartments sold for $22 million!

607 Hudson Street actually started out as a working woman’s home even before the YWCA took it over.

Called the Trowmart Inn, it was built by a businessman who hoped to prevent women from becoming spinsters by offering them a pleasant place to be courted by potential husbands.

[1906 photo: Museum of the City of New York]

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5 Responses to “A new co-op reveals a bit of old Hudson Street”

  1. Areta Cartwright Says:

    Would that there were places for “working girls” today. The dreams of so many …

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    There still are a few left, like the Webster Apartments on West 34th and the Jeanne D’Arc Residence in Chelsea:

    http://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/2009/03/12/the-webster-apartments-women-only/

    http://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/the-home-for-friendless-french-girls/

    But the Salvation Army’s Parkside Evangeline, at Gramercy Park, is being co-op converted.

  3. Tilman Hill Says:

    Ten Eyck at East 39th Street was another residence for working women of modest means, run by the Salvation Army since the 1950s. It was still operating in the mid-1980s. I knew a professional woman who lived there at that time. The bedrooms were tiny and could not be used for entertaining guests, but the residence was gorgeous and there were many amenities, services, social and cultural events for benefit of the residents. Later on it was inhabited by international students; I don’t know how that transition occurred. In or about 2007 the Salvation Army sold the building to a developer for luxury housing, in order to raise funds for its other charities. Tenants protested but lost in court and were evicted. Conditions were squalid by the time the last tenants departed.

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I’d never heard of that one, thanks TH. On the same note, the Salvation Army still runs an Evangeline residence for women in Greenwich Village, on West 13th Street I believe. I’m amazed they haven’t sold that to developers; it would fetch a lot of money.

  5. SoBklyn Says:

    From the NYTimes: Marion Tanner, the inspiration for Auntie Mame, was among the more notable residents [of the Village Nursing Home]; her nephew, the playwright Edward Everett Tanner III, wrote about her under the pen name Patrick Dennis.

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