Holdout buildings that refused the wrecking ball

You see them all over New York streets: two, three, even four-story tenements or townhouses that stayed put while bigger, grander, and wealthier buildings went up around them.

The back story isn’t always clear, but it’s safe to assume that the developers on either side would have paid a nice price for the right to knock these little holdouts down.

But they wouldn’t budge—and today, they stand out size-wise and architecturally. And New York is a more diverse city because of them.

One of my favorites is this slender Gothic-inspired townhouse on the Upper West Side (above), flanked by massive prewar apartment buildings up and down the block.

Another good one is on Eighth Avenue around 40th Street. The squat three-story building with the porn shop on the ground floor (above) is like a middle finger to the developers.

In Murray Hill on East 35th Street is this lime-colored Victorian-era townhouse (right). You can just imagine that the entire block was probably once dotted with identical structures.

Now, it’s the lone survivor, with a red-brick apartment residence crowding it out on one side and an academic building belonging to Yeshiva University on the other.

This Queen Anne house in Washington Heights isn’t as squished in as the other buildings. But it’s still a holdout.

Now a church, its existence prevented builders from putting up yet another tenement or dull apartment building, and it serves as a reminder of a time when even Manhattan had detached houses on its streets.

Here’s the story of a little-known but very recognizable holdout building in the middle of Macy’s.

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28 Responses to “Holdout buildings that refused the wrecking ball”

  1. focusoninfinity Says:

    The circa four-story old house across from my mid-1940’s, childhood’s London Terrace Apartments (43rd St.?). What’s the story on that?

  2. Tom B Says:

    The Russian Tea Room was also a holdout.
    Also the seven story apartment building at 22 CPS looks over 100 years old. Can not find any history on it, except it might be owned by The Plaza.
    Your blogs are the best!

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    Thank you! I don’t know the one at 22 CPS, but I’ll look into it….

  4. rocco dormarunno(akafivepointsguy) Says:

    God bless these holdouts! They give us a little window into what once was! Thanks for these!

  5. Parnassus Says:

    One of your best posts. Not only are these building interesting architecturally, they also say a lot about the characters of their owners, and form an answer that big business controls everything.
    –Road to Parnassus

  6. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks! Anything that sticks out like these do is worth exploring.

  7. petey Says:

    until about 5 years ago there was a two storey wedged between the luxury buildings on park between 83rd and 84th.

    there’s also a dover book:
    http://www.amazon.com/Yorks-Architectural-Holdouts-Andrew-Alpern/dp/0486294250

  8. Brett Says:

    My wife and I just noticed this holdout today at Rockefeller Center.
    Rockefeller Center holdout

  9. wildnewyork Says:

    That’s a great holdout–they’ve got the whole corner!

  10. WHAMMO! Says:

    I don’t think either of the first two buildings were holdouts. More likely is that someone bought the alley between the two buildings and built on it.

  11. WHAMMO! Says:

    Make that three :p

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