A 1790s Village backhouse you’ll never see again

Until 2008, 13th Street just off of Sixth Avenue was the site of a hidden gem: a Federal style backhouse reportedly dating to the 1790s.

The two-story house wasn’t visible from the street but was located behind a low-rise building housing two restaurants at 52 and 54 West 13th Street.

Then a hotel developer came and bought the low-rise building. It met the wrecking ball, and for a little while in 2009, the backhouse could be seen through a construction fence. Here’s a closeup view.

Not long after, unfortunately, the 16-story hotel slowly rose in front of it, entombing the backhouse out of sight forever.

If it’s still standing, that is. I have no idea if the hotel developer turned it into a pile of bricks, seeing no use or value in the squat, rundown building.

Or maybe the backhouse remains there, blocked off out of view of passersby, and only future guests of what will be called the Gem Hotel Union Square (above) will ever be able to see it again.

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12 Responses to “A 1790s Village backhouse you’ll never see again”

  1. Lady G. Says:

    Wow! What a great find! I wonder if anyone squatters stayed in that house through the years. It’s sad, but also cool and mysterious. If there’s a way to check address records dating back that far you could find out who lived there.

  2. Joly MacFie Says:

    I used to get rolfed in something similar on W 17th st, Probably not as old. You can see it on google maps https://maps.google.com/maps?q=300+17th+Street,+NYC,+NY&hl=en&ll=40.741814,-74.002475&spn=0.000759,0.001464&hnear=300+W+17th+St,+New+York,+10011&gl=us&t=h&z=20

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    It looks like a perfect squat, but I don’t know if there was any access to the street! It was an old house that got hemmed in as the city built up.

  4. Lady G. Says:

    That one on google maps is cool. Too bad you can’t drag it in for a street view. It’s true, you’ll never know it exists if you’re not looking very carefully.

  5. 38 Things in New York Real Estate You Need to Know this Morning | BrokerPulse Says:

    […] [Ephemeral] […]

  6. visualingual Says:

    That’s crazy! I, too, wonder if it’s still standing.

  7. john Says:

    The building is indeed still standing, but 3 others that were next to it were demolished when the lot was cleared.


  8. john Says:

    oops, didn’t see the link up there…

  9. A secret house behind an East Village tenement « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] And like its counterpart at 206 Avenue B, this back house in the West Village, unfortunately, has been cordoned off from street view forever. […]

  10. Jason Castlebury Says:

    Why are their not alot of great shots of the New York Elks lodge#1
    shown? Very few are on google and their not all in good shape, very grainy pictures of the New York Elks Lodge#1 building or as the Diplomat Hotel on 110 West 43rd street in NYC.
    Who in New York can help me in my search for more pictures and info on 110 west 43rd street for the Elks Lodge #1 building or Hotel Diplomat???? jmcdrums@aol.com
    Yes, I am a member of the BPOE or Elks Lodge.
    looking for more info for our members in the Elks to learn more about our Fraternal Orginazation and where it all startedfor the Elks in New York city.

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