A piece of the 1830s city on West Fourth Street

In 1894, New York University tore down the 1835 Gothic Revival beauty that was the school’s main building.


This lovely structure on the east side of Washington Square had housed all of the college’s functions.

Foundersmemorialbuilding1850sFor six decades, it anchored the college community and watched the neighborhood go from posh and stylish to more bohemian and rougher around the edges.

By the 1890s, NYU had decided to move its undergraduate school to the Bronx, and the main building had outlived its usefulness.

Lucky for us, when the building met the bulldozer, NYU officials saved one architectural detail: a small spire, complete with a handful of grotesques.

Foundersmemorial2015They ceremoniously named it the Founder’s Memorial and brought it to the new Bronx campus, where it spent most of the 20th century.

But the Bronx campus was sold off in the 1970s, and NYU once again concentrated its educational offerings in Greenwich Village. When the school came back, the spire came returned as well.

Today it sits off West Fourth Street between Bobst Library and Shimkin Hall, a modest sliver of the 1830s hiding in the shadows of the modern city.

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10 Responses to “A piece of the 1830s city on West Fourth Street”

  1. Judith Redfern Says:

    Shame about the gothic building didnt also survive but its really good news that the spire has survived to tour NY.

  2. Parnassus Says:

    By coincidence, I just mentioned the NYU building in a post about Harvard’s Gore Hall, which was built a few years later and also based on King’s College Chapel at Cambridge. As with NYU, Gore Hall also has some surviving pinnacles:



  3. Steve.boccone@gmail.com Says:


    Can I ask a question??

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. John M (@dark1pr) Says:

    If only they would go to the Bronx now instead of destroying what’s left of the Village. Perhaps they could take the plague of student renters from the East Village with them.

  5. Nancy Anderson Says:

    Love the 2nd view of the old NYU building from the perspective of one of the stately — still extant– row houses with high stoops on the south side of Washington Square

  6. Jeff S. Says:

    This is a great find! And right up my alley, too…

  7. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thanks Jeff! You can feature them in the New York version of your wonderful book of gargoyles in Washington DC:


  8. 전세계의 최신 영어뉴스 듣기 - 보이스뉴스 잉글리쉬 Says:

    […] NYU was tearing down cool buildings in the 1890s as well (Ephemeral New York) […]

  9. Alex Says:

    NYU should have stayed in the Bronx. They are destroying the fabric of Greenwich Village with their real estate monstrosities.

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