Holdout buildings that survived the bulldozer

They’re the survivors of New York City real estate—the walkups and low-rise buildings now dwarfed by shiny office towers and more contemporary residences.


Each building probably has a different backstory that explains how the wrecking ball was avoided.

Maybe an owner refused to sell for sentimental reasons. This lovely Greenwich Village brownstone, sandwiched between two tall apartment houses above, looks like it could have been one person’s longtime romantic hideaway.


Or perhaps an owner tried to hold out for a bigger offer, until a developer realized it wasn’t worth the payout anyway. That might have been in the case of this one-story space wedged between a 19th century tenement and 21st century box on Tenth Avenue.


And thanks to real estate rules governing landmark structures and historic districts, some of these buildings probably couldn’t be torn down, like the gorgeous carriage house on a Gramercy side street.


It’s hard not to root for these underdogs. This ivy-covered walkup on East 60th Street gives bustling 59th Street near Bloomingdale’s the feel of a smaller-scale city.


Doesn’t this stately red townhouse do a good job breaking up the monotony of a block of Murray Hill terraced high-rise apartment buildings?


I can’t be the only New Yorker happy to see a Gilded Age limestone mansion holding its own in the middle of a stately Upper West Side block.

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18 Responses to “Holdout buildings that survived the bulldozer”

  1. Dave Says:

    Don’t forget the 21 Club at 21 W.52nd St.

  2. Roger Davis Says:

    I support this

  3. Ashley Says:

    This. This makes my heart happy and is one of my very favorite things about New York City. Just seeing these pictures has me itching to go back soon. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Mod Betty / RetroRoadmap.com Says:

    Yes! My fave kind of underdog “stick it to the man” building!

  5. Jerry Says:

    And of course the most famous, I’d guess, is the holdout that Macy’s had to build around at Broadway at 34th–used to be a Nedick’s, if I’m not mistaken and now is a Sunglass Hut.

  6. trilby1895 Says:

    Yes! These wonderful old buildings are what saves New York from becoming one of those ugly “futuristic” cities commonly depicted in 1950s comic books. If I ever had unlimited $$$, I would purchase every single one and save it from greedy developers!

  7. The Wrap: The UWS condo tower that could have been, Cuomo’s former Douglaston mansion for sale … and more | LIBERTY ALLIANCE Says:

    […] tax levy for middle-income buyers: OPINION [NYDN] 5. NYC properties that escaped demolition so far [Ephemeral NY] 6. Let’s talk about your real estate dreams [Curbed] 7. New York needs more public […]

  8. Frank Says:

    The “ivy-covered walkup on East 60th Street [on} bustling 59th Street near Bloomingdale’s” was the home of, among other tenants, Jean Herman back in the mid-1980’s. She was the holdout tenant who refused to give up her residence of many years and endured several years of harassment by the developers who tried to force her out of her home while they built around her apartment. She related many times that the City was of little help. No heat in winter, water and utilities turned off, stairways removed were among her many documented complaints. The developers didn’t win until after the new building was erected around her home and she died shortly thereafter. Rest in peace, Jeannie. You’re still remembered and missed.

    • trilby1895 Says:

      I feel a blanket disgust, loathing for developers whose greed overshadows any good qualities they may possess. Once our treasures are destroyed, they are gone forever with the additional insult of the treasures being replaced by sinfully ugly behemoths. .

  9. Tom B Says:

    The low-rise Russian Tea Room is between two tall buildings.

  10. The Wrap: The UWS condo tower that could have been, Cuomo’s former Douglaston mansion for sale … and more | BK Flatbush Ave – RE Says:

    […] tax levy for middle-income buyers: OPINION [NYDN] 5. NYC properties that escaped demolition so far [Ephemeral NY] 6. Let’s talk about your real estate dreams [Curbed] 7. New York needs more public […]

  11. Tim G. Says:

    I think the ultimate cinematic holdout house was the one featured in Stuart Little. Another interesting fact about that movie is that the painting above the fireplace which was purchased for peanuts in Southern California was recognized by a viewer as a long lost masterpiece by a Hungarian artist. See pictures at the link:


    Arguably the most famous holdout houses are the two townhouses that refused to sell out to the Rockefellers and are surrounded by Rockefeller Center on Sixth Avenue.


  12. InfoPump Says:

    For the stories behind many of these survivors check out Holdouts!
    by Andrew Alpern and Seymour Durst.


  13. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Yes, I’m eager to read that myself! Lots of great stories.

  14. Sean Munger Says:

    Reblogged this on http://www.seanmunger.com and commented:
    I’ve never reblogged Ephemeral New York before, but if you haven’t seen it, you should definitely read this blog! With all the posts I do about New York City geography, this historical/geographical blog about the changing city definitely caught my interest. Holdouts are among the most interesting stories of geography and architecture, and here’s a brief showcase of some of NYC’s more colorful remnants. Great article!

  15. My blog awards: The best of everyone else’s blogs in 2015! | www.seanmunger.com Says:

    […] Holdout Buildings That Survived The Bulldozer (Ephemeral New York, March) […]

  16. trilby1895 Says:

    The first photo of a survivor is located on West 12th Street. The stone apartment-style building to the right has an interesting history, if it’s true. Supposedly, within that building was an apartment used as a love nest by Stanford White for his trysts with Evelyn Nesbit, and/or other romantic interests.

  17. Zoe Says:

    There was (& I hope still is) a very small wooden house (w/ shingles painted white) somewhere between F.A.O. Shwartz / Plaza (59th St.) / Tiffany walking East toward The Waldorf — if I recall properly. (Sorry for the vague description). It was wedged between newer & much taller buildings.

    I was always astonished at these antique *survivors*. Old soldiers. Sometimes they look old enough to have preceded the gridded streets & that makes me question if older buildings were ever moved slightly to be placed on the grid (directly on the *new* street). Was this ever done on the numbered gridded streets?

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