The 1904 horse auction house in the East Village

Lets say you’re a Vanderbilt, a Belmont, or a Delano, or a member of one of New York’s other super rich families at the turn of the century.


You have your mansion on upper Fifth Avenue, and for fancy dinners, only Delmonico’s will do. But when it come to transportation, polo, and racing, where do you get your horses and carriages?

The Van Tassell and Kearney Horse Auction Mart was one option.

13thstreethorsesmcny1910Formed as a general auction house in the 1870s, the company began specializing in show horses and fine carriages for the city’s elite, operating several equine auction buildings along East 13th Street.

With the era of the horse still in swing in 1903, Van Tassell and Kearney commissioned a new showroom and auction building at 126-128 East 13th Street.

After knocking down three row houses, the architects were tasked with creating a lovely structure roomy enough to show and stable horses but so elegant that it attracted the city’s wealthiest clientele.

The new building, completed in 1904, was an unusual beauty. “The central arched window is set within a wide coved band that widens and becomes more three-dimensional near the top,” wrote the Landmarks Preservation Commission in its 2012 report deeming it a city landmark.


“Crowned by a prominent cartouche and keystone, this feature may have been influenced by the dramatic forms associated with the Art Nouveau style, or perhaps, the padded oval collars worn by horses.”

13thstreethorsesadThe horse auctions were short-lived. The building hosted its last one in 1916, a victim of the automobile age. The Vanderbilts and their brethren were now racing cars, not equines.

In subsequent years it housed a candy factory, a vocational school, and from 1978 to 2005 the studio of painter and sculptor Frank Stella, who cleaned and restored the facade.

Today it’s a dance center, I believe, and one of the last remaining buildings in New York intended for staging horse auctions, a necessity when horses powered the city.

[Second image: MCNY, 1910; fourth image: The Rider and Driver, 1893]

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4 Responses to “The 1904 horse auction house in the East Village”

  1. Benjamin Feldman Says:

    The Winter Garden Theater in 7th Avenue just north of Times Square is, of course, another palimpsest of the horseflesh trade.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Yes, thanks for the reminder–when Longacre Square was the center of the carriage trade!

  2. Arq. Roberth Jordan Says:

    I´m loving this blog for a while, read every post one by one and give a Like to each place i´m adding to my travel plan to New York. Thanks for this kind of urban archeology work. It would be very helpful to add a geo tag to the posts so people like me (foreigner enthusiast) can make better plans on a gps map ton visit NY. Tracing routes, planning long walks, organice visits by themes, leading an urban sketching workshop, and on. There is a lot to do based on your important work. Thanks again.

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you for your kind words! Geotags would be great; I always assume people reading the site are New Yorkers rather than travelers.

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