This is the oldest house in Greenwich Village

Imagine New York in 1799: the entire population numbered about 60,000. The British had only vacated 16 years earlier.

State Street near Bowling Green was lined with posh mansions, and the city was riveted by the murder of a young woman whose body was found at the bottom of a well near Spring Street.

And in a leafy suburb called Greenwich north of the city center, a house was built by a merchant named Joshua Isaacs. It still stands—and it’s thought to be the oldest home in Greenwich Village.

The Isaacs-Hendricks House, as it’s called today, sits solidly on the corner of Bedford and Commerce Streets.

Why Isaacs built his home here isn’t known, but perhaps like other New Yorkers, he was fleeing the yellow fever epidemic that hit the post-colonial city hard.

Isaacs didn’t live at 77 Bedford Street for long though. A year later, he gave up the house to creditors, and his son-in-law Harmon Hendricks (right) bought it in 1801, according to the Greenwich Village Historic District Report.

Hendricks owned a copper mill, and he was a leader of New York’s small Sephardic Jewish community.

For the next three decades, Hendricks (and then his daughter Hettie Gomez, who inherited the house) had this stretch of the Village all to himself.

“Old records clearly indicate that the house was a free-standing building with its own yard,” explains the report. “A map of 1835 indicates no other buildings standing on Hendricks-Gomez land.”

That changed in 1836, when a builder put up 73 and 75 Bedford Streets. (75 and 1/2 Bedford, the former home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, has the distinction of being the city’s skinniest townhouse.)

Other homes were built in the 1840s and beyond, turning Bedford Street into a residential enclave of red brick and wood frame beauty.

The Isaac-Hendricks house changed with the times.

“Originally the building was a simple frame structure with a gambrel roof,” states the report. “A brick front was probably added in 1836.”

Amazingly, the house—still in the Hendricks family—didn’t get its third floor until 1928. Windows were switched around, and a basement entryway was built in the back of the house. (Fourth and fifth photos, in the 1920s and 1930s)

How did the Isaacs-Hendricks house make it into the 21st century? (above left, in 1975).

In the 1920s, “it was purchased by a group of Villagers to preserve the character of the block and to prevent the erection of an apartment house on the site,” reads the report.

Thanks to these history-minded residents, this lovely home (from the back on the far left of the photo here) is here to delight and inspire New Yorkers.

[Photos one and two: Ephemeral New York; third photo: American Gallery 19th; fourth photo: MCNY; fifth photo: NYPL; sixth photo: MCNY; seventh photo: NYPL]

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12 Responses to “This is the oldest house in Greenwich Village”

  1. Zoe Says:

    Edna St.Vincent Millay. LOVE. Will look at your link to her after this. I have her bio written c.2000 (?) & shamefully have not finished it yet. It’s interesting.

    I would love to know what this house looked like originally; since you wrote a brick face was put on later. It’s so interesting; does that mean it was wood shingled & that was later considered unfashionable/not modern enough?

    I always feel a lot of painful empathy for these people that build a beautiful home only to lose it due to financial difficulties. It’s so very sad! The story of Mark Twain & his family losing their Hartford home due to his failed financial schemes almost makes me want to cry.

    I suppose a lucky someone lives in this house now. I hope they haven’t granite countered & open kitchened & recess lighted every sliver of multi-centuries charm out of it.

    Off to read your Millay post…

    • Rosalie Nathan Godfrey Says:

      Thank you so much for your article and the pictures of this historic home.Joshua Isaacs was my 5th great grandfather and Harmon Hendricks was my fourth great grandfather.

  2. Says:

    Have we passed this house?

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Greg Says:

    I doesn’t seem like it has stayed in the family, according to this it has been purchased by others several times.

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I’m going by the historic district report—which says that the house stayed in the Hendricks family until the 1920s.

  5. Greg Says:

    I see, I read that too fast. My apologies!

  6. trilby1895 Says:

    Back in the day, after leaving Chumley’s (the original old literary mainstay/pub now, sadly, but a memory) I remember passing this hauntingly, somehow mysterious and precious reminiscence of the Village’s past. When the passage of time claimed Chumley’s, I mourned as I would have at the passing of a beloved friend; that little, “concealed” alley entrance….speakeasy….

  7. Kevin G Says:

    What are the two large rectangular imprints on the side of the house for? They seem to be there in every picture.

  8. trilby1895 Says:

    Doors? Now boarded up?

  9. David H Lippman Says:

    Glad this house has survived.

  10. The mystery behind a Bedford Street stable sign | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Street is a stunning historic block, but there is one building on this lovely Village lane that’s always piqued my […]

  11. Tea porches were once popular in city houses—this 1830 Greenwich Village home still has one | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] It’s also a house similar to many others in this part of Greenwich Village, built at a time when the city center was crowded with residents and easily transmissible diseases. The suburb of Greenwich, along the Hudson River, became a popular escape for families who could afford to move north and build (or rent) one of the new fashionable row houses. […]

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