The beauty of 10th Street’s English Terrace Row

Shared balconies stretching across several buildings in a row aren’t the norm in New York City.

But a graceful cast-iron communal balcony ties together the brownstones at numbers 20 to 38 West 10th Street. It’s one of the many features that make what used to be called “English Terrace Row” on this Greenwich Village block so harmoniously beautiful.

English Terrace Row, known these days as Renwick Row, was built between 1856 and 1858 by James Renwick Jr., the architect behind circa-1846 Grace Church three blocks east down 10th Street.

Renwick left his stamp all over the mid–19th century the city; he designed banks and brownstones, charity hospitals on East River islands, and other Gothic-style churches, like St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

While he brought Gothic-style architecture back into vogue, he was also forward-thinking.

The houses of English Terrace Row are the first brownstones built without the customary high Dutch-style stoop, “placing the entry floor only two to three steps up from the street in the English manner,” states the AIA Guide to New York City.

“Terrace” is also borrowed from the British.”Terrace does not refer to the handsome balcony that runs the length of these houses; it is the English term for rows of houses, such as found in the Kensington and Paddington districts of London in the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s.”

“New Yorkers who visited England were impressed with this style and saw good reason to adopt it upon their return.”

Apparently one of those New Yorkers was a banker named James F.D. Lanier, who commissioned Renwick to build the row at a time when spacious brownstones with winding inside staircases and enormous windows were all the rage among well-to-do city residents.

Wide and elegant, and shrouded by trees and swathed in amber light in the evening, they stand 159 years later and make this stretch of 10th Street one of the most spectacular in the city.

The photo archive at the GVSHP site has some interior shots as well. For more on the Gilded Age city’s brownstone craze and James Renwick’s architectural gems, take a look through The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910.

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21 Responses to “The beauty of 10th Street’s English Terrace Row”

  1. Penelope Bianchi Says:

    Now, these houses take my breath away! Yikes! They are exquisite…and what an elegant approach…..this vanguard of good taste still stands the test of time….the elegant wrought iron work that made the houses seem to join…..the lower stairs; the whole thing is brilliant! Bravo Renwick! WOW!!! Thank you so much for this! Bravo!!!

  2. Zoe Says:

    I love W.10th Street. It’s always been my favourite residential street in GV.

    And writer/artist Gibran Khalil Gibran’s address.

    Although this may change due to Ephemeral illuminating other blocks for me.

  3. Peter Bennett Says:

    I lived on that block when I was 10, still remember these houses, beautiful. The actor Maurice Evans lived just next door.

    • Zoe Says:

      As did one of the musicians from the punk band The Dictators! Lol.

    • Zoe Says:

      Maurice Evans. Played the trusted friend ‘Hutch’ (to Mia Farrow’s main character) – who is murdered – in Rosemary’s Baby!

      Aside from the betrayal of her husband (played by John Cassavetes I think) & obviously the ‘baby’ – it’s the saddest part of that film for me.

      LOVE him ❤

    • Zoe Says:

      Did you or your family know or meet Maurice Evans Peter? It would be interesting if you have an anecdote – that was not too invasive – to tell. How did he dress? (hats etc.). Did he live there w/ his family? Did he have the whole house? Did they have a garden? That sort of thing…

  4. trilby1895 Says:

    “As Good As It Gets”, 1997 movie with Helen Hunt, Jack Nicholson, Greg Kinnear was, I believe, at least partly filmed at this location. One of my very favorite elegant vistas in all of NYC. Thank you, ephermal!

  5. Zoe Says:

    Lol… So many of these threads invariably turn into film/theatre/art references.

  6. trilby1895 Says:

    Agreed, Zoe! NYC, esp. the Village, so indisputably rich in everything artistic, unique, “old”.

    • Zoe Says:

      LOL. Love it. I used to get annoyed – in typical New Yorker fashion – when they filmed near my place on First St. & Second Ave. (likewise for modelling shoots); when suddenly without warning one is expected to walk blocks & blocks out of the way to get to where one is going; or worse ask *permission* from some assistant director etc. to get into one’s own building!

      That was in the 1980s when people from outside NY had seemingly suddenly just discovered the LES. ‘Moscow on the Hudson’ etc. And also the local filmmakers ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ & ‘Brother from Another Planet’ etc.

      When you’re late to work or a train & someone is not letting you pass it can be very trying.

      Lol. Even in Ephemeral’s recent Stuyvescent Village post I referenced a film. Because I was hoping to get more info on the apparently ancient foundation (late 18th/early 19th c.?) visible in the newer 1920 foundation of my building on East First. And I mentioned that a horror film was filmed there in the 70s as well. And that prior to that it had been a rooming house for Jewish actors in the Second Avenue Yiddish theatres that lined lower 2nd Ave.

      So there you go. My hometown of Westport CT was like that also. Regarding actors & writers etc. as neighbours. Not so much films made there. Although there was a bit of that also. (Train station scene & downtown scene in ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ for only one. If anyone wants to see what our quaint New England fishing & farming village looked like before the hedge fund managers & McMansions – in which every infant gets their very own bathroom – moved in).

  7. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    It’s tough to narrow down the most beautiful or evocative block in NYC. But this post was inspired by a former longtime Village resident who always felt that 10th Street was heaven.

    • Zoe Says:

      I have never had it come up in conversation before. It looks like a lot of us have been quietly yet profoundly in love w/ this street all these years.

  8. Tara Mallam Says:

    This was a fun read.
    For some reason I always walk down 9th and rarely tenth. Next time I do, will remember your explanation of ‘Terrace’ being row houses.
    Thanks!

  9. David H Lippman Says:

    A wonderful block in my old neighborhood.

  10. The loveliness of New York’s slender brownstones | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] skinny brownstone on Tenth Street, a street with spacious rowhouses collectively known as English Terrace Row, only has room for one third-floor […]

  11. jady salganik Says:

    …some things just never change
    like rocks
    that become embedded
    in trees
    or hands that squeeze so slightly
    as to leave
    a lasting impression

    Jady Salganik
    9/1/45
    69 west 10 st NYC

  12. Fifth Avenue’s elegant 1890 carriage showroom | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] in 1890 (at left), the Demarest was designed by James Renwick’s architectural firm, which explains the cathedral-like windows. (Renwick is the genius behind Grace […]

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