The hidden tenement angels of East 10th Street

There’s a fine tenement building in the middle of East 10th Street between Second and First Avenues, one of the many tenement blocks built when the East Village was Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany.

It’s the color of cream, and it looks like the rest of the tenements on the block—six stories, a fire escape on the facade, some ornamental bells and whistles like wreaths under the windows.

But this tenement has an extra bit of loveliness on the facade, something visible when the wind blows back the thick leaves of the sidewalk trees that normal give it cover.

On the facade high up under the fifth floor windows are bas reliefs of what look like twin angels. There’s two on each side of the building, watching over the tenement and East 10th Street since 1900, the year Streeteasy says it was built.

They’re not the only angels carved into an East Village tenement facade. This one on East 14th Street is equally hard to see and straddles two tenements.

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10 Responses to “The hidden tenement angels of East 10th Street”

  1. Penelope Bianchi Says:

    What a treat to learn these things!

  2. RD Wolff Says:

    Yeah those were unique, custom made for that building, I’ve never seen them elsewhere.

  3. Penelope Bianchi Says:

    I love them!!!!

  4. Lady G. Says:

    Those are adorable. I love how they’re just lounging.

  5. Bob Says:

    Per NYC DOB (NB 851-91* NEW BUILDING) and the ‘Real Estate Record and Builders Guide’ Vol 47 (6/13/81 p. 971) 215 E 10th St dates from 1891. (The Streeteasy, PropertyShark, and other databases are worthless on pre 1920 construction dates.)

    206, 213, and 215 cost $24,000 each in 1891 and were all designed for owner “Fay and Stacom” of 337 Pleasant Ave by architect C. Rentz.

    Per the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation:

    “All three of these ‘old law’ or ‘dumbell’ tenements were designed in 1891 by prolific architect Charles Rentz, whose offices were located nearby at 153 Fourth Avenue (since demolished) and who also designed the nearby landmarked Webster Hall.

    “The cherubs can be found just under the east and west windows of the fourth floor of the five-story 213 East 10th Street, and just under the east and west windows of the fifth floor of the six-story 215 and 206 East 10th Street. There they lie in a splendid repose above the arched windows beneath them, their chubby hands resting gently on the scrolls supporting the projecting window sills above them.”

    • RD Wolff Says:

      There was Christopher Gray, who had a NY Times column on buildings, he also had a database going back only to 1900, he died recently so I don’t know if that database will continue to be searchable on this web site or not in the future, he seemed to be a one man show and was rather rude to me when years ago I offered to help build the database further back before 1900

      If that database can be expanded back even just 5 or 10 years it would cover many, many more buildings, including a large number of these tenements.

  6. David H Lippman Says:

    I think they’re pretty popular on a lot of old- and new-law tenements.

    • RD Wolff Says:

      I’ve never seen these specific “Michalangelesque” type sculptures on any other tenements, there’s all kinds of cherubs, putti and putto, angels, grotesques, conquistadors, Athena, Mercury, Apollo, Neptune, but none exactly like these. Almost all of the terracotta ornaments were custom short-run made for each building, a sculptor made the master clay and plaster models, a plaster piece mold was taken off those and clay pressed into that. The biggest problem was the plaster molds were easily damaged and didn’t hold up to making a lot of pressings from each before they were worn out, so most molds for keystones and spandrel panels were used to make just 4 or 8 copies for a specific building.
      There were some exceptions, some facades appeared in “catalogues” and the specific keystones and window surrounds were re-used on multiple buildings, some identical and others having obvious minor changes.

      Google Street view 125 Second Ave in Manhattan- that exact same facade appears on about 15-16 different tenements, another is on 9 Spring St, another pair are at 9th ave 38th st, there was another pair at 522-524 E 12th street, 229 E 11th st, 237-241 E 53rd st , 119 W 15th st. all date to about 1901

      As I found, G.F Pelham seemed to be the architect, obviously he had this design with the grey brick and the specific keystones on them as a “stock” design.

      • RD Wolff Says:

        There is another one of these Pelham “stock” designs, next to where that gas explosion and fire caused 2-3 buildings to collapse about 3 years ago.

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