A Mulberry Street house is a “lonely reminder”

I’m not sure when the low-rise buildings at the southwest corner of Mulberry and Grand Streets were torn down.

But if there’s any upside to the bulldozing of another old New York corner, it’s that we now have an amazing side view of the Federal-style house at 149 Mulberry.

The view is almost a portal into the early 19th century city, when modest but well designed row houses like this one lined New York’s downtown streets and housed well-off families.

Mulberry Street might have had actual Mulberry trees when this two-story (plus an attic) home was built in 1816.

Characteristic of its style, the wood frame home features dormer windows, Flemish bond brick facade, stone lintels, and a gambrel roof.

It was originally constructed up the street at 153 Mulberry by Stephen Van Rensselaer III (below left).

A War of 1812 general and New York politician, Van Rensselaer was the scion of an insanely wealthy family that owned land in upstate New York as well as in Manhattan. After he built the house, it was assessed at $3,750, which seems astoundingly low.

“The house was one of many in the area erected by [sic] Van Rensselaer,” stated Andrew Dolkart in his book, Guide to New York City Landmarks.

After Rensselaer vacated the home and new residents moved in, it was moved to this site between Grand and Hester Streets in 1841.

Here it’s held court for 178 years, watching Mulberry Street’s fortunes rise and fall as the neighborhood went from fashionable to working class to an enclave of poor Italian immigrants by the early 1900s.

The house earned landmark status in 1969, with the Landmarks Preservation Commission noting its stone stoop with original iron handrails and the “beautifully composed” cast iron panels with wreaths with bows and arrows.

This stretch of Nolita is now fashionable again. But the Stephen Van Rensselaer House “is a lonely reminder of the small Federal-style row houses built in Lower Manhattan in the early 19th century,” states The Landmarks of New York.

Gaze at it in all its glory before a new building rises and blocks the side of the house from view for another century and a half.

[Fourth photo: MCNY, 1932: 33.173.168; Fifth Photo: Wikipedia; Sixth photo: NY Department of Records Tax Photo 1940]

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11 Responses to “A Mulberry Street house is a “lonely reminder””

  1. Lulz Says:

    NoLiTa?

  2. Ty Says:

    Whatever glass covered totem to some starchitect’s self-aggrandizing ego goes up next to it will simply highlight its quiet elegance. May she live forever.

  3. John Lynch OSIA Says:

    The Banca Stabile building came down only a few months ago. It housed a Little Italy museum after it’s bank use ended in maybe 10 years ago or so. Supposedly the museum will return when the new building is finished in modern spaces 3x the size of what they had before. We will see.

  4. Kenny Says:

    The house being only a couple of blocks from the collect pond and Five Points could explain the astoundingly low assessment.
    Imagine the human history, and the mulberry trees, this house has witnessed.

  5. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Ah good point Kenny. And we know what happened to the houses built on the filled-in Collect Pond…the neighborhood became Five Points just a decade or so later.

  6. Timothy Says:

    And all we can do is … watch … sadly, the disappearance of old New York, and “early” America as well. So interesting, however, when one visits other cities, Madrid, for example, where they’ve blended the past & future so well. There’s a recognition & balance.

  7. Jorge Loupes Says:

    https://ny.curbed.com/2018/1/17/16901362/italian-american-museum-little-italy-renderings

    https://commercialobserver.com/2017/02/oved-group-nexus-building-development-group-sale-185-189-grand-street-italian-american-museum/

  8. James Graham Says:

    The house “was moved” to its present site in 1841.

    With horses!

    (Or was it simply renumbered?)

  9. ytf Says:

    Generally renumbering resulted in a difference greater than 4 though that in an of itself doesn’t rule it out, however, humans have done far greater things with and without horses, prior to 1841, than move a house 60 feet. That said, if it was moved, it would have been originally built at the corner of Grand and Mulberry. If they remove the siding on the south side before the monstrosity is erected, it may reveal the outlines of windows. As it is, the first floor brickwork is skim-coated with concrete, so it’s difficult to assess whether that was once a street-side wall. It’s along my daily commute, so I will keep an eye on it over the next few months.

    There is another one nearby built around the same time frame, at 300 Grand. It could use some love.

  10. David H Lippman Says:

    Great house!

  11. Tom B Says:

    I never noticed any house the many times on Mulberry Street.
    We can miss so much in the City. Thank you Ephemeral NY.

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