The view in the 1820s from a Canal Street home

I’ve always been curious about the three-story building just north of Canal Street at 423 Broadway. In the front, it resembles a late 1800s tenement walkup, thanks in part to the flat facade and cornice.

From the side and behind, it has the pitched roof and dormer windows of a Federal home, a popular design style for prosperous New Yorkers in the early 19th century. (Above and at right, in plans presented to the Landmarks Preservation Commission)

(Completing the time travel feel is the 1980s-esque graffiti, but that’s a topic for another post.)

A little research helps fill in the blanks about this unusual survivor.

Number 423 was a product of the Federal era, built by a shipmaster named Benjamin Lord in 1822, according to Broadway: A History of New York City in 13 Miles.

In the ensuing years, as the city crept northward, the home was apparently altered and transformed to include a ground-floor commercial space (Below, in 1891).

Yet it stayed under the radar, a quiet underdog witnessing the transformation of the city.

In the 1880s, after Lord’s death, the home earned a mention in a court case related to his will; the house was then valued at $60,000.

And most recently, architectural plans presented to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2017 threaten to redevelop 423 Broadway and knock down the corner building adjacent to it.

But let’s go back to the 19th century. What was Broadway at Canal Street like in the 1810s, when Lord may have begun his hunt for a place to build his house, and in the 1820s, once it was completed?

It certainly wasn’t the bustling urban corner it is today.

Broadway was in place, but Canal Street was an actual canal—built to help drain polluted Collect Pond near today’s City Hall.

This view of a tavern at Canal and Broadway dates to 1812.

Lord’s house at 423 Broadway “would have offered a view of the small bridge that carried Broadway over the canal that preceded nearby Canal Street,” wrote David W. Dunlap in the New York Times in 2003.

[Second photo: Landmarks Preservation Committee Report; Fourth photo: 1891, NYPL; fifth image: MCNY 48.125.1]

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3 Responses to “The view in the 1820s from a Canal Street home”

  1. greg chown Says:

    As always, a great post.My wife and I visit NYC once or twice a year and always search out something you’ve posted. Last November we spent a pleasant and expensive afternoon at the Campbell Apartments in Grand Central. We didn’t see the ghost but my money disappeared!

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Well then you had the ultimate NYC experience: elegance and an emptied wallet!

  3. greg chown Says:

    Yes. I consider any trip successful if I return home with little or no money left. We also spent time at Rudy’s, Fanelli’s and the Oak Room at the Edison.

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