An 1871 stable hiding on a modern Midtown block

East 40th Street between Third Avenue and Lexington is a stretch of East Midtown right out of Hollywood casting—a block of gleaming glass office towers dwarfing modest hotels and apartment houses.

Laying low on the south side of the street is an unlikely post-Civil War survivor: a colorful, confection-like former stable complete with dormer windows, a slate mansard roof, and red brick entryways.

How did this dollhouse of a stable end up here?

It helps to imagine this Midtown block back in the 1870s, when the upper reaches of fashionable Murray Hill attracted wealthy men like Jonathan W. Allen.

Allen, a broker (presumably of real estate, as these ads suggest), lived on East 42nd Street, according to the Historic Districts Council (HDC). At the time, 42nd Street close to Fifth Avenue consisted of rowhouses, according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

In 1871, Allen wanted a private carriage house close to his own home, a place where he could keep his horses and also have upstairs living quarters for a groom.

In the later 19th century, private stables were usually built on less pricey side streets near (but not too near) a rich owner’s home, often grouped together so some blocks became stable rows, per the LPC.

A builder named Charles Hadden constructed the delightful stable for him. We don’t know much about Allen, but it’s hard to imagine that the lilliputian carriage house didn’t bring a smile to his face.

“This unusual, two-story building with its mansard roof, large dormers, and delicate iron cresting is a rare survivor from that period of New York’s history when horses were a vital part of everyday life and their care and housing were an integral part of the development of the city,” stated the HDC.

The stable stayed in Allen’s family until 1919; it remained a stable until at least 1928, per the LPC. (Top right, 1928)

By the 1940s it was converted to commercial use. Though today it’s a little rough around the edges, this burst of color and energy deserves to be celebrated simply for evading the wrecking ball that decimated similar carriage houses in the shadow of Grand Central Terminal.

[Third image: MCNY x2010.7.1.3387]

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10 Responses to “An 1871 stable hiding on a modern Midtown block”

  1. Shankar Subramanian Says:

    These pictures are wonderful. Who would have thought a stable in midtown NYC ? Very cool !! Thanks

  2. Shayne Davidson Says:

    Absolutely fabulous!

  3. beth Says:

    wow, i had no idea

  4. cj Says:

    Lovely. I see police on horses sometimes but always wondered if they have to drive them in from elsewhere and from what distance. Sounds like this stable at least does not keep horses anymore.

    • Bob Says:

      2017 Video at: https://www.fox5ny.com/news/inside-the-nypd-mounted-unit

      “[…] We went into their police precinct, or stable if you will, in Midtown at the luxurious Mercedes House, home of the NYPD’s Mounted Unit, which was established in 1858. […]

      “Deputy Inspector Barry Gelbman commands this unit of officers, half human, half equine. The stables cost about the same as the swanky apartments upstairs. His horse even has a name placard. Nonetheless, Gelbman said horses are a lot less expensive than police cars. […]”

  5. Bob Says:

    (1) Per Trow’s 1871/72 “New York City directory,” Jonathan W. Allen was indeed listed as a broker at 96 Broadway and living at 18 East 42 Street.

    (2) The Real Estate Record and Builder’s Guide (1871) has a slightly more descriptive advertisement:

    “ALLEN & BROWN
    REAL ESTATE BROKERS AND
    AUCTIONEERS
    96 BROADWAY NEW YORK
    JONATHAN W ALLEN JOSIAH W BROWN
    HORATIO HENRIQUES
    N. B. – Particular attention given to Loans on Bond and Mortgage”

  6. sara diamond Says:

    I feel torn, I love the old architectural beauty of the time, but it must have been really hard for the poor immigrant or the folks of color even more so back then.

  7. ytfnyc Says:

    Throughout most of the 80’s and 90’s this was the offices of a film production company led by directors Howard Deutch and Gary Kanew.

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