Is this the skinniest row house in Murray Hill?

It’s not the skinniest house in all of Manhattan; that honor goes to this circa-1873 gabled beauty on Bedford Street, which clocks in at an itty-bitty nine and a half feet wide. (Famously, it was the home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay in the 1920s.)

But 164 East 37th Street just might be the skinniest row house in Murray Hill, a neighborhood with its fair share of slender brownstones and townhouses.

The backstory of this slender contender hasn’t been easy to dig up. Scouting New York took a look at it in 2011, determining that it measured 10 feet wide and served as the entrance and stairwell for the larger brick building on the corner.

I’m not so sure about that. First of all, the brick building has a different architectural style and likely was built in a different time period. Why wouldn’t the brick one have its own entrance and stairwell? Number 164 is also set back from the brick building; the two neighbors are not in harmony. On the other hand, the sloppy cornice matches, kind of.

Whatever the backstory, the house hasn’t really changed since at least 1940, when this tax photo was taken by the city. The doors look the same as today, but the more decorative entryway has vanished.

It’s hard not to be charmed by these narrow houses, even when they’re more shabby than shabby chic. A handful of them can be found on Manhattan side streets, hiding between more modern buildings—like this skinny row house at 19 West 46th Street, which does have an interesting history going back to 1865.

[Third image: NYC Department of Records and Information Services]

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10 Responses to “Is this the skinniest row house in Murray Hill?”

  1. aspicco Says:

    Even Google satellite view doesn’t help define 164 East 37th Street

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I know, and Google satellite is usually very helpful when you need to see the back of a building!

  2. Andrew ALPERN Says:

    The Manhattan land books show both the corner building and the “skinny building” as being part of the same lot number and appearing to be a single building.

  3. Robert Parker Says:

    Thanks for the skinny on that house.

  4. Greg Says:

    “the brick building has a different architectural style and likely was built in a different time period”

    I’m not so sure it does. The cornice is literally the same cornice (ie continuous) . The slender building might also be brick, it’s hard to tell. The lintels are different in 1940 but that may be simply because the main building was modified first.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Based on Andrew Alpern’s comment above, they likely were built together, as you point out.

  5. velovixen Says:

    Whenever I see those “skinny” rowhouses, I can’t help but to think that some landowner was trying to squeeze in whatever he (most were men) could between whatever else was on the property, and thus maximize its value. Interesting.

  6. alewifecove Says:

    Just to add that the Google Street view shows several mailboxes inside the entrance. Definitely part of the neighboring building.

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