The hidden beauty of these blocked-off fanlight windows in Chinatown

New York’s intact 19th century residences—especially the Federal-style, early 1800s row houses that still survive in Lower Manhattan, but also early tenement buildings—often have a fanlight window above the front door.

The name comes from the shape of the glass panes, which resemble a hand-held fan. It’s a design feature that allows light to flood a front room, which might be why it’s also referred to sometimes as a sunburst window.

This 1820s house at 105 Mercer Street offers an example of a fanlight window, in all its early 19th century beauty (not pictured in the post; click the link to see).

Whatever you want to call them, it’s disheartening to spot these windows over the entrances of some of Manhattan’s oldest tenements on densely packed residential streets…and see that the glass has been painted over or replaced by wood or another solid material, allowing no light to get through.

Above and below, a painted-over fanlight at 115 Eldridge Street:

These blocked-off fanlight windows were found on a Chinatown block. I wouldn’t expect landlords to spend time and money scraping away paint from windows or replacing the glass when a building might have bigger issues to contend with. But what a shame these windows meant to let sunlight through are instead cutting it off.

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9 Responses to “The hidden beauty of these blocked-off fanlight windows in Chinatown”

  1. Greg Says:

    The building pictured is clearly not 105 Mercer Street, it is 115 something else. Perhaps you intended to reference the address and forgot?

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      The building in the picture is not 105 Mercer Street. The link in the sentence mentioning 105 Mercer Street takes you to a post and photos of that house.

  2. bo Says:

    It’s 115 Eldridge St.

  3. bo Says:

    115 Eldridge St at the corner of Broome St

  4. RBateman Says:

    On the otherside of town, several doorways still sport the fanlight windows above their doors. Specifically, visit buildings number 231 and 233 on East 54th Street.

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