Posts Tagged ‘19th Century Stables NYC’

An 1871 stable hiding on a modern Midtown block

June 8, 2020

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]