Posts Tagged ‘carriage houses New York City’

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]

The gingerbread carriage house of 38th Street

March 16, 2020

Every once in a while, you see a building in New York City that’s so whimsical, it looks like it stepped out of a fable.

Take a look at this Dutch Revival–style carriage house, with its brick facade, spirals, stepped gables, and fan-like stonework surrounding the door and windows.

Ornate and unusual, the little stub of a building on East 38th Street in Murray Hill seems inspired by a fairy tale—you almost expect it to be made from gingerbread.

Adding to the carriage house’s beauty are the two stone horse heads looking out between the first and second stories. Then there’s the growly bulldog keeping an eye on things up top.

For such a fanciful structure, its backstory echoes that of other New York City carriage houses—built for wealthy New Yorkers who resided in nearby mansions and could afford to spend money on the place they housed their horses.

Named for a banker who worked with J.P. Morgan, the George S. Bowdoin Stable was completed in 1902 by architect Ralph Townsend. He designed it for Murray Hill landowner and real estate developer William Martin, according to Exploring Manhattan’s Murray Hill.

“The carriage house was acquired by Bowdoin in 1907, converted to a garage in 1918 by Mrs. Bowdoin, and later converted to a single-family residence, eventually yielding to commercial use.”

This homage to the whimsy of early 20th century architects was up for sale in 2016—check out the ultra modern interior, courtesy of 6sqft.com. (The price at the time: $8.35 million!)

[Third image: MCNY, 1976, 2013.3.2.252]

A secret alley behind a street in Hell’s Kitchen

September 25, 2017

Is there anything quite as enchanting as coming across a quiet hidden courtyard in the middle of a dense Manhattan neighborhood?

It’s especially magical when the courtyard is just a quick walk from the hustle and bustle of Times Square. That was my reaction when I took a walk through tiny Clinton Court in Hell’s Kitchen.

This secret space is about halfway down the busy tenement block between 9th and 10th Avenues. It’s accessible through a long slender walkway behind a heavy iron door, which you can find to the right of the residence at 422 West 46th Street.

The door is locked, of course. But it’s worth the trip if you can catch a glimpse of the courtyard from the street through the door.

And if you can convince a resident to let you in and see Clinton Court up close, you’ll want to grab your camera.

Clinton Court is an oasis of tall trees and lush gardens. The courtyard is steps from the back entrances for 420 and 422 West 46th Street (with their ivy-covered walls).

And right in the center is an entirely separate carriage house, with a facade right out of New Orleans or Paris, or a fairy tale.

The carriage house has an unclear history. It was probably built in 1871 by the builder who put up the tenement at number 422.

This was approximately 20 years after 420 West 46th Street went up in the 1850s—before Hell’s Kitchen filled up and became a poor Irish neighborhood of factories, warehouses, and small businesses in the decades after the Civil War. (And long before the neighborhood got its colorful nickname.)

The carriage house “had horse stalls on the ground floor, but occupancy of the upper floors at this time is unclear—in the 1880’s a milkman, Jacob Michels, occupied the entire structure,” wrote Christopher Gray in a 1992 New York Times piece.

Yet some sources have it that the carriage house dates back to the 1820s and was owned by George Clinton, governor of New York at the turn of the 19th century and a descendant of DeWitt Clinton, who has a park named after him in the neighborhood.

With Halloween coming up, it might be worth mentioning that a couple of sources claims the place is haunted either by Governor Clinton himself, one of his kids, or by an executed British Revolutionary War sailor named Old Moor, as the site of Clinton Court occupies an former potter’s field cemetery.

The carriage house’s history becomes clearer in the 20th century. “In 1919, Raffaello and Frank Menconi, prominent architectural sculptors, purchased both 420 and 422 and merged the lots,” wrote Gray.

The Menconis are the designers behind the flagpole bases outside the New York Public Library, among other city sculpture icons.

“They added a one-story studio with a skylight on the rear lot of 420 and occupied the entire rear building for their business.”

[ALL PHOTOS © EPHEMERAL NEW YORK]

In 1958, the tenements at 420 and 422 West 46th Street, the carriage house, and the studio became one single apartment complex entity, says Gray—serene seclusion steeped in New York history and mere steps from Midtown.