Posts Tagged ‘Greenwich Village brownstones’

The loveliness of New York’s skinny brownstones

January 15, 2018

A single-family brownstone has been a New Yorker’s dream home since these “brown stone front” row houses (often made of brick with brown sandstone covering the facade) began appearing on city blocks by the middle of the 19th century.

Because building lots during the brownstone era typically measured 25 by 100 feet, the average home came in at about 20 feet across, which allowed for a spacious parlor floor with two or three wide windows with decorative touches spanning each floor.

But thanks to profit-driven developers who decided to squeeze two brownstones into one lot, the cityscape of today contains a fair number of slender, narrow, skinny brownstones.

The top photo shows one in Gramercy with the same iron balconies and cornice as its wider counterparts. The second photo shows two compressed-looking brownstones on West 30th Street.

Above are two more twin narrow brownstones, looking like slender sisters, in the East 70s. They come off as dollhouse versions of the standard-size brownstone next door.

Here’s another mini-me brownstone on the same East 70s block, old New York’s answer to the tiny house craze of contemporary times.

This one above in the East Village isn’t a brownstone, and it looks like it was built in the 1920s or 1930s. You can imagine a builder acquiring this thin lot and then deciding to put up this narrow rowhouse.

This skinny brownstone on Tenth Street, a street with spacious rowhouses collectively known as English Terrace Row, only has room for one third-floor window.

While the house in the last photo probably doesn’t qualify as an actual brownstone—I’m guessing it’s an entryway and staircase for the building to the left on East 39th Street—you have to admire the builder’s ingenuity, adding a cornice and matching window to it to pass it off as a lilliputian house on its own.

[All Photos: Ephemeral New York]

The beauty of 10th Street’s English Terrace Row

October 16, 2017

Shared balconies stretching across several buildings in a row aren’t the norm in New York City.

But a graceful cast-iron communal balcony ties together the brownstones at numbers 20 to 38 West 10th Street. It’s one of the many features that make what used to be called “English Terrace Row” on this Greenwich Village block so harmoniously beautiful.

English Terrace Row, known these days as Renwick Row, was built between 1856 and 1858 by James Renwick Jr., the architect behind circa-1846 Grace Church three blocks east down 10th Street.

Renwick left his stamp all over the mid–19th century the city; he designed banks and brownstones, charity hospitals on East River islands, and other Gothic-style churches, like St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

While he brought Gothic-style architecture back into vogue, he was also forward-thinking.

The houses of English Terrace Row are the first brownstones built without the customary high Dutch-style stoop, “placing the entry floor only two to three steps up from the street in the English manner,” states the AIA Guide to New York City.

“Terrace” is also borrowed from the British.”Terrace does not refer to the handsome balcony that runs the length of these houses; it is the English term for rows of houses, such as found in the Kensington and Paddington districts of London in the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s.”

“New Yorkers who visited England were impressed with this style and saw good reason to adopt it upon their return.”

Apparently one of those New Yorkers was a banker named James F.D. Lanier, who commissioned Renwick to build the row at a time when spacious brownstones with winding inside staircases and enormous windows were all the rage among well-to-do city residents.

Wide and elegant, and shrouded by trees and swathed in amber light in the evening, they stand 159 years later and make this stretch of 10th Street one of the most spectacular in the city.

The photo archive at the GVSHP site has some interior shots as well. For more on the Gilded Age city’s brownstone craze and James Renwick’s architectural gems, take a look through The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910.