Posts Tagged ‘House of Genius’

The block known as “Genius Row” in the Village

February 28, 2011

Stephen Crane (at left), O. Henry, Willa Cather, opera singer Adelina Patti—they all spent time bunking in one of the red brick row houses on Washington Square South between Thompson Street and LaGuardia Place.

Dubbed “Genius Row” because of its brain trust of creative residents in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the block was dominated by one row house in particular: the “House of Genius” at 61 Washington Square South.

Leased by a Swiss woman named Madame Blanchard in 1886, the House of Genius became a boardinghouse for bohemian writers, musicians, and artists—the only people she’d rent to.

“The third and fourth floors were also emblazoned with artistic murals and poetry etched by the former guests,” according to the New York Preservation Archive Project.

But after Madame Blanchard died in 1937, a developer bought Genius Row, planning to bulldoze the row houses and put up a high-rise.

Village residents fought hard against the plan, but the developer secured evictions and reduced the entire block to rubble.

In the end, however, he didn’t get his high-rise. In 1948 he sold the property to New York University, which constructed a student center there.

[Writer and Village resident Willa Cather]