Painted in springtime pastel shades of purple, yellow, blue, and pale green, this row of townhouses on Sullivan Street between Bleecker and Houston has always reminded me of dyed Easter eggs.
Pretty, right? They’re part of the tiny MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens Historic District, a collection of 22 homes built in Greek Revival style between 1844 and 1850.
How did the row, and another stretch of similar townhouses right behind it on MacDougal, remain so lovely over more than a century and a half?
Credit a forward-thinking businessman named William Sloane Coffin. In 1922, Coffin bought the houses as part of a corporation that was founded to preserve older single-family homes in the city, so middle-class residents wouldn’t have to move into apartment buildings or out to the suburbs.
Purchased from the estate of the original developer, the houses were remodeled in a neo-Federal style. Front stoops got the heave-ho, maids’ apartments were built on the top floor, and an interior garden open only to residents was created between the houses.
Considering the rich and famous residents of the block, that interior garden is very much private and off-limits. Luckily this real-estate listing from 2010 gives us a peek!