Posts Tagged ‘Old House Chelsea NYC’

The mysterious faded house outline on the side of a Chelsea tenement

April 25, 2022

In the under-construction contemporary city, you see them all the time—the faint outlines of roof lines, chimneys, windows, and staircases. They’re the phantom buildings of another New York, fascinating palimpsests from bulldozed edifices of Gotham’s past.

150 Ninth Avenue, with the phantom remains of 148 Ninth Avenue on its side

This site is a big fan of these ghost outlines and features them regularly. But recently I came across one in Chelsea with the steel beams and concrete floors of a new structure creeping up to subsume it.

So before the faded outline disappeared from sight behind a new luxury condo or co-op, I tried to delve into the backstory of what was once 148 Ninth Avenue, at 19th Street.

Examples of circa-1820s Federal-Style houses still extant on Harrison Street

Because of what looks like a steep peaked roofline going down the back—and also partly in the front—I assumed number 148 had been a Federal-style, early 19th century home. These modest brick houses for the middle class merchants and artisans were popular in the 1820s and 1830s. Humble but sturdy, they typically reached three stories and featured dormer windows on the third floor.

Many Federal-style homes have been demolished over the decades, small and out of fashion. But a good number remain, with a handful on lower Eighth and Ninth Avenues. They were likely built when this area was on the outskirts of the newly planned Chelsea neighborhood, which rose from the 18th and early 19th century estate of Captain Thomas Clarke, which he called Chelsea.

148 Ninth Avenue

Unfortunately, when it came to finding a photo or illustration of a former Federal-style house at number 148, I came up empty.

Instead of an early 19th century home with peaked roof and dormer windows, the photos I found of 148 Ninth Avenue depicted a typical late 19th century walkup tenement (above and below), similar to but not quite a match to its neighbors running north from numbers 150 to 158.

148 Ninth Avenue in 1939-1941

I don’t know when the corner tenement was torn down. But once it was gone, it seemed to reveal the ghost of the Federal-style house, strangely preserved enough so passersby like myself could imagine the family that inhabited it in the 1820s or 1830s—maybe operating a store downstairs and living on the second and third levels.

From the New York Daily Herald, 1873

Decades later, the little house may have been sliced into separate apartments, as single-family houses in New York City almost always were. Perhaps this furnished room advertised for rent in the New York Daily Herald in 1873 was one of the carved up flats (above)?

The roar and grit from the Ninth Avenue elevated, which dominated the avenue by the late 1860s and lowered the value of the area as a residential enclave, might have hastened the house’s demise.

[Third image: NYPL; fourth image: NYC Department of Records and Information Services]