Posts Tagged ‘Tenements NYC’

The tenement between two elevated train lines

July 24, 2017

In the late 19th and early 20th century, thousands of New Yorkers lived in tenements bordered by elevated train tracks.

Trains thundered so close to living rooms and kitchens, one observer in the 1880s described the elevated as “so near to the houses you might shake hands with the inhabitants and see what they had for dinner.”

Having a train outside one window was one thing. But what in the world was it like living in a slender building at the juncture of two elevated lines, with trains lurching and screeching day and night on both sides of your home?

The curtains in the windows of this tenement, at the Battery Place stop where the Sixth Avenue El and Ninth Avenue El meet in Lower Manhattan, tell us people did make their homes here.

Both elevated lines were dismantled in the late 1930s. At some point, the Flatiron-like tenement had its date with the wrecking ball as well; I haven’t been able to locate it anywhere in the downtown streetscape.

[Photos: MCNY/Wurtz Bros.]

Holdout buildings that survived the bulldozer

February 16, 2015

They’re the survivors of New York City real estate—the walkups and low-rise buildings now dwarfed by shiny office towers and more contemporary residences.

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Each building probably has a different backstory that explains how the wrecking ball was avoided.

Maybe an owner refused to sell for sentimental reasons. This lovely Greenwich Village brownstone, sandwiched between two tall apartment houses above, looks like it could have been one person’s longtime romantic hideaway.

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Or perhaps an owner tried to hold out for a bigger offer, until a developer realized it wasn’t worth the payout anyway. That might have been in the case of this one-story space wedged between a 19th century tenement and 21st century box on Tenth Avenue.

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And thanks to real estate rules governing landmark structures and historic districts, some of these buildings probably couldn’t be torn down, like the gorgeous carriage house on a Gramercy side street.

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It’s hard not to root for these underdogs. This ivy-covered walkup on East 60th Street gives bustling 59th Street near Bloomingdale’s the feel of a smaller-scale city.

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Doesn’t this stately red townhouse do a good job breaking up the monotony of a block of Murray Hill terraced high-rise apartment buildings?

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I can’t be the only New Yorker happy to see a Gilded Age limestone mansion holding its own in the middle of a stately Upper West Side block.

Ghostly outlines of long-gone New York buildings

March 19, 2012

New York is a city of layers. Not just the layers below us—the subway tunnels, sewers, and landfill containing trash-turned-artifacts going back 400 years.

The city also has layers on its sides: the rarely visible faded outlines of older buildings that were torn or fell down.

Catching sight of them is like getting a secret glimpse into the city’s past. New development obscures them fast.

One of my favorites is this pattern of what looks like a Federal-style roof on West 15th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues (left).

Whatever it was—a 19th century single-family home? A stable?—sat between a townhouse and a tenement until it was bulldozed.

This one on Sixth Avenue and 26th Street below doesn’t look so remarkable . . . but the three chimney outlines and what looks like a roof access area are so well preserved. What was it?

The ghostliest of all is this perfect pattern of a Federal-style house—chimney, roof, and dormer windows all clear—on Hudson and Dominick Streets in Tribeca.

Luckily its twin still stands, letting us know what a little 19th century gem of a home was lost.