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Thread: Which to Preserve, the Chicken or the Egg?

  1. #1
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002

    Default Which to Preserve, the Chicken or the Egg?

    Streetscapes | Greenwich Village Brownstones

    Which to Preserve, the Chicken or the Egg?


    The architect of a 1928 remodel of an old tenement at 11 Cornelia Street,
    James H. Galloway, ignored the upper floors but refaced the lower section with yellow stucco and tile decoration.

    114 Waverly Place, a row house rebuilt in 1920

    124 Waverly Place

    11 Cornelia Street

    IN the last 30 years, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of deteriorated high-stoop brownstones in New York have been restored as new generations of owners reinstalled stoops and recreated facades stripped off decades ago.

    But in his new book, “The Row House Reborn: Architecture and Neighborhoods in New York City, 1908-1929” (Johns Hopkins University Press), Andrew S. Dolkart questions the justification for this work. For him, many of the prerestoration brownstones are a whole new building type, not yet recognized, let alone appreciated.

    Stoops started coming off brownstones in the 1890s, when a few adventurous souls took a sledgehammer to them and other aspects of the facades. According to “The Row House Reborn,” the architect Frederick Sterner was the first to remake an entire group of brownstones, beginning in 1908 on East 19th Street between Irving Place and Third Avenue.

    Others followed his lead, and Greenwich Village, with its emerging bohemianism and stock of older, decaying houses, became a center of reimagined quaintness, typically with pastel stucco fronts, studio-type windows and tile roofs.

    Vincent Pepe, an Italian-born real estate entrepreneur, began to be active in Greenwich Village real estate around 1900, and was soon the Village’s most enthusiastic promoter. Mr. Dolkart, the James Marston Fitch associate professor of Historic Preservation at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, quotes an article in The Quill Magazine in 1923 calling the area “the Republic of Vincent Pepe.”

    Professor Dolkart identifies Pepe’s earliest alteration of an entire facade of an old house as the 1915 reconstruction of 124 Waverly Place, an 1830s dwelling that had been turned into a rooming house. The architect was Frank Vitolo, and No. 124 created the model for the Village conversion of this type.

    The old facade was stripped away and replaced by a simple stucco front, apparently cream or yellow. Other additions included a tiled roof over the doorway, wide banks of studio-type windows, and a double-height studio space with a skylight on the top floor.

    The renovated building became an apartment house, with one apartment per floor, each renting for $150 a month. In 1930, the tenants included an insurance agent, a retired Army major and a mural painter.

    But the most striking makeover is surely that at 114 Waverly, a brownstone rebuilt in 1920 by a portrait painter, Murray Bewley, for himself.

    Bewley’s architect, William Sanger, was married to the birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, and had been jailed in 1915 for distributing her pamphlet “Family Limitation.” Alexander Berkman, Carlo Tresca and other radicals attended his trial, during which Justice James J. McInerney said that people who distributed information on birth control were “a menace to society.”

    For his client, Mr. Sanger created one of the most unusual town house facades in the city, a stucco front with an odd arched top and detailing out of a German Expressionist movie. Professor Dolkart says it is inspired by the Jugendstil.

    Another of these lively facades went up in 1928 on an old tenement at 11 Cornelia Street. The architect, James H. Galloway, ignored the upper floors but refaced the lower section with yellow stucco and tile decoration. The stucco facade is dotted with low relief molds of galleons, Venetian gondolas, parrots and other images.

    He also installed a metal plaque in the shape of an artist’s palette bearing the name Seville Studios. In 1928, The New York Times carried an advertisement promising “Old World atmosphere, New World conveniences,” including beamed ceilings, gas ranges, tiled baths and a rear garden with a fountain.

    The 1910 census found 11 people at 11 Cornelia Street, including a laundress, a steamship waiter, a street musician and a laborer, the last being Joseph Stewart, 40, born in Virginia and, like eight others in residence, listed as “colored.” The 1930 census made note of a college instructor, an ad salesman and an aviation draftsman; by then, all the building’s tenants were white.

    The revival of the Village displaced many artists, and there was some resentment. Other residents resented the artists who had helped revive the area.

    As for Pepe, the man who led the charge, his actual projects were few in number. He was accused of embezzlement and hanged himself in 1935.
    Professor Dolkart became interested in what might be called Village Revival Style in the 1990s, and since then, some distinguished alterations of the early 20th century have been swept away by so-called restoration work.

    Several such projects have been approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, including that at 224 East 61st Street in the Treadwell Farm Historic District, and 130 East 92nd Street, a moderne-style house in the Carnegie Hill Historic District.

    Professor Dolkart says that the works of this movement are vulnerable since they are not recognized on their own, and are often considered damaged versions of the original incarnations.

    What’s sad is that the replacements are often unconvincing recreations in colored stucco, imitating brownstone, and based on defective research. What happens in the future will be one measure of the success or failure of this admirable book.

  2. #2
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    How Waverly Place Got Its Salmon-Colored Stucco House

    by Jessica Dailey

    Park Slope's formerly pink brownstone was different, to say the least, but it was not the quirkiest colored home in the city. Washington Square Park Blog posted the above photo of 114 Waverly Place today, writing "I never noticed this house, ever strangely enough," which makes us a tad less embarrassed to admit the same. So we did a bit of digging to learn when and why the house found its whimsy.

    The rowhouse at 114 Waverly Place was originally constructed in 1900, but in 1920, the owner, portrait painter Murray Bewley, hired architect William Sanger to rebuild the facade with the arched top and "detailing out of a German Expressionist movie." It's inspired by Jugendstil, a style that pulls from Art Nouveau and Japanese prints. Public records show that the home has been owned by the same family since 1978, and StreetEasy says it has four-units. There are no previous sale or rental listings, which leads us to believe that the same New Yorkers have live there for decades. The block was landmarked in 1969, so this pretty pink house is here to stay.

    Pink House on Waverly [WSP]

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