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Law & Order: Historic Images Unit

West 4th Street and MacDougal Street, ca. 1950. From the Nat Kaufman collection, GVSHP.

With the recent news that every Law &  Order television episode will soon be available in one mammoth 104-disc set, we thought we’d round up this week’s posts with a look at the law. In flipping through some of the images in GVSHP’s Preservation Archive and Oral History Project, we found some early and striking photographic records of one of the Village’s biggest legal institutions — NYU’s Law School.

The image above is from 1950 and shows the future site of NYU Law School’s main building, Vanderbilt Hall, which was named after Arthur T. Vanderbilt, the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court and dean of the NYU Law School. The photo shows the site at the corner of MacDougal Street and West 4th Street/Washington Square South, looking southeast. The entire block between the park and West 3th Street and MacDougal Street and Sullivan Street was razed to accommodate the new building project. The image is part of the Nat Kaufman Collection, which was generously donated to GVSHP by his son in 1998. You can see some more images from the collection in an earlier Off the Grid post.

The law school building that you see in the current view of the same intersection below was completed in 1950. It was designed by the firm of Eggers and Higgins and is built in the Neo-Georgian style in the shape of a large ‘H’.

West 4th Street and MacDougal Street today.

GVSHP’s historic image archive also contains another dramatic view of the Law School construction site, looking from the opposite perspective–northwest from West 3rd Street and Sullivan Street. In it you can see Washington Square Park on the right and the Provincetown Playhouse & Apartments to the center-left (the building was quite controversially demolished by NYU in 2009).

West 3rd Street and Sullivan Street looking northwest, 1950. From the New York Bound Collection, GVSHP, Queens Borough Public Library.

The firm of Eggers and Higgins also designed NYU’s similarly-styled Hayden Residence Hall (built 1957), which stands on Washington Square West.

Vanderbilt Hall's arcade along Washington Sq. So.

Though these two 1950s buildings are rather reserved in their design, expressing what the AIA Guide calls  a “neighborly” historicist character, the 1960s would bring some radical changes to the southern end of Washington Square Park and Eggers and Higgins’ style.

Just a couple of years after the completion of the Law School building and Hayden Hall, Eggers and Higgins designed the NYU Catholic Center and Catholic chapel at 58 Washington Square South. Built with reinforced concrete in a trapezoidal form and featuring abstract stained glass windows, Eggers and Higgins’ Catholic Center chapel (completed 1964) could not have been more different than its stolid  predecessors. Though Vanderbilt Hall and the Hayden dorm remain standing, the Catholic Center and chapel were demolished in 2009 and replaced with a new NYU Spiritual Center.

Former NYU Catholic Center, Eggers & Higgins, 1964 - via nycago.org

4 responses to “Law & Order: Historic Images Unit

  1. It’s somewhat remarkable that there was a time that NYU was concerned about designing buildings that matched the character of the neighborhood. It’s shame that this consideration was forgotten by the early 1960’s.

  2. Dear Sir, I’m looking for news about my italian great grandfather who lived in the Village. I know he worked at 107 W 3rd Street, I’ve seen that today at this adress there is the NYU building. What was there before the construction of the school in 1950?? I’m looking forward to receiving an early reply. Thank you for your help! Best wishes from Italy.
    Anna Maria

    1. Hi Anna Maria, what a great connection to the South Village! The building that used to be located at 107 West 3rd Street was a five-story tenement building that consisted of multiple apartments. Based on the building’s footprint, we can assume that it was built sometime in the 1880s or 1890s. We have a historic map and a c. 1940 photo of the building that we will send to you, but unfortunately the photo is a bit dark. Thanks for your comment and good luck with your research!

  3. A fascinating picture. Do you have pictures of how that area looked BEFORE it was turn downThat is the northern side of Macdougal Street and how the buildings looked during WW II.

    The reason I ask is I lived as a child at 135 Macdougal Street. It was right across from Vanderbilt Hall. Where I lived was long bought by NYU and turned into additional space for NYU law School.

    But I never knew what had existed across the street until I came across a restaurant named THE CLAYPSO which was at 146 Macdougal Street. It is where James Baldwin worked as a busboy/dish washer during WWII around the time he had several roommates in Greenwich Village.One of them included Marlon Brando.

    Best, Jim

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