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Then & Now: Seventh Avenue South

View down Seventh Avenue South from West 11th Street, 1970s. (Author’s collection)

When I was home recently I looked through one of my parents’ photo albums and happened to find this photo of Seventh Avenue South taken at some point in the 1970s. I thought it would make for a great then and now. Even though not that much time has passed, there have been a number of changes that are quickly visible.

When the above photo was taken, the Greenwich Village Historic District had already been designated a few years earlier in 1969 (read the report on our Resources page). You can see that most of the buildings in that photo and the one from 2011 below are the same.

View down Seventh Avenue South from West 11th Street, 2011. Source: Google Maps

One noticeable difference is the brick curtain wall building at the corner of Perry Street and Seventh Avenue South. Capped with a conical roof at its corner rounded bay, 22 Perry Street (sometimes known as the “Witch’s Hat” building), was built in 1987 as condominiums with ground floor retail. Approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, it was a post-modern interpretation of the Village’s often idiosyncratic and quirky architecture, particularly in those cases where avenues meet streets at odd angles (think of the Jefferson Market Library).

If you look at the 1970s photo, you can see that it replaced an Exxon gas station. According to the Greenwich Village Historic District designation report, a “filling station” had been located here since 1936 when William A. Rolleston designed a building for Kesbec Inc. In an unusual but amusing building description in the report the writer offered his/her disappointment in the design of the building:

Where such a low building is constructed among higher residential buildings, particular care should be taken to make sure that it harmonizes at least with regard to color, texture, and the general scale of its details. Here a more imaginative approach to the overall problem might have led to a better integration for this type of building, so much needed by the community and which, by its very nature, too often runs counter to the aesthetics of its surroundings.

The Tudor building at the left was built as the Mayfield Apartments in 1927-28. You can read more about this building in the designation report.

Though the Village Vanguard remains very much the same, the storefronts and second floor window surrounds have been painted light green and the awning is now red. These changes had to go through Landmarks review. If you live in a landmarked building and you wish to make alterations, make sure you fill out an LPC application available on their website. Failure to do so will result in a violation from the City, so if you have any doubts about what warrants a permit it’s best to err on the safe side.

Of course, the most noticeable difference between the two photos above is the loss of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, destroyed by terrorist attacks in 2001. The 11th anniversary of the attacks was a week ago today, and New Yorkers will remember how prominent the towers were from several streetscapes in Greenwich Village. The 2011 photo shows the rise of the new 1 World Trade Center.

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