Last Tuesday, October 9th, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) designated the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District. Stretching between the Bowery and Avenue A, East 2nd Street and St. Mark’s Place, the district includes about 325 buildings and is the largest ever created in the East Village.
We’re excited to see that landmark protections have reached the East Village to this extent. The creation of the historic district doesn’t freeze the neighborhood in time (as is often believed), but if property owners want to alter or demolish buildings they will have to apply for an LPC permit through a public review procedure. This helps ensure that proposed changes are sympathetic to the character of this historically significant neighborhood.
Historic districts have become an integral part of the cityscape. We often reference LPC designation reports here at Off the Grid so, today, let GVSHP be your guide to understanding how to use the East Village report to learn more about this district!
The LPC map above represents the final boundaries of the district. For those who have been following the progress of this district, you’ll notice that it’s now split into two areas. Area 1 consists of buildings along Second Avenue and its side streets from East 2nd to East 7th Streets; area 2 is much smaller and runs along East 6th (north side) and East 7th Streets between First Avenue and Avenue A.
Since we’ve covered a good amount of the history of this neighborhood on our East Village page and past Off the Grid posts, we thought we’d walk you through the designation report so you can find out what kinds of information you can pull from it. In addition to the map shown above, the designation report is split into a number of sections:
As you can see in the table of contents, the history of the district is split into several periods under “The Historical and Architectural Development of the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District”. Just from this list alone, it’s easy to see how this area played a big role in New York City history. Fashionable row house development, immigration, and the Yiddish Rialto are just some of the topics you can learn more about in the report.
Perhaps of most interest to those who live in this district is the “Building Profiles” section. The report breaks down this section by streets (north and south sides) and avenues (east and west sides). So if you live at 207 East 5th Street, for example, you would go to page 90 of the report; properties are listed in numerical order so look on the following pages to find your building number on this portion of the street.
These beautiful Queen Anne style tenements are but of a few of the buildings you can learn more about in the designation report. So what does each “building profile” include? For starters, you’ll learn about the original construction date, architect/builder, and original owner as well as the building’s type, architectural style, height in stories, and materials. The description also points out significant architectural features, alterations, and notable history and residents.
Using 99 East 7th Street (the apartment building in the center of the above photo) as an example, the report tells us that this Queen Anne-style tenement building was designed by Schneider & Herter and constructed c. 1891 for owner Charles Ruff. A quick peek at the building profile for 97 1/2 East 7th Street reveals that Schneider & Herter were also commissioned by Ruff to design this neighboring c. 1891 tenement.
GVSHP conducted a building survey of the entire East Village, which included obtaining copies of historical building permits. This research was used by the LPC for the creation of their designation report.
Schneider & Herter designed eight buildings in the historic district, but the most prolific architect was George F. Pelham with a total of 19 new buildings (highlighted in the map above) and one alteration to an existing building. Pelham designed many buildings throughout New York City, which leads us to the “Architects Appendix” section of the report. Here you can learn more about Pelham and every other architect that is credited with designing an existing building in the district.
And, finally, photos of select buildings in the district are included at the end of the report. If you don’t see the photo of the building you’re looking for, you can view them at the LPC by first sending in a records access request. Aside from illustrating the architecture of the district, photos serve as a reference point for how buildings appeared at the time of designation. This becomes a particularly valuable tool for when property owners propose to make changes to their buildings.
The designation report for the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District is located on our Resources page, along with those for every other historic district and individual landmark in our neighborhoods. Older reports are not as detailed as newer ones, but they still serve as a great starting off point in learning more about the history of your building.