← Back

The Mystery Behind Henington Hall

A couple of weeks ago I was walking along 3rd Street in the East Village and stopped in front of a sculpture park that I had seen many times before. Just past Avenue B, the park holds a number of metal sculptures which, without doing any research, seemed to be the work of current artists (perhaps even local artists).

The mystery building with its gabled roof. View south towards 2nd Street.

And then I looked closer and noticed a 2 1/2-story gabled building at the back of the park, which shares the lot of the tenement facing East 2nd Street. What is that? At first I thought it was the back of an old church or synagogue with its front now cut off after the tenement was built right up against it. The roof along with the long arched window openings made me think it was some kind of communal space, and sometimes you see older buildings attached to newer ones (which only adds to the fascinating history of a property).

Well, I was a little bit right and a little bit wrong. Here’s what building permits we have on file here at GVSHP revealed to me about this building’s past.

Henington Hall at 214 East 2nd Street.
The gabled building as seen from 3rd Street and across the sculpture park.

Known as Henington Hall and located at 214 East 2nd Street, it was built in 1907 as a six-story and 2-story building, according to the building permit. What an interesting find! The gabled building wasn’t an older building on the lot, rather it was built as part of the new construction.

But how was it used? The photo above shows the building from 2nd Street, which wasn’t constructed as a tenement at all. The permit indicates that the entirety of Henington Hall was to be occupied as stores, a restaurant, a hall, meeting rooms, and lofts. Designed by architect Herman Horenburger for Solomon Henig, the community space was likely created for the area’s Jewish residents. Horenburger in a few short years would be commissioned to redesign the facade of a rowhouse into Mezritch Synagogue, which became part of the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District last year.

Meeting spaces such as Henington Hall were valuable ways of finding entertainment in these dense neighborhoods, and it’s two-story rear addition provided additional space without losing much-needed light at the upper floors of the taller section of the building. It’s interesting to see a gabled roof for a non-religious building built this late in Manhattan’s development, which is what made me think it had been a religious structure of some kind (it seemed too wide to be an earlier Federal house, which was often capped with a gabled roof).

A 1911 article from The New York Times indicates that William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper giant, made a speech in front of 500 east side residents at Henington Hall as part of his run for office. Though the article listed the address as being on Second Avenue, we’re assuming they meant Second Street. According to this piece, Henington Hall was even noted as a ballroom just like Webster Hall.

The gabled roof portion of Henington Hall is just visible from Avenue B.
The gabled roof portion of Henington Hall is just visible from Avenue B.

By mid-century, the upper floors had been converted to apartments, though by 1961 they were converted again to a projection room, studio and office on the first floor with artist studios and a plaster model and machine shop on the upper floors.

The building’s role as an artistic haven continues to this day. Since 1974, it has been home to the Kenkelaba Gallery, an exhibition and work space for African-American, Latino, Asian-American and Native American artists that are typically not featured elsewhere. The sculpture park I’ve often noticed is part of Kenkelaba and features a rotating display of artists’ work. You can learn more about this East Village space here.

10 responses to “The Mystery Behind Henington Hall

  1. Hello!
    If this is still active (i’m writing August 21, 2019) Id love to talk. My dad is the grandson of the builder of Hennington Hall- Michael Henig (not Solomon) and has lots of memories of the place. His mother (my grandmother Pauline Monoson, née Henig) worked as a hat check girl there and told me lots of stories. They hosted a big ball and party for Theodore Roosevelt when he was elected president. They knew him because they owned another property (on Rivington) that was a stable and TR kept his horse and carriage there when he was NYC police commissioner. My dad is old now but very very sharp. Any interest in an article drawing on his memories? We live on LI now.
    Sara Monoson

    1. My parents married sept 18 1938 Nicholas and Anna Zito they married at Nativity church on 2 ave and had their reception at the hall I’m guessing an Italian football wedding
      I was so glad to see this
      We lived at 77 ESt 2 st till 1969
      Thank you for this posting
      Pat Zito-Volynets

  2. My parents were married sept 1938 they had their reception at the hall
    An Italian football wedding
    I remember my mother saying they held reception here Thank you
    Patricia Zito-Volynets

  3. I am so happy to see that there is such historically preserved richness in the community ❤️, my friend and I were admiring the building as well as the sculptures in the yard and in the lobby of the building we would enjoy a tour of the building if possible , thank you so much for your contributions to the community

    1. My grandfather worked as a waiter at the catering hall. As others mentioned, Hennington Hall was used as an event space for weddings and otherevents (mostly Jewish, but also as someone mentioned Italian as well). He worked there in the 1930s and 1940s. When he died in 1952 they held his memorial there and I have the card from my mother that reads: Hennington Kosher Caterers.

  4. Henington Hall was the location of the religious Jewish wedding ceremony of two ancestors of mine, Eisig Dicker and Nettie Kalachstein, in January 1910 – giving some idea of the building’s function as a communal space for Jewish residents of the LES at that time (Marriage Cert from NYC Vital Records office). Eisig lived in Orchard St and Nettie East 10th at that time.

  5. Sorry, I should also have menioned another interesting fact: Henington Hall is listed in other historical records as the address of my ancestors’ synagogue and associated Landsmanshaft (welfare and support association). My family were from the village of Mikulince / Mikulintsy, then Austria-Hungary, today western Ukraine. The “Mikulinzer” synagogue and the Mikulinzer Sick & Benevolent Society’s incorporation address was 214 East 2nd Street. In those days there were hundreds of synagogues in the LES, tied to the villages of origin of the first generation of Jews to emigrate to the USA; they more often than not made their homes in informal or makeshift settings, so Henington Hall would have been a grand setting for the Mikulinzers relative to others!

  6. I’m a postcard collector, and one of the topics I focus on are “real photo” postcards of musicians and bands. I recently purchased one of a music group, and on the back is printed “For Duplicates: Henington Studios,” with the 2nd St address. The type of paper the card was printed on dates it to 1904-1918.
    I’m thinking that this band appeared commercially at this venue, and the postcards were given out or sold to attendees as a souvenir. Here is a link to the front and back images:
    I would love to hear additional information about this! The mysteries found and then solved on postcards are always fascinating!

  7. My father grew up on those streets. Seymour Rothman, 93. His father, Leo Rothman owned a watch store in the 30s that became a jewelry store in the 40s. It was a couple of blocks up from the hall. He was describing the stores and their owners from 85 years ago! When he mentioned going to Henington Hall for the High Holy Days services we looked it up and found this article.
    So now we know another use for the hall… smaller synagogues don’t have ample space for all of the whole families who join for those services.
    They were a part of the Sambor Young Men’s Society

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *