Warm, sunny days in the Village have us here at GVSHP looking forward to our annual house tour, which takes place this Sunday, May 4th. There’s still time to buy tickets! Several of the homes on this year’s tour are located within the Charlton King Vandam Historic District, and since we haven’t featured a home from the area on the tour since 2004, we thought we’d share a little history about the district.
Designated August 16, 1966, the Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District is unique in its concentration of early Federal-style homes and is well known as the site of the former Colonial estate Richmond Hill, built in 1767 and owned at one time by both John Adams and Aaron Burr. It also served for a short time as a headquarters for George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
It was Burr who mapped the property into lots of 25 by 100 feet on the three streets now known as Charlton, King, and Vandam Streets. While he planned the area for development in 1797, Burr’s lack of funds allowed John Jacob Astor to ultimately finance the development of single family homes in the area beginning in the 1820s. In his original plans, Burr named what is now Charlton Street for himself, dubbing it Burr Street. King Street was named for Rufus King, a fellow U.S. senator, and Vandam for Anthony Van Dam, a wealthy importer and city alderman. Burr’s infamy — his famous duel in which he killed Alexander Hamilton and his 1807 arrest for allegedly plotting to capture the US Southwest to form a new country — led officials in New York City to rename Burr Street Charlton Street, in honor of Dr. John Charlton, former president of the New York Medical Society and a trustee of Columbia University.
Richmond Hill itself was saved, in a new location at present-day Charlton and Varick Streets and re-purposed first as a theater and then as a public house. It survived until 1849. Another significant change to the neighborhood came during the 1920s, when the subway was built and Sixth Avenue was extended south from Carmine Street to provide a route to the Holland Tunnel. A number of homes along the east side of the district were demolished.
The district was one of the first to be landmarked by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Perhaps it was the high concentration of Federal and Greek Revival-style buildings that remained unaltered at the time it was designated or the rich history associated with Richmond Hill. Either way, the community wholeheartedly supported designation. The designation report for the district notes “the support for designation from this small community was extraordinary. Almost half the property owners in the proposed district supported the proposal by their presence at the hearing or by letters and telegrams.”
To learn more about the Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District, you can access the designation report on the GVSHP website. Additionally, GVSHP member and Charlton Street Block Association President Dick Blodgett wrote an excellent history of Charlton Street.