If you love walking our Village streets, chances are you’ve come across the neglected little building at 237 Bleecker Street. Once a stagecoach house when it was built c. 1835, the wood structure is a cherished piece of Village history, yet it’s fallen on hard times.
A proposal to reconstruct most of the facade and restore the existing cornice was presented at the Community Board 2 Landmarks Committee meeting on February 12th (that committee recommended approval). The ultimate determination came down to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which heard and approved the application this past Tuesday, March 3rd. Facade reconstruction is sometimes necessary for historic structures when materials have deteriorated past the point of saving (AKA restoring). Unfortunately, this seems to be the case for 237 Bleecker Street.
Here’s a look at what will likely happen with this building once work begins.
The existing wood cornice will be restored. Thank goodness! There’s nothing quite like a beautifully-carved piece like this to cap off a historic building.
By the way, this building is located within the South Village extension of the Greenwich Village Historic District. GVSHP has been busy advocating for the preservation of the South Village neighborhood, and this particular section was part of a larger district GVSHP proposed about a decade ago.
While the applicant felt that the existing materials below the cornice were beyond saving, the commissioners asked – given the building’s unusual history – that as much of the existing materials be saved as possible. At the hearing, the staff preservationist assigned to the project mentioned that salvaging the windows and surrounds had been considered, but because they are not plumb installing new ones would be preferable. Nevertheless, the applicant will work with LPC staff further to determine what might be saved.
The above photo shows the interesting painted pressed metal, which has slowly deteriorated over time. Historic wood siding, which the applicant plans to preserve, can be found underneath. The pressed metal will be replicated to match the existing, and it will also be painted.
In our testimony, we advocated for the preservation of as much of the existing facade as possible, especially the wood window surrounds. We noted that many wood-frame buildings have lost their wood window trims when their facades were later stuccoed; this particular building retains its wood surrounds because it was re-sided with pressed metal instead. Hopefully at least some of these surrounds can be spared.
One commissioner thought that a small portion of the historic pressed metal could be preserved (similar to the unrestored patch of ceiling at Grand Central Terminal) on the facade. As mentioned earlier, he cited the building’s unusual history as one of the reasons for this recommendation.
The above elevation drawing shows what the facade will more or less look like once work is complete. “Restoration” is a little misleading in that only the cornice will be restored. Instead it should probably be referred to as a facade reconstruction and cornice restoration.
The storefront design is based on the c. 1940 tax photo and will be made of wood. The two-over-two double-hung wood windows on the upper floors will replace the existing multi-pane wood casement windows (unless perhaps the LPC staff ultimately determines those windows are salvageable).
You can look at the entirety of this proposal on our Landmarks Applications Webpage (with the ability to zoom in). Even though the application was approved on Tuesday, the applicant still needs to present final drawings to the LPC before a permit is issued. Once that has happened, we will be able to see what additional existing features may be saved, if any. While we’re not sure when the permit will be posted, be sure to follow us here on Off the Grid for an update at that time!