25 Bleecker Street is one of nine extant buildings originally constructed as Federal style row houses in the NoHo East Historic District. It was built c. 1830 for David Chrystie at a time when this area was being developed with homes for the city’s expanding middle class. Although altered considerably over the years, the house has links back to this earliest period of development in New York. An application was recently filed with the Landmarks Preservation Commission for the demolition of this building in order that a new six-story building with a penthouse addition may take its place. (Click HERE to see the GVSHP Landmarks Application webpage for this proposal).
In light of this proposal, we thought we’d delve a bit into 25 Bleecker’s history, and put its development in context for the NoHo Historic District.
New York City experienced tremendous growth in terms of people and businesses at the beginning of the nineteenth century, particularly after the War of 1812. In order to accommodate this growth, development continuously pushed northward and dwellings were constructed at an unprecedented rate. The architectural style for row houses during this time was the Federal style.
Derived from the English Georgian style, Federal was the link between that pre-revolutionary style and the classical revival styles of the 1830’s, 40’s, and 50’s which followed, such as Greek Revival and Italianate. Federal row houses were characteristically modest in scale and simple in architectural ornament. They were typically two-and-a-half stories in height, three bays wide, side hall in plan and featured Flemish bond brick facades, gambrel roofs with dormers, and simple doorway surrounds and window lintels and sills of granite, brownstone or marble.
Bleecker Street, where 25 Bleecker is located, opened in 1807, running through the farm of Anthony L. Bleecker. Bleecker began to sell building lots on his farm individually and in groups. Often, these properties changed hands many times during a short period of speculation, and by 1830 the street was completely developed. Many of the homes were erected as investment properties for wealthy New Yorkers, who rented them to members of the city’s growing middle class.
By the 1830’s, the area in what is now the NoHo East Historic District was considered a “respectable neighborhood, of single-family dwellings occupied by affluent families who either owned or rented the houses.” (Elizabeth Blackmar, Manhattan For Rent, 1785-1850, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press,
But by the 1840’s and 50’s, the city’s affluent moved farther uptown, and the eastern end of Bleecker Street and environs was losing its luster as a fashionable residential area. Many of the Federal-era houses were subdivided into apartments and boarding rooms; some had been partially given over to commercial uses. Many of the new inhabitants were recently-arrived immigrants from Ireland and Germany, who had fled famine, poverty, and oppression. The area’s residents were quite varied in terms of ethnicity and social standing.
As part of the ongoing evolution of the neighborhood, by 1880 25 Bleecker Street had become a boarding house, like many other older houses in the neighborhood. By 1890, it had been converted to a factory. By the early twentieth century, however, the area had become the center of the fur industry of New York, which remained here until the mid-twentieth century. One fur dealer, Jacob Scholnick, moved his business into 25 Bleecker Street in the late 1930s, and purchased the property in 1945. He maintained his business in here into the early 1960’s. Another long-term tenant at 25 Bleecker Street was Heyman Sewing Machine Co., which was located here from the late-1930’s through the mid-1960’s.
But by the post-war era, the decline in the city’s manufacturing base left much vacant commercial space in these buildings. Loft dwellers began to occupy the upper stories of 25 Bleecker Street, as they did many other buildings in the area. In 1984, the building’s facade was replaced and took much the form we see today, and the building has continued in its residential use.
GVSHP has made considerable strides in preserving Federal style row houses in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo. One hundred and thirty eight Federal row houses have been landmarked and/or are listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places thanks to the efforts of GVSHP. As stated in the NoHo East designation report, “While many of these houses (Federals) were replaced or greatly altered later in the nineteenth century or during the early twentieth century, a rare group of Federal row houses survive at 7 to13 and 21 to 25 Bleecker Street, as well as at 300 Elizabeth Street and 306 to 310 Bowery.”
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