On this date in 2016, the Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously voted to designate the final piece of GVSHP’s proposed South Village Historic District, an incredibly important part of our rich history. After a hard-fought, ten-year campaign led by GVSHP, three new historic districts were created including the Greenwich Village Historic District Extension II in 2010, the South Village Historic District in 2013, and the Sullivan-Thompson Historic District in 2016. Our newest district includes 157 buildings mainly consisting of row houses and tenements. According to the designation report, the streets of the district “illustrate the growth of the neighborhood from its origins as a residential row house neighborhood in the early 19th century to a vibrant Italian-American neighborhood in the early 20th century.”
This development pattern is important to note because while the area originally consisted of single family Federal Style and early Greek Revival homes, the designation report emphasizes the waves of immigrants that converted the single-family homes to multiple units, and beginning in the 1850s built block after block of purpose-built tenements. 92 of the 157 buildings are purpose-built tenements including pre-old law, old law, and new law, in a variety of styles including Italianate, Neo-Grec, Queen Anne, and Renaissance Revival. Read more here about the tenements of the South Village, check out our South Village oral history collection, and watch our Save the South Village videos,
The area experienced tremendous growth through the early 1920’s when changes in immigration law slowed the arrivals of new immigrants. Other changes to the built environment at that time including the 6th Avenue Extension in the mid-1920s and widening of Houston Street in the early 1930s drastically affected the neighborhood. This was acknowledged in the designation report as well, “Nestled between a number of major thoroughfares and designated historic districts, the Sullivan-Thompson Historic District is a distinctive enclave that retains its unique sense of place.”
Sullivan-Thompson also includes the monumental St. Anthony of Padua Church, an imposing Romanesque Revival structure built in 1886 which is the country’s oldest Italian-American church, built for its very first Italian-American parish.
The landmark designation is particularly important as the area has faced increasing development pressure and demolition of historic structures, and the existing zoning could potentially allow buildings of up to 300 feet in height.