This post is part of our blog series Why Isn’t This Landmarked?, where we look at buildings in our area we’re fighting to protect that are worthy of landmark designation, but somehow aren’t landmarked.
The striking loft building at 806-808 Broadway/104-106 Fourth Avenue, which runs the entire block from Broadway to Fourth Avenue behind Grace Church at 11th Street, was designed in 1887 by James Renwick (architect of the adjacent landmarked church forty years earlier) and the partners in historic successor firm –James Lawrence Aspinwall and William Hamilton Russell, Renwick’s grand-nephew. Though a utilitarian structure housing offices, storage, and manufacturing, Renwick and partners designed it with vivid Gothic detail to serve as an appropriate backdrop to Grace Church, a New York City and National Historic Landmark.
Aside from some storefront signage, the building is almost completely intact to its original design, from the gothic arches and tracery to the more robust, industrial Romanesque detailing of the Fourth Avenue façade. Both sides of the building maintain beautifully intact cast-iron storefronts, while the Broadway side boasts florid Art Noveau-style ironwork over the doorway and entry.
The harmony between this structure, built as a store and manufacturing building, and one of the most delicate and important Gothic Revival structures in the United States, is nothing short of remarkable.
In 1981 the building was converted to residences and renamed ‘The Renwick,’ in honor of its architect.The building gained additional notoriety with the publication of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, in which the building serves as the headquarters for the team of investigators looking into the murders at the heart of the book’s story.
The Grace Church, Grace Church Rectory, Grace Church Memorial House, The Renwick, and The Lancaster, an 1887 apartment building at 39-41 East 10th Street also designed by Renwick –all within feet of one another –provide an unrivalled example of the skill of James Renwick as an architect. The sadly recently-demolished St. Denis Hotel at Broadway and 11th Street added even further to this rich ensemble of Renwick designs added over time. While the master architect constructed other ensembles elsewhere, few if any span nearly half a century as these do, and serve such varied purposes –religious worship, residences, and commercial loft space –while maintaining such compatibility and dialogue between the pieces. Renwick also lived and died at a since-demolished house at what would now be 60 University Place (10th Street), just down the block from all these structures.
What You Can Do
Village Preservation research has uncovered exciting and illuminating information about the significance of the area of Greenwich Village and the East Village south of Union Square, and submitted multiple documents and reports to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission with the materials, calling for the agency to finally act to extend landmark protections to the area – read them here, here, here, and here. With the increased pressure on the area from the beginning of construction on the 14th Street Tech Hub, the recent demolition of the St. Denis Hotel (80 E. 10th Street; 1855 – to be replaced by this) and the completion of the woefully out-of-scale tech office tower at 809 Broadway, the time is now for the city to act to protect this incredibly historically rich but endangered area.
Urge the city to protect this vital history and neighborhood NOW – click here to send letters to city officials demanding landmark protections for this and other buildings in the area.