Back from the Edge: the Preservation Success Story at 43 MacDougal Street
43 MacDougal Street, a landmarked 1846 Greek Revival townhouse, sat vacant for decades in the 1990s and 2000s, a thorn in the side of the neighborhood and Village Preservation. Years of advocacy to try to get it repaired and restored (there were serious concerns about irreparable damage, collapse, or worse) ended mostly in frustration, with the City too often refusing to take decisive action, and the infirmed owner unable or unwilling to move. By 2011, this neglected and badly deteriorated house on the corner of King Street in the Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District looked like it was on the verge of being lost.
A distressed update we provided to the public on April 7, 2011, showed just how bad things had gotten: The space between the plywood and the building is filled to the brim with trash….This trash is no doubt trapping moisture and attracting rodents, all of which combined cannot be healthy for the integrity of the historic facade nor for the health and well-being of neighbors and the schoolchildren across the street. Read the full report from 2011 here.
Thankfully, years of effort finally paid off. In the years that followed, unique building restoration methods and a new owner came together to save and bring back to life this historic structure.
The Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District was designated in 1966, making it the first designated historic district in our neighborhoods, and one of the first (and oldest) in the city. According to the LPC’s designation report from that year, the storefront at 43 MacDougal Street “was built as a wine shop, and the wine cellars still exist beneath the shop.” The existence of its original shopfront was noted as “a rare survivor in the city.”
In 2005, the City Council passed the Demolition by Neglect Law, which allows the city to sue owners who are letting their landmarked properties deteriorate to the point of no return.
In 2009, after years of Village Preservation’s urging, the city began such a lawsuit at 43 MacDougal Street. But progress was slow, partially due to the owner’s estate being wrapped up in probate court, and by 2011, only the roof has been shored.
The untold story, until now, is how Masonry Solutions (MSI), a local specialty masonry company, saved the historic landmarked facades. With support from Village Preservation, local block associations, and Community Board 2, the LPC approved the application for restoration of 43 MacDougal Street on June 3, 2014. The facades on King and MacDougal Streets were in such distressed condition that the LPC approved a complete rebuilding of both sides.
According to a report sent to Village Preservation in 2019, MSI convinced the project engineers to utilize an innovative, grout injection process that replaces the failed, weak, old mortar inside of the wall with an historically compatible grout that is similar in all properties to the original 19th-century mortars. It’s injected as a flowable liquid, but then solidifies. The end result is that while it is a new, modern, solid, stable wall on the inside, all of the richness, beauty, and character of the original 170-year-old brick facade remains.
The storefront was fully restored, and on March 4th, 2019, restaurant Niche Niche opened at 43 MacDougal Street. The historic building is once again a gem in the neighborhood. learn more on our webpage dedicated to this building and the effort to save and restore it here.