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What’s In a Name?: The Petersfield, 113-119 Fourth Avenue

Our “What’s In A Name?” series looks at the names behind buildings, streets, parks, or other locations in our neighborhoods which hold more meaning than we may realize. 

Petersfield Condos

113-119 Fourth Avenue was completed in 1906. This building has had two names over its lifetime: The Fish Building and The Petersfield. The eight-story Arts & Crafts style loft building was designed by architects Potter and Robinson.

Bromley, 1911, Plate 11. Courtesy of NYPL

Stuyvesant Fish constructed this speculative loft building for his company, the Hamilton Fish Co., named after his father. Fish worked for the Illinois Central Railroad until 1906. He had a large home at 19 Gramercy Park South, with an addition designed by Stanford White, and later a limestone mansion at 25 East 78th Street, designed by Mckim, Mead, and White. He was a prominent member of high society during the Gilded Age. 

The area South of Union Square had been a great center of commerce and industry for New York and the nation in the 19th and early 20th centuries. After World War II, however, the industry began to leave the area, as larger floorplates and easier access to trucking were required. At this time, the area’s lofts began to go empty or were sometimes taken over without authorization by the City by artists as live/work spaces, which were not technically legal.

But in the early 1970s the nearby former McCreery Dry Good Store at 801-807 Broadway was allowed to legally convert from manufacturing to residential use, setting of a wave of residential conversions of loft buildings in the area, and throughout Lower Manhattan and eventually other parts of the city as well.

The Fish Building at 113-119 Fourth Avenue, a structural steel loft building with Renaissance-style entrance on Fourth Avenue and brick detailed parapet, lent itself beautifully to the conversion from lofts to apartments. In 1986 the Fish Loft Building became the Petersfield Condonminiums. 

May 18, 1986, Courtesy of the NYTimes Archives.

The condos were named Petersfield because of Petrus Stuyvesant, the great-grandson of the colonial Governor-Director Peter Stuyesant of the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch settled in New Amsterdam below Fulton Street in crowded quarters and farms existed north of the settlement. The Dutch East India Company provided a bouwerij (farm) for the sitting governor. Peter Stuyvseant had purchased a large amount of land to the West of the Bowery prior to becoming governor and bought more once he was governor. The boundaries of his land were roughly from present day Cooper Square north to East 23rd Street with the western boundary at the Bowery (4th Avenue) and the eastern boundary in a line between what’s now 1st Avenue and Avenue D. 

Petersfield, home of Petrus Stuyvesant great grandson of Director Stuyvesant. Courtesy of NYPL Digital Collections

The land stayed nearly fully intact in the family for many generations up to his great-grandson Petrus Stuyvesant. He lived in a mansion in the family’s land which he called ‘Petersfield,’ which was located between 1st Avenue, Avenue A, and East 15th and 16th Streets. But in the 18th century the momentum for northward expansion of the city was growing as was land speculation. So Petrus Stuyvesant laid out a street grid across his land in a true East-West Direction centered on Stuyvesant Street, which is the only remnants of his street plan today. 

Stuyvesant Fish House 21 Stuyvesant Street

After Petrus’ death in 1805, Peter G. Stuyvesant inherited the land. Subsequently, the city’s street grid plan of 1811 divided up the Stuyvesant property, and land speculators began to buy off parts of it. Perhaps somewhat miraculously, a line of the family stayed on the land. In 1803, Petrus Stuyvesant built a home at 21 Stuyvesant Street for his daughter Elizabeth, who married Nicolas Fish. In 1758, she had a son, Hamilton Fish. Hamilton would go on to be the 16th Governor of New York and to have a son named Stuyvesant Fish in 1851. Stuyvesant would go on to construct the Fish building at 113 Fourth Ave on the land owned by his paternal grandmother’s great-great grandfather Peter Stuyvesant. 

The Petersfield is far from the only property in the area South of Union Square with connections to the Stuyvesant family — to see a few more, take our Stuyvesant Tour on our South of Union Square map.

Sackersdorf Farm Set, 1868. Courtesy of the NYPL.

Landmark south of Union Square

To help landmark 113-119 Fourth Avenue and other buildings in this area, click here. To read more history of the buildings and area south of Union Square, and our preservation efforts in the area, click here.

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