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.
In the last “What’s In A Name?” we looked at 113-119 Fourth Avenue, named after Peter Stuyvesant on the land of the old Stuyvesant Bouwerie (farm). This installment is moving one block east on the Stuyvesant farm to 105 Third Avenue, historically referred to as 203 East 13th Street.
105 Third Avenue was designed by architect M. Fornachen and constructed by builders P. T. O’Brien & Son. The building is designed in the Neo-Grec style typical of the 1870s. It’s most widely known as the original location of Kiehl’s, with the apothecary visible in the 1940s tax photo above. Though the original building Kiehl’s started in in 1851 is no longer extant, the company was located at 105 Third Avenue until 1958, moving then to 107 Third Avenue for fear of 105 Third Avenue being demolished. Thankfully, this did not happen.
However, when the threat of demolition faced this building, Kiehl’s wasn’t the only thing to move. A plaque placed by the Holland Society that had been located on the building’s south facade since 1890 also left this corner lot. The plaque moved to east 10th Street and 3rd Avenue around 1959 on the side of a building housing the Bendiner & Schlesinger pharmacy, resulting in a feud between Mr. Schlesinger and Mr. Morse, then the owner of Kiehl’s. So, why was this plaque so special?
The plaque was placed to commemorate the pear tree planted by Governor Peter Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant brought pear trees from Holland to plant in New Amsterdam. Pear trees were found across Stuyvesant’s bowerie or farm, which extended 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. But as the land was sold off and developed, the trees were taken down. However, the pear tree that stood on the corner of 13th and 3rd Avenue lasted for over two hundred years, and continued to bear fruit. A collision of two wagons on the corner resulted in one wagon fatally striking the pear tree on February 27, 1867. A section of the tree was presented to the New York Historical Society by Rutherford Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant was a descendant of Governor Stuyvesant and heir to the Stuyvesant fortune and remaining land.
In 1987, 105 Third Avenue, the site of the original Kiehl’s home and the building in front of which the pear tree stood, was refurbished into apartments and renamed Pear Tree Place to continue the legacy of Governor Peter Stuyvesant. On November 25, 2003 a new pear tree was planted in place of the old tree to commemorate Stuyvesant’s legacy. And finally, after living at 10th and 3rd Avenue for forty-six years the Plaque was returned to its original location at the corner of 13th and 3rd Avenue in March of 2005 after the building at 10th Street and 3rd Avenue upon which it had been located was demolished.