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The Eclectic Streetscapes #SouthOfUnionSquare

Beautifully detailed 1899 “Mail & Express” Broadway Streetscape Illustrations demonstrate the urgency of Village Preservation’s campaign to landmark the area #SouthOfUnionSquare.

A portion of Village Preservation’s proposed historic district South of Union Square with Broadway between 10th Street (bottom) and 14th Street (top) in the center, circa late 2021 via Bing Maps.

The neighborhood #SouthOfUnionSquare can be characterized as a true crossroads — where art, politics, industry, commerce, the New York elite, and the working class collided to create an eclectic built environment and cultural ferment emblematic of New York City’s status as America’s cultural capitol and melting pot. Since 2014, Village Preservation has been advocating for greater landmark protections for the area South of Union Square. However, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2017 announcement of a planned “Tech Hub” on 14th Street to anchor “Silicon Alley” galvanized Village Preservation and its allies to advocate specifically for a historic district bounded roughly by 14th Street to the north and 9th Street to the south, 3rd Avenue to the east and 5th Avenue to the west. While Village Preservation and the public received explicit promises from City Councilmember Carlina Rivera that she would only support the “Tech Hub” if appropriate landmark and/or zoning,protections were put in place in this area, those promises were broken when the project was approved in 2018.

In March 2019, Village Preservation collaborated with Anthony W. Robins to submit Finishing the Job: The Unprotected Architecture and History of Greenwich Village & the East Village below Union Square. This along with relentless advocacy by the public helped lead to the Landmarks Preservation Commission landmarking seven buildings along Broadway between 14th Street and 10th Street in June 2019 — about 3.5% of the buildings in the district we called for landmarking. A small step forward, it left nearly 97% of the historic buildings in the neighborhood unprotected. While some have cited the neighborhood’s heterogeneity as a reason why it shouldn’t be landmarked, it is clear that the architectural variety and vibrancy in the area South of Union Square are part of what makes the neighborhood so unique and vital. This is demonstrated in the beautifully detailed 1899 “Mail & Express” Broadway Streetscape Illustrations covering the area between 10th Street and 14th Street. These illustrations highlight the historic architectural variety of the district in height, use, material, and style. While some of the buildings have been lost to demolitions recent and long ago, the Broadway corridor is still significant as evidence of the neighborhood’s dynamism. Prior to 2019, the only building landmarked along this stretch of Broadway was James Renwick, Jr.’s Grace Church, 1843-1846.

BROADWAY, WEST SIDE, 12TH TO 14TH STREET

“Broadway, West Side. 12th to 14th St” from A Pictorial Description of Broadway, Mail & Express, 1899. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
Extant buildings in red box with landmarked buildings noted by dotted line from “Broadway, West Side. 12th to 14th St” from A Pictorial Description of Broadway, Mail & Express, 1899. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
Roosevelt Building (1893), 841 Broadway, New York, New Yor… | Flickr
Roosevelt Building, 841 Broadway, 1893. Read designation report here.

BROADWAY, EAST SIDE, 12TH TO 14TH STREET

“Broadway, East Side. 12th to 14th St” from A Pictorial Description of Broadway, Mail & Express, 1899. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
Extant buildings in red box with landmarked buildings noted by dotted line. 840 Broadway (the 3- story yellow building and 4-story masonry building at Broadway and 13th) was demolished in 1899 for the 1901 12-story building currently landmarked on the site. 826 Broadway, the Strand Building, (the 6-story yellow building and 5-story masonry building at Broadway and12th) was replaced by the 1902 Strand building which is currently landmarked. Illustration from “Broadway, East Side. 12th to 14th St” from A Pictorial Description of Broadway, Mail & Express, 1899. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
836 Broadway Building, 1876. Read the designation report here.

BROADWAY, WEST SIDE, 10TH TO 12TH STREET

“Broadway, West Side. 10th to 12th St” from A Pictorial Description of Broadway, Mail & Express, 1899. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
Extant buildings in red box with landmarked buildings noted by dotted line from “Broadway, West Side. 10th to 12th St” from A Pictorial Description of Broadway, Mail & Express, 1899. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
817 Broadway, New York, NY 10003 - Office for Lease | LoopNet.com
817 Broadway Building, 1895 -1898. Read the designation report here.

BROADWAY, EAST SIDE, 10TH TO 12TH STREET

“Broadway, East Side. 10th to 12th St” from A Pictorial Description of Broadway, Mail & Express, 1899. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
Extant buildings in red box with landmarked buildings noted by dotted line from “Broadway, East Side. 10th to 12th St” from A Pictorial Description of Broadway, Mail & Express, 1899. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

These illustrations, coupled with the buildings Village Preservation and its allies have been able to get landmarked in the area South of Union Square, show the value of this eclectic mix of buildings as well as the urgency to extend protections to the entire district. In September 2021, the New York State Historic Preservation Office issued a determination of eligibility for the district to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Now, all the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission needs to do is follow suit to protect this irreplaceable district.

With the new mayoral administration and influx of new council members, Village Preservation is releasing new information, programs, and initiatives about the area South of Union Square. To learn more about the neighborhood, check out our new and frequently updated Virtual South of Union Square Map and Tours. Village Preservation has recently received a series of extraordinary letters from individuals across the world, expressing support for our campaign to landmark a historic district south of Union Square. To help landmark these incredible historic structures and other buildings in this area, click here

Many thanks to Sarah Eccles, Preservation Associate for the image research she contributed to this post.

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