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Surprises of Our Spring House Tour Benefit!

Village Preservation’s Spring House Tour Benefit is finally making its long-awaited return! The time-honored and much-beloved event heralds the start of spring in our beautiful neighborhoods, and we are pleased and excited to be able to produce our 22nd tour on Sunday, May 7th.

While the locations are always a closely kept secret until the day of the tour, we decided to reveal just two of the unmatched and extraordinary spaces for ticket holders to visit, along with a bit of our favorite part: history!

Secret Number 1 Revealed

Each year, in addition to a selection of unique and fascinating homes, there is always a notable location for the ticket pick-up spot. This year holds a great surprise for ticket holders who wonder about the long-shuttered triangular building at 165 Waverly Place. It is none other than the former Northern Dispensary. For over three decades, this building at the corner of Waverly Place and Christopher Street has remained an empty curiosity. But the mystery ends as it will open its first floor to loyal supporters of the Spring House Tour Benefit to pick up their tour tickets and catalogs!

A Noble Beginning

Throughout the eighteenth century, Greenwich Village was still a land of fields, streams, and farms. As New York’s population grew, especially after the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, the number of inhabitants of Greenwich Village increased too. One cause for residents to make the move uptown was to flee epidemic diseases, such as yellow fever and cholera, which spread quickly in the crowded conditions of Lower Manhattan. Bankers, shipowners, merchants, and citizens with means built townhouses in the Village to live in less-crowded conditions with trees and open space. To serve them, tradespeople moved there too; many, however, could not afford healthcare.

Originally constructed in 1831 to house the fledgling Greenwich Village Free Medical Clinic, the Northern Dispensary was a philanthropic venture designed to provide care to the working-class neighbors and domestic servants of the wealthy in the area, which was, at the time of its construction, in the northernmost part of the city. The founders of the Dispensary saw it as a valuable contribution to both social welfare and scientific good — they sought to reduce communicable illness in the interest of public health as well as to study the diseases of the working poor otherwise not receiving medical care.

The Dispensary provided inpatient services to the city’s poor and sick until 1920. From 1920 to 1940 the Dispensary provided mostly outpatient services. In the early 1940s, the clinic’s services were about equally split between medical and dental care, and over the next twenty years, it provided outpatient dental care only.

In 1988 a lawsuit against the Dispensary was brought by George Whitmore and David Whittacre, two gay men denied treatment due to their AIDS diagnoses. The lawsuit awarded Whittacre and Whitmore some $46,000 + in damages; the Dispensary soon closed its doors, citing financial troubles. Subsequently, there was a plan set forth by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese to turn the building into an AIDS Clinic, but that plan never came to fruition.

In 1998, the building was sold to William Gottlieb, a real estate investor who owned properties in the West Village, the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, and the Lower East Side.

Enter: A Solution Hiding in Plain Sight

God’s Love We Deliver started operating 38 years ago, in 1985, at the height of the AIDS pandemic. At a time of great fear and stigma, GLWD began its mission to feed people living with HIV. Over the years they have expanded their mission to serve people living with more than 200+ diagnoses, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, renal failure, heart disease, advanced diabetes, as well as HIV.

As COVID hit in late 2019-early 2020, GLWD found itself serving the needs of exponentially more people through another pandemic. At the height of the COVID crisis, the organization saw a 30% increase in demand. As the need grew, so did the requirement for more space.

In 2019, William Gottlieb’s nephew Neil Bender and his wife, Marika, who now control William Gottlieb Real Estate, began supporting God’s Love We Deliver. When they learned that the organization needed additional space, they proposed the Northern Dispensary. The building carries with it a deed restriction requiring it to serve the poor and infirm, limiting possible uses and occupants. “We had the natural fit,” the Benders said in a statement. And so now, at long last, the building at the very heart of the Village will be bustling with activity once again, and we are so grateful that they have offered us a glimpse into the newly restored building.

Secret Number 2 Revealed

The secrets and treasures inside the magnificent home and event space at 632 on Hudson abound, and tour-goers will be treated to an endless array of delights and astonishing details once inside.

Photograph of 632 on Hudson Courtesy of Dylan Chandler

632 on Hudson began its life in 1847 as two adjoining townhouses when the neighborhood was developing as a home for merchants and moderately successful businesspeople. One of the houses was built for the family of Stephen Kane, a sash maker, and the other for the family of Richard Towning.

The entry for 632 Hudson in the landmark designation report for the Greenwich Village Historic District reads:

“These two brick houses are four stories high, rising slightly above their neighbors to the south. They share a cornice with dominant central pediment, added at a later date. There are stores at the ground floor and windows above them, all of nearly equal height. They were built for Stephen Kane (No. 630) and for the estate of Richard Towning (No. 632) as part of the development of the area.

But by at least 1855, No. 632 was operating as a boarding house, as waves of immigration began to wash over the area, horse drawn streetcar lines connected the area to ‘the city’ downtown, and the nearby Hudson River waterfront was bursting with industry.  The blue collar residents included Augustus J. Reilly and L. S. Vandermark, both of whom worked as “cartmen,” and Henry J. West, a clerk.  All three men were also volunteer firefighters.”

Hugh King

In 1881 Hugh King, an Irish immigrant, purchased both townhouses and converted them into a general storefront and warehouse for his liquor importing and exporting business. By the late 19th century, this part of Greenwich Village, connected to the waterfront, was populated largely by Irish immigrants and their children, who built the area’s churches, schools, and gathering spaces. The remnants of King’s store’s original signage are still visible right above the first floor, and at the very top, there is installed a pediment on the cornice to capture his name, Hugh King, and the year he purchased it.

Ghost sign at 632 Hudson

The Esteve family bought the building during World War II to make candy, according to Edward Esteve, the son of Maria and Edward Esteve, the owners of Esteve Packing Corporation. The family were Spanish immigrants and part of the large “Little Spain” community found on Manhattan’s Far West Side between Christopher and 23rd Streets in the 20th century (you can read about our organization’s work to save New York City’s very first Spanish church,  Our Lady of Guadalupe, once the community hub of “Little Spain”).

Which brings us to the present and the current iteration of 632 Hudson.

632 on Hudson. Photo courtesy of Dylan Chandler

In 1992, owner Karen Lashinsky, a former actor and dancer, would come across what remained of 632 Hudson, which was still owned by the Esteve family, but had been ignored for some time. She fell in love with the building and purchased the erstwhile candy and sausage factory, giving it an entirely new life.

The building has been transformed into a veritable wonderland filled with treasures that Ms. Lashinsky has collected over her lifetime in her travels throughout the world. Each object in the home has been thoughtfully chosen and the ephemera, furniture, and architectural relics she has collected are a feast for the eyes and the imagination. Those of you who participate in our house tour this year will be able to see it all, as well as the visual treasures to be found in the other unique historic Greenwich Village homes to which you’ll have exclusive access.

Rooftop secrets at 632 Hudson. Photo courtesy of Dylan Chandler

To those of you who have already generously donated to support our benefit this year, we thank you once again! To those of you who have not yet supported our 2023 Spring House Tour Benefit, there is still time! You can make a donation to the benefit here to experience the wonders of all 8 sites on the 2023 Tour!

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