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A Glimpse into the Gilded Age East Village of the Tiffanys

Many would be surprised to learn that Charles Tiffany, the founder of Tiffany & Co., known for the manufacture of goods which came to be synonymous with the wealthiest New Yorkers, actually lived in the East Village with his family for most of the 1850s. This included his son, Louis Comfort Tiffany, who went on to become the first design director at Tiffany & Co., and an artist and designer in his own right, best known for his work in stained glass. The family lived at three addresses on East 10th Street; starting in 1852 at No. 227, then moving to No.125 (which at the time was numbered as No. 195) in 1855, and in 1858 moving to No.103 (which was then numbered as No. 175), where they remained until 1860, when the family moved further uptown. 

Charles Tiffany inside of Union Square location Tiffany & Co. Source: Time

While the connection between the Tiffanys and the East Village — a neighborhood most strongly associated with immigrants, hippies, punks, artists, anarchists, and various other unconventional types — may come as a surprise, it shouldn’t. While the East Village did in fact come to be a welcoming home to all those groups, it started out in the 19th century as a place of grandeur and some of the city’s most prestigious addresses, homes, and institutions, with many other prominent New York families, including the Stuyvesants, living in the area.

We thought that this discovery about the Tiffany family would be a good opportunity to use our East Village Building Blocks tool to explore what the area would have been like for the Tiffany family. East Village Building Blocks is an online research tool we created which provides information on every one of over 2,200 properties in the East Village, including information such as construction date, original architect and use. 

The Tiffany family lived at 227 East 10th Street from 1852 to 1855. This building is listed as no. 225, due to an early 1960s renovation that combined the two buildings together. This renovation altered the building’s original appearance, removing all of its original detail. For this particular building, much of its early history is unknown. It was completed sometime before 1853 by an unknown architect. However, from the 1940 tax photo (seen below), we can see that No. 227 and 225 East 10th Street were both originally built as grand, single-family homes, with alterations that appear to date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, reflecting the evolution of the neighborhood during that time to a more working class and bustling neighborhood (the alterations indicate the houses were likely divided up into apartments, and had commercial spaces added to the lower floors).

225 and 227 East 10th Street ca. 1940s, prior to 1960s renovation. Source: New York City Municipal Archive

By 1855, the Tiffany family had relocated one block west, to a newly constructed row house at no. 125 East 10th Street (then it would have been no. 195). This building was completed in 1854, and designated as part of the St. Marks in the Bowery Historic district in 1969. With the Tiffany family moving in by 1855, it is likely they were some of the first, if not the very first, residents of this building. This building, and the neighboring No. 123, maintain nearly all of their original Anglo-Italianate detail. Although the original architect of this building is unknown, they were developed by Robert Carnely, who had purchased the lots from Peter Gerard Stuyvesant, a descendent of Peter Stuyvesant, the last director of New Amsterdam. The Stuyvesant estate once encompassed all of the land east of Fourth Avenue between 5th and 20th streets. Relatives of Stuyvesant continued to occupy homes on this land into the early 1800s. A notable example of this being 21 Stuyvesant Street, which was built in 1803-1804 by Peter Stuyvesant’s great-grandson, for his daughter.

125 East 10th Street, home of the Tiffany’s from 1855 to 1858.

Further connection to Stuyvesant estate can be found at 102 East 10th Street, which by 1851 was home to Peter Gerard Stuyvesant’s real estate manager, Thomas McFarlan. There is a good chance that the Tiffany family would have crossed paths with McFarlan, as they both lived on the same block during the 1850s. 

In 1857, the New York Historical Society built their first home at 170 Second Avenue, a short walk from the Tiffany family’s home. Much of the funding for this building came from the wealthy families that lived in the neighborhood, a true testament to the area’s prosperity. This building was demolished in 1908, when the Historical Society moved to their current home on Central Park West. The building that currently stands on this site is a 15-story brick apartment building that was completed in 1927 and is known as the Peter Stuyvesant Apartments.

New York Historical Society original building, ca. 1890s. Source: New York Historical Society

By 1858, the Tiffany family had moved to 103 East 10th Street (which then would have been no. 175). The building in which they resided has since been demolished, and the building that currently occupies the site was completed in 1880. The family lived here until 1860, when they moved uptown to  Madison Avenue between 38th and 39th street. This relocation reflects the general trend of the time, in which prominent New York families began to move to new mansions further uptown, and the East Village became home to a growing number of immigrant families. 

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