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The Remarkable History of St. Luke’s Place

The Greenwich Village Historic District landmark designation report eloquently captures the essence of St. Luke’s Place: “Looking into this tree-lined street, our senses revel in the peace and beauty of this block-long row of low Italianate townhouses.”

Fifteen houses, numbered 3-17 St. Luke’s Place, form a cohesive ensemble of red brick residences in the Anglo-Italianate style. Built in 1851- 1852, these houses were all planned together, based on a master design, and feature high stoops, arched doorways with triangular pediments, and handsome ironwork.

St. Luke’s place was named after a parish of Trinity Church, St. Luke’s in the Field, which was constructed in 1822. When the street was renamed in 1851, the 15 historic rowhouses on the north side of the block faced a Trinity Church cemetery.

The architectural beauty of St. Luke’s Place was carefully detailed in a report by Evelyn G. Haynes, a preservationist and a pioneering member of the early New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Haynes notes the house of St. Luke’s Place “are probably the last continuous row of houses of their period in manhattan.

St. Luke’s Place has been home not only to notable architecture, but notable people. One of the most renowned residents of this block was Jazz Age Mayor Jimmy Walker. Walker not only grew up in Greenwich Village, but also lived most of his life there. Today, a park on the site of the former Trinity Church cemetery bears his name. St. Luke’s Place has also solidified its legacy as a haven for writers and artists, reflecting the legacy of Greenwich Village as a neighborhood for artists, writers, and intellectuals seeking an alternative way of life.

1960, Theodore Roszak in living room
Drawing on Wall: “Cosmic Landscape”, 1954.

Theodore Roszak (May 1, 1907 – September 2, 1981) was a Polish-American sculptor and painter who moved into 1 St. Luke’s Place with his wife Florence in 1942. His work was heavily influenced by constructivism and abstract expressionism. Theodore and Florence occupied two floors: one for living and another was used as his studio. In 1968 they bought the building.

5 St. Lukes Place

Painter Paul Cadmus (December 17, 1904 – December 12, 1999) moved into 5 St. Luke’s Place in 1934 with his partner, Jared French. Also in 1934, Cadmus was caught up in what became a national scandal when his painting, “The Fleet’s In!,” depicted uniformed sailors, prostitutes, and a gay pick-up scene. This controversy and the ensuing publicity pushed Cadmus into the spotlight and effectively launched his career.

9 St. Luke’s Place

Playwright, screenwriter, and director Arthur Laurents (July 14, 1917 – May 5, 2011)  lived at 9 St. Luke’s Place with his partner, Tom Hatcher, from 1960 until his death in 2011. Laurents is best known for his work on Broadway, including three major musicals – West Side Story, Gypsy, and La Cage aux Folles.

(l. to r.) 11, 12, 13 St. Luke’s Place

In 1920, three writers made St. Luke’s Place their home. Max Eastman (January 4, 1883 – March 25, 1969), known as “the Prince of Greenwich Village,” resided in at least eleven buildings in the neighborhood, including 11 St. Luke’s Place. He founded the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage and served as editor of the radical magazines The Masses and The Liberator.

Sherwood Anderson (September 13, 1876 – March 8, 1941), an American novelist and short story writer, rented the basement of 12 St. Luke’s Place. He relocated to be closer to Elizabeth Prall, his superior at Lord & Taylor’s, who lived at 51 Charlton Street. She later became his wife for seven years.

A month later after Anderson, Theodore Dreiser (August 27, 1871 – December 28, 1945) took up residence at 16 St. Luke’s Place. Dreiser, known for his contributions to left-wing periodicals, penned his acclaimed novel “An American Tragedy” while living there.

14 St. Luke’s Place, left: 1940, right: 1903

Poet Marianne Moore (November 15, 1887 – February 5, 1972) moved to New York with her mother in 1918 and settled in the basement of 14 St. Luke’s Place. Moore started working part-time at the nearby Hudson Park Library, and steadily built her literary career while working there.

In a letter to Ezra Pound dated January 9, 1919, she wrote, “I like New York, the little quiet part of it in which my mother and I live. I like to see the tops of the masts from our door and to go to the wharf and look at the craft on the river.”

At Village Preservation, April is celebrated as “Greenwich Village Historic District Month,” commemorating the landmarking of the district on April 29, 1969. Village Preservation has created a variety of resources to highlight and celebrate the rich history and architecture of the Greenwich Village Historic District, including our Greenwich Village Historic District Map + Tours, with “Then and Now” images of every one of 2,300 buildings in the district, as well as several dozen themed tours of the neighborhood with over a thousand sites of interest.

Additionally, delve into Evelyn G. Haynes’ extensive and invaluable archive of photographs, sketches, writings, research, and historic materials connected to Greenwich Village, primarily from the 1960s. You can see Part 1 of her collection here and Part 2 here, and her contribution to our Historic Image Archive here.

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