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colonnade row.jpg

While we’re on the topic of unique NYC architecture from the 19th century, I’ll throw out a link to the blog Colonnade Row — the only blog I follow that purports to be written by a dog (in this case, little Kirby Carnegie, an opinionated bulldog “trying to make sense of things around me!”).

The blog is written from — and named after — the remaining marble Greek Revival row houses on Lafayette Street below Astor Place, across the street from the Public Theater. Recently Kirby offered up what I think is the best “25 things” post ever, a list of odds and ends about the building he lives in. The list includes:

1. When it rains, the people on the top floor of my building have
to throw a nylon tarp over the front of the building to prevent water
from seeping in their windows and rotting their ceiling.
2.
 The fireplaces in the rear apartments began to crumble from inside a
few years ago and had to be sealed. They’re now unable to be used.
3.
 It is unlikely that the facade of the Colonnade will ever be restored.
 The limestone that was used was of poor quality and pollution and age
have rendered them beyond help.  Also, the two parties that own the
buildings will never be able to agree (or afford) the cost.
4.
 There are four separate townhouses in the remaining Colonnade,
although most people think it looks like one.  Originally there were
nine.  There is no connecting passage from within the buildings to each
other although the front balcony does run uninterrupted.

You can find the rest here.

The post prompted me to dig around online to find out a little bit more about the buildings’ history. A couple tidbits, especially ones that relate to my recent entries here:

For one, Colonnade Row, when it opened in the early 1830s was named La Grange Terrace, after Lafayette’s estate in France. It was originally built as part of the gentrification of Bowery-bordered neighborhoods. (The timeframe coincides as well with the gentrification of Washington Square, which has some important Greek Revival remnants of its own.)

John Jacob Astor lived in La Grange Terrace as an old man; the Public Theater inhabits a building he originally erected as the Astor Library in 1854; the Astor Place Opera House, roughly where the Starbucks is now, was erected in 1847. When Lafayette Place, as the street was formerly known, was first cut from Art Street (now Astor Place) to Great Jones Street in 1826–shortly following General Lafayette’s return tour of America in 1824-25–it reduced the size of Vauxhall Gardens by half. Lafayette Place was protected from traffic by virtue of its small size–it was only two blocks long–and the nine townhouses that made up Colonnade Row took up almost the entire length of the west side of the street between Art and 4th.

“Built of marble quarried by convict labor from Sing Sing prison,” as Eric Homberger notes in Mrs. Astor’s New York, “‘Colonnade Row’ was the grandest of all the nineteenth-century attempts to reproduce the upper-class townhouses and aristocratic neighborhoods of London and Paris.”

Famous residents, over time, included Astors, Vanderbilts, Morgans, Delanos (including FDR’s maternal grandparents), Washington Irving, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Julia Gardiner, who married the sitting U.S. President James Tyler in 1844. Charles Dickens stayed there during his trip to New York in 1842. Schermerhorns, mentioned in yesterday’s post, lived in the neighborhood.

There’s a great picture and map of the neighborhood in Homberger’s book. I’ve flagged the relevant pages here. The photo above comes from nyc-architecture.com.