Grace Godwin looks out the window of her tearoom at 58 Washington Square South. The adjoining buildings at 244 and 246 Thompson Street were reportedly once occupied by a roadhouse where travelers could bide their time while waiting for the stagecoaches to change horses. Photo by Jessie Tarbox Beals, via Library of Congress
In 1918, New York City photographer Jessie Tarbox Beals took a series of photos of Grace Godwin’s Garret at 58 Washington Square South in Greenwich Village. The tearoom and the site it occupied has an interesting history going back to the 17th century, when the land in this area was home to freed African-born slaves who received Dutch land grants and established farms near the area of today’s Washington Square Park.
Today is the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in Greenwich Village. The 1911 fire would be the most deadly workplace disaster in the history of New York City until 9/11, with 146 dead. The building, which still stands, is now NYU’s Brown Building, but in 1911 this was the thick of the city’s garment district. A fire broke out on the top floors, and the workers were trapped because the doors had been locked to prevent them from stealing or taking breaks. The fire department ladder only went up six floors, too low to reach the floors consumed by fire. The elevators could only bring down a dozen at a time, and about 40 women threw themselves out the building.
A key catalyst to the formation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission was the demolition of the original Pennsylvania Station in 1963. The new body made it its mission to protect New York City’s architecturally, historically, and culturally significant buildings and sites by granting them landmark or historic district status, and regulating them once they were designated.
The past year has been a controversial one for landmarking, coincidentally on the 50th anniversary of the passing of the landmarks law, from a move to de-calendar landmarks to a bill that would have removed landmarks from consideration without being heard.
Looking back in history, here are ten controversial redeveloped landmark or historical buildings in New York City, as a reminder of the constant push and pull between landmarking and development.
Interior court of 5 Beekman, soon to be Beekman Residences. Photo by Rob Boudon
We’ve already covered the renovation plans that began a little while ago for 5 Beekman Street, the impressive Temple Court. The building, once an abandoned favorite for New York City’s explorers, is in the midst of restoration to become the Beekman Hotel. As this renovation takes place and with the hotel opening on February 1, 2016, we’ve compiled some of our favorite secrets of this address.
The Butler Library at Columbia University, which is one of New York City’s oldest operating schools. Image via Wikimedia Commons
When you think of New York City’s rich cultural history, educational institutions may not be among the first words that come to mind. But many of New York City schools have roots from hundreds of years ago and were an important part of the city’s development. In fact, quite a few of these New York City schools were important milestones in the nation’s educational history, with some even earning superlative spots among America’s finest institutions.
Every year, Open House New York weekend is one of our readers’ favorite events, allowing them access into hard-to-visit sites and to take in unique programming in others. While the full list of sites won’t be released until early October, we’ve partnered up with OHNY to curate this feature of special locations you shouldn’t miss in this year’s lineup, selected especially for Untapped Cities readers.
This year’s Open House New York, which will take place on October 17th and 18th, will be more “open” than ever, with many locations (and all the ones featured below) now accessible through Open Access, meaning no need to battle for those advance reservations. Stay tuned for an additional guide we will publish, also in partnership with OHNY, on the special programs this year, “Engineering New York” and “Final Mile: Food Systems of New York.”