East Village: Un-hyped history, pricey properties

BY MARTHA WILKIE | If you love historic architecture and the East Village, you’ll be more than interested in the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s newly unveiled East Village Building Blocks . It’s an amazingly detailed new online resource about every single building in the East Village: History, architecture, people, businesses —you name it, it’s in there.

Andrew Berman, executive director of G.V.S.H.P., explained the scope and purpose of the project.

“East Village Building Blocks is the result of over 10 years of research by dozens of individuals here at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation to document the history of every one of 2,200 buildings in the East Village,” he said. “This neighborhood is incredibly rich in history, dating back to the earliest Dutch settlers in the 17th century. But there is less documentation of and less attention paid to that history than that of other similar historic neighborhoods. We hope to correct that with this resource.”

The glossary is a good, concise lesson in the terminology of New York historic buildings, such as what exactly defines an old-law versus new-law tenement building, plus explanations of research tools like the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and tax-assessment records.

“The site is constantly being updated and added to, including with comments, anecdotes and information from the public,” Berman noted. “We’ve made it easily searchable so you can look for a specific building, examine an entire block or search by architect, year, building type, person or subject area. In addition to basic information about the history of each building, there are also current and historic images and original documents showing the construction of and alterations to each building, as well as links to further information and resources.”

I commented (and posted a recent photo) about a building I’ve written about before: the Daniel LeRoy House, at 20 St. Mark’s Place. I fell in love with this beautiful Greek Revival house years ago when my husband and I looked at an apartment there; it wasn’t a co-op or a condo, but a rental — oddly, the remaining 80-some years of a 100-year lease.

“East Village Building Blocks is a great tool to aid in our preservation efforts for the East Village and in enabling the public to better understand and appreciate this neighborhood’s rich and varied history,” the preservationist continued. “From punk to pierogis, jazz clubs to the Jewish Rialto, Loisaida to Kleindeutschland, Carnegie libraries to C-Squat, the East Village has it all.”

You’re encouraged to visit East Village Building Blocks and share your comments, thoughts, photos and memories.

Looking to move to the East Village? As with all of Manhattan, it’s changing. Naysayers will scoff it’s nothing like it used to be back in the day. But if the ’hood has lost something in scruffy character, it is safer and cleaner. You can still have a beer at McSorley’s Ale House, which has changed little in 100-plus years. (Well, women are now welcome and even have their own bathroom.) I walked by recently and was happy to see a line around the block.

Here are a few of the older or more architecturally interesting places currently for sale or rent in the East Village.

102 E. 10th St.

On one of the East Village’s prettiest blocks, you can rent a bit of Knickerbocker history: a glorious light-filled apartment in the 1839 (or 1836? unclear) house at 102 E. 10th St., originally built for Peter Gerard Stuyvesant, son of Peter Stuyvesant, who was director general of the West Indian Company. The only drawback: a very teensy-tiny kitchen — perfect for those Manhattanites who don’t cook. Renting for $7,500 a month.

111 Fourth Ave.

Or there’s a furnished one-bedroom rental at 111 Fourth Ave. for $4,975. Expensive, yes, but striking. It’s in an early 20th-century converted industrial building with wonderful geometric windows and another Stuyvesant connection. From Building Blocks: “This 12-story terra cotta and brick building was completed in 1919. It was designed by Starrett & Van Vleck Architects as manufacturing lofts for the International Tailoring Company… . The site was purchased that same year from Mathilda E. R. Stuyvesant.”

649 E. Ninth St.

At 649 E. Ninth St. is a sunny and light true two-bedroom with attractive French doors, a newly renovated kitchen and exposed brick walls. Not cheap at $3,250, but pretty good for a two-bedroom in the neighborhood.

For those looking to buy, at 257 E. Seventh St. is a sweet beautifully renovated one-bedroom co-op for sale at $699,000. It has nice built-ins, an attractive planted roof deck, and — best of all — overlooks a verdant tranquil garden.

A secret agent-worthy triplex at 224 E. 14th St.

And now for something completely different: a triplex condo at 224 E. 14th St. where the parts of the facade and rear elevation completely retract at the touch of a button, like a suburban garage door opener for your home. It has a striking facade of perforated metal. Inside are plenty of futuristic gizmos and gadgets, perfect for James Bond. This place also features a private garden (with cabana, grill, refrigerator), exposed stone walls and a stunningly white kitchen. Covered by design media around the world. Watch the YouTube video, it’s bonkers! And it’ll cost you $3.6 million.