Shared Post: Quality Row Newburgh, NY

Think you need to live in a big city to live in a row house? Nope! They’re all over the place. Large towns, small towns, suburbs… you name it!

We recently were introduced to the town of Newburgh, NY, where they have some lovely row house. Cher Vick from Newburgh Restoration was nice enough to share the following post with us about some beautiful row homes in the town.

On a small block on First Street in the City of Newburgh are a row of homes (112-120) that are kept in amazing condition known as Quality Row. They are really a showpiece for what other blocks in Newburgh have the potential to look like. Although the houses across the street don’t quite look like these, they are a breath of fresh air.

Quality Row Newburgh 3 Quality Row Newburgh

These Federal style houses were designed in 1835 by Thornton Niven and built on land that had been the garden of Rev. John Brown. They are now national historic landmarks. The house at 116 First Street is known as the Clinton-Deyo House. It has a plaque that says that in 1836 Thomas Edison stayed there as a guest while establishing the Edison Illuminating Company. In 1883 it was Newburgh’s first private home to be wired for electricity. It was also wonderfully restored by Don Herron back in 1994. He unfortunately passed away this year.

Quailty Row Newburgh 2 Quality Row Newburgh

So where did the name Quality Row come from anyway? According to the 1891 publication Newburgh: Her Institutions, Industries and Leading Citizens, “At the time of their erection these house were considered much above the average in cost and elegance, and for this reason, combined with the high social standing of the original occupants, the buildings were known throughout the village as “Quality Row,” a designation which still lingers among our old families.” That designation still lingers today, over 100 years later!

Wooden row house in Brooklyn Heights, New York.

Visiting Wooden Row Houses in Brooklyn

One of my favorite row house neighborhoods in New York is Brooklyn Heights. Not only do we have fond memories from when we lived nearby in Cobble Hill, but Brooklyn Heights has a wonderful range of row houses. I recently found myself in the area and decided to take a few photos of some of my favorites. Unfortunately, I didn’t note the exact addresses as I walked around but these are roughly between Clark, Joralemon, and Court Streets and the Promenade. These represent a small sample as there are quite a few wood-sided row homes in the area.

Wooden row house in Brooklyn Heights, New York.

This home is a wonderful yellow color. The classically influenced lintel’s above the windows are rather unique. To the right is another row house with wood shingle siding.

Wooden row house in Brooklyn Heights, New York.

This is a very wide wood framed row house located at 13 Pineapple Street. Luckily, this home had a picture in one of my architectural guides (“Old Brooklyn Heights,” author Clay Lancaster) to the area so I have some additionally information. Built before 1830, this was likely a Federal home originally. The third floor was added in the middle of the 19th Century. It’s facade is covered with wood shingles.

A wooden row house in Brooklyn Heights, New York.

Fancy iron entrance on this one.

A wooden row house in Brooklyn Heights, New York.

This is a lovely Federal style, wooden row house with small-pane windows.

Related to these, is the blog The Wooden House Project, managed by Elizabeth Finkelstein, a historic preservationist living in Brooklyn’s South Slope. Ms. Finkelstein wanted to build a community to support wooden frame row houses in Brooklyn so she started The Wooden House Project. Like many cities, Brooklyn began to outlaw wood frame row houses during the 19th Century so the survivors are really quite special.

We are always really excited to learn about other people who love row houses and advocate their preservation.

Row Houses in Newburgh, New York

So excited that we were featured on the Newburgh Restoration blog this week! So I visited their blog to see what they’re about and saw this article about row houses:

Row-Row-Row…”A-bode”

There are some wonderful wooden row houses that we don’t get too many of in the city. And it’s nice to see row houses in small towns. Definitely worth checking out there site and reading about what’s new with their row houses!

 

The Bitter Moretti studio in Manhattan.

The Studio of Karl Bitter and Giuseppe Moretti

The Bitter Moretti studio in Manhattan.

The Bitter Moretti studio in Manhattan. I took nearly the same photo but it came out entirely blurry so this one is from Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
File:Bitter_%26_Moretti_Studio.jpg.

During a recent trip to New York, we discovered this lovely row house studio (249 1/2) on East 13th Street. I can’t imagine a better place to work! Because of its small size, I imagine if it had been a regular home, it probably wouldn’t have survived. But, thanks to its famous owners, it’s here to be enjoyed today. It’s a very unusual house with a large stone sign, somewhat mixed architectural influences, and, only two stories. I’m always on the look-out for small row homes and since its neighbors are all much taller, this one really caught my eye.

The studio belonged to noted sculptors Karl Bitter and Giuseppe Moretti and was built in 1892 by Bitter. Bitter, from Austria, and Moretti, from Italy, were architectural/sculptural artists, active during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They produced many public works and most likely met through a mutual friend, the architect Richard Morris Hunt (from the Daytonian in Manhattan blog) with whom they both worked. They only used the home as a studio and for only a year or so. The sculptors lived in an adjacent apartment building and no one knows why they stopped using the studio together.

When I looked up the sculptors to learn more about them, I discovered that Bitter produced architectural work for the Jayne House in Philadelphia, as well as the statue of William Pepper in the Free Library. I always love discovering another New York/Philadelphia connection!

Other noted works by the artists include:

A close up of the studio door.

A close up of the studio door.

Currently, the studio appears to be the office of a talent agency.

A carriage house in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New York

Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New York

Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New York

Originally posted Winter 2007.

Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, one of the historically protected neighborhoods of New York City. The average age of a house in the area is about 150 years old with some as old as 200 years. Cobble Hill has been around since the 17th century and is located just south of Brooklyn Heights, which is the neighborhood on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The quick commute into Manhattan makes this an ideal neighborhood for people who want to live close to the city but remain removed from the hustle and bustle. Cobble Hill is one of the more quiet sections of New York city. The entire area is almost exclusively row houses and brownstones with a few apartment buildings and stand alone converted carriage houses.

Originally a working class neighborhood, due to the proximity to the New York harbor’s docks, residents now represent all economic strata. A brownstone row house will cost over two million although most have been subdivided into apartments.

Other points of interest include antique row, on Atlantic Avenue where there are several antiques dealers. The specialty food shop Sahadi’s is practically a landmark. They have a wonderful selection of olives and spices. They’re so popular that on holidays the line to enter goes half way down the block.

Over the past ten years the area has undergone a renaissance and many new shops and boutiques open weekly. Despite the growth, the area maintains a small town feel. There is also a strong family orientation and many events for children including the annual Halloween Parade. The neighborhood association is very tight and involved with community affairs adding to the strength of community spirit in this neighborhood.

 

Cobble Hill apartments designed in a townhouse style.

Cobble Hill apartments designed in a townhouse style.

 

Ornate iron railings on a brownstone in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

Ornate iron railings on a brownstone in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

 

A carriage house in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

A carriage house in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

 

Traditional row houses facing Cobble Hill Park.

Traditional row houses facing Cobble Hill Park.

 

 

A front yard fountain in Middle Village, New York.

Rows of Rows in Middle Village, Queens, New York

Row Houses in Middle Village, New York.

Row Houses in Middle Village, New York.

Originally posted Fall 2007. Photos: Christine Halkiopoulos.

A hamlet isn’t exactly what I think of when I think of New York City but the neighborhood of Middle Village began as just that; a small group of English families who settled together at the mid-point between Williamsburgh and the Jamaica Turnpike in the larger area of Newtown. Middle Village was formally established the same year the Turnpike was opened in 1816.

Early development of Middle Village was reserved for the dead. In 1852, after burials had been outlawed in Manhattan , St. Paul ‘s German Lutheran Church and others, bought several acres of farmland for a cemetery. This land would later become part of the Lutheran Cemetery , which serves as the present day western border. German people began to populate the area and by the end of the Civil War, the population consisted of mostly Germanic people. Another wave of immigrants, this time Italian, would come into the neighborhood in the early 20th century.

In 1879 the Catholic Church designated a cemetery of their own, St. John’s Cemetery . Life in Middle Village, at this time, was centered around the cemeteries and services needed in regards to the deceased and their families such as monuments, flowers, and inns for visiting relatives.

Originally, Middle Village had a environmental border, Juniper Swamp , that prohibited development. However, in 1915 the swamp was filled in to create Juniper Park . Recently, the park underwent reconstruction and now includes a brand new playground and enhanced facilities for court sports such as tennis and handball as well as a roller-hockey rink. The park’s bocce court is a favorite among the older Italian residents of the neighborhood.

A front yard fountain in Middle Village, New York.

A front yard fountain in Middle Village, New York.

Until the first World War, the area still had quite a few working farms. These were replaced shortly after with primarily detached one-family houses. After World War Two, however, the predominant domestic architecture to be built were row houses.

Middle Village has modern row houses which were built in a uniform style in continuous rows. There is access to the back of the homes via alley with ample parking. The typical home was originally a small home with two bedrooms, an eat-in kitchen, living room, basement, one bath and a crawl-space attic. We did a story about a bathroom remodel in one of these homes last March. Although the facades haven’t changed too much, residents have done a lot with their space, adding additions to the back and finishing basements. Typically, you can add a dining room and another bedroom in the space you have.

Middle Village enjoys close proximity to Manhattan. The subway, trains M, L, and R, get you into Midtown Manhattan in about an hour, while the express bus takes less than 30 minutes. Because of it’s central location it’s easy to get to nearly all the major highways in New York City. It’s about an hour’s drive to the Long Island beaches or to upstate New York. So residents get the benefits of city living with ample opportunity for getting away.

Juniper Park, Middle Village, New York.

Juniper Park, Middle Village, New York.

Middle Village is a safe, quiet, residential neighborhood. Traditionally a working class area, many residents are New York City police officers and teachers in the public school system. The community association, The Juniper Valley Association, has been long established and is very active in community affairs. It’s also reputed to be one of the best in the country. Their efforts keep the community spirit strong and their advocacy for responsible urban development have saved many historic homes in the area.

Additional Information

Vincent Seyfriend, “Encyclopedia of New York City,” Edited by Kenneth T. Jackson, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1995.

John Roleke, About.com, 2007.

History of Queens County, New York, W.W. Munsell & Company, 188.

Men playing Bacchi Ball in Juniper Park, Middle Village, New York.

Men playing Bacchi Ball in Juniper Park, Middle Village, New York.

Row Houses in Middle Village, New York.

Row Houses in Middle Village, New York.

A window detail on a Row House in Middle Village, NY.

A window detail on a Row House in Middle Village, NY.

Extensions to the backs of Row Houses in Middle Village, NY.

Extensions to the backs of Row Houses in Middle Village, NY.

Washington Mews, Greenich Village, New York.

Washington Mews in Greenwich Village, NY

The gated entry to the Washington Mews, Greenich Village, New York.

The gated entry to the Washington Mews, Greenich Village, New York.

Originally published in summer 2007. Photos: Christine Halkiopoulos.

As a connoisseur of the old, I’ve always enjoyed walking the streets of New York’s Greenwich Village. Unlike the orderly structure of the upper neighborhoods, The Village harbors small secluded alleys and architectural treasures abound. One of my favorite blocks is the Washington Mews, located between Fifth Avenue and University Place. I knew this charming row of homes housed some of the foreign language offices associated with New York University but I had no idea of the colorful history of the block.

Prior to 1801, the land the Mews occupies belonged to Captain Richard Randall. When he died, he willed the property to what would become the “Sailors’ Snug Harbor” for a home for the care of elderly and disabled sailors. Instead of using the land for the home, the institution built a sprawling complex on Staten Island using income from the rental of subdivided plots on the Manhattan land. These newly built homes, lining the north side of Washington Square Park and the south side of Eighth Street, created an alley. Two-story stables were built in 1830 along the alley.

In 1916 the “Sailors’ Snug Harbor” Association decided to convert the stables into residences for local artists as Greenwich Village was fast becoming a haven for many influential artists of the early 20th century. Twelve of the original stables were renovated in a Mediterranean style with stucco and tile detailing designed by architects Maynicke and Franke. Later in 1939, new two-story homes with the aesthetic of the original stables were built across the alley. Although the alley was originally open, over the years, gates at either end have been erected for increased security. Currently there is a plain red brick gate along the University Place entrance. On the 5th Avenue side there is an elegant gateway with arches and iron work.

Washington Mews, Greenich Village, New York.

Washington Mews, Greenich Village, New York.

Indeed artists did occupy the homes, including Paul Manship and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the founder of The Whitney Museum of American Art. In the same house that Whitney lived, resides documentary filmmaker Jean Bach, most recently noted for making the Academy Award nominated film A Great Day in Harlem. Over the years she has entertained many artists including Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and Dizzy Gillespie. She has called the Mews home for 54 years.

In 1950, New York University leased the entire alley. Gradually, more and more homes have been vacated by their original occupants and reserved for use as faculty residences and offices. Some include the Deutsches Haus, the Gluckman Ireland House, the Institute of French Studies, and La Maison Française.

Not every alley can be truly called a Mews. In fact Mews is a British term used to describe a small street lined with homes that are converted stables. Washington Mews is a true Mews and might be the only one in New York City.

Additional Information

“Streetscapes: Washington Mews; Gates for Protection Against the Threatening City Beyond,” by Christopher Gray, The New York Times, November 20, 1988

“Aunt Gertrude’s Kingdom,” by Wendy Goodman, New York Magazine, Fall 2006

Washington Mews, Greenich Village, New York.

Washington Mews, Greenich Village, New York.

 

washingtonMews04

 

Washington Mews, Greenich Village, New York.

Washington Mews, Greenich Village, New York.

 

Washington Mews, Greenich Village, New York.

 

Washington Mews, Greenich Village, New York.

 

Fashionable 1820s homes on Greenwich Street.

The Little House That Could: The Federal Row House in New York

These five homes, located on Van Dam Street, are rare examples of Federal row house with the dormers still intact.

These five homes, located on Van Dam Street, are rare examples of Federal row house with the dormers still intact.

Article originally published in summer 2008. Photos: Christine Halkiopolous.

I have to disclose that I am particularly fond of the Federal Row House, because I happen to own one. It’s very small but with historic architecture, size doesn’t count.

Most people associate the Federal style with early America, the Colonial Period, and the birth of our Nation. It’s a very easy style to attain because it’s essentially a rectangular box, typically two or three-and-a-half stories high, that can vary in size greatly thus accommodating everyone from the humblest homeowner to the mayor. It’s interesting to note that the current mayor of New York lives in an attached townhouse. He choose to remain in his house, post-election, even though traditionally, New York mayors have lived in the detached Gracie Mansion. Of course, Bloomberg’s mansion is a far cry from the humble Federal dwelling and most row houses in general, but still, it’s a house, in a row.

Returning to the 18th Century…
Thanks to design books of the period, such as Asher Benjamin’s American Builders Companion (1797), architects could make Federal Row Houses as elaborate or simple as the homeowner wished (The Federal Era Row House of Lower Manhattan, author Susan De Vries). Besides being decoratively flexible, they could be made of wood or brick, the later being a requirement in crowded cities to avoid devastating fires. This adaptability helped the Federal style’s popularity rise to become the prominent architectural fashion of the age. In New York, the original architecture was based on Dutch influences. If you remember our article on Amsterdam, Dutch architecture lends itself nicely to urban development. However, it wasn’t long before the Federal style, adapted from the Georgian style that was popular in England at the time, started to take prominence.

Some of the details that make these Federal homes include the even placement of the windows, pronounced lentils and square door surrounds.

Some of the details that make these Federal homes include the even placement of the windows, pronounced lentils and square door surrounds.

Like most old world cities, Manhattan was developed organically based on the needs of the population. The city radiated from central points with streets laid in winding fashion. As the city grew, problems arising from over-crowding, like cholera outbreaks and block-consuming fires, motivated people to move northward to more open spaces. It’s hard to believe the West Village was considered pasture and farmland, the country, but in the late 18th Century, that’s exactly what it was. Two factors influenced the choice of the row house for dwellings in these new neighborhoods. One, the migration of a lot of people in a short time resulted in a flurry of speculative development which relies on quick building techniques. Two, land in this new urban oasis was divided into 25′ by 100′ plots, arranged in a grid like fashion and there is no more efficient way to develop houses in that sort of space. Since Federal was the style du Jour and adaptable to a variety of homeowners’ tastes and budgets, naturally all these new row houses adopted the look.

New York is sometimes called the capital of the world. It’s a big modern city that’s always moving forward. Unfortunately, due to this ever-pressing need to be bigger and better, quite a bit of Federal architecture has been demolished. Many modest row houses were re-purposed and turned into tenament buildings. Many more row houses were knocked down to make room for large apartment buildings that could accommodate an ever-growing population. However, some very special Federal row houses remain, hidden in corners or stubbornly surviving mid-block. In protected, historic neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, you can even see examples from the early 1800s. Considering the New York of today has such a wide variety of architecture, it’s amazing to think that, at one point, it was blocks and blocks of uniform Federal Row Houses.

Fortunately, architects used the Federal style for row houses for over long period of time. Earliest examples occur in attached urban dwellings as early as the 1720s and people were still building in the style, albeit sporadically, after 1850. So there are over 100 years of attached houses to be seen. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation published a report to submit several row homes for historic designation. This report has been a great source for this article and has informed us about a few wonderful examples still in existence.

Some homes are lucky survivors, nestled between newer buildings. This example even retains its horse walk.

Some homes are lucky survivors, nestled between newer buildings. This example even retains its horse walk.

The first row featured is located on Van Dam Street, photos one and two. This group wasn’t part of the report but our intrepid photographer snapped up the photos anyway. They are beautifully restored examples of Federal Row Houses from the early 1800s. It’s easy to explain what makes these Federal because they retain a lot of original detail. First, the windows are all uniformly sized and placed. Windows typically got smaller as you went up a floor but they are all the same size within a floor. The six over six-pane windows are typical of mid-19th Century. The door surrounds, with columns, top pediment with window and narrow side windows are an indicator of early Federal style. The homes have a full second floor and an attic half floor with dormered windows which spanned the entire period. Above and below each window is a lintel, a masonry border. Modest Federal homes have a simple lintel, maybe turned bricks or wood. However more elaborate homes will have splayed lintels with keystones, brownstone lintels, show in these homes. Some even have marble, illustrating the Federal style’s adaptability. Like most Federal row homes in New York, the Van Dam Street homes are constructed out of brick. A common type of brick laying for Federal Row Homes is called Flemish Bond, which alternates between laying the bricks with the long side or short end facing out. You can just make out this style of bond in the second photo.

7 Leroy Street, photo three, is quite the survivor and is neighbored by bigger and more modern buildings. It represents a typical Federal house, two-and-a-half stories with a dormer roof. This house not only survives and is in beautiful condition but it also retains a back property, accessible from the lower wooden door at the left of the main door, via a tunnel. Rows built in the early to mid-1800s were built like doughnuts with no alley or street access to the backyards. The homeowners used to live in this rear dwelling while they rented out the front house (“Streetscapes/13 Federal Row Houses Recommended as Landmarks; Glimpses Into the 19th Century,” The New York Times, by Christopher Gray, March 21, 2004). Although having another house or small stable behind your house was fairly common during the period, you wouldn’t park your horse on the street, not many row houses have this today.

The typical row house of the period worked on a basic plan. Row houses were two rooms deep, which allowed for every room to have windows and proper ventilation. Behind the house would be a garden and an additional structure. The first floor had public rooms, usually two parlors that could be either separated with doors or opened for more space. The family’s bedrooms and private areas were on the second floor and the third floor, or attic, was for the household help. The parlors would be more elaborately decorated since that is where people entertained. The rest of the house was usually more modest. The first floor was raised above street level to allow for the basement to have small windows. Putting the kitchen and dining room in the basement kept kitchen smoke and smells from permeating the entire house. The backyard garden was accessible from the kitchen, very useful in a time before the supermarket.

Fashionable 1820s homes on Greenwich Street.

Fashionable 1820s homes on Greenwich Street.

486 and 488 Greenwich street, photos four, five, and six, were built in 1820 and are probably some of the oldest remaining Federal Row Houses in the city. Again, these follow the two-and-a-half story pattern, although they don’t have the raised first floor. These have been altered for commercial use and it isn’t sure what the original entrances might have looked like. (The Federal Era Row House of Lower Manhattan, pg 8) The near doorway in photo five is a reasonable assumption as it looks very typical for the period and is, most likely, in alignment with an inside staircase at the side of the house. One owner has utilized a recycled entrance that fits appropriately with the house as well.

The last three photos are of a block in Greenwich Village, not far from Washington Square. These homes are mostly intact, despite the mixed use. In one, is the restaurant La Lanterna, a favorite of mine. Not only do all three homes have their original door surrounds, but the iron work and pineapple finials in front of La Lanterna are also original.

These are really just a small sample. I’ve seen a few Federal row homes in the South Street Seaport area as well as in Brooklyn Heights. It’s good to know that people are actively trying to save these homes and a unique part of American architectural history.

NYFederalRowHouse05

NYFederalRowHouse06

These retain most of their original details. The house on the right appears to have it's original eight over twelve windows as well.

These retain most of their original details. The house on the right appears to have it’s original eight over twelve windows as well.

The pineapple was a symbol of welcome in the 18th and 19th Centuries. This finial is original to the iron work.

The pineapple was a symbol of welcome in the 18th and 19th Centuries. This finial is original to the iron work.

Additional Resources

The Federal Era Row House of Lower Manhattan, by Susan De Vries, The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

“Streetscapes/13 Federal Row Houses Recommended as Landmarks; Glimpses Into the 19th Century,” The New York Times