Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Little House on 18th Street

When La Lunchonette closed on New Year's Eve, forced out of business after the landlord sold the building, I wondered what would replace it -- and what would happen to the little house behind the front tenement along West 18th Street.

Berenice Abbott photographed the house in 1938, along with its equally diminutive neighbor.


via MCNY

Probably dating back to the 1880s, the two structures are hardly changed today. One had clearly been a stable for horses. It still has its arched hayloft window.

The interior of the living space above the restaurant looks like a hayloft, with wooden beams and ceiling. But it won't be here for long.



La Lunchonette's owner Melva Max told me that the little house will be demolished. A new luxury condo is coming. People are excited about it because it's made of wood, it's designed by Shop, the architects who did the Barclays Center, and we're all paying for it, through a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

(If you've got some free time, check out what Shop's Vishaan Chakrabarti thinks should be done with the area south of Penn Station. Hint: redevelop the whole neighborhood--those manufacturing zones "have an enormous potential to be part of our new economy in New York City.")


475 West 18th, Shop Architects

Also falling to make room for the new building are the two galleries on 10th Avenue to the north of La Lunchonette.

Three businesses and five good old buildings, all gone for one more luxury condo.

And the High Line Effect just keeps on chopping 'em down.

13 comments:

shimmerstwo said...

This is a damn shame
I cannot believe this building was never landmarked
I have lived in Chelsea since the "bad old days" and though the High Line seemed like a great idea, it has turned out to be the kiss of the death

Donnie Moder said...

Any structure Berenice Abbott photographed usually deserves to be preserved. This case is no exception. It is a shame. When you first wrote about La Luncheonette closing I went down there and was really taken by how charming the buildings on the northeast corner or 18th and 10th are while not much else around there is. The High Line is interesting, but what will it end up being from 30th to 16th St., a raised footpath sandwiched between midrise super luxury condos on either side blocking much of the sun, view and air? What will be on the street level to replace the restaurant space?

Mitch Golden said...

There are actually two little buildings behind the La Luncheonette building, as you can see in the picture:

https://www.google.com/maps/@40.7445368,-74.0061001,3a,75.3y,35.14h,85.39t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sDognQLzJHd6PNHcR5y6Khg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1

The one on the east is very small one with a pitched roof, a sign that it is much older than 1880 - I was long told that buildings of that style date from before the Civil War. It also has the metal stars that cap off the structural members. Zillow says that it was built in 1800 (who knows how reliable that is)

http://www.zillow.com/homes/461-W-18th-St,-New-York,-NY-10011_rb/

I find this a very evocative building, as you can imagine the waterfront (which was, in 1800, right about where this building is) and the boats pulling in right nearby. Must have been quite the sight. John Adams, the second president, was in office in 1800.

Patricia Kennealy Morrison said...

It's as if the High Line decided that once it was safe, it could just kill off everything else in the neighborhood.

laura rubin said...

if jackie was still alive this would be perserved. disgusting & what they do to huge cities south of the border. they bulldoze many sq miles. what will happen w/the 2 houses in back? can you post photos?

Rick Ortiz said...

When they say "have an enormous potential to be part of our new economy in New York City."
The only place the money is going is into their pockets.

zuzuzpetals said...

What a loss to our collective experience.

That white brick interior room at the link has so much character.

Unique iside and out—really deserved landmarking.

Very sad.

Goggla said...

This makes me heartsick. Not only is this a loss for NYC history and culture, but likely the nation as well. Some of our country's oldest buildings are right here in the city and once they're gone, that's it. We'll never see the likes of these again.

John K said...

@Mitch Golden wrote:
The one on the east is very small one with a pitched roof, a sign that it is much older than 1880 - I was long told that buildings of that style date from before the Civil War. It also has the metal stars that cap off the structural members. Zillow says that it was built in 1800 (who knows how reliable that is)

http://www.zillow.com/homes/461-W-18th-St,-New-York,-NY-10011_rb/

I find this a very evocative building, as you can imagine the waterfront (which was, in 1800, right about where this building is) and the boats pulling in right nearby. Must have been quite the sight. John Adams, the second president, was in office in 1800.


Wait, so it's not possible to petition to preserve a pre-Civil War building in NYC? How many of those are there? In Chelsea, no less? People may be raving about Shop and yet another luxury condo underwritten by taxpayers, but I think there's a strong--very strong--case to be made for these buildings, especially the one that might be over 200 years old. Who would be in a position to stop Shop's destruction of this historical treasure?

Tal Hartsfeld said...

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
There's nothing we can really do about fate or "the system".

David George said...

I have been to Lisbon many times--it's my favorite city next to New York. What often happens there is that when a building is torn down it will often be replaced by another that looks identical: It will be modernized on the inside, but the exterior will retain all of the ornamental elements of the original. Here it seems developers have neither the guts nor the brains to consider anything like that. They instead opt for soul-killing boxes that serve very few but must be tolerated by all.

John K said...

@Blogger David George said:

Here it seems developers have neither the guts nor the brains to consider anything like that. They instead opt for soul-killing boxes that serve very few but must be tolerated by all.

In New York City the focus is money, plain and simple. That's it. Historical preservation, cultural continuity, the neighborhoods that might be affected and disrupted and the people that might be displaced--all of this may factor in after the fact, but rich people and developers for the most part are thinking about the money to gush like geysers into their (offshore) bank accounts.

Even the cultural arbiters and czars often fail to account for the destructive effects of their actions. Consider how the New York Public Library's main Research Branch was nearly gutted inside based on some billionaire whimsy until there was a tremendous outcry and Mayor de Blasio decided not to subsidize the destruction of the library with city funds. Part of the "renovation of the Schwarzman" branch game was getting ahold of the Mid-Manhattan library across the street, tearing IT down, and then throwing up...you guessed it, another luxury tower!

Look at the monstrosity that's now called Penn Station, or the razing of the neighborhood and failure to honor the promises near Barclays Center, or even Lincoln Center, for example, which was created by bulldozing the predominantly black (of course!) San Juan Hill neighborhood. Throw the people out, throw up the buildings, whether they fit or not. And in Lincoln Center's case, they were at least architecturally significant. Unlike Lisbon, in New York if there's money to be made, so be it, whatever the consequences.

James Indorato said...

Heard that this project 475 West 18 was canceled, Please tell me this is true and that amazing building with so much history will be saved.
Don't want to get too excited if it is just gossip.
Many thanks
JIM