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Volume 77, Number 22 | Oct. 31 - Nov. 06, 2007

Villager photo by Clayton Patterson

Capital occasion for federal row houses

By Patrick Hedlund

The city approved landmarking for two 19th-century row houses in Hudson Square last week, the City Council announced, agreeing with a unanimous vote by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in July to designate the historic properties at 488 and 486 Greenwich St.

The pair of peaked-roof homes, located between Spring and Canal Sts., were built in 1820 and represent two of the last remaining Federal-style structures in Manhattan.

The buildings’ weathered brick facade lies in stark contrast to Philip Johnson’s modern Urban Glass House on the same block and the recent wave of new development in the area.

“Federal houses like 486 and 488 Greenwich St. are the very foundation of the historic fabric of Lower Manhattan neighborhoods,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. “It’s unfortunate that so much of the rest of Hudson Square has been destroyed, at least in the last couple of years.”

John and Joanne Hendricks have lived at 488 Greenwich St. for 34 years, operating a cookbook store on the first floor for more than a decade. Joanne Hendricks said they initially applied for landmark status 30 years ago, dodging pressure throughout the years from the city and real estate agents to give up the property. She said plans for the scuttled Westway mega-project could have impacted the two buildings.

“It was a cheap old house with cheap old brick,” she said of her thoughts on originally purchasing the home, which was then over 150 years old and has since undergone renovations to the foundation. “We were very lucky and very fortunate…that we still live here. Otherwise somebody else would have torn it down.”

The property also retains its history from the inside, according to Joanne Hendricks, including antique flooring, windows, banisters and its original 19th-century design. She added that her brother-in-law lives in the property next door at 486 Greenwich St., keeping it in the family.

“I think we’ll always stay here,” she said. “I don’t think anyone else could understand living in a house like this.”

Berman expressed thanks that the Hendrickses remained committed to maintaining the property as a historic destination.

“They deserve our gratitude for preserving and keeping up those two wonderful buildings for so long,” he said. “It’s unfortunate they are the exception and not the rule.”

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, in supporting the designation, noted that the properties “contribute greatly to the character and beauty of the neighborhood.”

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