|The little half house at No. 35 West 12th is vised between two large apartment buildings.|
Within a decade grand Victorian homes were being built as 5th Avenue mansions crept northward from Washington Square. By the time Francis Deery was living here in 1862 the house was out of style.
After the end of the Civil War the owners of No. 35 gave their home a makeover. In 1868 the house was brought up to date with a fish-scale mansard roof with two arched dormers above a vigorous cornice supported by scrolled brackets.
The Second Empire mansard gave the home a full third story, replacing the half-story dormered attic. The owners now had a residence on a par with the new houses on the block.
Then in 1893 the homes to the east at Nos. 33 and 31 were razed for the construction of a mammoth stone apartment building. But the two plots were not wide enough for the project and the developers purchased half of the lot on which No. 35 sat.
One half of the handsome house was demolished and the remainder was renovated to accommodate life in 50 percent of the former floor space. What resulted was a quaint, storybook house of miniature proportions.
Here in the 1930s lived the lyric soprano of the Metropolitan Opera, Minnie Egener, her husband Louis Hasselmans who was the conductor of French opera at the Met, and their daughter Geraldine. The diva died in the house on January 15, 1933.
In the last half of the 20th century a modern apartment building was built on the west side of No. 35. The skinny appearance of the house was suddenly intensified as it became squashed between the two goliaths.
Today the home is still a private house whose dollhouse appearance illicits adjectives like “cute,” “adorable,” and “sweet” from passersby. The AIA Guide to New York City commented that the loss of half the house in 1893 left “a curious but not unpleasing reminder.”
No. 35 West 12th Street is one of New York's delightful architectural oddities that keep urban explorers intrigued.
photograph taken by the author