|photo by Alice Lum|
In 1825 the streets of New York were overcrowded and unsanitary. Two years earlier the city had endured a yellow fever epidemic and now doctors noticed an outbreak of another terrifying disease: cholera.
Within two years there was a full-scale epidemic and by July 1832 thousands were dying.
Following a trend begun with the first crisis, panicked citizens with the means to do so fled northward. The New York Evening Post wrote “The roads, in all directions, were lined with well-filled stagecoaches, livery coaches, private vehicles and equestrians, all panic-struck, fleeing the city, as we may suppose the inhabitants of Pompeii fled when the red lava showered down upon their houses.”
|The doorway at No. 20 retains its original 8-paneled door, handsome carved framing and overlight -- photo by Alice Lum|
A flurry of building resulted in Federal-style homes ranging from modest working-class dwellings to refined brick mansions like Samuel Whittemore’s imposing residence.
|The 19th century renovations resulted in charming, country store-like storefronts -- photo by Alice Lum|
Unlike the prim, formal dormers of their neighboring houses, these boasted ambitious grouped dormers. The AIA Guide to New York City would later describe them as “superdormers;” giant, arched structures that encompassed several windows each and offered nearly a full-floor of usable space in otherwise cramped garrets.
|After taking this shot in June 1933, photographer P. L. Sperr wrote on the reverse "18-20 are especially prized for their quaintness." -- photo NYPL Collection|
|In 1934 shutters adorned the second floors and the large dormers had just begun to sag -- Photo NYPL Collection|
|Fantastic details include the sunburst in the "superdormer," delicate paneled pilasters framing the dormer windows, and carved brownstone lintels, now painted -- photo by Alice Lum|
Throughout the past few years the Department of Buildings has fought the owners’ attempts to alter the buildings. Somehow, however, the two little houses remain, if not untouched, much-loved.