Saturday, March 2, 2024

The 1941 Revere - 130 West 12th Street

image via

In 1940, the Village Construction Corporation broke ground for the Revere Apartments, described by the New York Sun as being "designed for the occupancy of 118 families in suites of 1-1/2 to 4-1/2 rooms."  Architect Hyman Isaac Feldman designed the 12-story-and-penthouse structure with a cast stone base.  Clad in variegated brown brick, the upper floors were given verticality with piers of fluted brick, while bands of stone and brick on the upper floors stressed the horizontal.  Fenestration was highly important in Feldman's design, his wide groups of casement windows, some of which wrapped the corner of the projecting wing, acting as near-sculptural elements.
photo by Wurts Bros. from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York.

With the Great Depression behind them, New Yorkers happily looked for new living accommodations.  On October 22, 1941, The Sun reported that eight apartments had been leased "in the Revere, 130 West 12th street, now under construction."

Among the initial residents were newlyweds William Rose Benét and Marjorie Flack Benét.  Born in 1886, Benét received his Ph.B. from Yale University in 1907.  A poet, writer and editor, he had edited and written for the Saturday Review of Literature since 1924. 

William Rose Benét (original source unknown)

William and Marjorie married in 1941, just before moving in.  The Benéts were a sort of literary dynasty.  Marjorie, who was his fourth wife, was a children's author; William's son, James Walker Benét, was a journalist and novelist; and his sister Laura Benéand his younger brother Stephen Vincent Benét were both poets.  A year after moving into the Revere, William Rose Benét was awarded the Pulitzer Price for Poetry for his book The Dust Which is God.

Another journalist in the building was Carlo Tresca, editor of the Italian-American newspaper Il Martello (The Hammer), who lived here with his domestic partner Margaret De Silver.  According to Nunzio Pernicone in his 2010 Carlo Tresca: Portrait of a Rebel, they moved into the Revere from Brooklyn "at the insistence of Margaret, who feared for his safety traveling back and forth to Brooklyn."  Margaret had good reason to be nervous.

Carlo Tresca in 1910.  

Born in Sulmona, Italy in 1879, Tresca arrived in the United States in 1904.  He almost immediately became involved in the labor movement and headed the socialist newspaper Il Proletario.  By the time he and Margaret moved into the Revere, he was a known anti-Fascist, using his newspaper to denounce Fascism.  In 1926, he had been named by Mussolini as one of the top three Italians the dictator wanted deported back to Italy.  Tresca added to his growing list of enemies in 1938 by accusing the Soviet Union of kidnapping a dissident, Juliet Stuart Poyntz.

On at 8:40 on the night of January 11, 1943, Tresca was crossing Fifth Avenue at 15th Street when a black automobile pulled up next to him.  An assassin, rumored by some to have been Carmine Galante of the Bonanno crime family, shot Tresca in the back of the head, killing him instantly.  (The murderer was never found.)

On January 13, 1943, The New York Times opined, "The murder of Carlo Tresca removes a man who was capable of expressing and inspiring violent disagreement, but whom only an embittered fanatic could have hated."  Four days later, a memorial service was held in the Manhattan Center on 34th Street.  The New York Times reported, "Five thousand persons paid tribute to the memory of Carlo Tresca, 68-year-old Italian-born radical editor of Il Martell0."  Fifteen carloads of flowers and ten cars of police and journalists accompanied the hearse to the Fresh Pond Crematory in Queens.  "The procession passed the Tresca home at 130 West Twelfth Street and through the Italian district on the way to [the] Williamsburg Bridge," said the article.

A typical apartment in 1941.  photo by Wurts Bros. from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York.

Living in the Revere at the time was attorney and politician James A. Hatch.  Born in 1881, he had been an assemblyman and from 1934 to 1936 was a Deputy Dock Commissioner.  He was a partner in the legal firm of Hatch and Wolfe.

Resident Genevieve M. Raffe was a pioneering female in the retail business.  Born in Glasgow, Scotland, she arrived in America in 1930 and joined the Wanamaker Department Store firm that year.  Within four years she rose to buyer for the fur department of the Wanamaker's New York store, and a few years later added the Philadelphia flagship store to her buying duties.  The prominent retailer, who never married, died while living here on April 7, 1947.

In the meantime, William Rose Benét was a member of the National Institute for Arts and Letters, founded in 1898.  The exclusive organization was limited to 250 members "qualified by notable achievements in art, music and literature."  On May 16, 1947, as the venerable institution faced a crisis, members assembled at the Benét apartment.

Sculptor William Hunt Diederich's works were in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum.  But, according to The New York Age on May 17, "Unlike many of his profession, Mr. Diederich to all indications is a rabid bigot."  Antisemitic pamphlets had been discovered by postal workers that were traced back to Diederich.  

At the Benét apartment, said the article, "Mr. Diedrich was asked to explain."  He gave "somewhat incoherent acknowledgements of his guilt."  William Rose Benét stressed, "It is the kind of thing that Fascist-minded people take up and use."  A press conference was immediately called "and exposed the whole dirty mess," said The New York Age, which added, "It is reassuring to find upstanding men and women like [Diedrich's] associates who hesitated not one minute in revealing him in his shameful conniving."

On May 4, 1950, Benét left the Revere to attend a meeting of the council of the National Institute of Arts and Letters at its headquarters at 633 West 155th Street.  He was walking along Broadway after leaving the meeting at 6:20 when he collapsed to the sidewalk with a heart attack.  A passerby rushed to his assistance, and he was taken to Mother Cabrini Memorial Hospital where he died.  In reporting his death, The New York Times mentioned, "Mr. Benét was the author of dozens of books of poetry, including several anthologies and novels."

A fascinating resident at the time was Dr. Hulda E. Burger, whose country home was in Sag Habor, New York.  Although she was a dentist, the Minnesota native was better known for her figure skating.  The former president of the Great Neck Figure Staking Club, she represented the United States in the Women's Singles for the North American Championship.

On October 10, 1958, The Advocate reported, "St. Vincent's Hospital has purchased The Revere, a 12-story penthouse, 125-unit apartment building."  The article noted, "The two-to-four-and-a-half room suites in the building will be used as a residence for the medical and nursing staff of the hospital."

The Revere was renamed the Martin Payne Building.  A summary of the facilities on March 10, 1982 listed 18 "on-call dormitories," 35 residential apartments for staff, one guest suite, and 64 offices.

Half a century after it acquired the property, on April 6, 2010 The New York Times reported that St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers had voted to close the Greenwich Village hospital.  With the facility vacated, the Martin Payne Building was no longer viable.

Rudin Management Company purchased 130 West 12th Street.  On September 25, 2011, The New York Times reported the firm had "gutted it, reducing the number of units to 43 from 100."  The article added, "The building...will have a rooftop terrace and garden, and units ranging from one-bedrooms of 869 square feet to four-bedrooms of 2,837 square feet.  There will also be three duplex penthouses, starting at 3,202 square feet."

A month later, the newspaper reported, "The last of the sought-after trio of penthouse sponsor units at One Thirty West 12, the wildly popular (and sold-out) luxury condominium conversion...sold for $8,422,899, the most expensive sale of the week."  The buyer wished to remain nameless, but the other two penthouse owners were Rosie O'Donnell (who beat out actress Cameron Diaz, according to The New York Times, for her unit), and fashion mogul Andrew Rosen.

many thanks to reader Lowell Cochran for suggesting this post
photographs by the author
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  1. I'm finding your series of 1940 apartment buildings interesting. I was aware of them, living in New York for decades, but always thought that they were post-war constructions.

    1. I'm glad to hear you're enjoying the posts. The apartment buildings of that decade had a special flair.

  2. My goodness what a lovely building. Those south facing ones overlooking w 11th sound incredible. What a location.

    4.5 rooms was about the largest they there making in 41? What’s the half room?

    1. The "half room" was most likely the dining alcove, seen at the right in the vintage photo

    2. Ah that makes sense. The alcove being an upgrade over the dining foyer but not quite a traditional room.

      Do you know by chance if those original kitchens are worth preserving?