Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Sash Maker's House - 17 Grove Street

Not necessarily one of the most important structures in Greenwich Village, this one is definitely one of the most visually impressive and one of the most photographed.  The residence is rare because of the 1866 fire laws that outlawed wooden structures in New York City in 1866 -- no doubt partly due to the Great Fire of 1835 that wiped out much of lower Manhattan. 

William Hyde was a window sash maker in 1822 when he built his two-story home and with his quaint wooden workshop behind it (more easily seen in the black-and-white photo below).  As amazing as the fact that the house survived intact is that the workshop did too.

17 Grove Stret in 1936 -- photo NYPL Collection

In 1870 the third floor was added and what was no doubt a prim Federal eave-line gained a modestly decorated Victorian trim board with machine-cut ornamentation and roof brackets.  The house eventually declined and, as seen in the 1936 photo, gained boarders and a fire escape.  As was common in those pre-air conditioned days, bedding is being aired out of the upstairs windows. 

Most likely at the time of the third floor addition, the oddly sized windows in the staircase hall (above the entrace door) replaced the originals.
The little sash maker's shop has gone through several lives, as well; becoming a private residence, a tea room (about the time of the 1936 photo), and currently a residence again.

In 1987 the house was purchased for $1.1 million and beautifully restored as a private home again.  The Greek-Revival inspired doorway ties nicely with the 1870 cornice; however the understated Federal doorway seen in the 1936 photo is original to the two-story residence. 

No one refers to 17 Grove as "The Hyde House" or any other such tag we're accustomed to with vintage homes.  Instead it's "that wooden house on the corner."

Call it what you will, it's a beauty.

non-credited photographs taken by the author


  1. I love your walking tours Tom. Really.

  2. I saw a pic of this place taken while they were replacing the siding, on ephemeralnewyork I think, and the whole side of the building was made of brick. I've always heard it referred to as the wood house, but has anyone actually checked?