Saturday, October 9, 2010

The 1809 Gideon Tucker House - No. 2 White Street

Photo NYPL Collection

Elsewhere in the city in 1809 houses in the new and fashionable Federal style of architecture were rising.  Gideon Tucker, however, preferred the traditional 18th Century Dutch style for his residence.

Tucker was a successful businessman and politician, a partner in the Tucker & Ludlum plaster factory, school commissioner, Commissioner of Estimates and Assessments and an Assistant Alderman. His property, on which his factory sat, was considerable. When White Street was laid out across his land in anticipation of residential development, he built his modest but comfortable home at the end of the block at West Broadway.

No. 2 White Street, in all probability, always had a store on the ground floor with the residential area above. Build of brick and wood, it featured a distinctive gambrel roof familiar in the earlier Dutch homes, splayed stone window lintels, and handsome prominent dormers.

Despite his substantial wealth, Tucker apparently remained in the unpretentious house until he died in 1845. He left a large amount of real estate, including one plot between the Bowery and 5th Avenue, from 10th to 12th Streets, which sold for $1,250,000.

As the neighborhood around it changed, the little house at No. 2 White Street went through a multitude of uses; reportedly having a dance hall called “Shadow City” in the basement around the time of the Civil War.

For decades during the 20th Century, when high rise office buildings crowded in around it, the White Street building housed a liquor store. In the 1980s a bar, taking its name from the surviving painted glass window signs, opened.  "The Liquor Store" prospered for a decade.

Then, In 1990, a mosque opened at 245 West Broadway. Because the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control law prohibits establishments selling liquor within 200 feet of a house of worship, the bar was notified that its liquor license would be revoked. The mosque, in the meantime, insisted it had no objection to the nearby bars.  “We don’t dictate other people’s behavior,” an official said.

Eventually the bar became a men’s clothing store, still clinging to the name “The Liquor Store.”

No. 2 White street was designated a New York City Landmark in 1966. Two centuries after construction Gideon Tucker's quaint little house is in a remarkable state of preservation – the great miracle surrounding it being that the it has survived at all.


  1. I think the mosque was there since before 1990, and the liquor license brouhaha didn't arise until another party bought The Liquor Store but did not secure the liquor license with it. Once the neighbors found out, they raised a huge stink and cited ABC regs on both the mosque's presence and the proximity of other and sometimes newer bars, such as Bubble Lounge, Tribeca Tavern, and Anotheroom, to block the issuance of a new license. It's true, the imam did his best to stay out of the fight altogether. Wise man.

  2. Buildings like this that are preserved are why people come to New York to visit.

  3. So happy to see gems like this survive.

  4. Hi, Thanks as always for an awesome post with incredible detail. I am doing some research on Tribeca land-marked buildings, including No 2 White (or 235 West Broadway) and I am finding discrepancies on information - or lack thereof. And you are the king of getting information on old houses. I read in Newsweek in a 2015 issue, that this was the home of a famous Abolitionist, and used as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Here is quote from Newsweek.

    "At 2 White Street was the home of black abolitionist Theodore S. Wright, born a free black and educated at the Princeton Theological Seminary."
    Link to article:

    I also found similar information on MAAP (Mapping the African American Past) project by Columbia University.

    and also on a less reliable source, someone's Instagram account! "The 4th oldest standing house remaining in New York City. It's upstairs was once home to the now famous abolitionist and minster, Theodore S. Wright. The first African-American to attend theological seminary (Princeton University) in the United States. He became one of NYC most prominent conductors on the Underground Railroad, using this building as a lower Manhattan safe house"

    Did you come across anything about Theodore Wright when doing research for this post? I am sure if you did you would have included it. Your post is from 2010, so maybe this information was not yet known? I can find very little reference to him living at that house, sometimes listed as 235 West Broadway (same house though). Thanks for any info or thoughts you have on this!

    1. Theodore Sedgwick Wright's name appears as living here in several late 20th and 21st century texts. However I cannot find any 19th century connections between the minister and this address. It also seems odd to me that during his most active period he would be living above a dance hall. Having said that, I can neither refute nor confirm his having lived here at some point. Sorry.

  5. Thanks for this post. I guess by now you've seen Eric Foner's book, & Carlarco and Papson on the subject of the house, confirming the info about the Abolitionist and UGRR conductor Rev. Theodore Wright living there.

  6. We had a small custom woodworking shop next door to the house featured in this article at 4 White Street in the late 70s-early 80s. One afternoon a fireman who was based at the local "Ghost Busters" firehouse stopped by. Apparently he was an amature historian of the neighborhood and told us the building that housed our shop was the Lionel Trains second factory. I haven't been able to confirm it but I can see why the history of lower Manhattan could capture anyone.