Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The 1826 House at No. 246 West 10th Street

The street level door was originally a horse-walk; a tunnel-like passage to the rear yards.

In 1825 the rush of new residents into Greenwich Village had been underway for about three years.  Panicked by the yellow fever epidemic that was decimating the city to the south, New Yorkers fled to the rural village and a building boom ensued.

Builders Isaac, Charles and Jonathan Hatfield took advantage of the opportunity.  That year they purchased twelve plots of land from Richard Amos and within the year Isaac A. Hatfield began construction on No. 246 West 10th Street.  It would be the first of seven houses that wrapped around the corner of Hudson Street, terminating at No. 510 Hudson.

The two and a half story house was intended for the family of a worker or shop keeper.  Clad in a warm orange brick laid in Flemish bond, it featured simple brownstone lintels, a brick basement and handsome doorway.  The paneled door was framed by fluted columns that sat against wood carved to imitate rusticated stone.  Hatfield cleverly turned the stone stoop to the side; an attractive and space-saving innovation.
Handsomely caved columns sit against wood pretending to be stone blocks.

The yards behind the rowhouses of the 1820s and ‘30s customarily held small houses, shop buildings or stables.  To solve the problem of accessing these structures “horse walks”—essentially tunnels between the houses—were incorporated.  As Isaac Hatfield began work on the near-matching house next door at No. 250 West 10th Street, he included a shared horse walk.  The jump in addresses between No. 246 and No. 250 was accounted for by the small building in the rear; Nos. 248.

Among the owners of No. 246 throughout the years was the Hart family.  In 1865 son G. B. Hart’s name was pulled in the lottery that drafted young men into service for the Civil War. 

A charming sketch depicts No. 246 and 250 in the Victorian times.  The horse walk is, appropriately, being used to bring a horse from the rear yard.  Basement entrances run under the stoops and decorative iron guards embellish the transoms above the doors.  from In Old New York by Thomas A. Janvier, 1894, (copyright expired)
Reflecting the influx of Irish and Italian immigrants into Greenwich Village toward the turn of the century was James Gribbon.  Gribbon proudly listed his roots as “native of Ireland, County Derry, Parish of Glenullar.”  He died in the house in 1903.

As was the case of many Village houses around this time, No. 246 became a boarding house.  It suffered abuse and neglect at the hands of its owner until, on April 18, 1910 the Special Proceedings Against Tenement Houses listed it as “unfit for human habitation.”

The requisite repairs and improvements were made and No. 246 continued to be rented out as furnished rooms.  Two of the tenants here at the outbreak of the Great Depression were 36-year old Manuel Amor and his friend, 24-year old Arthur Touhy.

On July 28, 1928 the pair met up with another friend, 26-year old Brooklynite William Whalen and headed for Coney Island for a good time.  The good time ended with a raid on Hennesseey’s Cabaret there early in the morning of July 29.

Things had gone terribly wrong for Manuel Amor when his two friends teamed up with bar employees Peter Kelly and William McLaughlin, and owner Frank Hennessy against him.  Police crashed into the bar to find Amor beaten and robbed of $240 and suffering from a possibly fractured skull.

His assailants were arrested and held on $5,000 bail each awaiting hearing.  Assuredly, domestic tranquility in the hallways of No. 246 West 10th Street was strained thereafter.

In 1949 the house was converted to apartments—one spacious apartment per floor except the second, which was divided into two.  The charming house with its sizable apartments now attracted an entirely different sort of tenant.  Small brick century-old homes were sought after by well-to-do New Yorkers lured by the chic atmosphere of the Village

One such tenant was Tove Dithmer who lived here in 1957.  That year her socially-noticeable engagement to William G. Osterberg was announced.  On May 1 The New York Times reported “Announcement has been made here by Mr. and Mrs. Svene E. Dithmer of Paris, formerly of New York, of the engagement of their daughter.”

The bride-to-be was an alumna of Abbot Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and had attended Connecticut College and graduated from Columbia College.  Osterberg, a former United States Marine, had grown up in Long Hill, Connecticut .  Their wedding took place later that month in Paris.

In 1993 the house was converted again, this time to two duplex apartments.  But when it sold in 2013 for $2.7 million, it was once again a single family home.  The restored home, once deemed “unfit for human habitation,” is exceptionally charismatic and iconically Greenwich Village.

photographs by the author

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