Thursday, January 25, 2024

The Altered Robert Jacques House - 228 West 13th Street


By 1847, attorney Robert Jacques and his family lived in the brick-faced house at 160 West 13th Street (renumbered 228 in 1868).  It was offered for sale in April 1855, after which it was briefly home to Bridget Miner, the widow of Phillip Miner, who possibly operated a boarding house.

A rental advertisement for the nine-room house in March 1870 said it contained "all the modern improvements," suggesting a recent renovation.  The asking rent was $1,300 per year, or around $2,215 a month in 2024 money.

The first tenant was Albert Rich, who owned a fancy goods and millinery business on Sixth Avenue.  Rich left at the expiration of his lease in March 1873, and the house was advertised again at the same rent.  For some reason each of the subsequent tenants stayed only through the term of their one-year leases.  Following Albert Rich were William Kay, a carpenter or builder; then Francis Bateman; William Raymond, a clerk;  and Richard Gorney, who listed his profession as "agent."

In the mid-1880's Mary Mulvany, the widow of Owen Mulvany, was listed here.  She, too, almost doubtlessly ran a boarding house.  Martin A. Metzener purchased 228 West 13th Street in November 1899 for $4,500--the equivalent of $145,000 today.  But he appears to have overextended himself.   Six months later, on May 15, 1900, auctioneer Peter F. Meyer placed an advertisement in The New York Times that announced the auction of the "3-story and basement brick dwelling, with lot."

It briefly became home to architect Francis S. Swales.  Born in 1878, he would soon leave to study at the Atelier Jean-Louis Pascal and the Ecole de Beaux-Arts in Paris.  In 1906 he set up his architectural practice in London.

As had been the case with its tenants, 228 West 13th Street would see a rapid turnover of owners.  By 1905, it was owned by J. J. Bush, who sued the city for $65 in damages caused by a burst water main on October 28 that year.

Soon afterward, Bush sold the house to Alta H. Denam.  She received a violation on February 7, 1906 for not having a fire escape--clear evidence that the house was now considered a "tenement" by the city.  The dizzying transfers of title continued.  Alta Denam quickly sold the house to Karl Shafer who resold it in May 1906.

The double-height artist loft of 1926 flooded the interior with northern light. image via

At the time, Greenwich Village was becoming Manhattan's artist colony and before long, vintage houses were being transformed to artists' studios.  In 1926, the third floor of 228 West 13th Street was raised to full height and a fourth floor studio, faced in glass to catch the northern light, was added.  It was probably at this time that the charming Early American style door with its iron strap hinges was installed. 

Around mid-century casement windows were added, along with modernist-inspired fire escapes at the second and third floors.  There are nine apartments in the vintage building today.

photographs by the author has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

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