We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Edith O’Hara, founder of the 13th St. Repertory Theatre, in October, 2020 at the age of 103. We have also been alerted by Village Preservation to the urgency in asking NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to consider landmark designation for the 3 1/2 story, 170 year-old row house located at 50 West 13th Street.
In reading the notice put out by Village Preservation today, we learned that the fate of this building is very much in doubt as follows:
“With Edith O’Hara’s passing, however, the building’s fate remains very much in doubt. Part-owners of the building had sought to demolish it in years past, eventually agreeing to leave the building as is for the duration of O’Hara’s life. We want to ensure the building’s continued survival, and have received support for our landmarking proposal from Borough President Gale Brewer and Community Board #2. However, the Landmarks Preservation Commission has so far resisted, so more pressure is needed.”
Let’s take a look at The 13th St. Repertory Company and the woman who was its founder and artistic director, Edith O’Hara, who opened its doors when she moved to New York from Idaho in 1972.
O’Hara had a vision of creating a place for actors, directors, and playwrights when she rented the space at 50 West 13th Street in Greenwich Village in 1972. The theatre began presenting sometimes up to seven shows a week, including the off-off Broadway play entitled ‘Line‘ by Israel Horovitz, which was the theatre’s longest running play of more than 40 years. John Randolph, John Cazale, Richard Dreyfuss and Bernard Hughes have all appeared in this play. Bette Midler and Chazz Palminteri performed here early in their careers. The theatre also produced children’s performances, and held classes and internships.
In later years, the theatre and O’Hara, who lived on one of the upper floors, was under threat of being evicted, until an agreement was finally reached, allowing O’Hara and the theatre to remain.
Cool fact: Did you know that the building, 50 West 13th Street, was one of many stops on the Underground Railroad? Constructed in the late 1700s, still has the trap door in the basement floor.
50 West 13th Street had an incredible life prior to Edith O’Hara. Read about the historic Jacob Day House in a wonderful Daytonian in Manhattan article.