NYC Landmarks Preservation to Consider a Landmark Designation for the Historic 50 West 13th Street in Greenwich Village




13th Street Repretory Company

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission today took the first official step toward landmark designation of 50 West 13th Street, an endangered 1846 Greenwich Village house that Village Preservation has been fighting to save through landmark designation since 2020. The building has been scheduled for a “calendaring” vote on June 18, which if approved would mean a public hearing and vote on landmark designation must take place within a year. Nearly all such scheduled calendaring votes are approved, and nearly all calendared properties are approved for landmarking, thus meaning this announcement will almost certainly lead to landmark designation The calendaring would put in place some initial safeguards to protect the building, while landmark designation would protect it in perpetuity.

Village Preservation Executive Director Andrew Berman said, “It’s wonderful to know that this fragile, neglected building with such a proud and rich history may finally be protected and preserved. After a nearly four-year effort, the city has at last taken the first initial steps toward protecting this historic site, so strongly connected to our city’s and country’s often-forgotten Black history, civil rights history, the women’s suffrage movement, and of course our theater and cultural history. At 180 years old, No. 50 West 13th Street is the very definition of a landmark, and we’re heartened that it’s now being recognized and may well receive the permanent protections it needs and deserves.”

13th Street Repertory Company

Village Preservation has proposed and fought for landmark designation of the historic house since the death of longtime co-owner Edith O’Hara in 2020, which left the fate of the iconic structure in doubt. Village Preservation’s research and documentation, submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (NYC LPC) as part of the campaign, showed not only the building’s extreme significance to theatrical history in New York, as the longtime home of one of New York’s oldest and most important Off-Off-Broadway Theaters, but to civil rights and women’s suffrage history.

According to our research, noted suffragist, educator, and civil rights leader Sarah Smith Tompkins Garnet lived here for at least eight years, from 1866 to 1874, during a critical period of her life. From 1858 to 1884, leading 19th-century Black businessman Jacob Day lived and ran his business here and owned the home, when Greenwich Village was the center of African American life in New York and the home of its largest Black population. Day was a leading crusader for abolition and for equal voting rights for Black New Yorkers, as well as a leading supporter of institutions like Abyssinian Baptist Church, then located in Greenwich Village. One of the city’s most successful Black businessmen and leading citizens, he was suspected of supporting the activities of the Underground Railroad, including at this location.

13th Street Repertory Theatre

In addition to voluminous research submitted to the NYC LPC, Village Preservation has generated thousands of letters of support for landmark designation from New Yorkers and those interested in preserving Black, women’s, and theater history across the country, as well as elected officials. Village Preservation began the campaign because with the death of Edith O’Hara, an agreement to preserve the building by the majority owners was no longer in force. Since her death, the theater has been closed and the building has been in increasingly derelict condition. Village Preservation has worked closely with O’Hara’s family and others connected to the operation of the 13th Street Repertory Theatre. Landmark designation is essential to prevent its destruction.

For more information about 50 West 13th Street and the campaign to save it, see here.

About Village Preservation ~ No. 50 West 13th Street is one of more than 1,250 buildings in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo for which Village Preservation has successfully advocated for landmark designation. The organization has made a special effort to document and seek to preserve sites connected to civil rights, social justice, immigrant, and artistic history. These have included landmark designation of the Stonewall Inn (NYC’s and the country’s first officially recognized LGBTQ historic site) as well as Julius’ Bar, the Pyramid Club, and other LGBTQ historic landmarks; 70 Fifth Avenue, the longtime headquarters of the NAACP; the homes and studios of artists Frank Stella and Willem de Kooning (each saved from the wrecking ball), and the city’s first historic districts based upon immigrant history. Village Preservation is also actively waging campaigns to seek landmark designation for the NYC Woman’s Suffrage League Headquarters at 10 East 14th Street; the endangered Our Lady of Guadalupe Church at 229 West 14th Street, New York’s very first Spanish-language church; the endangered New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, one of the first medical institutions dedicated to helping people with hearing and vision disabilities, at 13th Street and Second Avenue; and the former home of revered Black literary figure Steve Cannon and his “Gathering of the Tribes” organization at 285-287 East 3rd Street.

Village Preservation was founded in 1980, and its mission is to document, celebrate, and preserve the special architectural and cultural heritage of Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo. More here.

Read more on the 2021 GothamtoGo post, 13th Street Repertory Theatre.

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