The five-story rowhouse, located between Fifth and Sixth avenues, is attributed to James Renwick, Jr. and was built in 1858 as part of a row of 10 such structures. Many of these houses played home to artists. Commercial artist Eugene Frandzen is said to have spent time somewhere in no. 38.
Time has not been kind to it. By 1933, a large studio window had been added to the top and its installation meant the loss of the cornice. Later, all of the stone was removed from the façade, as well as the lintels and sills. The building fell under the jurisdiction of the LPC in 1969, with the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District. The Buildings Department lists it as having eight residential units.
Now, the plan is to restore the building, along with its neighbor at 36 West 10th Street, though that project, already underway, was not part of Tuesday’s proposal. The New York- and San Francisco-based architecture and interior design firm Ike Kligerman Barkley is the firm of record. Preservation consultant Cas Stachelberg of Financial District-based Higgins Quasebarth & Partners presented the proposal.
Stachelberg said they used a 1915 photo, showing part of the building, as their guide. It will include a new areaway gate, new windows and a new door at the entry level, and restored balcony brackets and new balcony doors at the second floor. Above, there will be more new windows, a new façade, a new cornice, and a new roof railing. Lintels and sills we be reintroduced, and the studio window at the top will be removed. The roofs of no. 38 and no. 36 will also be combined and minor work will be undertaken on the building’s rear.
Commissioner Michael Goldblum asked if Stachelberg had considered retaining the studio window while restoring the rest of the building. He was told that was ruled out because it would have been a mixing of periods.
LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan agreed that keeping both would be odd. She was happy to see the restoration proposal, saying these rowhouses are “a strong defining feature of the street.” She called the proposal wonderful. Of the removal of the studio window, she said, “There may be a loss, but there’s a lot more to gain.”
Commissioner Michael Devonshire was also in favor of removing the studio window, saying it would serve “the greater good.”
Manhattan Community Board 2 approved the proposal, as did the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP).
The Historic Districts Council requested the retention of the studio window. “HDC commends the restoration of the façade to its original historic appearance, but our committee is concerned about the layer of history that is being removed in this proposal,” testified HDC’s Patrick Waldo. “We recommend that the applicant preserve the studio window which, historically, has defined the artistic character of Greenwich Village and we would like to see retained, if only in physicality.” Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City also called for its retention.
In the end, the commissioners voted, unanimously, to approve the proposal as presented.