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Urban Masterpiece

[Use the sitemap above to explore the designated area and to learn more about the buildings]

Our metropolis has been enriched by the designation in ways that go beyond its architectural, cultural, and social merits. Protection for this small residential district will contribute to the ongoing vitality and prosperity of the largely commercial Union Square community nearby - itself the benificiary of eight individually landmarked buildings. The combination makes for the kind of diversity for which New York is reknowned.
In a letter cosigned by Evelyn T. Strouse, Chairman of the Union Square Community Coalition, and Jack Taylor, of the Historic Preservation Committee, 1 July 1998:




DESIGNATED 30 JUNE 1998: "A MINOR URBAN MASTERPIECE"

Repeatedly requested by neighborhood residents to be safely landmarked, this block of buildings between Irving Place and Union Square East on East 17th Street was dubbed "a minor urban masterpiece" by Christopher Gray in an article, "10 Houses With Collective Charm," from the 8 October 1989 issue of The New York Times. On 12 October 1997, the Times again reported on Gramercy Park - concerning its destruction rather than its appreciation. The second article, "Forget the Lively Past: Window Makes for Uproar," by Janet Allon was about the "architectural assault" committed on 49 Irving Place. Alarmed preservationists, architects, and members of the Gramercy Park community wrote the Hon. Jennifer Raab, Chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, in support of its designation...


Barbara Krohn of GNA, Inc. on 23 September 1997:
"As members of the Gramercy Park community for more than 36 years... we are dismayed by the destruction of the beautiful facade of the Elsie de Wolfe house on the corner of Seventeenth Street and Irving Place. The removal of the distinctive bay window completely alters a building that gives this neighborhood immeasurable charm and venerability. We are equally appalled that the replacement of other windows in neighboring buildings on that block with double-hung aluminum models, quite out-of-character with their pedigree, is contemplated by the landlord.

"SOS!"


Evelyn Strouse, 3 October 1997:
"Surely everyone within a several-mile radius has by now been made aware of the ruthless removal of the bay window from the former home of Washington Irving and Elsie de Wolfe, at 49 Irving Place, along with the threated removal of its mate. Since these are obvious ploys by the owner to avoid the landmarking we at USCC, in company with many other groups and individuals, have long advocated, it is again time to plead with you and your commissioners to calendar for landmark status this building, and indeed all of the south side of 17th Street, from Irving Place to Union Square East, as well as much of Irving Place itself.

"This small, unassuming enclave has a distinction that districts more elegane, historicaly more celebrated, would be happy to possess. It is the distinction conferred y a step backward in time. If old New York is worth preserving, if visitors - and residents, too - want a glimplse of the beautiful little brownstones, all in a row, that characterized 19th century neighborhoods, then Irving Place and the side streets radiating from it stand ready and welcoming. There is almost no comparable neighborhood in Manhattan, none other into which no high-rise or in-fill structure has intruded. If it is not landmarked it will be sullied, violated. The carnage... has already begun."


The Manhattan Community Board Five passed a resolution urging "the Landmarks Preservation Commission landmark these buildings as soon as possible" on 9 October 1997.


David Garrard Lowe, President of The Beaux Arts Alliance, 21 October 1997:
"[The 49 Irving Place house], too, is interesting and charming, a house of intimate scale and subtle gothic details that anchors the block. The ghosts, too, are interesting. New York cannot afford to lose such ghosts and such a house."


Jack Taylor, 21 October 1997:
Many believed in the myth of Washington Irving and 49 Irving Place. "Who are we to contest a legend?"


Margot Gayle, President of Friends of Cast Iron Architecture, 3 December 1997:
"This letter is to add the voice of Friends of Cast Iron Architecture in support of the proposal..."


Neill A. Parker, 1998 Historic Buildings Committee Chair, 8 December 1998:
"The Washington Irving/Elsie de Wolfe House, although small, is one of the most prominent structures in the entire Gramercy Park/Irving Place/Union Square/Stuyvesant Square neighborhood. Its small scale and quirky byt gracious details firmly establish the intimate urbanism of Irving Place as one arrives from either of the Squares to the east and west via 17th Street...Looking at [the block along the south side of 17th Street between Irving Place and Union Square East] gives one of the best possible glimpses of the make-up of New York as it was when first coming of age as a world-class city."


bay windowSteven Sanders of the State Assembly of New York, 30 December 1997:
"These edifices are architectural and historic jewels that must be protected from inappropriate alteraltion or demolition. Many in my community were considerably distressed by the recent removal of a bay window from the Elsie de Wolfe house at 49 Irving Place. Further destruction must be prevented by means of a landmark designation."


Catherine M. Abate, Senator, on 3 February 1998:
"These houses... provide a snapshot view of architectural and historical importance, from 19th century Greek Revival to Anglo-Italianate Residential architecture. The maintenance and protection of these buildings will prove invaluable for generations to come."


Virginia Fields of the City of New York Office of the President of the Borough of Manhattan on 13 March 1998:
"The properties that are now under consideration create an elegant and unified streetscape that is highly appropriate for historic district designation. Such designation will help preserve the urbanistic quality and historical associations of East 17th Street and Irving Place, which are so integrally connected with the historic fabric already protected by the Gramercy Park Historic District."

Carolyn B. Maloney, Representative of the14th District, on 13 March 1998:
"These buildings are excellent examples of mid-to-late 19th century architecture, and have a connection with some of the great figures of New York's history... [They] exemplify the varieties of residential architecture prevalent during New York's formative years."


Margarita Lopez, Councilmember of The Council of the City of New York, on 25 March 1998:
"The proposed district includes an important piece of nineteenth streetscape, which must be granted landmark designation in order to preserve a dramatic example of urban history and maintain one of the most elegant neighborhoods in our city for future generations as it contains several architectural gems, and as a whole, tells the compelling story in microcosm of the residential development of this borough."


Carol A. Schacter, President of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association, Inc., on 10 April 1998:
"As neighbors, we know all too well how unique and historic buildings become candidates for the wrecker's ball. Therefore, we enthusiastically join the chorul to protect this charming and lovely area..."

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last revised 31 August 1998

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