July 27, 2017

The 43rd Street ROWHOUSES

A look at some unsung buildings in the complex, the three nineteenth-century rowhouses at 336-338-340 E. 43rd Street. Their owners refused to sell to the French Company, so Tudor City is built around them. In 1988, they are landmarked ‒ by happenstance ‒ simply because they lie within the boundaries of the newly designated Tudor City Historic District.
340 / 338 / 336 E. 43rd St. in a 1930 photograph
The rowhouses go up in 1870, part of a surge of construction in New York City following the Civil War. They're built on speculation by the landowner, one J.L.T. Smith, who gets the land cheap. Not that long before, the area was a rough slum ruled by a local thug, Paddy Corcoran. By 1875, it has transitioned into a respectable middle-class enclave.
Above, what the Prospect Hill building boom of the 1870s wrought.
View looks north up Tudor City Place (then known as Prospect Place) from 42nd St.
J.L.T. Smith hires architect John Sexton to construct six identical brownstone rowhouses. Sexton is a prolific, workmanlike builder, and designs the 43rd St. rowhouses in the Italianate style ‒ his specialty ‒ with brownstone fronts, tin roofs, and galvanized iron cornices. They are sold as single-family residences for $12,000 apiece.

The neighborhood's prosperity is short-lived, however. By 1880, the arrival of the sooty, noisy Second Avenue El and the growing sooty, noisy industrialization along the East River wreak havoc in the neighborhood. Its middle-class base flees, and the brownstones are reworked into rooming houses and tenements.

The 43rd St. rowhouses have many owners over time, and undergo many alterations. Stoops are removed, facades are stuccoed, and windows widened. Three of Sexton's original six rowhouses are demolished in the late 1920s, sold by their owners to make way for The Hermitage. Today, the three survivors are nearing their 150th birthday.
The rowhouses, in a panoramic photo made earlier today.
In earlier posts, we went into more detail about these properties. Read about the nursery school in 340 here, the speakeasy in 338 here, and the headquarters for the underground movie Ciao Manhattan! in 336 here.

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