What were these NYC houses and are they even still there?
September 25, 2019 8:51 PM   Subscribe

So about 20 years ago a friend and I went walking south from Houston and Hudson Streets in NYC and somewhere a block or two from the Hudson River, maybe down near where the WTC used to be or Century 21 still is (?), we came across a row of about three very old houses. And now I can't find them and it's making me nuts.

They looked like they were old enough to even potentially be Colonial era - wood houses (or maybe just wood framed with brick), very small, and I feel like they even had historical markers with more info on the one of the building facades. This was before either of us had cell phones, so we never captured them in any way.

Then I moved away and then 9/11 happened and then I moved back, and then a bit later Sandy hit. And a few months ago I tried retracing our steps to find those houses, and I can't find any trace of them, either in person or via googling. I feel like maybe they were around where Brookfield Place is now, but I can't imagine anyone bulldozing them because I'm sure they were landmarked up the wazoo. But maybe they were damaged by the attacks or by the hurricane? Or maybe they were actually farther uptown than I'm remembering, somewhere in TriBeCa, and they're still there?

I would love any information about what the houses were and what happened to them if they're no longer in existence. Anyone know what I'm talking about?
posted by Mchelly to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Fraunces Tavern? If not, take a look at the Manhattan entries on List of the oldest buildings in New York.
posted by caek at 9:19 PM on September 25, 2019

Check out this landmarks map? Maybe you’re thinking of the Harrison Street Row houses?
posted by greta simone at 9:34 PM on September 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

There are very few wooden houses left in Manhattan; they have been banned for around a century, I think. So there aren't that many options. Bridge Cafe seems like a possibility based on location, but diligent Googling should be able to turn up just about every one for you to rule out.
posted by praemunire at 9:45 PM on September 25, 2019

Century 21 was and is across the street from where the south tower was. I'm thinking for colonial era stuff you could definitely be thinking of Fraunces Tavern area but also possibly Stone Street which although not ancient, strikes me as rather historic.
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:56 PM on September 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

You have a very specific memory of the location so this is probably a terrible suggestion, but there is a curious row of old townhouses in the heart of heavily-redeveloped downtown Brooklyn that matches your description.
posted by thejoshu at 11:34 PM on September 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Very few of the remaining wood houses in Manhattan are downtown. And I'm not aware of any clusters of three. Could it possibly have been 121 Charles Street - the "Goodnight Moon" house - though it's quite a bit north of where you're talking about?

If they weren't actually wood houses, my best guesses would be 486-488 Greenwich Street, or maybe the cluster of buildings on the south side of Canal at Greenwich Street [that's an old article -- yes, they were saved!], or the Harrison Street row houses that greta simone mentioned.

I don't think anything near the WTC would match your description and the land that Brookfield Place is built on wasn't there before the late 1960s (it's landfill, much of which was excavated from the WTC site).

Stone Street is a possibility, but it's quite a bit off from the route you describe.
posted by theory at 1:15 AM on September 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

I also thought of the Harrison Street row houses when I read your description.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 4:28 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: None of these are what I remembered, though the Kips Bay house in cask's link looks the closest to what I remember (I know it's not that one, though, because I used to work near there and saw it all the time). The houses were white and mostly wood, with shutters. And I know it's not the one on Charles Street because I also pass that one all the time, and they weren't so distinctively shaped. I am wracking my brain trying to figure out where they could have been if it wasn't lower Manhattan, but I remember the walk so well...

Maybe this is from the Berenstein Bears universe. It's making me nuts.
posted by Mchelly at 5:00 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

There are some really old buildings around the Ear Inn That fit your Hudson/South of Houston criteria.
posted by Shebear at 6:55 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Try Google Street view at the corner of Greenwich and Harrison: here. It's the best fit I can think of in the neighborhood.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:36 AM on September 26, 2019

Oh, sorry, you said white wood. What I linked was brick.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:36 AM on September 26, 2019

121 Charles Street

17 Grove Street
posted by defreckled at 7:57 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

It sounds like 121 Charles, as defreckled notes.
posted by Morpeth at 8:33 AM on September 26, 2019

Oh! Is there any chance at all you're thinking of Washington Mews? Not wood, though.
posted by praemunire at 9:36 AM on September 26, 2019

This is way off base in terms of neighborhood, but is it this floating house?
posted by slateyness at 4:38 PM on September 26, 2019

I don't have an answer to your question but it's a lot like the premise of the supernatural horror story "He" by Howard Phillips Lovecraft. So be glad your walk through the back streets of Greenwich Village didn't end like the one in the book.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:24 PM on September 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

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