The Landmarks Preservation Commission was unimpressed with a proposal to expand the home at 83 Horatio Street, in the West Village.
The three-story Greek Revival style house dates back to between 1852 and 1853 and sits between Washington Street and Greenwich Street. That’s at the western edge of the Greenwich Village Historic District, which was designated in 1969. Both of its neighbors are taller.
The proposal for the expansion comes from the design firm Union Street Studio, which is based in Brooklyn’s Columbia Street Waterfront District. The plan was to create essentially a two-story rooftop addition. The word “essentially” is used because there is already an attic and that attic would become part of the new fourth floor. A rear yard addition from the year 2000 would be demolished, and a new one created that would extend the rear of the entire house. It also called for the excavation of the rear yard to increase the length of the cellar beyond that of the expanded home.
Additionally, there would be the installation of new windows and doors and the cornice would be replaced.
The team from Union Street Studio said the expansion would not be visible from Horatio Street. It would be visible from the High Line and from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District. Of course, the latter visibility would cease when the planned redevelopment of Gansevoort Street goes forward.
Commissioner Michael Goldblum said this was a case of urban planning vs. preservation. Commissioner Diana Chapin said the proposal would result in too much of an increase in the volume of the home. Commissioner Frederick Bland said it was inappropriate. LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said she understood the other commissioners’ problems, but seemed inclined to approve it.
Manhattan Community Board 2 expressed support for the proposal.
The same could not be said for the Historic Districts Council. “Although surrounded by larger buildings, the proposed treatment of this survivor is in no way justified. The replacement of the cornice is unnecessary, the rooftop addition overwhelms the building’s scale and the rear yard addition does not adhere to any commonly accepted practices, including the retention of the existing top floor,” testified HDC’s Barbara Zay. “The Landmarks Commission was created for situations just like this; to protect our historic architecture from rapacious and inappropriate development. There are better ways to enlarge townhouses.”
Sarah Bean Apmann of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation also testified against the proposal.
“GVSHP regrets the proposed loss of the interior of this house, including and especially the horsewalk. That said, we recognize that the LPC’s jurisdiction does not extend to these interior elements, and we understand a new owner’s desire to re-shape a home to their needs and tastes. It seems that the proposed two story addition will be invisible from the Horatio Street side, thus also making it outside of the jurisdiction of the LPC.
“However, the proposed rear additions and rooftop additions appear to be visible from Gansevoort Street, and would eliminate and replace a significant amount of historic material from the rear façade. The building would read entirely differently in style and scale from the rear as a result of the proposed changes, and would no longer look at all like the early 19th century house which this is, and which is such an important component of the Greenwich Village Historic District. Additionally, we are concerned that the proposed changes, which involve excavation and demolition of all but the façade of this building, could inadvertently lead to compromise of the remaining façade, and even impact surrounding structures.
“We urge the Commission to work with the applicant to ensure that as much as possible of the historic exterior material of this charming house is preserved, that any additions are minimally visible, and that any work undertaken does not negatively impact remaining historic materials of this or neighboring properties.”
Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City lamented that artifacts like this house on the way to becoming fragments.
In the end, the commissioners took no action at the July 19 hearing. The applicant is free to present a revised expansion plan at a future LPC session.
View the presentation slides here: