Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Victory is at hand! Both the Landmarks Commission and the NYC City Council have approved the creation of the Lamartine Place Historic District!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Various bits of VERY good news!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Various bits of good news!

We are happy to report that in December, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission calandered the proposed Lamartine Place Historic District for a full hearing, for a future yet to be determined date!

Also, whereas in October we were very worried that work on the penthouse addition to the Hopper-Gibbons house had recommenced, we were able to get a new stop work order due to the help of Assemlymember Richard Gotfried's office.

Furthermore the current owner of the building will not be allowed to build the penthouse addition as he had intended. We received astonishing news re: the Hopper-Gibbons home at no. 339 West 29th (formerly an Underground Railroad Station) from the audit of this site conducted by the Department of Buildings on 10/21. The current owner of the building will not be allowed to build the penthouse addition as he had intended, which would have disrupted the uniform line of the cornices of the row houses on the west half of this block.

According to the DOB, the following objections to this proposed construction were raised in this failed audit: "The proposed penthouse, for an existing building less than 45 feet wide in an R8B zoning district is contrary to Section 23-692 of the Zoning Resolution, and therefore not permitted."!!!

We are elated at this news!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Hopper-Gibbons home at no. 339 West 29th Street (which served as an Underground Railroad Station) has never been more gravely imperiled than now.

The Hopper-Gibbons home at no. 339 West 29th Street (which served as an Underground Railroad Station) has never been more gravely imperiled than now. The day after the Landmarks Preservation Commission and Community Board 4 held a meeting indicating that they were very interested in making 12 buildings on my block part of a historic district, a construction crew resumed work on this home. I just learned that the owner of no. 339 was granted a new building permit on October 9th for exactly the same plan as last year, i.e., to add a 1 1/2 story penthouse to this 4 story rowhouse. According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the issuance of this building permit now prevents them from doing anything to help save the building.

However, as I have repeatedly indicated to the Department of Buildings for many months, the steel girders that are now perched on top of the building were built to an illegal height and endanger the fragile bricks below it (erected from 1846-1847). A DOB inspector, in fact, told Julie Finch and me in July that this should never have been allowed in the first place and that the DOB would issue violations and take the owners to court, but this was never done. Instead, on October 2nd, the DOB rescinded the Stop Work Order on this building that had been in place since last October and issued the new building permit the following week, thus ignoring this obvious violation of the law and my warnings of the safety issues this poses. They failed to even give either myself or Assemblyman Gottfried's office any information about the new plan exam that had been approved on September 19th or to reply to my complaint until AFTER allowing the owner to resume building. This was evidently an attempt on their part to render both myself and the elected officials powerless to intervene. Not only has the owner of no. 339 been engaged in illegal practices, endangering the contiguous buildings and innocent passersby, but now the Department of Buildings seems to have been involved in some kind of cover-up by denying the community the information we needed in order to fight this.

Our last hope is to finally prevail by publicizing the zoning violation and, of course, the historical importance of this building, through newspaper articles (Chelsea Now is doing another piece on this as we speak), a press conference and/or a public demonstration, or legal advice. Best of all would be to find a wealthy donor to buy the building! Our first step should be to call 311, complaining about the illegal height of the steel girders (heightening the building to 62 ft. 10 in. rather than the 60 feet allowed).

We need to deluge the Department of Buildings, Mayor Bloombergs' Office and the Office of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who represents the related district.

The aesthetic unity and small scale of the row houses on 29th Street, fronted by gardens and opposite what is virtually a park, make it a special place within the congested, skyscraper-filled confines of Manhattan, which should not be marred by any alterations. To keep it that way and to reclaim the right to our architectural and historical heritage, we really need to step up to the plate and do something to help ourselves, because the DOB surely isn't.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New York State Historic Preservation Office says Lamartine Place meets the criteria for Historic District

Great news everyone,

The State Historic Preservation Office has determined that the proposed Lamartine Place Historic District (a portion of W 29th Street between 8th Ave and 9th Ave that includes the Hopper-Gibbons House a verefiable Underground Railroad site) meets the criteria for listing to the State and National Registers I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, have a terrific Labor Day weekend.

This could potentially mean not just the Hopper-Gibbons House but also the row of which it is a part.

This would create a nice precedent, which does not alas bind the NYC Landmarks Commision to do the same but could be a positive influence on their own decision making re:the house and or the block.

We would like to thank Julie Finch for her dedication and help in preparing the application for historic district eligiblity, Kathleen Howe of the State Historic Preservation Office, Fern Luskin for her pioneering research, Laurence Frommer, and our elected officials and Community Board (Manhattan CB 4), who have supported the effort to make Lamartine Place a historic district.

Monday, February 25, 2008

339 West 29th St/Hopper-Gibbons House is featured in NY Times article about the challenge of preserving homes tied to the Undergound Railroad !

This pastSunday (Feb 24)the NY Times published an article on the challenges of preserving homes tied to the Underground Railroad, featuring 339 West 29th Street,i.e.the Hopper-Gibbons House.Below is a quote from the article. For the full article please go to:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/nyregion/thecity/24slav.html?ref=thecity
February 24, 2008
Retracing the Elusive Footsteps of a Secretive History

ONE balmy day last April, an art and architecture historian named Fern Luskin hauled her laptop and a collapsible chair up to the roof of the Chelsea town house where she lives to work outside for a while. From the top of her building, on West 29th Street near Eighth Avenue, the view to the south is dominated by the bulky towers of the Penn South apartment complex. To the northeast, the Empire State Building pierces the sky.

But on this particular day, neither the panorama nor her laptop could distract Ms. Luskin from the scene unfolding three doors over, where workmen were attaching long steel beams and poles to a neighboring rooftop. It was the beginning of what she correctly assumed was the construction of a vertical addition to the nearby building — in other words, a penthouse.

Ms. Luskin, a professor of art history at La Guardia Community College, was distressed. Her trained eye relished the uniformity of the row of five town houses that included both her building and the one at No. 339 being readied for construction. The addition, she feared, would be what she described as an “aesthetic disturbance.”

After learning that the town houses were built in 1847, more than 50 years earlier than she had thought, Ms. Luskin decided to delve into the past of No. 339. For two months, she combed through historical archives and databases, and she discovered that No. 339 was apparently Manhattan’s first documented safe house for escaped slaves — a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Uncovering the story became something of an obsession as Ms. Luskin pieced together clues about the lives of Abigail Hopper Gibbons and James Sloan Gibbons, well-known Quaker abolitionists who lived in the building in its early years.

“It got so exciting,” Ms. Luskin said, “I couldn’t stop.”
After finding a period map that linked the Gibbonses to the house, Ms. Luskin discovered a passage in a letter published in a biography of a renowned 19th-century lawyer named Joseph Hodges Choate describing a meal he ate at the house with a young escaped slave who was fleeing to Canada.

Though buildings throughout the city are often thought to have been part of the escape route north, finding documents that provide proof is extremely difficult. “It’s incredibly rare that you can substantiate it,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. “Locations were secretive by their very nature.”

Despite the documentation Ms. Luskin collected, No. 339 could not originally be considered for designation as a landmark because a building permit had been issued for the construction project. However, construction is at a standstill; according to Kate Lindquist, a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings, the permit for construction of the penthouse is being revoked, in part because an agency review determined that the architectural plans did not comply with building and zoning codes.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is currently evaluating No. 339 to see if it is eligible for designation as a landmark, news that will no doubt delight some local residents.

“Being one of the few African-Americans on the block, I have an emotional connection to this history,” said Curtis Jewell, a 55-year-old truck driver for the Postal Service who has lived in Ms. Luskin’s building for 10 years. “You have a lot of cultural history in New York that money seems to want to push out of the way.”

Saturday, December 1, 2007


"Ashcan Artists" & Lamartine Blocks, Chelsea W29 & W30 btwn 8Ave & 9Ave
In early 20th Century NYC, 317 West 29th Street(formerly Lamartine Place) was the address of the Petipas' sisters boardinghouse, where painter John Butler Yeats (father of the poet) lived. John Sloan painted "Yeats at Petipas", (1910)showing him dining there with artists and literary figures. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The boardinghouse and Chelsea district in general, was an unofficial center for the "Ash Can" group of artists.
William Glackens's "Chez Mouquin" (1905), showing Clement Clarke Moore the Third in presence of a "much younger lady of questionable repute" and John Sloan's "Yeats at Petipas'" (1910) are evidence of this trend in Chelsea.
John Butler Yeats was also the father of four artistic children, including the poet W. B. [William Butler] Yeats, and the painter and illustrator Jack [John] Butler Yeats, as well as the daughters Susan Mary (Lilly) and Lolly also know for their creative endeavors.
In December, 1907, Yeats accompanied his eldest daughter, Susan Mary [Lily] Yeats, to an embroidery exhibit in New York City for what was intended as a short visit. However, Yeats remained there for the following 14 years and never returned to Dublin. He took up residence at a boarding house run by the Petitpas sisters at 317 West 29th Street, and participated in the literary and art communities of the city. ___________________________________________________________________ In New York, Yeats continued to paint portraits and sketch for commissions, as well as for friends and himself. He also wrote several essays on subjects that included art, Irish issues, and women, and was a public speaker at venues in the eastern United States. Within his circle of artistic friends in New York, Yeats was known as an exceptional conversationalist. During this time he nurtured friendships with Martha Fletcher Bellinger, the writer Van Wyck Brooks, Mary Tower Lapsley Caughey, the miniature painter Eulabee Dix [Becker], the painter John Sloan and his wife, Dolly, Ann Squire, the lawyer and art patron John Quinn, and several others.

Yeats maintained contact with his family in Europe and friends in America through extensive correspondence.

On February 3, 1922, Yeats died, leaving behind an unfinished self-portrait, commissioned by Quinn, that he had been working on for 11 years. He is buried in Chestertown, New York, near Lake George in the Adirondacks
___________________________________________________________________ The boarding house at 317 West 29th run by the three Petipas sisters is recounted by B. L. Reid in his fascinating biography ''The Man From New York -- John Quinn and his Friends'' (Oxford University Press, 1968, page 89)
John Butler Yeats, (father of the poet,William Butler Yeats and painter Jack B. Yeats) ''was to live out his days there, illuminating that place and making it locally celebrated. . . . When weather allowed, the boarders and their guests would dine in a sort of pavilion, an open roofed shed in the back garden. It is in this setting that John Sloan painted him in 'Yeats at Petipas' with a group of friends about the table.''
In the 1870's and 1880's, the Chelsea Neighborhood had been at the center of New York City's Theater world.
Madison Square was the Times Square of it's day and
West 23 rd Street running westward to 8th Avenue was an
extention of it.

As late as 1910, when many Aschan Artists were active, Chelsea still had some lingering theatrical vestiges, although mostly of a vaudville kind and increasingly seedier in nature.

Many Aschan Artists, who favored the grittier aspects of city life, captured the fading glow of this leftover theater world.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Orange Riots 1870 and 1871 and Lamartine Blocks,W29 & W30,Chelsea, NYC

The "Orange Riots" of 1871:

Lamartine Hall at the northwest corner of West 29th Street & 8Ave is in backround. At the time, it was headquarters of NYC-Chapter of the "Orangemen".

The building still stands and currently has a Deli on it's ground floor.
In the 1970's, When the area was an extention of the Fur District and still a Greek neighborhood ,the building housed an exotic bellydancing restaraunt .

In 1871, in New York City, Mayor A. Oakley Hall and Superintendent Kelso, head of the New York Police Department, issued a decree on 10th July banning the upcoming 12 July demonstration/Parade of the NYC Chapter of Orangemen to prevent conflict.

At the parade of the previous year (1870) Nine people had been killed and more than a hundred injured (including children) when a riot broke out after the paraders had angered Irish Catholics with sectarian songs and slogans.

Thus, New York city Democratic mayor A.Oakley Hall thought the best solution was to pressure his police chief into canceling the parade at the last minute, on July 11.

However, the ban angered many, who saw it as bowing down to the partisan wishes of the Irish Catholic immigrant community. It also reeked of politics, as many protestants viewed the situation as reeking of the corrupt Tweed ring that dominated city politics and that was viewed as an Irish Caholic political machine.

The New York Times launched a massive expose’ on Tammany Hall corruption just days before the 1871 Boyne Day Parade approached. With Democrats and reformers slinging mud at each other, tensions were high as the July 12 parade approached.

The New York Times headline of July 11 read: Terrorism Rampant. City Authorities Overawed by the Roman Catholics.

The ban was then revoked by State Governor Hoffman, after pressure from the city's elite. He promised the Orangemen protection by the state and Federal authorities if the city of New York could not provide it.

However, as it turned out, the fears of violence and it's provocation prooved all to accurate................

July 12,1871, the Orangemen were to march down Eighth Avenue from Twenty-Ninth Street. When the parade kicked off, all hell broke loose. A shower of tossed bottles,refuse,boots,kettles,stones,and other missiles rained down on the marchers. Tribal hatreds over 200 years old had made their way to New York City. A full blown Irish civil war had broken out on Manhattan’s West Side. Over 60 people were killed on July 12,1871, none of the dead were Orangemen.

The Orange Parade was never held after 1871, but the Orange Riots had the side-effect of also weakening Tammany from power. The political fallout from the back-to-back debacles- the Orange Riots and the Times disclosures, was too much for Tweed and Tammany to survive.

After an investigation by the Committee of Seventy, Tweed was arrested, and the city’s middle and upper classes breathed easier knowing these "violent-minded agents of Rome" no longer roamed the halls of power in New York.

An account of the bloody event is given in the below account from: "Great Riots of New York 1712 to 1873, Including a Full and Complete Account of the Four Days' Draft Riot of 1863"

Around the Orange head-quarters a still deeper excitement prevailed. The hum of the vast multitude seemed like the first murmurings of the coming storm, and many a face turned pale as the Orangemen, with their banners and badges, only ninety in all, passed out of the door into the street. John Johnston, their marshal, mounted on a spirited horse, placed himself at their head.

In a few minutes, the bayonets of the military force designed to act as an escort could be seen flashing in the sun, as the troops with measured tread moved steadily forward. Crowds followed them on the sidewalks, or hung from windows and house tops, while low curses could be heard on every side, especially when the Twenty-second Regiment deliberately loaded their pieces with ball and cartridge. The little band of Orangemen looked serious but firm, while the military officers showed by their preparations and order that they expected bloody work. The Orangemen formed line in Twenty-ninth Street, close to the Eighth Avenue, and flung their banners to the breeze. A half an hour later, they were ready to march, and at the order wheeled into Eighth Avenue.

At that instant a single shot rang out but a few rods distant. Heads were turned anxiously to see who was hit. More was expected as the procession moved on. A strong body of police marched in advance. Next came the Ninth Regiment, followed at a short interval by the Sixth. Then came more police, followed by the little band of Orangemen, flanked on either side, so as fully to protect them, by the Twenty-second and Eighty-fourth Regiments. To these succeeded more police. The imposing column was closed up by the Seventh Regiment, arresting all eyes by its even tread and martial bearing. The sidewalks, doorsteps, windows, and roofs were black with people. The band struck up a martial air, and the procession moved on towards Twenty-eighth Street.
Just before they reached it, another shot rang clear and sharp above the music. No one was seen to fall, and the march continued. At the corner of Twenty-seventh Street, a group of desperate looking fellows were assembled on a wooden shed that projected over the sidewalk. Warned to get down and go away, they hesitated, when a company of soldiers levelled their pieces at them. Uttering defiant threats, they hurried down and disappeared. As the next corner was reached, another shot was fired, followed by a shower of stones. A scene of confusion now ensued. The police fell on the bystanders occupying the sidewalks, and clubbed them right and left without distinction, and the order rolled down the line to the inmates of the houses to shut their windows. Terror now took the place of curiosity; heads disappeared, and the quick, fierce slamming of blinds was heard above the uproar blocks away. The procession kept on till it reached Twenty-fourth Street, when a halt was ordered.

The next moment a shot was fired from the second-story windows of a house on the north-east corner. It struck the Eighty-fourth Regiment, and in an instant a line of muskets was pointed at the spot, as though the order to fire was expected. One gun went off, when, without orders, a sudden, unexpected volley rolled down the line of the Sixth, Ninth, and Eighty-fourth Regiments. The officers were wholly taken by surprise at this unprecedented conduct; but, recovering themselves, rushed among the ranks and shouted out their orders to cease firing. But the work was done; and as the smoke slowly lifted in the hot atmosphere, a scene of indescribable confusion presented itself. Men, women, and children, screaming in wild terror, were fleeing in every direction; the strong trampling down the weak, while eleven corpses lay stretched on the sidewalk, some piled across each other. A pause of a few minutes now followed, while the troops reloaded their guns. A new attack was momentarily expected, and no one moved from the ranks to succor the wounded or lift up the dead. Here a dead woman lay across a dead man; there a man streaming with blood was creeping painfully up a doorstep, while crouching, bleeding forms appeared in every direction. Women from the windows looked down on the ghastly spectacle, gesticulating wildly. The police now cleared the avenue and side streets, when, the dead and wounded were attended to, and the order to move on was given. General Varian, indignant at the conduct of the Eighty-fourth in firing first without orders, sent it to the rear, and replaced it on the flank of the Orangemen with a portion of the Ninth. The procession, as it now resumed its march and moved through Twenty-fourth Street, was a sad and mournful one. The windows were filled with spectators, and crowds lined the sidewalks, but all were silent and serious. Not till it reached Fifth Avenue Hotel were there any greetings of welcome. Here some three thousand people were assembled, who rent the air with cheers. No more attacks were made, and it reached Cooper Institute and disbanded without any further incident.

In the meantime, the scene at the Bellevue Hospital was a sad and painful one. The ambulances kept discharging their bloody loads at the door, and groans of distress and shrieks of pain filled the air. Long rows of cots, filled with mangled forms, were stretched on every side, while the tables were covered with bodies, held down, as the surgeons dressed their wounds. The dead were carried to the Morgue, around which, as night came on, a clamorous crowd was gathered, seeking admission, to look after their dead friends. A similar crowd gathered at the door of the Mount Sinai Hospital, filling the air with cries and lamentations. As darkness settled over the city, wild, rough looking men from the lowest ranks of society gathered in the street where the slaughter took place, among whom were seen bare-headed women roaming about, making night hideous with their curses. A pile of dead men's hats stood on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Twenty-fifth Street untouched, and pale faces stooped over pools of blood on the pavement. The stores were all shut; and everything wore a gloomy aspect. The police stood near, revealed in the lamplight, but made no effort to clear the street. It seemed at one time that a serious outbreak would take place, but the night passed off quietly, and the riot was ended, and the mob once more taught the terrible lesson it is so apt to forget.Two of the police and military were killed, and twenty-four wounded; while of the rioters thirty-one were killed, and sixty-seven wounded making in all one hundred and twenty-eight victims.