Commission voted to designate 157-building district without altering boundaries. On December 13, 2016, Landmark voted to add the Sullivan Thompson Historic District to its portfolio of designated districts. The district moved swiftly through the landmarking process, added to the Commission calendar at its November 1, 2016 meeting, with a hearing held on November 29. The district is comprised of approximately 157 properties, mostly dating from the early 19th century to the early 20th century. The district lies to the south of Houston Street, and is bordered at points by the Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District and SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District Extension.
A residential area for most of its history, the district was initially built with one-family rowhouses. In the decades following the Civil War, the neighborhood became home to successive waves of immigrants. Rowhouses were refashioned into multi-family dwellings, and tenements were built to house the new residents. A variety of tenements are present in the district, illustrating the history of housing reforms used to address the unsanitary crowded conditions in which many immigrants lived that shaped the different typologies.
At the public hearing, elected officials Council Member Corey Johnson, Assembly Member Deborah Glick, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer strongly supported the creation of the historic district. Manhattan Community Board 2, preservationist organizations, and several residents also offered testimony in favor of designation. The Archdiocese of New York opposed the inclusion of St. Anthony of Padua and other parish-owned properties in the district. Other local property owners opposed the district, or testified that their properties should be excluded from its boundaries.
At the December meeting, Landmarks staff stated that the agency had received an additional 414 letters in support of designation, and one in opposition. Landmarks’ Research Department recommended that the district’s borders not be altered to maintain the continuity of streetscapes and preserve the district’s sense of place.
Commissioner Michael Goldblum noted that the district’s significance lay more in its cultural history than in the fine quality of its architecture. He said that tenements had a “complicated history as housing,” but as building stock they played an important role as in the City’s immigrant history. Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron said the district possessed a strong “sense of place,” and that if its historic fabric were destroyed, it would be a “tremendous loss” to the City.
Landmarks Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said that protecting cultural and social patterns was part of the Commission’s mission, and that the “cultural overlay” added a great deal to the district’s significance. Commissioners voted unanimously to designate the historic district. Srinivasan stated that the vote made Sullivan-Thompson the City’s 140th historic district.
The City Council will now have the opportunity to alter or reject the designation.
LPC: Sullivan-Thompson Historic District, Manhattan (LP-2590) (Dec. 13, 2016).
By: Jesse Denno (Jesse is a full-time staff writer at the Center for NYC Law).