Webster Hall designated over owner’s objections

Late 19th century building served as performance space, ballroom and assembly hall. Landmarks voted unanimously to designate Webster Hall, located at 119 East 11th Street, as an individual City landmark on March 18, 2008.

Architect Charles Rentz designed the Renaissance Revival-style building in 1886 with a brick exterior and terra cotta ornaments. The building once served as a venue for Progressive Labor Party rallies during the labor movement. In the 1920s, it was nicknamed “the Devil’s Playhouse” by downtown bohemians and held avant-garde performances by such artists as Charles DeMuth and Man Ray. Record company RCA purchased the building in the 1950s and used it as a recording space for its artists, including Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra. In the 1970s, the building was converted to a dance club and rock venue—a use continuing through this day.

Commissioner Diana Chapin stated that the building held an important place in Greenwich Village social history, while Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz called it “one of the unsung treasures of the City.” Landmarks then voted unanimously to designate the hall.

A representative from the building’s owner, Unity Gallega/Casa Galicia of New York, testified after the vote that the building’s landmark status would increase the group’s maintenance costs and impose an undue financial burden. Chair Tierney replied that Landmarks would work with Unity to minimize the financial impact from designation.

LPC: Webster Hall and Annex, 119 East 11th St., Manhattan (LP-2273) (Mar. 18, 2008).

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