Friday, July 30, 2010
I suppose you could call these houses big, or at least relatively so. Most passersby on Madison Avenue between 62nd and 63rd Streets don't realize that they are walking past a unified row of 6 identical speculative residential row houses. The original high stoops and elaborate front doors have all been replaced with the 2-story shopfronts we see today. Upstairs in some of them, wonderful old rooms with marble fireplaces and heavy plaster ceiling moldings still survive. It's easy to date these houses. The geometric patterns on the window surrounds are called "Eastlake motifs," in honor of a Brit named Charles Eastlake whose "Hints on Household Taste" was all the rage in the late 1860s and 1870s. The "Neo-Grec" style of New York townhouse, which enjoyed a fleeting fashion between the Italianate of the 1860s and the Queen Anne of 1880s, incorporated Eastlake's aesthetic. His signature motifs, seen in close-up on the window surrounds, make Neo-Grec houses easy to spot. There's a slightly earlier row of houses on the next block up, where one of the original entryways survives. My guess is a street widening precipitated the removal of the stoop. The inner foyer door is now the front door, reached by a new iron stair anchored at sidewalk level by handsome - and clearly not original - wrought iron newels.