Historic Districts of Downtown East


Downtown East, being immediately adjacent to the Dutch and British colonial settlements, forced the dramatic events on our Time Lines and Sidebars, such as fires and epidemics, economic cycles, and social reforms, to be equally devastating to this part of town.

In addition to our Navigating Manhattan individual segment on Downtown East, the historic map gallery, in City Desk, can be informative regarding the development of all Downtown Manhattan, and the initial population migration north.


Gramercy Park Historic District, bounded by East 20th and East 21st Street, the mid-

Park-Avenue-South-to-Third-Avenue block

The Gramercy area, 18th Street to 22nd Streets, off Irving Place is a unique enclave, combining private homes and luxury apartment houses.

In fact, 32 Gramercy Park East is one of the three mid-1880s innovative apartment houses built as a cooperative ownership corporations.

Gramercy’s private, fenced-in park was (and still is) accessible exclusively by the adjacent town house residents who—for a nominal annual fee—are issued a key. This is one covenant for the drained “crooked creek” and adjoining swampland to be ceded to the City, by Samuel B.Ruggles. in 1831.

A second proviso: no commercial enterprise permitted surrounding or in the park proper.

This influential real-estate developer (also responsible for Union Squares traffic flow, and the insertion of Lexington—the old Eastern Post Road to Boston—and Madison Avenue— the old Middle Road— into the 1811 “grid plan”) landscaped Gramercy Farm, at an extravagant expense, and built town houses on the surrounding plots.

Gramercy Park is little changed, and the area remains today—as envisioned 175-years ago—a rustic green relief juxtaposed to its adjacent cityscape.

GramercyPark Map || Info


Stuyvesant Square Historic District, a divided rectangle, from east of Second to (almost) Third Avenue, encompassing 15th to 18th Streets

Within its boundaries, tucked between several high-rise modern apartment houses and a medical center, this enclave contains a variety of intact classic town houses, including one triple-wide park-front town house, a grand Hardenburgh-designed gem, as well as numerous single-family row houses, which are juxtaposed to tenement apartment houses, and one SRO hotel, on 17th Street.

Granted by a Stuyvesant scion, to New York City, as an early (1835) urban-planning neighborhood-development experiment, the wrought-iron enclosed square (finally erected under court order, in 1853) has had a checkered past, like its kin, Tompkins Square, though.

Rutherford Place, with St. George’s Episcopal Church and Friends Meeting House and Seminary, and the nearby blocks were developed as a fashionable neighborhood, but fell into many tawdry years, ending in the 1970s.

Just to the square’s east, on 18th Street, between First and Second Avenues, are Stuyvesant Square neighborhood’s signature landmark, Italianate, brick row houses, each with deep front yards and cast- iron verandas.

Stuyvesant Square Map || Info


A Greater East Village Historic District

The East Village/Lower East Side Historic District is the city’s newest historic district. The streets of this historic neighborhood are lined with brick tenements and row houses, as well as ornate religious properties that connect the city’s rich social and cultural traditions to a thriving community today. Over the decades, immigrants, artists, and social activists have made the East Village their home.

Architecturally intact, these blocks are a rich collection of row houses and tenement buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries, which maintain much of their historic fabric. While there have been some alterations, they have, in large part, the same scale, height, and volume as when built.

Beyond architectural merit, the East Village derives a special sense of place from the vast sweep of history that has taken place on its streets. From early days as a base for merchants to decades of welcoming immigrant communities, to serving as the home for the social movements and artistic communities so prominent in more recent years, the East Village truly tells the story of New York.

Please read ‘About This Neighborhood’ for its sweeping history.

East Village report of October 9, 2012 http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/reports/2491.pdf

Map above


St. Mark’s Place Historic District, between Second and Third Avenues

Gradual renovations and restorations to the single-family and tenement apartment houses transformed the available dwellings from Alphabet City west to the Bowery.

Throughout the 1950s to the present, the East Village has been home to waves of homeless (the Bowery Bums), cults (the Moonie’s Hare Krishna days), and artists, with no less stature than Bob Dylan, (Positively East 4th Street), and Allen Ginsberg, the New York artist community, from De Koning to Chamberlain, and beatniks to hippies, and preppies to Manhattan’s social elite, who now call these streets home.

The East Village’s sole historic district, which gained landmark status in 1969, is an enclave, including the St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery Church, embracing the singlefamily row houses on historic Stuyvesant and East 10th Streets.

Just recently, 26 quaint row houses and tenements, comprising one block front, along East 10th Street, on the north side of Tompkins Square Park, acquired historic-district status.

The larger “proposed” East Village historic district’s upcoming debate before the Landmarks Commission would create an irregular zigzag, from St. Mark’s Place (East 8th Street) to East 2nd Street, and stretching between Avenue A to the Bowery. It would be inclusive of 330 buildings.

St. Mark’s Map || Info


NoHo (North of Houston) Historic District, bounded by Houston Street, on the south, Astor Place, on the north, the Bowery, on the east, and Lafayette Street, on the west

NoHo—wedged between four stellar neighborhoods, Greenwich Village, west; East Village, east; Soho and Nolita, south; and Union Square, to the north—(even for mercurial Manhattan), this 125-loft-building strong, mostly renovated as ultra-de-lux residential spaces, tend to be in high demand.

Therefore, NoHo’s desirable features—space, light, and location—have now catapulted this neighborhood to a 21-year reign as the island’s most expensive residential real estate.

With all that merely steps away, it is not an overwhelming surprise that Manhattan’s early-nineteenth-century premier shopping and residential streets (along 1st, Bond, Great Jones, and East 4th Streets, between Lafayette and Center Streets) once again became a prime neighborhood.

NoHo Map ||Info

NoHo Historic District Extension Map || Info

NoHo East Historic District Map || Info


Madison Square North Historic District, irregularly configured, between Madison and Sixth Avenues, along 25th to 29th Streets

This anomaly (almost unrecognized) historic district may well be logically on the fence or Midtown East or West, however, its dominant building type (loft buildings) and ambient lifestyle (decidedly downtown) preclude another designation than Downtown East due to its roots: Madison Square, which is in Downtown East.

From 1842 to 1858, following the designation of Madison Square, in 1836, on numerous twenty- or twenty-five feet wide and one-hundred-feet deep lots, brick- or brownstonefaced, Italianate-style town houses were erected, especially along the north and east Madison Square Park block fronts, on Fifth and Madison Avenues, as well as in the surrounding blocks.

The square was Manhattan’s social center by 1850, attracting Manhattan’s most prominent hotels, restaurants, clubs, and its influential families. However, with Madison Square Garden, in 1879, with its mere 10,000 seating capacity, the neighborhood’s tenor turned immediately from decidedly social to disturbingly commercial.

Even with the fabled Fifth Avenue Hotel demolished, apartment hotels by dozens were built, before the Civil War caused all construction to cease, and much more followed during the Gilded Era, and beyond.

Only half-dozen residential high-rise buildings of yesteryear still exist, along what was

New York’s first “Great White Way.”

While every grand avenue, uniformly set-back town home was demolished during the late 1800s, fortunately, the era’s side-street, single-family residences—although a majority with their ground floors significantly altered—remain remarkably intact. Madison Square North Map || Info


Additional National Register Historic Districts

Lower East Side Historic District

Period of Significance: 1925-1949, 1900-1924, 1875-1899, 1850-1874, 1825-1849, 1800-1824

Roughly bounded by Allen Street, East Houston, Essex, Canal, and Eldridge Streets,

East Broadway, and Grand Street

Lower East Side Historic District (Boundary Increase)

Period of Significance: 1925-1949, 1900-1924, 1875-1899, 1850-1874, 1825-1849, 1800-1824 Roughly along Division, Rutger, Madison, Henry, and Grand Streets.

Metropolitan Life Home Office Complex

Period of Significance: 1925-1949, 1900-1924

Roughly bounded by Madison Avenue, East 23rd Street, Park Avenue South, and East 25th Street