WEST 20TH MYSTERY

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There’s a cluster of buildings on West 20th Street in Chelsea between 8th and 9th Avenues that are somewhat puzzling, to me at least. They stand out from the others on their side of the street in that the eschew brick cladding for stone and present a smooth, streamlined facing. Some of the windows have arched lintels, some are straight, and some have retained casements. As we’ll see they seem to have had the same builder, or been built for the same person.

Here’s a bigger view of the title card, unobstructed by type…

And here’s a view of the houses directly to their right. Why have the middle windows of the one on our left been bricked up?

There are engaging lamp treatments. The post in the garden is a former special post model used on NYC streets or steps. I liked the little lamp stanchions on the narrow beige house in the center. One of these days I’m going to do a whole page on door lamps.

When you walk NYC’s side streets, keep your eyes peeled for building plaques; sometimes the city installs them, sometimes a former or current owner does. This one says that these buildings form The Van Dolsom Row, 322-326, and helpfully says they were built in 1858.

This plaque relates the sum total knowledge I have been able to muster thus far about these handsome houses. Who was Von Dolsom? All I can think of when I pronounce the words Van Dolsom is Lenny Von Dohlen.

ForgottenFan Jospeh Ditta of Gravesend Then and Now fame says: I think, probably, the spelling on the plaque is an error for “Van Dolsen.” The 1859/60 city directory lists the following:

Vandolsen Abraham, builder, h205 W. 20th
Vandolsen John, mason, h194 W. 20th
Vandolsen J. & A., builders, 194 W. 20th

Could the houses have been renumbered on West 20th in the past?

Page completed August 3, 2009

 





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