139 GREENE STREET, SoHo

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Last week, I was fresh from stopping in the Apple store at Greene and Prince Streets in SoHo, banging around the MacBooks, IPads and IPhones. (The learning curve is going to steep if I ever buy any — track pads completely confuse me and I prefer to use mice and keyboards to do everything.) Wandering in the dead dog 89-degree heat up Greene, just before arriving at Houston I was greeted with this:

 

It’s a tiny Federal-style dormered mansion at #139 Greene with an arched doorway.

 

You can tell that care was taken in its design, because the keystone on the arch matches the lintels on the windows. The door, which had been 8-paneled wood flanked by Ionic columns, is gone, but the arch as well as marble steps are the originals.

Some internet research bore out my suspicion that this is a very old building. No doubt when Greene Street was first laid out it had a number of matching partners on either side. It was built in 1824, when James Monroe was President and J.Q. Adams was elected, by Anthony Arnoux (likely pronounced Ar-NOO) , a tailor by trade. By 1850, this was the tough part of town, and the Arnoux family moved uptown to 32nd Street. Only after that were the cast-iron front behemoths we associate with SoHo built. 139 Greene became a brothel for a few years after that.

139 Greene was never razed. When SoHo became an industrial neighborhood (the upscale boutiques arrived in the 1980s) it was home to paper wholesalers and other businesses. A loading dock had been built over the marble steps in the 1960s.

 

In 1973, the house was sold to art gallery manager Peter Ballantine, and it has apparently been undergoing renovations for the past 40 years. The ground floor windows have been bricked up and a grim black panel with a buzzer stand in place of the front door. However the upstairs windows and dormers seem unchanged since 1824, and those curtains don’t look like recent vintage.

Any news on the renovation progress?

7/23/13

More: Daytonian in Manhattan; Streetscapes by Christopher Gray, in NY Times





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9 Responses to 139 GREENE STREET, SoHo

  1. Jordan says:

    This is the “IT” house on Greene Street. We used to take friends by late at night and ask if anyone else sees “IT.” Do you see it?

  2. Gail says:

    Fascinating! Wouldn’t you love to get inside to take a look around, then see the backyard and back facade? Wouldn’t it be trippy to live there? I bet it’s being held as an investment, waiting for the day that someone offers a fortune for the property as part of a larger development project. That would be a shame! Maybe Mr. Ballantine will donate it to me!

    • Jenny Islander says:

      Per Google Maps, the backyard appears to be just wide enough for 3 leafy trees, which are exploding upward and outward. A high(?) white(?) wall surrounds the yard. The property that backs onto it is a long, narrow, 1-story structure with a long, narrow parking lot on one side. AFAICT this is currently a showroom for expensive strollers and is in negotiations (loudly contested) for replacement by another condo.

  3. Gail says:

    Whooaa! Could Ballantine possibly live there now? I had noticed the brick holding the window above the doorway slightly open, but didn’t think the building looked occupied. Surfed around a bit and found this interesting article which has some references to 139 Greene Street.
    http://thevillager.com/2013/01/10/minimalists-studio-nearing-end-of-major-renovation/

  4. nyc guy says:

    NYC Finance records show owner as you state. Annual property tax of $12,630/year. Cheap for Manhattan I’d say.

    NYC Buildings shows jumble of activity but no filings for recent renovation:
    http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/PropertyProfileOverviewServlet?boro=1&houseno=139&street=greene+st&go2=+GO+&requestid=0&restore=1

  5. Jordan says:

    The “IT” can be seen by looking to the left of the front door! See the second picture where the tree covers the “T” in “IT.”

  6. DP says:

    In the 80′s, I had a boyfriend who lived at 137- green doorway to the left. David Byrne lived (maybe still) across the street in the corner building.

  7. Jeff Rueckgauer says:

    I lived the next block down from there at 98 Greene in the late 70s/early 80s. My kids (who were like 5 at the time) insisted this place was haunted.

  8. mg says:

    I live not far from here and walk by regularly; I believe this house is occupied, although whether it’s by the owner or, for example, a squatter, I couldn’t tell you. I’ve seen an older man around the front and the curtains do move around from time to time.

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