This slender edifice stands on what was once the court and carriage-way between numbers 77 and 75 Bedford Street. Coincidentally, number 77 is the equally popular Isaacs-Hendricks House. Built in 1799, this is the oldest house in Greenwich Village. Number 75 was built in 1836.
Number 75 ½ Bedford Street was built in 1873 for Horatio Gomez on the 9½-foot-wide court. On the interior it shrinks to 8 feet wide (and at its narrowest is 2 feet wide) and encompasses 990 square feet. The stepped Dutch gable roof and industrial casement windows date from a renovation that took place in the 1920s. Around this time, in 1923-24, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay lived in the house, along with her husband Eugen Jan Boissevain. Millay is often said to have written “A Few Figs from Thistles”—the poem containing the oft-quoted line, “My candle burns at both ends”—while living at 75½ Bedford. She didn’t, actually. She wrote it later, but the poem has long been associated with, and some speculate was inspired by, living in this house. Margaret Mead, Cary Grant and John Barrymore are all said to have lived here during the early 20th century as well. The house is also reported to have served as a cobbler’s shop early in its life and then as a candle factory in 1880.
The house has no side walls of its own and is 33 feet long, according to a 1964 New York Times article, which noted that the interior had 3 bedrooms and 5 gas-burning fireplaces at that time. A 1993 Times article chronicled an architect’s efforts to purchase the home and noted that by then the interior of the house, which had been on the market since 1983, was a mess and covered in graffiti.
Number 75½ Bedford Street made headlines again in May 2011, when it went on the market for $4.3 million (after selling for $2.175 million in 2010, before it was renovated). Also of interest is its surprisingly spacious backyard, which it shares with its neighbors at 75 and 77 Bedford. Curbed.com notes that 75½ Bedford has a side entrance to the garden, which allows residents to enter their home while avoiding the tourists in front of it, and that each floor has its own balcony, which doubles as a fire escape.
By Dana Schulz,
Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation