In 1834,Henry Brevoort built a mansion at 24 5thAvenue, at the northwest corner of 9th Street. Mr. Brevoort was descended from Dutch settlers and since 1701, his earlier ancestors had retained their farm, stretching from 5th Avenue to the Bowery and extending north of 14th Street. He was a lifelong friend of Washington Irving, with whom he corresponded by letters for over 50 years. His son, James Carson Brevoort, was a world famous collector of rare books and coins and was very involved with the Astor Library.J. Carson Brevoort also studied with his uncle, James Renwick. Mr. Renwick built the house at 21 5th Avenue, which would become the home of Mark Twain. According to Nathan Silver’s book Lost New York, the Brevoort House was probably designed by the firm of Ithiel Town and A.J. Davis. Its classic Greek Revivalelements made it a model for later homes in the City.
In 1845,directly across the street from the Brevoort House, a large, stately hotel was erected by the family, stretching the Avenue between 8th and 9th Streets.Called the Hotel Brevoort, it kept alive the family’s name after the mansion was torn down in 1925 to make way for another hotel.
In 1902, restaurateur Raymond Orteig purchased the Hotel Brevoort along with the nearby Hotel Lafayette, located at University Place and 9th Street. A native of France, Mr. Orteigmodeled both hotels on French precedents. The Café Brevoort, which he opened on the ground floor and basement of the hotel, served up haute French cuisine to notables of the day including Mark Twain, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eugene O’Neill and George F. Baker. It included a Parisian sidewalk café, a new feature for the time. A deep interest in aviation had led Orteig to donate the $25,000 prize which inspired Lindbergh’s historic transatlantic flight, another venture that made him an international figure.Charles Lindbergh collected his prize at the Brevoort Hotel. Raymond Orteig would run the hotel until 1933 when it was taken over by the Knott Management Corporation.
From 1901-1938 Henri Grechen operated a barber shop out of the hotel where, according to the Times, he “cut the hair and shaved the beards of many famous persons.” This included Mark Twain, who used Mr. Grechen’s services for the 4 and ½ years that he lived nearby at 21 5thAvenue.
The Hotel Brevoort was extremely popular for the European elite and royalty. Congressmen, Senators, Mexican and Turkish heads of state, past U.S. presidents, army generals, and even Prince Arthur all frequented the hotel. It was a popular spot for book readings, luncheons for nearby churches, dinners for the likes of Gertrude Whitney, and big fundraisers for institutions like St. Vincent’s. On January 18, 1916, the day before she was tried in Federal Court for sending her articles on birth control through the mail, Margaret Sanger gave a rousing speech at the hotel during a dinner held to support her. The New York Times captured the event saying it had, “the flavor of Bohemia and Greenwich Village.”
In 1954 the hotel was demolished to make way for a large apartment building. Built by architects Corbet and MacMurray and completed in 1956, this 19-story building has 296 apartments that were converted to co-ops in 1981. It features a limestone and polished brick façade, interior courtyard garden, and lobby complete with murals painted by Paul Sample. One of the building’s earliest residents was Buddy Holly and, interestingly, Judge Judith Scheindlin lived there before she became television’s Judge Judy. The building was named the Brevoort, a lasting reminder of this prominent Dutch family and the hotel that anchored the Village.