In the Far West Village, along the Greenwich Village waterfront, sits a block of West Street between 10th and Charles Streets. Of the buildings on this block, only 396 and 398 West Street sit within the Weehawken Street Historic District, which the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated in 2006. The Greenwich Village waterfront is one of the oldest settlements in Manhattan, and this historic district includes some of the earliest buildings in the area.
The “then” photograph was taken as part of a neighborhood survey led by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) when Regina Kellerman served as executive director. A large collection of photographs and research from this survey was compiled in a book called The Architecture of the Greenwich Village Waterfront which GVSHP published in 1989.
This photograph and the book are valuable to us in many ways. Though perhaps not the most impressive block in the Village, it does speak to the neighborhood’s manufacturing past. Buildings in the photograph show the stretch between 402 and 398 West Street (moving left to right). According to our research conducted in the 1980s, the two three-story buildings on the left-hand side of the photograph were combined to form one building in 1947. They had been used as a machine shop and, in the 1980s, were partly used for automobile repair.
By 1959, 399 West Street also housed an automobile repair shop; previously, it had served as a freight terminal. Its neighbor at 400 also repaired vehicles. Interestingly, these four buildings were all likely much older buildings (perhaps even Federal-era rowhouses), but we only have their alteration permits available.
Today, this block has changed drastically. The two buildings at left have been refaced (or perhaps re-painted), and their window openings have been altered. There is absolutely no trace of their two neighbors to the south, which have since been replaced by more modern buildings. Despite the fact this section of the block does not have landmark protections, GVSHP successfully advocated for contextual rezoning here. If you are interested in learning more about this rezoning and how high property owners can build here, please visit GVSHP’s Far West Village page under the Preservation tab at www.gvshp.org.