By Brian J Pape, AIA, LEED-AP
The last of the three remaining historic seaman’s hotels along the Hudson River shoreline is slated for restoration, according to the developer’s presentation to the community board. The three sister hotels are Jane Hotel, Keller Hotel, and the Holland Hotel, all facing West Street and the river in the West Village.
(The 1888 Great Eastern Hotel, 180-184 Christopher Street, aka 386 West Street, adjacent to the Keller, was greatly altered to combine three existing buildings with the façade altered for supportive housing; while the 1908 Strand Hotel, 500 West 14th Street at 11th Avenue, had its façade stripped and altered and is now called the Liberty Inn at 51 Tenth Avenue (and is a by-the-hour hotel).
The landmarked Jane Hotel, at 113 Jane Street, was built in 1908 as the American Seamen’s Friend Society Sailors’ Home and Institute. Some surviving passengers and crew members of the Titanic stayed there and held a memorial service for those lost in the 1912 sinking. The building was the first to be restored, in 2008, as it continued its original use as a hotel.
In 2018, the landmarked Keller Hotel, built in 1898 at 150 Barrow Street, long abandoned and derelict, got a chance at a new life when the Gottlieb Real Estate company and the Aurora Capital firm began restoration, first as a hotel, but last year changed to a condo with permits filed with the city.
The third of the sister hotels is the (ca. 1903-04) three-story, neo-Renaissance-style Holland Hotel, built for restaurateur and saloon operator Albert A. Adler, which was later named the Clyde Hotel, and then the New Holland Hotel. It became a boarding house by 1927. The Antica Venezia Restaurant occupied the ground floor under William Gottlieb’s ownership until Superstorm Sandy flooded it. It remained abandoned until now. Developer Matthew Abreu of Aurora Capital, working with Gottlieb and Mancini Duffy Architects, is proposing renovations and additions to the building.
From the Weehawken Street Historic District Designation Report 2006, we get a sense of the area’s history. “The desirability of this far western section of Greenwich Village as a residential community by the late 1920s is exemplified by the conversion of buildings to middle-class apartments in the historic district.
“South of Twenty-third Street, the river is walled by an almost unbroken line of bulkhead sheds and dock structures… Opposite the piers, along the entire length of the highway, nearly every block houses its quota of cheap lunchrooms, tawdry saloons, and waterfront haberdasheries catering to the thousands of polyglot seamen who haunt the ‘front.’ Men ‘on the beach’ (out of employment) usually make their headquarters in barrooms, which are frequented mainly by employees of lines leasing piers in their vicinity. The historic legacy of the narrowness (30 feet) of the depth of this (Weehawken) block, and the accompanying small size and one-block length of the newly-created Weehawken Street, have apparently acted historically as deterrents to large-scale redevelopment, led to the buildings’ survival, and added to the special character and sense of place of the Weehawken Street Historic District.
“Jane Jacobs, on behalf of the West Village Committee, wrote to the newly formed New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1963 (prior to the passage of the Landmarks Law in 1965 which enabled designations), urging that any consideration of a Greenwich Village historic district include the far western section of the Village to West Street, particularly the area that is today the Weehawken Street Historic District.”
The plans that architects from Mancini Duffy Architects have presented include full restoration of all exterior masonry, replacing all storefronts and windows with historically accurate products, and upgrading all interior components and finishes. The new uses will be offices above the storefront commercial spaces. Controversially though, the office addition on the roof, although minimal by zoning and FAR (Floor area ratio allowed), will be obviously visible from every angle up and down the streets. Historic districts have clear guidelines that avoid obtrusive visible additions to historic buildings, so the community board has recommended that this rooftop addition needs revision work. Further hearings will be held in the coming weeks.