Tuesday, February 15, 2011
35 Cooper Square, 'this much-beloved little building,' dies at age 186
35 Cooper Square, an active part of the Lower East Side community for nearly 200 years, died yesterday following a short bout with new developers. The cause was impending demolition, said the New York City Department of Buildings.
Historians believe 35 Cooper Square was born in 1825.
The oldest building on Cooper Square, and one of the oldest buildings of the original Bowery, this charming Federal style building with the traditional gambrel roof, twin-pedimented dormers, and large end chimneys also boasts historical and cultural associations ranging from a direct descendant of Peter Stuyvesant to much later habitation by Diane DiPrima, the most influential woman of the Beat Generation.
"[W]hen I first laid eyes on 35 Cooper Square, I knew it was the fulfillment of all those fantasies of art and the artist’s life, la vie de boheme ... it was my dream house," DiPrima wrote in "Memoirs of a Beatnik."
Originally called 391 Bowery, 35 Cooper Square was owned in the early 1800s by Nicholas William Stuyvesant, great-grandson of Peter Stuyvesant. When he died in 1833, the building passed through several hands, including an undertaker, a teacher, a hotelier and a saloon owner.
According to Jeremiah's Vanishing New York, "In the 20th century, it became a home for artists. Painter and photographer J. Forrest Vey lived there after World War II. He rented the upstairs dormer rooms for $5 apiece to people like Joel Grey, star of 'Cabaret,' and Claude Brown, author of Manchild in the 'Promised Land.'"
"This much-beloved little building has been both a significant participant and a surviving witness to New York City history for nearly 200 years! Under the stipulations of the Landmarks Law, it qualifies on architectural, historical and cultural criteria for designation as a NYC individual landmark," said David Mulkins, chair/co-founder of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors
35 Cooper Square stood for 40 U.S. Presidents, from James Madison to Barack Obama, as well as the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The building was no stranger to controversy. For instance, in 2004, Cooper Union, the building’s previous owner, painted over a 9/11 tribute mural to make room for revenue-generating advertising.
"The building itself is a rare specimen that has remained standing since the transition of the Bowery from a residential area to one that was home to a variety of commercial venues in the early 19th century," said New York Assemblymember Deborah Glick. "While there have been some changes made to the façade of 35 Cooper Square, the building still retains its original twin peaked dormers, chimney, and gambrel roof, and is unmistakably representative of a bygone era in New York City history."
On Jan. 28, advocacy groups, historians, elected officials and East Village residents held a rally at 35 Cooper Square urging the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to designate the property a historic landmark. However, the LPC declined to take action, according to various published reports.
The current owner of 35 Cooper is the Arun Bhatia Development Organization, which has built dorms for the New School and seven condo towers, most recently 139 Wooster Street, and an unnamed partner. Arun Bhatia and its partner bought the land in an all-cash deal for $8.5 million last November. The combined lot size is approximately 4,833 square feet, in a C6-1 zone, with a total buildable of approximately 28,998 square feet.
35 Cooper Square is survived by several cousins on the Bowery. In lieu of flowers, loved ones are urged to help support the remaining historic properties that continue to face demolition throughout the city.
[Top images via Bowery Alliance of Neighbors]