West and Weehawken Streets

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    393 West Street facade, 1920

We recently received an email from an inquisitive Wooden House Project reader who wanted to know if we had any information on the shingle-clad building on the West Side highway. There were also several requests in our recent survey to cover more Manhattan wood-frame stories (have you taken our survey yet?).

So we thought we’d cross the river today and share the history of a wood-frame building that is located on not one, but two streets!

manhattan-wooden-house-west-street-present393 West Street with wooden shingles as you see it today.

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6 Weehawken Street facade

The building that is found on both West and Weehawken streets is believed to have been built c.1834 as part of the Weehawken Street market, which operated in this area until roughly 1844. Fire limits outlawed wooden construction in Greenwich Village in 1834, but those limits, for a time, excluded the area west of Washington Street. And it was within this small section of the far West Village that 6 Weehawken Street stands.

Now, market buildings around that time were traditionally open sheds, and this would have been no exception. After the market closed, this building was sold in 1848 to a man named George Munson, a boat builder. When the building was landmarked in 2006 as part of the Weehawken Street historic district, the Landmarks Preservation Commission decided that Munson was probably the one who raised the building a full second story and enclosed it, adding this exterior staircase on the Weehawken Street façade.

 

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1893 depiction of 6 Weehawken Street

The earliest known depiction of this building dates from 1893, and this gives us an idea of how little the building has changed.

 

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In 1909, the building became a saloon operated by Billy Gillespie, and after prohibition it was transformed into Billie’s Original Clam Broth House. Among the dock workers along the waterfront, Billy was known for giving customers – according to the NY Times – “all the broth they cared to drink.”

 

 by  Elizabeth Finkelstein

 

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