merchanthouse1The Merchant’s House Museum suffered a blow on Tuesday when the Landmarks Preservation Commission finally signed off on the design of a controversial nine-story building that’s due to be erected next to the 182-year-old house. Today the museum sends out an e-mail indicating that it’s still concerned that the new building’s construction could damage the meticulously preserved East Fourth Street residence, and its custodians will soon be taking steps “to secure the necessary legal and engineering protective measures.”

In the meantime, the museum is asking supporters to nominate its ornamental plasterwork (which engineers had said might crack as a result of building shifts during construction) for a Village Award.

Will clinching one of the Greenwich Village Society For Historic Preservation’s awards recognizing “those people, places, and organizations which make a significant contribution to the quality of life in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo” prevent the plaster from crumbling should construction go awry? Probably not, but it’s an honor just to be nominated.

Here’s the whole entreaty from executive director Margaret Halsey Gardiner.

Dear Friends,

We are sorry to report that on Tuesday the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 6-1 to approve the nine-story hotel next door at 27 East 4th Street.

A Drab “On So Many Levels” Design

Despite the fact that several commissioners openly expressed disdain over the design of the building, Chair Robert Tierney and the remaining five commissioners voted in favor of the proposal. The only Commissioner to vote against the proposal, Margery Perlmutter (thank you!), called it “drab on so many levels.” “I feel like we’ve been exhausted into saying yes to this proposal, so I’m saying no,” she said.

The House – and Its Irreplaceable Ornamental Plaster – Faces Grave Danger

Chair Tierney and his five colleagues also disregarded the strong disapproval voiced by Councilmember Rosie Mendez and other elected officials; six engineering reports warning about the grave risk this development presents to the Merchant’s House; dozens of letters from preservation experts denouncing the inappropriateness of the size of the building; and thousands of citizens who signed our petition and wrote to the LPC.

During the coming weeks, we will be in contact with you about the steps we will be taking to secure the necessary legal and engineering protective measures.

But right now we are asking you to do something that will only take 5 minutes, but is very important to our cause.

GVHSP Annual Village Awards

MHM_Ulz_medalion-sans-gaselierThe Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation is holding its annual Village Awards. Nominations are open to the public and the more nominations something receives, the greater the chance of winning.

I don’t need to remind you that the Merchant’s House plasterwork is the finest surviving from the period. And it is irreplaceable.

The danger to our plaster is grave. Plaster is very fragile, and ours especially, after 182 years. Moreover, the most elaborate ornamental plasterwork is concentrated on the west side of the house, adjacent to 27 East 4th Street. The demolition next door, excavation, and construction puts it at great risk. Once it’s gone, that’s it, game’s over.

The deadline is today, Friday, by 5pm. Here’s what you need to do:

1.) Please fill out this form

2.) Where is says, “What is the name of the nominee,” please write “Merchant’s House Museum 1832 Plasterwork”

3.) If you are pressed for time when asked to say WHY it should be nominated, you can simply write “According to experts, the finest surviving ornamental plaster from the period.”

4.) If you wish to elaborate, here are some quotes from experts:

Charles Lockwood, noted architectural historian and author of Bricks and Brownstone: The New York Rowhouse, 1783-1929, deemed the ornamental plasterwork in the Merchant’s House “a triumph of New York’s timeless Greek Revival style. The best there is.”
David Flaharty, renown ornamental plaster expert who has worked on plaster conservation and restoration projects at the White House, the Met, and the diplomatic rooms of the State Department has declared:
“Perhaps the single most important feature of the Merchant’s House is its beautiful ornamental plasterwork, including parlor centerpiece medallions and cornices that are among the most elaborate of the Greek Revival.”
“The handsome and elaborate cornice in the double parlor, exemplary of the finest of the period: square rosettes, reeding, lamb’s tongue, egg-and-dart/bead-and-reel.”
“The matching ceiling medallions in the double parlor are unquestionably the finest designs to survive from the American classical period.”


And the Award Goes To …

A GVHSP Village Award would both acknowledge the extraordinary value of the Merchant’s House ornamental plaster and help raise awareness in the coming months as we strive to protect it.

Thank you for your support!