The clapboard farmhouse that currently stands at 121 Charles Street was probably built in the mid-1800s and was transported to the Upper East Side around the turn of the century. It stayed there, on a rear lot at 71st Street and York Avenue, for more than half a century, counting among its occupants Margaret Wise Brown, the author of children's classic "Goodnight Moon," who briefly resided there in the '40s. In 1967, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York decided they needed the land and planned to demolish the house, but its owners saved it by moving it, for a second time, to its present-day Village home. A rarity for Manhattan in that it features a private driveway, the house is a fascinating relic, full of charm and history, and certainly one of a kind in the West Village. Or, as the good people at ERG Property Advisors put it, a "blank canvas for a developer."
ERG has listed the house (although it's unclear whether or not they realize that there actually is a house on the 4,868-square-foot lot) for an even $20 million, suggesting that it could be an opportunity for a "developer or user to execute a wide variety of potential visions, from boutique condominiums, apartments or a one-of-a-kind townhouse." (As if a newly constructed townhouse could be, in any possible way, more unique or "one-of-a-kind" than the one that would have to be destroyed to make way for it.) Of course, they fail to mention that the site is located within the confines of the Greenwich Village Historic District (pdf), which could throw a wrench in some of those "boutique condominium"-type plans. And what a shame that would be.
UPDATE: Andrew Berman, of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, tells the Daily News that anyone who wants "to demolish the existing building and build upon that site would have a mighty fight on their hands. This is one of the most beloved and historic corners of the Village. We and many others would fight very hard to keep it that way." It's on.
· Listing: 121 Charles Street [Streeteasy]
· From Another Time and Place [NYT]
· The Oldest Building in the Village? [GVSHP]