Former horse mart is trotted out as new landmark, finally!
BY ALBERT AMATEAU | The Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously designated the 1904 Van Tassell & Kearney Horse Auction Mart on E. 13th St. a New York City landmark on May 15, culminating a six-year effort by preservation advocates.
The three-story building with a rounded cornice at 128 E. 13th St. also served as Frank Stella’s studio from 1978 to 2005 when the artist owned the building.
“This elegant building was constructed expressly for a highly specialized purpose and recalls a period when New York City was a leading horse auction center,” said L.P.C. Chairperson Robert Tierney.
Jardine, Kent & Jardine, prominent architects at the turn of the 20th century, designed the redbrick building with a two-story central arched window flanked by two bull’s-eye windows.
The Van Tassell firm conducted auctions of polo ponies, thoroughbreds, coach horses, hunt horses, show horses and carriages in the building until 1916. The firm sold carriages from the building for two more years after that. Van Tassell & Kearney sold automobiles in the building until 1925.
For several years a candy manufacturer used the building. The property was later leased to a vocational school that trained women to work in the defense industry during World War II.
Peridance Capezio Dance Center currently occupies the building.
Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said he was deeply gratified that the six-year preservation effort has paid off.
Discovering plans in 2006 for the property to be demolished to make way for a seven-story condo, G.V.S.H.P. asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission for an emergency preservation hearing.
“We provided the L.P.C. with research showing it was originally built as a horse auction mart, where the Vanderbilts and the Delanos went to view horses paraded for sale on a central ring in the middle of a grand central hall of the building,” Berman said.
While horse auction marts were once common in the city, G.V.S.H.P. showed that the building, located between Third and Fourth Aves., was the last such structure left intact.
With G.V.S.H.P. and Councilmember Rosie Mendez continuing to push for landmark protection, the commission held an emergency hearing in 2006 preventing demolition. But instead of a final vote, the L.P.C. executed a “standstill agreement” not to proceed with designation in return for the owner’s guarantee not to demolish or alter the building.
The commission, which had been busy with South Village and East Village historic district issues, recently turned its attention back to the horse auction mart, said Lisi de Bourbon, spokesperson for the commission.
Berman said the May 15 landmark designation “helps ensure that another critical piece of Downtown history, which is constantly under great pressure, is preserved.”