This 185-year-old West Village townhouse at 121 Washington Place would enchant any lover of historic homes. Well-preserved details are everywhere, from a brick facade to a distinguished wood-paneled library and full-length arched drawing-room windows. Then there are the features that would thrill any homeowner; at 22 feet wide, the four-story house has an elevator and, best of all, the unexpected surprise of a pint-sized skylit English cottage/artists’ studio with a full bath at the back of an idyllic walled garden. Even beyond its current charms, this home and its unique little studio have seen many a colorful, creative life and hosted artists, poets and other notables from Mark Twain to Hillary Clinton.
Built in 1831, this elegant single-family house was given a total renovation in 1925 in the popular Georgian Palladian style of the day. The home’s highly ornamental features don’t detract from the draw of large entertaining rooms, high ceilings and clean lines. The front drawing room boasts arched full length windows overlooking a quiet Village street.
A wood-paneled library is the perfect reading retreat, and a bright dining room opens onto a romantic walled garden. In addition to the entertaining rooms, the main house has four large bedrooms, six wood-burning fireplaces and an elevator.
The rare and utterly fetching English-style cottage nestled at the rear of the home’s garden is comprised of a skylit studio with a fireplace, a sleeping loft and a full bath. In 1907, painter and all-around arts patron Clara Davidge purchased the house, where her many gatherings drew artists and literary luminaries like Willa Cather and Samuel Clemens. Ms. Davidge had the single-story private studio built (the construction cost was $850 at the time) as a home for talented but troubled poet Edwin Arlington Robinson so that he could have a peaceful place to write. In the ensuing decades the rear cottage–and the house itself–served as studio space for artists of the day.
A later tenant was Francis Perkins, who went on to become the first female United States cabinet appointee, serving as U.S. Secretary of Labor under Franklin D. Roosevelt. According to the listing, “the house has been a gathering place of many artists, literary figures, musicians and luminaries including Willa Cather, Samuel Clemens, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and in more recent times Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, Muhammad Ali, Steve Earle, Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter and Hillary Clinton.”
In 1925, E. Dean Fuller and his wife initiated a year-long gut-renovation in the style of the early American architecture that was fascinating the nation at the time. The Fullers transformed the home from a Federal period house to a Georgian reproduction. Ninety years later, the intricate details from this renovation still remain.
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Images courtesy of Douglas Elliman.
Neighborhoods : West Village