317 East 10th Street | Block : 404 | Lot #47
Description & Building Alterations
This four-story rowhouse at No. 317 East 10th Street was constructed in 1847-48 by builder James C. Whitlock for owner Runyon W. Martin. This house could be considered one of the most significant on the block, as it was once intended to be the site of the first Birth Control clinic in the country.
Built as part of a pair of rowhouses with No. 319 East 10th Street in the Greek Revival style, the facade also features Queen Anne alterations that were installed in the later 19th century. The heavily bracketed cornice is extended with a triangular pediment. The windows of the first through third stories are topped with rounded pediments and the entrance has an elaborate enframement, which was renovated after 1934.
In 1921, family planning activist Margaret Sanger leased four rooms on the ground floor of No. 317 to be used as a walk-in clinic for women. The public response to this daring act was varied, and Sanger’s plan was met with outrage by some religious groups. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many believed that Sanger’s mission to educate young women about family planning and birth control was important and necessary. The debate over the clinic reached a fever pitch on November 20, 1921, when a meeting was held at Town Hall to discuss “The Morality of Birth Control.” While the event began peacefully, police were soon ordered to call it off, nearly causing a riot. In fact, the outcry about the meeting’s cancellation was so strong that Sanger and another vocal proponent of the family planning movement, Mary Winsor, were arrested for disturbing the peace. Because of the backlash against her efforts, Sanger’s plan for a walk-in clinic at No. 317 East 10th Street never came to fruition. She had to wait until 1923 to open her clinic a bit further uptown, at No. 104 Fifth Avenue. Check out The New York Times coverage of Mrs. Sanger’s efforts and letters from her private collection at the site for NYU’s Margaret Sanger Papers Project, www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/.
Block : 404 / Lot : 047 / Building Date : c. 1847-48 / Original Owner : Runyon W. Martin / Original Use : Residential / Original Architect : James C. Whitlock (builder)