Description & Building Alterations
On the northeast corner of Avenue B and East 9th Street is the Christodora House, founded as the Young Women’s Settlement by Christina MacColl and Sarah Libby Carson. Built in 1928 and designed by Henry C. Pelton, the building originally served as a settlement house, a charity organization that provided housing, food, training, and health care to low-income immigrants. Its construction was funded by Mr. Arthur Curtiss James, a wealthy railroad and mining tycoon, and his wife, who served as president of Christodora’s board. The building included community spaces, a music school, an auditorium, a gymnasium, a chapel, a lounge, classrooms, and a library. On the upper floors, the building contained residential suites, a dining room, a lounge, a roof garden, and a solarium. It was the first settlement house to provide social services while making a profit and was located on the at this site to expand the impact of settlement houses north of Houston Street. Several accounts report that George Gershwin gave his first public appearance here. The Christodora House is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places.
The building is clad in red brick, and its brick-faced steel piers are subtly raised. The two-story entryway on Avenue B showcases terra-cotta medallions and grotesques that outline the limestone enframement with fluted pilasters. At the top of the building, bands of Romanesque-inspired ornament outline the parapets. Like many of its neighbors, the building fell into disrepair in the post-World War II years. The building was taken over by the city in the early 1940s, serving as a welfare agency and the city rented Christadora House to a variety of community groups, including the Black Panthers (according to an article from The New York Times in 1988). In 1969, due to extensive damage to the electrical system, the building was condemned. It sat vacant until 1975 when it was purchased at auction. In 1986, two developers converted the building into luxury condos, sparking anti-gentrification riots by residents. On August 6, 1988 for instance, upset neighbors organized a protest rally. Responding to unprovoked attacks by the police, protesters used a police barricade to smash the windows and front door of the Christodora House, vandalizing the building’s lobby. One of the first condo owners was proto-punk pioneer Iggy Pop, who wrote his record “Avenue B” while he lived there.
Block : 392 / Lot : 7501 / Building Date : 1928 / Original Owner : Christodora House / Original Use : Residential / Original Architect : Henry C. Pelton