Tenements on MacDougal Street
95 (l.) and 103-105 (r.) MacDougal Street, pictured here, reflect the colorful whimsy and decorative flair which often characterize South Village tenements (at least on the outside). Though these structures were built to house the maximum number of families on the smallest plot of land, and generally had not a spare inch of unnecessary interior space (hallways and stairways were usually just wide enough to allow two people to pass), their exteriors often had an eclectic mix of historical detailing and a deft sense of proportion and color. 95, built in 1888, utilizes alternating seashall fans for lintels above windows and ledges below. 103-105 has a more staid neo-classical façade (probably dating from the turn of the century), but visual interest is supplied by the filigree of the “basket” fire escapes. Here, as in so many South Village tenements, the fire escapes are, in spite of their utilitarian function, an integral part of the design of the façade, and enliven it considerably as an architectural element.
Both buildings also show a particularly South Village propensity for playful use of color to further enliven the facades. As a reflection of the neighborhood’s creative and unconventional character, you are more likely to find tenements in the South Village repainted in lively colors accenting architectural details, in a manner reminiscent of San Francisco or South Beach, than anywhere else in New York.
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