The Cushman Row
Location: 406-418 West 20th Street
Just as Clement Clarke Moore drew up designs for the ecclesiastical buildings on his former property, he also laid a heavy hand on Chelsea’s residential development to ensure it was to his liking. The covenants drawn up for these homes included exacting specifications regarding their dimensions, their style, the materials they were to be faced with, and their spatial relationship to the street. They also banned much of the grubby aspects of the city — like manufacturing, stables, tenements — from appearing.
It worked, to a point: when industrial development came, it stayed largely to the west, near the river. Restrictions like these were nothing new to the city, but never had they been applied so consistently to such a large amount of real estate. Control-freak-ish, sure, but the results were spectacular. It encouraged the construction of relatively unbroken rows of buildings like the Cushman Row, forming vast, almost martial walls of brick and stone on street after street. New Yorkers in this era may have been paying lip service to Greek values but their ambitions were Roman-size. (And yet — especially after 170 years of individuation — each Row member looks so homey.)