The Skinniest Building in Midtown

Look closely – it’s only wide enough for one window.

00skinny

This renovated brownstone, wedged between two much larger buildings, is only 12.5 feet wide and does not connect with either of the neighboring properties.

01building

OK, granted, it isn’t the skinniest building in New York City. That dubious honor belongs to 75 1/2 Bedford St, which clocks in at a minuscule 9.5 feet.  But 75 1/2 Bedford is appropriately located in the West Village with other buildings at least similar in height, not the middle of towering Midtown. And 75 1/2 Bedford has a lot more window space.

03street

The New York Times ran a piece on West 46th Street between 5th and 6th called “The Block That Looks As It Did About 1930.” I wish I had known about the article before scouting it – unlike most of the area, West 46th Street is basically an architectural artifact of a bygone era. Number 19 was built in 1865.

04upview

The popular Turkish restaurant Akdeniz is on the bottom floor, while the second floor is occupied by the Antonio and Antoinette Beauty Salon. I was told that the upper floors are all apartments. I would love to know if that top floor is its own apartment, which would be incredible.

05sign

There’s a sign on it that doesn’t belong – the Radio City Deli is no longer in business. I found this online, drawn by artist Robert Cottingham in 1979 from a picture. Is it the same place?

This article from the Times reports it as having been closed for food violations by the Department of Health in 1984, so it certainly could have been in existence then. And could that “coiffure” sign have belonged to the salon that still remains today?

Finally, if you look up at the crumbling mansard roof, you’ll see one of the fantastic designs that decorate the 13-story art deco building next door. Most are covered in dirt and grime, but some vibrant blue still shows through.

06flower

At the photolab where we develop our pictures, a fellow scout suggested that maybe – just maybe! – the building was here first, and everything built around it. I like that idea.

-SCOUT

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34 comments

  1. holy crap, am i glad gothamist posted about your site. i love photographing the city and would give anything to have the kind of time you have to do so. there are so many fascinating hints at the cities history that are buried or gone.
    i’m seriously going to have a problem not reading spending the next two days at work coming through it all.
    fantastic work!

  2. I work on that block and walk down it often, there are very cool things to see there.

  3. Scout, I”m pretty sure that the ownwer was a hero .

  4. I’m having a tingling, dizzyish feeling just imagining living in the top apartment there…
    Love Your site-
    glad that neatorama listed it

  5. As a restorer of period buildings (England) I just love discoveries like this…I’d love to get my hands on it.

  6. Photo lab pal is correct, Skinny #19 came first. #21 W. 46th was built in 1930, and #15 was built in 1920. Maybe older buildings were torn down to build 15 and 21, which are Interesting that way back in the 1800s someone would build such a small dwelling. Wonderful mystery!

  7. Central Harlem Anonymous

    The city used to sell lots in a standard 25 foot width. Some houses were built to this size, but some developers would buy four lots and build five houses (for 20′ each), or buy three lots and put up four houses (for 18.75′ each), or various other combinations that lead to the standard widths of Manhattan townhouses to this day. The most extreme measure was to buy a single lot and put up two houses, which would result in two 12.5′ houses, side by side. I believe this was rarely done in speculative development, but it would sometimes happen that a father would buy a lot and split it between two children, for example.

    I suspect that if you were to dig though old records, you would find that this building had another 12.5′ neighbor, once upon a time. The owner of that one eventually sold out and this orphan remains.

  8. Andrew Architorney

    The suggestion from Central Harlem Anonymous that there might have been a twin to 19 West 46th Street is correct. Number 17 West 46th Street was its sibling, both built on a single 25-foot lot. Both were originally about 60 feet deep on the 100-foot lot, but the now-razed house at number 17 had a two-story extension that brought the back of the lower floors of the house about 15 feet closer to the rear lot line.

  9. That reminds me of my favorite short story, “The House With the Mansard” by Anton Chekhov.

    I really enjoyed reading this!

  10. i used to live in this building. the top floor is its own aparment, as well as the floor below it where i used to live. theyre both two bedroom apts.

  11. That is one awesome looking building. A daisy among huge trees! What is it worth?

  12. awesome looking building, but there are a lot of cool things to see there.

  13. The hosts in the Turkish restaurant are very warm, and the food is realy great.

  14. Thank you very much for this awesome article. I’ve read id a couple of months now and perhaps they are always very informative. Thanks!

  15. Interesting! This is my favorite post about SCOUTING NY » The Skinniest Building in Midtown.

  16. How much was the rent to the ha guy who said he use to live there and what was the square footage of the apt?

  17. I wish you could have gotten a peek at the apartments!

  18. Would love to hear more from “ha” on the apartments upstairs. Any one ever seen pictures? Are they still occupied(2011)? Thanks.

  19. I love your site, and this building!!

  20. Dude, sounds like you’ve got the makings of a good coffee table book on NYC.

    PS. Don’t know if it is my web browser or line, but you site seems a little slow. Are your photos optimized for web?

  21. lived there for a couple of months before moving out, but my boyfriend lived a whole year. tiny apartment. and weirdly designed on the inside. to go from one bedroom to the other bedroom/kitchen you had to cross thru the bathroom. although sounds funny the idea of living in that building, it wasn’t comfortable at all.
    ps: the top floor is used as a ‘hotel room’ for big groups.

  22. That is pretty incredible! Being about 6’4″, even just the thought of having an apartment in the top level of that building makes me claustrophobic!

    One of the above comments mentioned a coffee table book, and I think that is a great idea!

  23. I’ve been there in March and pointed it out excited to my friend who didn’t see what was special about it. I saw a similarly small building on 472 Broadway – probably worth checking out? http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Lb6Eylp286o/TsQDxqmSWoI/AAAAAAAAJqI/GEBz7IfMWNA/s1600/glimpses10.JPG

  24. So basically the building is a stack of single-wide trailers?

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