The East Village Roof-Top Beach House

For the first year or two after I moved to New York, I became one of those people who smugly criticized tourists for “looking up.” “Looking up” to ogle buildings as you walked down the street (causing you to inevitably bump into real New Yorkers like me with places to go) was about the greatest sin you could commit (well, after pronouncing Houston Street “Hue-ston,” of course).

I’ve really tried to mellow out as I move into my tenth year in the city, and I now make it a point to look up. Hell, if you don’t look up, you could miss something absolutely extraordinary like this:

Roof House - 01

Don’t see it? A little closer…

Roof House - 02

See it there? Perched on top of the corner brick building? I was standing this morning at the corner of East 1st Street and 1st Avenue paying for my parking meter when I looked up and saw this.

Roof House - 03

OK, seriously – did a tornado rip through Cape Cod and drop an ocean-side house onto an East Village apartment building? Christ, who the hell lives here?? Note not only the rounded front with two levels of windows, but also the octagonal window on the right, the fantastic tower, and the horse weathervane. No kidding, a horse weathervane.

Here’s a slightly different view:

Roof House - 04

I have never seen anything like this before, and maybe one of these days, I’ll have an excuse to scout it for a film. I would love to know if this is large enough for someone to live in, or is merely an extension of an apartment.  If anyone has any info, please comment and I’ll update the post.

Anyway, the real simple moral of the story: stop worrying about the tourists who are looking up and try it yourself. You might even find yourself at the nexus of the universe…

Roof House - 06


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  1. That’s so weirdly cool! I’d like to think it’s big enough for one apartment, but it’s hard to tell from the ground, right?

  2. nice find — i’ve walked by here for 3 years and while i feel like i was vaguely aware of the height/structure of that corner (with Boca Chica there in the bottom), i never took notice of exactly what it was.

  3. Wow, that is one of the most awesome finds I think you’ve posted. Mostly because I was sitting there last week waiting for a friend and while people/building watching, I missed it myself. Yes, that’s jealousy rearing it’s ugly head. Love the site, been following it sicne the navy yard post. And in a bit of irony, I am the guy in the big puffy coat walking towards North Moore Street in your shot of the snowy firehouse.

  4. how about the house on top of the kiel’s building? 3rd and 13th, i think. i have no idea who lives there, but it looks like an amazing space.

  5. i think ive actually seen many of these- especially in the tribeca area, on top of some of the older buildings there are these completely achronistic tiny buildings seemingly cut and pasted ontop of them. some of them look like this one- cute prim little shacks; some of them are modern boxy glass contraptions- its always been amusing to me. something to do with trying to expand or develop the valueable limited real estate without tearing down the historic buildings?

    if youd like i wouldnt mind figuring out where exactly these sightings are

  6. Ooooooh, what a groovy space for an office or a bedroom. Maybe a better bedroom as I would be distracted looking out at the city all day…

  7. Compare to the house on top of the Kiehl’s building, at 3rd Ave and 13th St.

  8. Hi Karen –

    I have the Kiehl’s building on list of to-visit sites, and will definitely check it out next time I’m in the area!


  9. The nexus of the universe. I always wondered where it was!

  10. I actually found out about this neat little house via one of those double-decker tour bus tours (I was with an out-of-towner, I swear!). Our tour guide pointed it out to us, and mentioned that it was a mini-beach house that the owner had put up there, complete with a yard full of sand and beach chairs. I forget the owner’s reasoning for doing that, but from my understanding it was built as a separate residence apart from the building it is atop. For all I know the tour guide was making the story up, but that’s how I heard it.

    I always love pointing it out to pals when we’re eating/drinking in the area…I’d definitely love to learn more about it!

  11. Love Your Kramer Quote!

    Keep On Looking Up!

  12. all it needs is the sand and water, although the traffic sounds can replicate the crashing waves

  13. I know the man who lives there – ages ago I worked for him when we both lived on Long Island. I am not including his name in order to preserve his privacy. But I will tell you that he purchased the entire townhouse as a burned-out shell and built it up from just a framework. That wooden structure on the roof is actually tiny guest quarters. The tour guide was probably just inventing that story – there is no sand nor beach chairs inside. It does somewhat resemble a snug little berth on a ship. It sits on top of the rest of the townhouse and is accessible from stairs inside. Although it looks separate from the rest of the townhouse, it’s more like an additional floor. I am also envious of these little gems I encounter in Manhattan, however, I do want to point out that the building was literally just a burnt framework and the owner constructed the entire thing, so in this case I think he’s well deserving of it!

  14. It makes me think someone wanted an escape from the City up on the roof and on that note:

    Up on the roof by the Drifters 🙂

  15. I hope, I hope, it has a view of the water.

  16. I read somewhere that the landlord of the building built his own apartment up there. TRUE? FALSE? That’s what I remember reading.

  17. Discovered your site via Shorpy. Great stuff and it sounds like a fun job! Cheers, John

  18. Very cool! It reminds me of when I went to City Island in the Bronx.

  19. Would have been cool if you could have went in to check it out.

  20. Danielle Tolentino

    This is charming. I’m reminded of a rooftop house just across from 295 5th Avenue, which I used to see (and photograph) from a showroom I worked in, on the 11th floor. The house looks to date from the 1940s, in buttery yellow slate-siding – a simple, single-level bungalow, that would seem more comfortable in a working-class midwestern town than New York City. Surrounded by a vast container garden… it was a real trip. Thanks for bringing back the memory!

  21. Others have mentioned the structure on top of the Kiehl’s building, which isn’t too far from this beach house. There’s also an interesting structure nearby on 9th St. between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, on the north side of the street, right near the little triangle in the road. It looks like a roof greenhouse with maybe another little structure behind that. It’s not as great as the beach house but I do enjoy looking up at it.

  22. I lived in the LES for 28 years, and walked past 1st and 1st about a million times, and I can’t believe I never noticed that. I left NY almost 8 years ago – I wonder if it’s a new addition? As a born-and-bred New Yorker who always looks up – I love the city and there is always something new to see if you pay attention! – I’m kind of ashamed of myself for missing that gem!

  23. There’s a “cabin” on the roof of a building on 3rd Ave. between 13th/14th on the east side of the street. I always look at it while waiting for the 14 crosstown bus. You can google the street view and see it.

  24. If only people could understand how dangerous gas boilers can be.
    A yearly gas safety check would save lives.

  25. I’m so glad to see these photos. I lived in NYC 2001-2002 and I used to buy coffee at the kiosk in the park and just stare and daydream about that place.