I swear, I’ve taken the East 37th Street exit from the Midtown Tunnel a zillion times over the years and I’ve never noticed it before…
Which, frankly makes sense: look down the rest of 37th Street from 3rd Ave and you’d never know anything is out of the ordinary.
But yesterday, stuck in traffic and moving at a snail’s pace, I happened to glance over and notice it…Wedged between two apartment buildings on the south side…
One of those awesome Manhattan buildings that is simply too skinny to believe:
Literally, 164 East 37th Street is 1/3 a brownstone, measuring just 10 feet wide:
To my knowledge, only two others like it exist in Manhattan: one at 420 West 58th Street…
In fairness, 164 East 37th Street isn’t a true residential building like the latter two – it’s actually the entrance and stairwell to the apartments in the brick building on the corner.
Still, it was clearly once a full building that someone one day decided to lop in two. Compare it to its neighbor, and you can see there’s no way someone built this just to house a stairwell:
A second clue can be found in the roofline…
…where the cornice connecting the two buildings appears to be an afterthought:
Finding any history on it is really difficult. Since the 1920′s, several different publishing companies have claimed the address 164 East 37th Street. The most notable appears to have been The Statesmen Press which, in 1919, created a stir by publishing a pamphlet alledging British espionage in the US during World War I. It was ultimately revealed to be a hoax, though the publishers defended it as a satire.
Also of note, on June 19, 1953 at 9:55 AM, mobster Steven Franse was found strangled to death in his car outside of 164 East 37th Street, a hit ordered by the Genovese crime family.
Whatever it’s history might have been, I’m a huge fan of these sliver buildings, and after stumbling on the first two, I couldn’t imagine any more existed in the city. Turns out, I’ve been driving by one for ten years now.
Finally, one last little bit I love about the building. Even though it’s a scant ten feet wide…
…Someone has managed to find room for this staircase, less than two feet wide, leading to some miniature subterranean dwelling:
Definitely will have to check it out someday…
If you can contribute anything else to the history of 164 East 37th Street, please post in the comments!
PS – I’ve noticed a growing number of print articles (newspaper, magazine) recently that have clearly found “inspiration” from Scouting NY posts. Just do me a favor – if you are planning on writing an article about, say, the three buildings above, could you at the very least mention where you got the idea from? Thanks in advance!
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