CIVIC CENTER — A new East Village landmark is born.
After a six-year campaign by residents and local preservation groups, one of the last surviving buildings where horses were auctioned off received protection from the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday.
The 1903 building at 126-128 E. 5th St. was threatened with demolition by a developer in 2006 before residents and groups, such as the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation, began to advocate for its protection.
"Today's landmark designation helps ensure that another critical piece of downtown's history, which is constantly under great pressure, is preserved," said Andrew Berman in a statement after the vote.
Berman, the executive director of the GVSHP, said there was no other structure that captures the "arch of downtown development" like the horse auction mart building.
At the turn of the 20th century New York City was a hub for horse sales and the building on East Fifth Street was one of the last horse auction marts to be constructed in that era, according to the LPC.
"The architecture speaks for itself," said the commission's chairman Robert Tierney moments before the LPC unanimously voted 8-0 for landmark status. He called the redbrick and limestone building "elegant" and praised the distinct structure for recalling a time in New York City when horse sales were not uncommon.
Life as an auction house was not the only point of interest in the building's story. In World War II, women went there for assembly-line training. From 1978 to 2005, Frank Stella, a noted painter, sculptor and printmaker, used it as his studio, according to the LPC.
The building, which currently houses the Peridance Capezio Dance Center, came under threat in 2006 when a developer proposed knocking it down to build condos. A campaign by the GVSHP, which included T-shirts, ensued. Under pressure, the LPC stepped in to prevent the demolition, but refrained from landmarking it at that time as it was focusing on designating historic districts in the area, according to Elisabeth de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the LPC.
The horse auction mart building joins 27 other individual landmarks in the East Village as well as two neighborhood historic districts.