By Babak Bryan
Consisting of 428-434 Lafayette Street (including the Astor Place Theater a.k.a. where you take your townie relatives to see the Blue Man Group), Colonnade Row is a series of Greek Revival row houses built in 1832 that were one of the city’s first speculative luxury apartment developments. There is some debate as to the original architect, but the developer/builder was Seth Geer. Wanting to build the most luxurious buildings of the time, Geer was the first to install hot and cold running water and indoor toilets in New York City. Adding to the grandeur was the fact that Lafayette Street at the time was just a two-block long cul-de-sac opposite the Vauxhall Gardens, built and owned by John Jacob Astor. Originally composed of nine separate units, La Grange Terrace, as it was named by the developer, also had one of the first complete front yards, setting the building back 15 feet from the street and giving it an even grander presence on the block. In addition to Astor, it was the home to many of New York’s wealthiest, including Cornelius Vanderbuilt and Washington Irving.

The four remaining units are in a sad state of disrepair. Though the buildings were one of the first in the city to obtain landmark status, in 1965, much of the original construction has been lost to neglect and decay. The street level restaurants and Blue Man Group break up the original elegance of the façade (Blue Man Group also owns two of the remaining four buildings). The Corinthian columns and capitals made from local limestone have eroded so badly that the building actually resembles original Greek ruins more than revivalist structures of the 19th Century. And the decorative eaves, or antefixae, only remain on the northern most house. However, despite all its neglect, the building still contains much of its original charm and deserves a closer look.