If you've ever walked along 11th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues and thought this building looked a little odd, well, you don't know the half of it. Today at 18 West 11th Street sits a building in memory of the events of March 6, 1970, when the radical revolutionary group, the Weathermen (later the Weather Underground Organization) accidentally blew up their own safe house while making bombs intended for Columbia University. Three members of the group were killed in the blast; two survived (including the daughter of the home's owner) and were on the run for 10 years. When the FBI finished their investigation of the incident, they determined that "had all the explosives detonated, the explosion would have leveled everything on both sides of the street."

Originally built in 1845 in the Federal style that was then in vogue by Henry Brevoort Jr., 11th Street is a typical West Village block of landmarked row houses that was home to many of New York’s elite. But the site remained a vacant lot for eight years after the 1970 explosion, until the scheme by architect Hugh Hardy was finally constructed. Designed to blend into its environment, this modern interpretation of the Federal style matches its neighbors in height and details. The top floor windows continue the equal spaced pattern of framed squares, and the brownstone stoop with its wrought-iron railings is recreated to match the others, completing the repetitive rhythm that makes these Village blocks so charming. But the middle two floors remind us of the site’s turbulent past. While every other set of stairs on this block lead up to an ornate and trimmed parlor entrance, the bricks at 18 West 11th are bare. The window openings too are left untreated, striped of their ornamental sills and lintels. Also, the façade is pinched and twisted as if the force of the explosion had turned the walls on itself and removed all the unnecessary detail. Subtle enough to have passed the scrutiny of the Landmarks Commission, this building balances memorializing both of its histories.
Tags: look-up, new-york, architecture
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