REPORT: LPC Rejects Staten Island Greek Revival House

Even though it was a push to preserve the Allen and De Hart Houses, in the end our efforts were successful. The John and Margaret Thompson House was not so fortunate. This West Brighton house at 150 Taylor Street was heard by the LPC, but was decalendared in August and will soon be demolished.

The Thompson House was built c.1853 in the Vernacular Greek Revival style that was still going strong at that time in Staten Island. While plain at first glance, a closer look revealed the home’s simple elegance and thoughtful detailing such as molded window surrounds, denticulated cornices, and pilasters made it an excellent example of this style. It was also amazingly intact down to even its original clapboard covered walls. The Thompson House also illustrated the classic tale of an immigrant family making a new home in America. John and Margaret Thompson arrived from Ireland in 1835. Mr. Thompson was a skilled silk dyer employed at one of the large manufacturing plants that gave this area the name “Factoryville” for a time. After more than a decade, his hard work paid off and his family moved into the home built for them, the first house on Taylor Street.

Despite more than a dozen proponents, including neighbors, local politicians, and preservationists at two hearings, the LPC did not landmark the home. The present owner purchased the building, unaware of its potential landmark status, with the intent to tear it down and build three townhouses. He claimed the home was an “eye sore” in poor condition, and that he would need to file bankruptcy if he could not tear it down and develop the land. In the end, the commissioners believed the owner’s story rather than supporters’ testimony or even the building conservationist’s report and estimate presented by Linda Eskenas, vice president of the Preservation League of Staten Island. The house’s “compromised condition” gave Commission Chair Robert Tierney “great pause.” Commissioner Margery Perlmutter sympathized with the owner over difficulties he had working with the LPC. Others agreed that the house was beyond help and the owner had been inconvenienced by the landmarking process. Only one commissioner, Stephen Byrns, spoke in favor of the house. He was not convinced that the structure was “beyond the pale” and believed that it should be looked at for what it is – a building that significantly reflects a number of periods of history. In the end, though, Commissioner Byrns voted for decalendaring along with the rest of the commission.

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