Statement on 65 Schofield Street, City Island

January 19, 2010

Statement of the Historic Districts Council

Regarding the Proposed Landmark Designation of

65 Schofield Street aka 240 William Avenue, Borough of The Bronx

The Historic Districts Council is the citywide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods and buildings. HDC is pleased to have the opportunity to speak in favor of the designation of 65 Schofield Street as an individual New York City landmark. City Island is an area of New York City that truly stands out as unusual a small maritime community that has been embraced but not engulfed by the urban sprawl of the larger city. As noted in the AIA Guide to New York City, 4th Edition, “on the streets that run perpendicular to the fishbone spine of City Island Avenue are more than a handful of distinguished older houses…65 Schofield Street, serene and peeling, seems a candidate for a Hopper painting: austere, venerable, self-confident”.  This building is a remarkable example of Italianate farmhouse design with Greek Revival elements, characterized by a square plan, tall windows, flat roof with an overhanging cornice and elaborate brackets.  The building’s most striking feature is the one-story porch which runs across the width of the building. Fantastically, the main body of the house is still clad in its original wood clapboard, which, admittedly, is in desperate need of repair, but serves to evoke a sense of architectural antiquity in a way much more common to small New England towns than The Bronx. Aside from its obvious architectural excellence, research has uncovered direct connections between this building and the Pell and Schofield families, prominent families who were deeply involved with the development of City Island.  This building is, frankly, an obvious landmark on all counts and should be protected in order to maintain its integrity as a visible, prominent link to City Island’s past.

We understand the building has recently changed ownership and the new owners are dedicated to both performing a much-needed restoration of the building and modifying it to better suit their living requirements. While HDC has not seen the plans, in principle we applaud the reawakening of a house that has long sat silent and unoccupied. Buildings need people or, as we’ve seen too often recently,  they risk becoming ruins. We believe strongly that under the oversight of the Landmarks Commission, this building will prosper. We do understand and even sympathize with the owners’ objection to what they perceive as a last-minute act to add regulations. Frankly, we are at loss as to why the building was not brought before the LPC previously; if not when the City Island Historic Society sent in their Request for Evaluation a few years ago, then when it was originally surveyed by the Commission in the late 1970s. Regardless, this building merits preservation attention and it is getting it now. HDC urges the Landmarks Commission to designate this handsome building as a landmark and work with these owners to bring this structure back to life.

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