13th Street Auction House Now a Landmark

IMG_0019Lauren Carol Smith The former Van Tassel and Kearney Horse Auction Mart.

A building that served as an auction block for some of the city’s finest steeds around the turn of the century and decades later the studio of artist Frank Stella is now protected for the ages.

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission today voted to designate the former Van Tassel and Kearney Horse Auction Mart building at 126-128 East 13th Street a landmark, essentially preserving its exterior as-is.

Built in 1904, the building was used for the sale of polo ponies, thoroughbreds, coach horses, hunt horses, show horses and carriages until the 1920s, according to a press release.

“This elegant building was constructed expressly for a highly specialized purpose and recalls a period when New York City was a leading auction center and horse sales were not uncommon,” said the chairman of the commission, Robert B. Tierney.

In its own release hailing the designation, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation noted that “the Vanderbilts and Delanos went to view horses paraded on a central ring in the middle of the grand central hall of this building to select them for purchase.”

Following the decline in horse sales the building was converted into a candy factory around 1925. During World War II it served as a vocational school for women training for work on the assembly line.

In 1978 the artist Frank Stella bought the building and used it as his studio until 2005.

“The building’s progression from a place where horses were sold, then manufactured goods were produced, and then great works of art were created, captures the arc of downtown’s development perhaps better than any other single building,” said Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society in a statement.

In 2006 Mr. Berman’s organization sounded the alarm on a plan to demolish the building and replace it with seven stories of condos.

The building currently houses the Peridance Capezio Center, which has been in the area since 1983 and is home to a dance school, company, and theater.