This New York Townhouse Isn’t Real – Can You Guess Its Secret?
There are so many beautiful and iconic townhouses across New York State. It’s one of the state’s most immediately recognizable architectural touchstones. But what if you noticed a brownstone that didn’t look quite right upon closer inspection?
You notice the totally blacked out windows. Instead of decorated wood and glass like the neighbors, this home has a thick metal door with a solitary grate. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think this New York townhouse was a bunker – but not quite.
You’ll find this pseudo-townhouse at 58 Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights. The Greek Revival home was originally built in 1847, but was sold to the Interborough Rapid Transit Company in 1907. The IRTC opened and ran the first public subway system in NYC in 1904.
They gutted the brownstone for widespread renovations and installed heavy metal doors similar to the ones currently protecting the entrance, but for what? Did they make it a secure office building? A security hub? It was actually nothing as exciting, but certainly something interesting.
58 Joralemon Street is “the world’s only Greek Revival subway ventilator.” Yes, it’s a big vent. The IRTC needed a ventilation shaft for the Lexington Avenue Line which still runs underneath the row today as the 4 and 5. Also, if you see a lot of people exiting the house, it’s definitely an emergency. The front door can be used as an emergency entrance and exit to the Joralemon Street Tunnel.
When NYC bought the IRTC, they had to protect the townhouse’s façade, since the building is in a historic district. That’s when the blackout windows were installed to keep up appearances.
As vents go, it might be one of the world’s most valuable. The property was valued at $2.8 million in 2010. It’s neighbor at #60 sold for $6.5 million last year. No word on how much subway stank you get for that kind of money.
There are similar fake homes hiding subway vents in at least two major cities around the world. 145 Rue La Fayette is a mock home to assist the Paris Metro, just as 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens are really a large vent for the London Underground.