The Expansive History of New York City's Narrowest House

Wikipedia//CC BY-SA 3.0
Wikipedia//CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia//CC BY-SA 3.0

A diminutive three-story brick structure sits on 75 1/2 Bedford Street in New York City's Greenwich Village—and boasts the distinction of being the city’s narrowest house. Its facade is less than 10 feet wide, and the inside rooms are less than 9 feet wide. Altogether, the entire building offers prospective residents just 990 square feet of space.

The home is tiny, but the building's history is expansive. It has served as the home of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright-poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, as well as cartoonist William Steig, anthropologist Margaret Mead, and author Ann McGovern, who wrote the comic strip "Stone Soup" and a picture book inspired by her home: Mr. Skinner’s Skinny House, which tells the story of a lonely man who can’t find a roommate that fits inside his narrow abode. John Barrymore and Cary Grant may also have lived in the building.

According to The Villager, 75 1/2 Bedford Street was constructed over a former carriage entranceway in 1873. The house served a cobbler shop and a candy factory before a group of bohemian artists and actors rented it in 1923. Shortly after, St. Vincent Millay and her husband, a coffee importer named Eugene Jan Boissevain, became the home’s newest residents. The two renovated the structure, converting the top floor into a studio for Millay and adding a Dutch stepped gable to the home’s front.

A revolving door of famous tenants didn't stop the narrow home from almost being demolished in a redevelopment in the 1950s. Fortunately, it was saved by a lawyer named Kenneth Carroad, who purchased the narrow house to preserve its legacy. Over the years, it passed through several more owners, who renovated the aging home and added improvements like new floors, staircases, and carpeting. Today, it boasts three bedrooms, two baths, four wood-burning fireplaces, and a backyard garden.

Despite its limited square footage, 75 1/2 Bedford Street commands a high price tag. In 1982, it was sold for $350,000. And in 2013, Curbed reports that it was purchased for a staggering $3.25 million. When it comes to real estate, sometimes it's a storied past—not size—that matters.

[h/t The Villager]