Saturday, August 27, 2016

Seville Studios

This may look like it's someplace in Spain, but it's in Greenwich Village, on Cornelia Street.

It has a plaque on the façade which reads "Seville Studios," but that's just a marketing gimmick. The building was built in 1850, and was a tenement building at the turn of the century. The façade of the lower two floors was redesigned by architect James H. Galloway to reflect a Hispanophile trend in the culture at the time. Residences, businesses, and products were given European names and faux-European design in order to convey a sense of Old World elegance and sophistication. In fact, a 1928 New York Times advertisement for this building promised "Old World atmosphere, New World conveniences."

The renovation of this building was part of the revival of Greenwich Village, during the late 1920s into the '30s, which yielded the charming and famous neighborhood it is now. Old, decaying brownstones were renovated, or "upgraded," and reimagined with Spanish-like stucco fronts and tiled roofs, or other European motifs.

In the process, a community of actual Spanish immigrants was displaced, as well as many bohemian-type artists and other minorities and ethnic groups. For example, the 1910 census shows 11 residents in this building, all of whom had ;blue-collar and working class jobs, and 9 of whom were listed as "colored." The 1930 census - after it had been transformed into "Seville Studios" - listed a college professor, an ad salesman, and an aviation draftsman, all of whom were white. I don't think the term "gentrification" had been coined at that time, but the pattern should seem familiar to anyone living in most cities today.

Research on this building from NY Times: "Which to Preserve, the Chicken or the Egg?" and Espanyu: "Eleven Cornelia Street: Too Spanish for Spaniards?"

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