The History of Tribeca, One Building at a Time

Seeking New YorkTom Miller, who writes about the history of Manhattan buildings at Daytonian in Manhattan, has allowed Tribeca Citizen to create a database of his Tribeca posts (56 and counting). Besides that link, there’s also an icon in the left column of this site.

If you enjoy these, and you will, then you should definitely check out Miller’s website, which also has write-ups about buildings all over the island. And don’t miss his book, Seeking New York: The Stories Behind the Historic Architecture of Manhattan—One Building at a Time.

How did you get started writing about buildings and their inhabitants?
I became interested in the social history of vintage buildings when I explored blocks of vacant turn of the century homes in Dayton, Ohio, that had been condemned by the state to make way for an interstate highway. Walking through house after house, some of them still with abandoned possessions of the former owners, made me realize even at a young age that these structures had stories to tell. I brought that sense of social history with me to Manhattan.

How do you go about researching them?
The research involves a myriad of resources. First, I have a nice collection of 19th-century books and pamphlets on New York City, which is a great help. Vintage newspapers and periodicals, in the archives of the Library of Congress and other institutions, are extremely valuable, as are records of court cases, obituaries, real estate sales, etc.

Any particular favorites in Tribeca?
Of course, I love the flamboyant structures, like everyone else—the Powell Building on Hudson Street comes to mind right away; but I think I’m most fascinating by those early 19th-century residences that somehow slipped past progress and survived—the Gideon Tucker House (below), and the 1805 house at 177 W. Broadway, for instance.

Is there anything that still surprises you?
I’m always being surprised, mostly by the incidents that played out in these buildings. There is never a shortage of scandal, tragedy, and humor in their long histories.

Is a second book in the works?
I’m currently finishing up the edits to a companion book, Seeking Chicago. That should hit the bookshelves in about a year.



  1. Thanks for organizing this, Erik. Fascinating stuff, and a great resource.

  2. How about towers cafeteria now the odeon the building next store owned by the same family (still) was Luke store before that Henry traffic pet shop