Tenement Peeping: Jane Freeman’s walkup on Harrison

Before anyone gets riled up, it was the artist and writer Jane Freeman’s idea to riff on Loft Peeping with Tenement Peeping, which goes to show you what a healthy sense of humor she has. I was totally taken by her apartment when I went to visit (I wanted to get a painting for Erik for Christmas, and I did and it is wonderful). It has the patina of a space that has been not only lived in, but largely constructed from scratch thanks to the skills of a series of devoted boyfriends and the refined taste of the tenant, who found much of its contents on the streets of the city. It’s entirely unique and both extravagant and carefully curated at the same time (“I’m a natural-born editor, with both words and possessions.”). Plus plants and animals seem to love it.

Some details:

  • Jane has lived in the apartment for 42 years and has used it both as her residence and her studio. She changes things around a lot. “I think circulation is good for the body and the spirit.”
  • It was originally a seaman’s boarding house and Jane loves to honor that background, so she had her “summer bedroom” fitted with a barrel ceiling, which gives it the feel of a ship’s cabin.
  • To avoid the winter drafts and take advantage of the summer breezes off the river, she shifts her plants and her living spaces from west to further east with the seasons.
  • Everything has its place and is meticulously labeled, down to the series of paintings she did based on five Victorian novels. “I’m very tidy. It makes me feel like I have some control over the world.”
  • Jane’s first place in Tribeca was at One Hudson, where she shared a floor with a printer until she was evicted. “I could jump out the window and sunbathe on the roof of the next building.” Her downstairs neighbor was Philippe Petit, who walked across a wire strung between the Twin Towers.
  • The apartment came with a toilet and nothing else – no kitchen, no bathroom. But each room had an iron bedstead and a built-in wardrobe, the latter of which she kept.
  • The glass-paned pocket doors are indigenous to the original boarding house.
  • The floors had 10 layers of linoleum (she counted) with layers of newspapers between them going back to World War II. They disintegrated in her hands when she unearthed them.

The previous tenant had lived there 60 years. So Jane is a couple decades away from any records. She is aiming for it. “There’s nothing that could tempt me away from solitude.”



  1. I lived at One Hudson Street for 25 years. I was on the 3rd floor and my loft mate was Philippe Petit. It was a remarkable time to live in that neighborhood. When I moved there it wasn’t called Tribeca. It was more indigenous. Washington Market since the area was flush with eggs, cheese, and wholesale food merchants.
    It was renamed by the Real Estate mavens that decided it needed a ‘cool’ name like Soho. I moved out after the first WTC bombing.
    I miss the 2000 square foot loft I use to ride my bicycle in very much!

  2. Such a treat to revisit Jane and her home, even if only virtually. And my painting is indeed wonderful!

  3. Jane, thanks for sharing your loft and work with us. Beautiful.