Timothy Greenfield-Sanders Opens the Doors of His Historic Home
By Sara Lowenburg
A few weeks ago, we received an email from Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, a renowned portrait artist and documentary filmmaker. He had read our recent blog post on the Herter brothers, architects of Eldridge Street, and was struck by the mention of the rectory for St. Nicholas Church on E. 2nd street. Mr. Greenfield-Sanders is now the resident and owner of the rectory, which was designed by Frank Herter of the Herter Brothers in 1903, invited us to come see the space.
So, along with our Deputy Director, Amy Stein-Milford, and Archivist, Nancy Johnson, I was lucky enough to get a private tour from Mr. Greenfield-Sanders himself!
We looked first at an apartment building down the block, which was once also part of the church complex. Though none of us were sure about the history of the building, we found one telling clue- a Star of David in the tiles of the entryway! What was a Star of David doing in the floor of a church building? My mind immediately jumped to the Herter Brothers. Though German-Catholic themselves, they adapted the Star of David as a trademark, using it all over the facades of their tenement buildings. Perhaps this is what they had done here as well. Though we aren’t sure whether a Herter Brother was behind the design of this building, it’s fun to imagine who might have been and why they chose to make the Star of David the centerpiece of the entryway.
We then went inside the rectory itself, which now serves as a private residence and studio. I was blown away by how beautiful the space was. While Mr. Greenfield-Sanders has added onto and redesigned the building, like Eldridge Street, he has intentionally preserved many of the original materials and maintained the integrity of the space. For example, after opening up a wall, he reused the original wood work in the kitchen island and cabinets. The doors in the hallways are also still labeled “chapel” and “parlor.” One of my favorite touches in the space was a photograph of the old chapel, as it had stood in the 1970s, sitting on the cabinet in the same room. To me, the photo showed a dedication to and fondness for the history of the space. It was especially cool to see first hand how the room had changed, similarly to how I like to show old photos of Eldridge Street on my tours of the museum.
Today, the building is beautifully transformed to a home and studio, with art covering the walls and sky lights throughout, but the feeling of the old rectory remains intact, and thanks to Mr. Greenfield-Sanders, the history continues to be shared.