Photo: Roving Rube
03 January 28


Jefferson Market Court clock tower
Jefferson Market Court clock tower, Greenwich Village  

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Photographer's notes: Margot Gayle, the preservationist who helped save SoHo from being buried under a Robert Moses highway, also saved the Jefferson Court from demolition in the early 1960's by drawing attention to the clock:

Knowing a man in the neighborhood was poised to bid on the property so he could clear the site for a tall apartment building, Margot formed a committeenot to save the old structure at Sixth Avenue and West 10th Street, but its tower clock. "We used the clock as a selling point," she said in a recent interview, because thats one thing that appealed to everybody. Victorian architecture was still very out of style, and people would say to me, Why do you want to save that old pile? But we said that everybody needs to have that clock running ... The neighborhood missed the clock. They couldnt care less about the building. Unsaid in the campaign to save the clock, she observed, was that you have to have a building under it to hold it up. (source: article by Hilda Regier in spring 2002 newsletter of the Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America.)

From the Museum of the City of New York's on-line presentation of Berenice Abbott's photography, we learn that the triangular site was originally an open market with a fire tower; that the Court and a jail were built in 1877 (the clock tower still serving as a fire lookout; the jail placed directly behind the Court in the area with the iron fence shown in Context view); that the jail was later replaced by an 11-story women's prison; and finally the prison was torn down and replaced by a community garden. And thanks to Margot Gayle, the Court is now a public library, and the clock works.

The Rube thought that about ten years ago the clock bells were restored and began to chime the hours again, but drew complaints from residents who never had heard them before and didn't want to start now. But he can't currently find any reference to this event.

Restore Image Detail Detail View south down Sixth Avenue View north up Sixth Avenue