Description & Building Alterations
The twin New-Law tenements at Numbers 208 and 212 East 13th Street were constructed simultaneously in 1901 by architect Charles Rentz who was also co-owner of the two buildings with D. Brubacher, a wine merchant. The brick building with brownstone details was designed in the Neo-Classical style with full window enframements and angular lintels and keystones. The sixth floor windows are arched with the enframements and keystones following that shape. The buildings would have had a classically-inspired cornice originally. The ground floor of 208, while painted, reflects the original design intent.
Political activist Emma Goldman lived in an apartment in this building from 1903 to 1913. Here, she founded and headquartered her publication Mother Earth. Goldman was an outspoken advocate for anarchist causes, freedom of expression, women’s equality, birth control, sexual freedom, and labor rights. Her advocacy for free love put her at the forefront of a largely silent community long before terms like lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender were used. Magnus Hirschfeld, a German pioneer of sexuality and gender studies, called Goldman “the first and only woman, indeed the first and only American, to take up the defense of homosexual love before the general public.” Goldman’s romantic life is well documented, as wild and public as her political life, which saw her imprisoned and eventually deported.
Prior to the tenement buildings, there were brownstone rowhouses on these lots, like the one at 206 East 13th Street. From 1865 to 1867, during the Mexican revolution, the Mexican First Lady, Margarita Maza de Juarez, wife of President Benito Juarez, lived in the rowhouse at 208 East 13th Street.
Block : 468 / Lot : 013 / Building Date : 1901 / Original Owner : D. Brubacher & Charles Rentz / Original Use : Residential / Original Architect : Charles Rentz