Description & Building Alterations
This three story brick building, originally of Greek Revival-style with a peaked roof, was constructed in 1835-36 by Samuel B. Romaine. It was designed by architect Ephraim Scudder, who also designed its neighbor at 44 East 3rd Street. The Arts & Crafts elements were likely added in the early 20th century. The peaked roof was replaced by a cornice in 1901, and the stoop was removed and the entrance was moved to the basement in 1934. A pedimented parapet was also installed.
This building was converted to a single-room occupancy rental building in the latter half of the 20th century, at which point it was the home of openly gay writer and actor Quentin Crisp. Crisp was perhaps best known for his 1968 autobiography “The Naked Civil Servant,” which was made into a TV mini-series in 1975. The series was a surprising worldwide hit, given that it focused on Crisp’s struggles as an openly gay man in the face of the repressive mores of the 1950s and 60s, as well as his time as a prostitute. He was also known for his witty rejoinders, such as his response to an immigration official questioning if he was “a practicing homosexual,” to which he is said to have replied “I don’t need to practice, I’m already perfect.” Crisp moved here in 1981. One year later, he produced a one-man show at the Players Theater called “An Evening With Quentin Crisp,” which won a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. While living here he also wrote “How to Become a Virgin” and “Resident Alien.” Crisp’s 1990 obituary for The New York Times reads: “Mr. Crisp was a neighborhood celebrity known for his wardrobe of splashy scarves, his violet eyeshadow and his white hair upswept a la Katharine Hepburn and tucked under a black fedora. His nose and chin were often elevated to a rather imperious angle, and his eyebrows were painstakingly plucked. When he played the role of Queen Elizabeth I in Sally Potter’s 1993 film ‘Orlando,’ Village residents bowed before him on the sidewalks as he passed.”
Block : 444 / Lot : 011 / Building Date : 1835-36 / Original Owner : Samuel B. Romaine / Original Use : Residential / Original Architect : Ephraim Scudder