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Politics

Watches Centuries On Weehawken Street
Part 1

A Meek And Venerable Neighbor
The oldest house on the shortest street – that's what some folks say. At any rate, the little place on Weehawken Street has watched the drama of a shifting waterfront since the days of Alexander Hamilton, and now braves the 20th century in a proud new coat of paint.

By J. Owen Grundy
Originally appeared in the Villager on June 28, 1945

If you stroll down near the Christopher Street ferry and keep both eyes wide open, you'll find Weehawken Street. But it isn't very conspicuous, nor is it very long. It lies between W. 10th and Christopher Streets, just a few steps from West Street. It rivals Gay Street for the distinction of being the Village's shortest thouroughfare. Tiny and obscure, it is still picturesque, despite the invasion of neighboring tenements, garages, and warehouses. Remodeled studios at Numbers 3 and 5 house atistic folk who choose to live off the beaten track.

But the most interesting structure on this out-of-the-way block, and perhaps its best claim to attention, is what has long been called "The Old Oyster House." With its low over-hanging roof and peculiar outside stairway leading uo under the eaves, it is said to be the oldest house still standing in Greenwich Village. And no doubt that claim to distinction is true, since historians agree that the old row, of which this house was one, formed part of a settlement erected in the 18th century. Probably, the houses actually fronted on West Street, and Weehawken was the back door. Or it may have been the other way around as they ran through both thoroughfares.

Rufus Rockwell Wilson in his "New York Old and New" shows a picture of the house which is still standing, and says that it was there prior to 1767. But beyond that he sheds little light on its history. Tradition, often misleading and often conflicting, has been responsible for several versions of the house's origin. Some say it was the original Christopher Street ferryhouse, in the days before West Street was filled in. It may have stood directly on the waterfront when sail and row boats carried passengers to the Jersey shore.

It was close to this spot that Aaron Burr departed for his ill-fated duel with Alexander Hamilton, and a little farther to the North, near the foot of Jane Street is probably the site where the latter returned, mortally wounded on his way to the Jane Street home of his good friend William Bayard, where he died.

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