A historic West Village home will soon be transferring ownership. Jean-Louis Goldwater Bourgeois, who is the son of famous French-American artist and sculptor Louise Bourgeois, has recently announced that he is transferring the $4 million deed of his historic West Village house to the Lenape tribe. Located at 6 Weehawken Street, the historic building is 130 years old. While the building itself is not necessarily of importance to the Lenape tribe, the ground itself is important. The original inhabitants of the island that is now known as Manhattan, the Lenape tribe says it plans to use the house as its prayer house.
Goldwater Bourgeois originally purchased the home in 2006 for $2.2 million. He and Anthony Jay Van Dunk, who is a Brooklyn woodworker as well as the chief of the Ramapough Indians of the Lenape Nation, have discussed ways to convert the home into a patahmaniikan, or prayer house. The prayer house will serve as a “place of safety” for indigenous people as they get in touch with their traditions and language.
Currently, the property is protected by the Weehawken Street Historic District, which gave the home its historic designation in 2006. The site where the townhouse currently sits was once part of Newgate State Prison, which was a colonial jail opened in 1796 in the village of Greenwich. Designed by Joseph-Francois Mangin, who was also the architect of New York City Hall, the prison was abandoned in 1829 after its deplorable living conditions were uncovered during an inspection. The prisoners that remained were sent to Sing Sing in Ossining, which had just opened in 1826.
Following its abandonment, Newgate was demolished and the city made plans to build an open-air market on the site to be called Greenwich Market. Constructed in 1834, the market was bound by West Street, Weehawken Street, West 10th Street, which was called Amos Street at the time, and Christopher Street. Unfortunately, the market was unsuccessful and, therefore, was set for demolition in 1848. At that time, shipbuilder George Munson purchased the market stall for $1,550. Munson enclosed the space and added a second floor in an effort to convert it into business space. It was also at this time that the recognizable rear outdoor staircase was added. An inn-owner and his wife leased the space and lived upstairs while running a saloon in the lower portion of the building.
Though it eventually came under different ownership, the property remained a saloon through 1920 until it was shuttered by Prohibition. The owner then converted the building to a restaurant known as Billie’s Original Clam Broth House. It was also around this time that the West Village started to become the desirable residential enclave that it continues to be.
In 1943, the property was purchased by a retired mariner who fixed up and reinforced the property. He sold items, such as canvas gloves, to shipworkers and dockworkers until he moved in 1946. The building then housed gay bars and X-rated video stores until Goldwater Bourgeois purchased the property in 2006.