75½ Bedford Street: A Tiny House with a Huge History

This tiny, 9 1/2-foot-wide house used to be a carriage entranceway for the neighboring house, but in 1873 was turned into a small home—the narrowest in the city!

From then on, it was owned by various tradespeople, functioning at different times as a cobbler’s shop and even as a candy factory. But its life as a commercial space ended in the 1920s, when the influx of actors, poets, and writers started turning Greenwich Village into a bohemian playground. When a group of actors established the Cherry Lane Theater (located right around the corner on Commerce Street), the chose to stay close to their stage by renting a group of neighboring buildings, which included 75 ½ Bedford Street.

While serving as a boarding house for the Cherry Lane Theatre’s actors, the tiny house hosted quite a few big names such as John Barrymore, the renown American stage actor, a young Cary Grant, who went on to become the one of the most recognizable faces of the silver screen.

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, the house’s most famous resident, lived there from 1923 to 1924. Exceptionally gifted, she became a published poet while still a schoolgirl and received instant recognition at the tender age of 20 upon entering a poetry contest. Though she won fourth place, her poem was such a success that the first-prize winner protested the judges’ ruling and the second-place holder gave her his prize money. The buzz created by the contest earned her immediate acclaim as well as a college scholarship. The well-known expression “To burn the candle at both ends”  comes from one of her poems:

My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—

It gives a lovely light!

The house acquired its signature Dutch stepped gable look through renovations made during Edna’s stay. The top floor served as her studio.

The narrow house, which began its existence in the 19th century as a carriage entranceway, was sold in 2013 for $3.25 million and, according to Zillow, has since doubled its value.

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