History of the House

IMG_1597-400

Writers House occupies two landmarked adjacent counting houses built by the brothers William Waldorf and John Jacob Astor III in 1881. 21 West 26th Street, acquired in 1979, still retains its jewel-like Victorian facade of red brick, polished granite and ornamental terracotta. 23 West 26th Street, acquired in 2001, was originally a twin building but was given a neo Federal exterior by Vincent Astor in 1921. What once served as his stately office is now our antique-paneled conference room. Both buildings contain concrete-lined walk-in vaults where the Astors, the richest and most prominent landlords in New York, stored their real estate deeds and huge rental incomes. Today these grand safes contain archival books by our authors.

The history of 23 West 26th is unusual in that when Vincent Astor died he left the building to his daughter, who was married to millionaire communist, Corliss Lamont. When Lamont died, he bequeathed it to the U.S Communist party. From the mid-forties until the late fifties it served as the party's headquarters and housed its president, Gus Hall, and the editorial and publishing offices of the Communist newspaper, THE DAILY WORKER. All the while, the building was under surveillance by the FBI. It also suffered a series of fire bombings that shattered the bay windows on the ground floor and set the offices ablaze.