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'Hold outs': the buildings that are reluctant to change


Pigheadedness? Idealism? Avarice? Convictions? There are several reasons that lead owners to refuse to sell. When this happens, the new buildings coexist with the resistant traces of the past and turn cities into history lessons. Sometimes ethics too

Although in today's world it is hard to believe that not everything has a price, there are owners who refuse to sell when a construction company tries to demolish their property to build a larger building - a block of houses or offices.

In China, these pockets of resistance are known as "nail houses."

In English they are called

hold outs

and in New York and London there are some very famous ones.

The redoubts –as they are called in Spanish– always contain a history of deep convictions, stubborn stubbornness, economic strategy or enormous idealism.

In Manhattan they organize


to show them and tell those stories.

'Hold out' at 249 West End Avenue, on the West side of Manhattan.


249 West End Avenue in Manhattan is a case of idealism.

The Cook family bought it from the Powell family in the early 1900s.

Ferdinand Huntting Cook was the principal of the New York College of Dentistry and his wife a Columbia graduate who was named an Advocate for the Department of Parks and Gardens for her knowledge of botany.

Nail resistant house in a middle-class housing area in Nanning, South China.

Getty Images

They had five children and in January 1913 Mr. Cook left home to do some shopping and never returned.

Tom Miller tells on the Daytonian in Manhattan blog that a tree branch fell on him and a month later he died.

Soon after, neighboring houses were sold.

And Mrs. Cook organized weddings so she could pay for her children's studies.

By 1924 he had sent them all to college.

He had also arranged their weddings at home.

He died in 1932. His house was already an anachronism, a stronghold between two large apartment towers.

For a decade, the house became the Uptown Art Gallery and even featured Mark Rothko.

Today the house is divided into apartments.

But it stands firm, tough, almost like a memory of Mrs. Cook.

enlarge photo Drawing by Julia Wertz for the book 'Neighborhoods, blocks and garbage' (Errata Naturae) of the 'hold out' of Third avenue, between 21st and 22nd streets of Gramercy in Manhattan.

The story of Mrs. Cook is still repeated around the world.

Cartoonist Julia Wertz drew quite a few in her wonderful book on Unknown Manhattan

Neighborhoods, Blocks, and Trash

(Errata Naturae).

Among them, the author got to know this unusual redoubt on Third Avenue, between 21st and 22nd streets.


nail houses

in China are not a matter of the past but a very present resistance.

Most of the owners who resist selling do so for financial reasons and some have come to resist in their homes in the middle of a new road.

The owners of two houses in Taiyuan (Shanxi) refused to sell at the price their neighbors did to build an office area.

And they remain in the open in a challenge worthy of a good



The same thing happened with this self-built house in Nanning, southern China.

It was 2015 when the owners refused to accept the demolition compensation offered by the construction company.

The house was nailed in the middle of the new residential neighborhood.

But it was for a short time.

There is no Chinese nail house route.

Most homeowners can't resist real estate pressure and end up giving in.

And sell.

Thus disappears his house, his investment and a layer of history of the city.

Source: elparis

All news articles on 2020-11-25

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