Main image courtesy Houlihan Lawrence
Lower photos courtesy of SkinnyHouse.org
Built by a famed African American business owner, the 10-foot-wide home has a long and rich history in Westchester County.
Westchester is known for having some unique homes and families to boot. There is one, however, that has been flying under the radar. This might be because it is only 10 feet wide. That’s right, there’s a home that sits on a 12.5-foot by 100-foot strip of land right in Mamaroneck.
The “Skinny House” is one out of 21 properties that New York State officials have recommended for inclusion on the National Register of Historical Places. Nathan T. Seely built the house in 1932 after his construction business folded due to the Great Depression. Seely and his family had to move out of their seven-room home in 1931. They needed a new place to live, and Seely’s neighbors, the Santangelos, helped out by giving him a strip of land between their properties to build a (very skinny) home.
Located on Grand Street the skinny house is made up almost entirely of salvaged parts. You can still see the steel cables on each side of the house that were built to keep the structure secure. The Seely family lived in the house until 1986 and in 1988 Ida Santangelo bought it and started renting it out.
In 2013, the Santangelos were renovating the kitchen when they discovered some unwelcome guests: termites. The house remained vacant for several years as the family decided how to proceed. They could either pay for the repairs or turn it over to the local historical society. If the house were registered as a landmark, there would be ample opportunity for grants and other supplements to help repair the house.
Even though the skinny house isn’t in mint condition, it still continues to inspire those who visit. Nathan Seely’s great granddaughter, Julie Seely, wrote a screenplay titled “Skinny House” in 2011, and is self-publishing a book on the history of the people linked to the house.
“The majority of people don’t know about the story. A lot of the papers have written about the unique structural story—it was important to me to share the story of our family with the public,” Seely says.
Seely always knew she wanted to write about the house and about her family’s history, especially so that her 20-year-old son could learn about his entrepreneurial great-great-grandfather. While Seely said her grandmother and grandfather were private people, she wasn’t shy to add details in her book, which contains elements of a memoir, biography, as well as personal anecdotes.
Seely worked closely with State representatives and New York State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation officials over the last year on the house’s application for preservation. She says she hopes that a confirmation comes through but will support any and all decisions made by her long time neighbors and owners of the house, the Santangelos. After all, according to Seely, “a house is just brick and mortar,” and there’s more to the story than that.