The Downtown Community House and Little Syria

Read the Save Washington Street campaign's report on the Downtown Community House at 105-107 Washington Street: (Plus Image Appendex One: and Image Appendix Two:

In 2003, local historian and tour guide Joseph Svehlak wrote a manifesto arguing that, since post-September 11 development appeared to threaten the Lower West Side of Manhattan, three buildings on Washington Street in the historic “Little Syria” neighborhood should be protected as city landmarks: St. George’s Syrian Catholic Church at 103 Washington Street, the Downtown Community House at 105-107 Washington Street, and a single remaining tenement at 109 Washington Street. This campaign advanced further through the work of the Friends of the Lower West Side, a local community group. In 2009, after years of collecting petitions and sending letters, St. George’s Syrian Catholic was given landmark status by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. However, the city declined to evaluate the other two.

In 2012, Todd Fine and Carl Antoun began the “Save Washington Street” campaign, a precursor of the Washington Street Historical Society and the Washington Street Advocacy Group. They initiated an international media campaign to raise the profile of “Little Syria” and argue that the three buildings should be protected together. They also commissioned and edited a report giving more detail about the history.

Since then, we have worked continually, writing letters to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in support of landmark designation for the Downtown Community House in particular, organizing Arab-American and other ethnic organizations in support, and making our case in public media. The Downtown Community House, built in 1925, is a settlement house with colonial revival architecture. We also collaborated with activists in the local Friends of the Lower West Side group in this work.

Finally, in 2021, there is now a hopeful indication that the Downtown Community House may be preserved by a friendly owner. We will offer more information on this prospect when it can be confirmed.


PRI Radio, January 19, 2012:

New York Post, June 24, 2012:

Jadaliyya, November 30, 2012:

ARAMCO World, November/December 2012:

Al-Monitor, February 11, 2013:

Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2013:

Religion Dispatches, June 3, 2013,

NPR, April 8, 2013:

Inter Press Service, June 20, 2013:

The National, September 21, 2013:

Latitude News, 2013:

The Guardian, December 28, 2015:

Copyright, Washington Street Advocacy Group, 2021