In a way, that’s the best ghost picture I’ve taken. It’s another old one, but it shows clearly how this phenomenon occurs. Here are the demonstrable facts:
- The building on the left is an architecturally-forgettable hotel constructed in 2001.
- The building on the right is a generic NY loft building constructed in 1918.
Here are the inferences from those facts and the general history of construction in the city:
- There was once a row of rowhouses here, with party walls between them. Like a lot of rows in the city, the side walls were put up first, with the floor joists, and the front facades built later. That’s why the brick toothing at the corner alternate sides every three courses instead of every course.
- The house on the right (to the west) was demolished first and that lot was combined with the lot further west (possibly already vacant, possibly another house in the row was demolished, possibly something else entirely) to build the loft. Because the party wall was half on the loft’s lot, the loft’s east side wall (the one we’re looking at) reused that wall, extending it up, south, and north. The party wall was likely also made thicker by adding more brick in front of the loft-side face.
- The house to the left wasn’t extended or replaced until it was demolished. It was either demolished to create a parking lot or it was demolished for the hotel.
The ghosts exist because there was never a moment when they could be got rid of. When the loft building was constructed, the designers and builders and the option of making their building 6 inches narrower to avoid reusing the wall (and very few people in the city ever voluntarily make their buildings smaller) or reuse it; when the house on the left was demolished, the hotel had the choice of simply living with the ghost protruding onto their property (and stuccoing it for beauty’s sake and maybe waterproofing) or asking the owners of the loft building if they’d mind having their wall partly disassembled. So there it is, having survived both of the buildings it was originally part of.