The strangest building in the East Village, in my opinion, is 62 E. 4th Street, a five-story structure built in 1889. It's a mystery what the architect was after (though it's apparent he was proud of his creation given the prominent dating smack dab in the certer of the building). There's all sort of Italianate grandeur in the shapes and lines. But it's all thrown off by the bizarre, frontal, cylindrical metal fire escape, enclosed by a tubular metal grill. Most buildings of the time employed the usual zig-zagging metal staircase, with a ladder leading from the second floor to the ground. The top floor included a boarded-up space of what looks like a door. But to where? There's no balcony. And what was the intention of the column-framed loggia on the fourth floor?
The bottom two floors are used by a dance company and theatre company. The top three floors are not in use, and haven't been for more than 40 years. Can't imagine what the building functioned as when it was first built. Though a helpful reader below says it was called the Astor Ballroom back in the 1940s and was the location of his parents wedding.
UPDATE: Boy, what I thought was just a casual post about an odd building is certainly provoking a lot of interest. This just in from the probing Gothamist. 64 E. 4th has a late '60s past that included gay cinema, Andy Warhol and Jim Carroll. Fascinating, and it just adds to my contention that this is indeed the oddest building in the East Village.
Still very curious about its original purpose.