By: Stephan Morgansky
Cancel the thoughtful gesture.
It was three years ago that millionaire Jean-Louis Goldwater Bourgeois said he wanted to give his Manhattan home back to the Indians. He no longer feels that way, apparently.
In a piece headlined “Millionaire reneges on promise to give West Village property back to American Indian tribe” Melissa Klein of the New York Post chronicles Bourgeois’s change of heart, which now will never be buried at Wounded Knee.
“Jean-Louis Goldwater Bourgeois announced plans three years ago to turn over his landmark home to the Lenape tribe — the original Manhattan residents — saying he was “appalled” that the island had been “taken by whites,” Klein reported. “He worked with Anthony Van Dunk, a former chief with the Ramapough Indians, which is part of the Lenape Nation, who envisioned a Native American prayer house at the Weehawken Street site.”
There was lots of great press when the announcement was made – who doesn’t love kind gestures by millionaires? – but now the deal isn’t happening.
“He wanted the publicity, and that’s what he got,” Van Dunk told The Post, saying he feels duped. “Van Dunk, who never consulted a lawyer or had a written contract with Bourgeois, said he and the eccentric homeowner were working on the design of the prayer house that would resemble what the landscape looked like when the Lenape roamed the area. They even staged a ritual to let the spirits know they were “coming in with a good heart.” But Bourgeois, 79, and Van Dunk, 56, an advertising agency art director who lives in Fort Greene, had a falling out in mid-2017.”
“We were in his bedroom talking — he would always have meetings in his room — and he just told me “Look, I’m married to this building. I’m not going to give it away,” Van Dunk recalled,” according to Klein.
The $4 million historical house was on its way to the Ramapough Lenape native Americans who intend to use it as a meeting house. The building, located at 6 Weehawken Street in the West Village (also known as 392-393 West Street) was formerly a historical public market.
Bourgeois, born in 1940, is an author and the son of artist Louise Bourgeois and art historian Robert Goldwater. He is the author of the volume “Spectacular Vernacular: the Adobe Tradition” (with photographs taken by Carollee Pelos), which established him as an expert on the subject. He reportedly owns a home in Djenne, Mali and has actively been involved in architectural conservation efforts there including the preservation of the world’s largest adobe building the Great Mosque of Djenne, and has written extensively on the subject.