The Stuyvesant Casino in 1945, via the Swedish Buck Johnson Society (L); The Ukrainian National Home Today, via Wally Gobetz/Flickr (R)
On 2nd Avenue, just south of 9th Street at No. 140-142, sits one of the East Village’s oddest structures. Clad in metal and adorned with Cyrillic lettering, the building sports a slightly downtrodden and forbidding look, seeming dropped into the neighborhood from some dystopian sci-fi thriller.
In reality, for the last half century the building has housed the Ukrainian National Home, best known as a great place to get some good food or drink. But scratch the surface of this architectural oddity and you’ll find a winding history replete with Jewish gangsters, German teetotalers, jazz-playing hipsters, and the American debut of one of Britain’s premier post-punk bands, all in a building which, under its metallic veneer, dates back nearly two centuries.
Learn this fascinating history
Artist’s studios on Bleecker Street, via GVSHP
With fall’s arrival and the turning back of the clocks, sunlight becomes an ever more precious commodity. Perhaps no New York living space is more centered around capturing and maximizing that prized amenity than the artist’s studio, with its large casement windows and tall ceilings. So with sunlight at a premium, let’s conduct a brief survey of some of the most iconic artist’s studio windows in the Village and East Village.
But first, a little history
1980s photo of the Alamo surrounded by mural, vendors, & musicians. © Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation Image Archive.
On November 1, 1967, an enigmatic 20-foot-tall cube first appeared on a lonely traffic island where Astor Place and 8th Street meet. Though several months before the release of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the one-ton Cor-Ten steel sculpture shared many qualities with the sci-fi classic’s inscrutable “black monolith,” at once both opaque and impenetrable and yet strangely compelling, drawing passersby to touch or interact with it to unlock its mysteries.
Fifty years later, Tony Rosenthal’s “Alamo” sculpture remains a beloved fixture in downtown New York. Like 2001’s monolith, it has witnessed a great deal of change, and yet continues to draw together the myriad people and communities which intersect at this location.
Learn about the cube’s entire 50-year legacy
Crane with wrecking ball mounted on the trestle. Photo by Peter H. Fritsch (1962). Photo courtesy of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation/Fritsch Family Collection.
Few structures have had a more far-reaching impact upon the West Village and Chelsea than the High Line. Its construction in 1934, then partial demolition in the early ’60s, and final preservation and conversion into a park a decade ago have profoundly shaped the way these neighborhoods have changed over the last 85 years. And while photos of its heyday and those of it today as an internationally recognized public space are plenty, few exist of those interim years. But GVSHP recently acquired some wonderful images of the High Line being demolished in 1962 at Perry Street, donated by the Fritsch Family who lived nearby at 141 Perry Street.
The Fritschs’ photos say a lot about how the High Line, and its demolition, changed the West Village. It’s apparent from the images just how much more industrial, and gritty the Far West Village was in those days. But it also shows how the demolition of the High Line left a huge gap in this unpretentious neighborhood, which housed both disappearing industry and a diverse and vital residential community.
See the other photos and learn the whole history
The Flatiron Building is one of the city’s most iconic and beloved landmarks. Since 1902 it’s been a symbol of New York, though ironically its acute angle formed by the intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue makes it an unusual sight in our otherwise orthogonal city on a grid. But while the Flatiron Building may be the most famous product of quirky street angles, it’s far from the only one. In fact, the “off-the-grid” streets of Greenwich Village and the East Village contain scores of them, most of which pre-date the 23rd Street landmark.
Take a tour of the little Flatirons
Lorraine Hansberry at her typewriter in her Greenwich Village apartment in 1960. Photo by David Attie courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute.
Lorraine Hansberry, the trailblazing playwright, activist, and Nina Simone song inspiration was perhaps most closely associated with Chicago. But in fact she lived, went to school, and spent much of her life in Greenwich Village, even writing her best known play “A Raisin in the Sun” while living on Bleecker Street. And shortly a historic plaque will mark the site of her home on Waverly Place.
Learn the full history here
Caffe Reggio, via Prayitno/Flickr
Many think of Little Italy’s Mulberry Street or the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue as the centers of Italian-American life and culture in New York. But some of the most historically significant sites relating to the Italian-American experience in New York can be found in the Greenwich Village blocks known as the South Village–from the first church in America built specifically for an Italian-American congregation to the cafe where cappuccino was first introduced to the country, to the birthplace of Fiorello LaGuardia, NYC’s first Italian-American mayor.
All the historic sites right this way
, Thu, September 28, 2017
There’s no shortage of sites in the Village and East Village where great makers of popular music lived or performed. Less well known, however, are the multitude of sites that were the backdrop for iconic album covers, sometimes sources of inspiration for the artists or just familiar stomping grounds. Today, many are hiding in plain sight, waiting to perform an encore for any passersby discerning enough to notice. Ahead, we round up some of the most notable examples, from “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” to the Ramones’ self-titled debut album.
Learn about the covers and see what the locations look like today
, Thu, September 21, 2017
827-831 Broadway today via Wiki Commons (L); Willem de Kooning in his Fourth Avenue studio, April 1946. Harry Bowden, photographer. Harry Bowden papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.Via The Willem de Kooning Foundation. (R)
Underneath the lyrical and much-admired sherbet-colored facades of the twin lofts at 827-831 Broadway lies a New York tale like no other. Incorporating snuff, sewing machines, and cigar store Indians; Abstract Expressionists; and the “antique dealer to the stars,” it also involves real estate and big money, and the very real threat of the wrecking ball. Ahead, explore the one-of-a-kind past of these buildings, which most notably served as the home to world-famous artist Willem de Kooning, and learn about the fight to preserve them not only for their architectural merit but unique cultural history.
Get the entire history
, Thu, September 14, 2017
Nathan Straus’ First Milk Depot, opened in the summer of 1893, courtesy of the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library, Columbia University
The utilitarian building at 151 Avenue C between 9th and 10th Streets would hardly elicit a second glance from the casual passerby today. But its unassuming looks belie the incredible story of how Gilded Age science and philanthropy converged here to save thousands of children’s lives. In the 1800s, intestinal infections and diseases like tuberculosis caused by bad milk was running rampant in the city’s child population, especially in poor communities like the Lower East Side. To combat the problem, Macy’s co-owner Nathan Straus instituted a program to make pasteurized milk affordable or even free. And on Avenue C, he set up a “milk laboratory” to test the dairy and distribute millions of bottles.
The whole history here