, 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.
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, 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.
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The most notorious bank robbery in New York City history took place on August 22, 1972, during the decidedly dog days of that long hot summer. Immortalized in the film “Dog Day Afternoon,” it was an unlikely anti-hero tale with a backstory that began in Greenwich Village, interwoven with the social and political currents running through the city at the time, most notably the growing LGBT movement that had taken hold after the Stonewall Riots.
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Image via Wiki Commons
Everyone knows the folk-rock classic “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful, which topped the charts 51 years ago this August in 1966. But fewer know the song’s roots in Greenwich Village–lead singer John Sebastian actually grew up in the neighborhood and the act got their start in the local clubs–and fewer still know a 15-year-old Village student was responsible for a significant part of its composition.
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102 Bedford Street in 2015 (left) via Wiki Commons, and as of today, via GVSHP
Few buildings capture the whimsy, flamboyance, and bohemian spirit of early 20th century Greenwich Village as does the building known as “Twin Peaks” at 102 Bedford Street. Described as a “wonderfully ludicrous mock half-timbered fantasy row-house castle” by architecture critic Paul Goldberger, the present incarnation of the building was born in 1925 as a radical remodeling of an 1830 rowhouse into a five-story artists’ studio apartment building. In the mid 20th-century, the building became even more iconic with a cream and brown paint job that mimicked its Alpine cottage inspiration. However, a more recent paint job stripped away this history, resulting in a controversial landmarks battle.
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6th Avenue and 11th Street, 1905. Image via Ephemeral New York,
On August 6, 1966, the first known recording of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” was made by the Miracles. Written by Motown pioneers Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, the song was re-recorded several times, most famously by Gladys Night and the Pips and Marvin Gaye, whose version landed on the top of the charts for seven weeks in early 1969.
But the famous saying about receiving important news or information through a person-to-person chain of communication significantly pre-dates the Motown era. In fact, plentiful evidence and credible sources say it all goes back to a beloved tavern on the corner of 6th Avenue and 11th Street in Greenwich Village.
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Greenwich Village Bohemians outside Cafe Wha in the 1960s, via Vintage Everyday
“Bohemian” may be hard to define, but we all know it when we see it. But even in a city like New York, where bohemian can be used to describe everything from a polished West Village cafe to a South Bronx squat, few people know why exactly we today use this term, connected to a medieval Central European kingdom, to describe those with a countercultural bent.
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