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Union Square in New York City has long hosted some of the country’s most fervent protests, from the working-class rallies of the Great Depression to the Black Lives Matter protests of the 21st century.
Union Square history
Union Square was first formed in 1815 at the junction of Bloomington Road (now Broadway) and the Bowery, when building surveyors realised the angle with which the two roads met would hinder development. A public space was thus designated at the spot, and named Union Square in recognition that “here was the union of the two principal thoroughfares of the island”.
Included in the construction of the park was the since-removed Union Square Pavilion, designed to accommodate public mass meetings. This pavilion quickly became the stage for speakers at protests and rallies, installing Union Square as a hub for such meetings in New York.
Protests witnessed in Union Square include the first Labor Day parade in 1882, celebrating the working-class’ contributions to society, while in 1916 the anarchist political activist Emma Goldman addressed crowds in protest of birth control bans.
During the Great Depression, 3,000 unemployed citizens gathered in the square in 1934 to protest the inadequate relief they had received during the crisis, while in 1970 the first Earth Day was held in the square, in which euphoric crowds filled the streets in protest of the environmental decline occurring around the world.
In 2020, New York’s George Floyd protests began in Union Park, in which the Black Lives Matter Movement demanded justice for the racially-motivated killing of Floyd. These were joined by protests all over the world, forcing a spotlight on the issue of racism and police brutality in the 21st century.
Union Square today
Today Union Square provides a picturesque walk around one of the USA’s most politically significant spots. A number of statues decorate the square, including that of George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette, Abraham Lincoln, and Mahatma Ghandi, while the large ornamental Union Square Drinking Fountain is a physical reminder of the temperance movement – encouraging the drinking of water over whisky!
One of the square’s most famous features today is also its vast markets, the largest of these being the Union Square Greenmarket held on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. A wide range of produce is sold by regional farmers in the area, and usually fills the square with a hum of activity.
Getting to Union Square
Union Square is situated in Manhattan just south of the Flatiron District, and lies on Union Square E road. The closest subway station is 14th Street-Union Square that comes out directly on the square, while a number of bus services also stop in the nearby area. The closest stop is Union Sq E/E 15 St, where bus services 2 and 3 both stop.
9 Facts You Might Not Know About Union Square
Union Square is a spot as multi-purpose as they come. The area's popular with both tourists and locals thanks to the arrival of retailers like Whole Foods, Nordstrom Rack and Forever 21, it boasts the city's most popular green market, and serves as a major transit hub. But whenever things hit the fan in this town, Union Square goes back to its roots, transforming into the epicenter for rallies, protests, and political action. Here, we've rounded up some of our favorite facts about Union Square, with some help from the Union Square Partnership and the NYC Parks Department.
1. Union Square was once a potters' field.
Like fellow Square parks Washington and Madison, back in the 18th century Union Square served as a burial ground for poor New Yorkers. By 1807, though, that patch of land—located at the "union" of Bloomingdale Road (Broadway) and Bowery Road (4th Avenue)—was incorporated into Manhattan's grid system and designated Union Place, and in 1833 it became a public park. Unlike Washington Square Park, though, there probably aren't any bodies left in Union Square, thanks to the large number of subway lines running through the area.
May Day 2017 (Scott Heins / Gothamist)
2. Union Square is a true testament to the "Tale of Two Cities."
In the mid-19th Century, as the city began to expand northward, Union Square (then Union Place) turned into one of the city's "most sedate and exclusive suburbs, inhabited by the city's wealthiest citizens," according to the area's 1997 National Historic Landmark report. Then, Broadway and Sixth Avenue played host to "Ladies' Mile," a high-end shopping strip complete with upscale retailers like Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, and Tiffany & Co., and B. Altman the area was also home to the first incarnation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Still, while wealth congregated around the park, once the area was declared a public space in 1831, it became a hub of political activity, including labor union rallies, Civil War rallies, and demonstrations in support in women's suffrage. In fact.
An illustration of the 1886 Workingman's Parade (A.K.A. the Labor Day Parade)(Courtesy of the New York Public Library)
3. The First Labor Day Parade was held in Union Square.
In 1882, while the trade union and labor movement quickly expanded, labor union leaders came up with the idea for a holiday honoring American workers. The first Labor Day took place on September 5th, 1882—workers marched from City Hall up to Union Square, chanting and holding banners advocating for workers' rights. The demonstrations were so successful, the Central Labor Union (CLU) of New York proposed a Labor Day be held across the nation annually on the first Monday in September. The labor movement and its association with Union Square is also why May Day rallies in support of that movement are held in the area every year.
Union Square was also home to the first Earth Day celebration on April 22, 1970 speakers included Mayor John Lindsay, Paul Newman, and Ali McGraw.
(Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
4. A full-sized U.S. Navy battleship hung out in Union Square for three years.
In 1917, the U.S. Navy built the U.S.S. Recruit as a publicity stunt intended to recruit more men to the Navy in the midst of World War I. "The recruitment numbers in 1916 had been a major embarrassment to the New York City mayor at the time, John Mitchel," Scot Christenson, the director of communications at the United States Naval Institute in Annapolis, Md, told the Times in April. “So he realized that if he could not bring people from the middle of New York to a ship, he could bring a ship to the middle of New York.”
The ship (modeled after the U.S.S. Nevada) was constructed right in the middle of Union Square, and when it was fully operational, trainee sailors from Newport Training Station swabbed the deck, did the wash, conducted drills, took instructional classes and stood guard over the ship, just like Navy sailors on non land-bound ships. The ship also hosted social events, vaudeville acts and visits by dignitaries, and served as a movie set for the film Over There. It was also used to sell Liberty Bonds.
The U.S.S. Recruit ended up bringing 25,000 recruits for the Navy, but by 1920 the war was long over, and the Navy decided to get rid of the ship. It was dismantled that year.
Courtesy Wally Gobetz's flickr
5. Union Square's George Washington statue is the oldest statue in the city's Parks collection. The iconic statue on the southern end of the Union Square plaza was dedicated in 1865, having been modeled by sculptor Henry Kirke Brown. The statue shows Washington on Evacuation Day in November of 1783, when Washington took NYC back from the British during the Revolutionary War. The statue served as a shrine of sorts after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Brown is also responsible for the statue of Abraham Lincoln that also stands in the park. That one was dedicated in September 1870 and is located on the north end of the plaza. The park also boasts a statue of the Marquis de Lafayette, sculpted by Statue of Liberty sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi and dedicated in September 1876 and a more recent statue of Mohandas Gandhi, sculpted by Kantilal B. Patel and dedicated in 1986. The Gandhi sculpture ended up in Union Square because of the area's history as a flashpoint for political protest.
6. The very first Sherlock Holmes movie (of sorts) was filmed in Union Square in 1900.
In 1900, director Arthur Marvin filmed Sherlock Holmes Baffled at distributor Biograph-Mutoscope’s rooftop studio, located at 841 Broadway. The silent movie was the first to feature the fictional detective, who has since made quite a name for himself in film and television, though its 30-second runtime prevents some of the later deductive magic from coming through. You can watch it above.
7. Union Square was the city's first commercial theater district.
Long before the Times Square area became the center of gravity for Broadway theater, New York's the main theater district was in Union Square, from the 1860s to the 1880s. Then, the south side of the Union Square was dubbed the Rialto, playing host to The Union Square Theatre the Academy of Music opera house, and other playhouses, the along with merchants selling props, costumes, wigs, scenery, and other theater-related wares.
The area was also home to the so-called "Slave Mart," which, in the 1860s, referred to the unemployed actors who'd hang around looking for work from the casting agencies in the neighborhood. Per a Times article from 1921:
Before theatrical managers had their enterprises on a business basis by the establishment of "booking" agencies, it was, for many years, the custom to "fill time," as it was called, on the sidewalks and in the saloons of Union Square. "Dates" were made there for the appearance of companies in other cities, sharing terms were arranged, engagements of actors and actresses were effected, and for that reason, the south and east side of "The Square" came to be jocularly known as "The Slave Mart."
An actor out of engagement would stand around waiting, as the saying was, to "sign up " for the next season. So soon as he had "signed up," he would convey the tidings to his associates and then would be seen mo more—until the next season.
Theaters started making their way uptown in the early 1900s, and in the 1920s and '30s a number of large theaters popped up in Times Square, cementing it as the city's central commercial theater district.
Courtesy Chris Goldberg's flickr
8. Two of Andy Warhol's Factory studios were located just off the north end of Union Square.
Warhol actually had a number of Factory studios in the city over the years—his first was on East 47th Street, where he paid a hundred dollars a year in rent and threw wild and wonderful parties from 1962 to 1968. But from 1968 to 1984, he relocated to 33 Union Square West near East 16th Street, and then to a larger space at 860 Broadway. In 2011, the Public Art Fund commissioned artist Rob Pruitt to create an all-silver sculpture of Andy Warhol to celebrate the artist. That statue, dubbed "The Andy Monument," stood outside of 860 Broadway from March 2011 to September 2012.
Union Square Greenmarket. (Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
9. The Union Square Greenmarket is the city's longest-running farmer's market.
The Union Square Greenmarket kickstarted the city's greenmarket movement when, in 1976, urban planner Barry Benepe came up with the idea to help out Hudson Valley farmers by establishing city markets where they could sell their harvests right to urbanites. Over the years, the Greenmarket system has expanded from one market with a few farmers to over 50 markets with hundreds of farmers. Still, the Union Square Greenmarket is the flagship, boasting 140 regional farmers in peak seasons and drawing as many as 60,000 market shoppers a day.
About this market
The world-famous Union Square Greenmarket began with just a few farmers in 1976, has grown exponentially in peak season 140 regional farmers, fishers, and bakers sell their products to a dedicated legion of city dwellers. As Greenmarket's flagship market, the seasonal bounty is unparalleled, with hundreds of varieties to choose from during any given season. From just-picked fresh fruits and vegetables, to heritage meats and award-winning farmstead cheeses, artisan breads, jams, pickles, a profusion of cut flowers and plants, wine, ciders, maple syrup and much more. Located in one of New York City's great public spaces, the atmosphere at Union Square on a market day is electric: 60,000 market shoppers shop and chat with farmers students of all ages tour the market and learn about seasonality visitors watch and taste cooking demonstrations by some of New York's hottest local chefs.
A Brief History of New York Transportation
1693 - First Bridge
The first bridge in the city, King's Bridge connects Manhattan and what is now the Bronx. It is demolished in 1917.
1811 - Ferry Service
The Juliana, the world's first commercially operated steam ferry, begins running between New Jersey and Vesey Street.
1811 - Street Plan
The New York State Legislature introduces the Grid Plan for New York City, dividing its streets into a rectangular pattern. The design has been the basis for transportation planning in the city ever since.
1825 - Link to the West
The Erie Canal is finished, making New York City America's premier port.
1832 - First Railroad
The first railroad system in New York, owned by the New York and Harlem Railroad company, begins operating approximately nine blocks between Union Square and 23rd Street.
1870 - Above Ground
The city's first elevated railway begins running regularly along Greenwich Street and 9th Avenue. It would be driven out of business by the subway 50 years later.
1871 - New Station
Grand Central Depot, now known as Grand Central Terminal, is constructed in 1871 to handle New York City's railroad traffic.
1874 - Link to New Jersey
Colonel Dewitt Haskins breaks ground for the first tunnel under the Hudson, designed to connect Hoboken and Lower Manhattan. It is completed almost 30 years later. Parts of it are still used in the PATH rail system.
|Contsruction on the Brooklyn Bridge.|
On May 24, the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River opens, connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn.
1890 - Street Transit
The first cable cars appear, replacing animal-powered streetcars.
1903 - East River Crossing
The Williamsburg Bridge, the largest of the bridges across the East River, is completed.
1904 - First Subway
The first official subway system in Manhattan opens. The Interborough Rapid Transit initially covers 9.1 miles of track and 28 stations between City Hall and 145th street.
1905 - Buses Start
The first gasoline-powered buses in America begin running along Fifth Avenue.
1905 - East and West
The Manhattan Bridge is completed, connecting Canal Street in Manhattan and Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn over the East River.
1907 - Bye, Bye Battery
Slow moving battery taxis are replaced with faster, gas-powered vehicles.
1913 - Creating a City System
New York City approves the expansion of subway lines owned by both the Independent Rapid Transit Company and the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company. The $302 million project adds 123 miles of track to the subway system.
1916 - Help from Washington
The Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 establishes a regular system of federal funding for state road projects. It is the basis for all future federal transportation laws that provide funding to states, including New York, for highway construction.
1919 - Red Light, Green Light
New York City installs its first traffic signal light at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.
1921 - Joint Project
New York and New Jersey form the Port of New York Authority to improve the city's mass transportation facilities.
1924 - Bronx River Parkway
The Bronx River Parkway, the city's first modern parkway, is completed.
1925 - Another Subway
Mayor John F. Hylan wins approval to create the city-owned Independent Subway System.
1927 - Under the River
The Holland Tunnel opens, becoming the city's first underwater tunnel for motor vehicles. A construction project shared by New York and New Jersey, the tunnel connects lower Manhattan at Canal Street and Jersey City.
1930 - Air Travel
Bennett Airport on Barren Island in Brooklyn is finished, accommodating the first regular plane service in the city.
|The George Washington Bridge.|
The George Washington Bridge opens, connecting upper Manhattan and New Jersey over the Hudson River. It is the first bridge in New York to be constructed completely out of steel.
1934 - Along the River
The East River Drive, now known as the FDR Drive, is completed, running from the Battery to the Triborough Bridge along the eastern edge of Manhattan.
1934 - Order on the Buses
Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia sets out a coherent policy for surface transit, doing away with some streetcar lines and granting franchises to private bus companies.
1935 - Major Construction
Construction begins on the Major Deegan Expressway, cutting a path from the Bronx to upstate New York.
1937 - Taxi Medallions
La Guardia signs the Haas Act, establishing a system of medallions, or official licenses, for the city's taxi cabs. Medallions are limited to 13,566 and cost $10 each.
1937 - Another Link
The Lincoln Tunnel opens, connecting midtown Manhattan and New Jersey under the Hudson River.
1938 - Belt Parkway
One of the many roads masterminded by Robert Moses, this highway around Brooklyn and Queens opens.
1939 - La Guardia Airfield
La Guardia Airfield opens in Queens, handling 250 flights a day in its first year.
1940 - Subway Takeover
The city takes over the subway system as it purchases the financially ailing Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT) and the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT).
1941 - Bus Protest
After a four-week, citywide boycott led by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., bus companies in New York agree to hire black drivers.
1948 - Cars Not People
Construction begins on the Cross-Bronx Expressway. To make way for it, 159 apartment buildings were destroyed in East Tremont and Morris Heights and 1,530 families had to move.
1948 - End of an Era
The subway fare rises to 10 cents, the first fare hike since the system began operation 44 years earlier.
|"Fliteseer" tram in front of a pair of Alitalia DC-7s at Idlewild Airport.|
Idlewild International Airport, later renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport, opens in Queens. It goes on to become the busiest cargo airport in the world.
1950 - Bus Station
The Port Authority Bus Terminal opens to the public. It was expanded in 1963 and again in 1979.
1950 - Department of Traffic
The city creates a Department of Traffic to take over responsibility for traffic control from the police departments. It soon institutes a number of programs, including alternate side of the street parking.
1953 - Running the Subways
The New York State Legislature creates the New York City Transit Authority to manage and operate the city's subway and bus systems.
1953 - That and a Token
Subway tokens debut on July 25 as the subway fare rises from 10 to 15 cents.
1956 - New Highways
The Federal Interstate Highway Act authorizes construction of a 41,000-mile interstate highway system, with the federal government paying 90 percent of the cost. New York City would use this legislation for projects such as completion of the Cross-Bronx Expressway.
1957 - End of an Era
The last city streetcar line is eliminated.
1962 - Commuter Rail
|PATH Train Exiting Journal Square Transportation Center.|
1964 - Staten Island
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opens, linking Manhattan and Staten Island. The Staten Island Expressway, connected to the bridge?s upper deck, is also finished. It required the demolition of 400 buildings and the displacement of 3,500 residents.
1967 - Yellow Cabs
The city orders all medallion cabs to be painted yellow.
1968 - State Control
The New York State Legislature creates the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which becomes New York City Transit's parent organization.
1971 - Fare Policy
The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission is created to license and regulate the city's yellow cabs.
1977 - Shifting Control
The city Department of Transportation takes over street operations, including traffic control and parking regulations.
1980 - Easier Access
The first wheelchair lifts for passengers with disabilities appear on city-owned buses.
1989 - End of Westway
After years of controversy, Greenwich Village residents, environmentalists and others finally defeat a plan to build Westway, a highway along the Hudson River in Manhattan.
1990 - Accessible City
Americans with Disabilities Act is signed into law, requiring that public transportation be accessible to people with disabilities. Activists use the legislation to make all city curbs accessible in 2002.
1993 - Candid Camera
The city launches the Red Light Program, automatically taking pictures of the license plates of vehicles that run red lights.
1994 - Swipe and Go
The MTA introduces MetroCards, installing turnstiles that accept them at the Wall Street and Whitehall Street subway stations.
1997 - The Rise of the MetroCard
All New York City buses and subway stations now accept MetroCards.
2001 - September 11
A terrorist attack destroys the World Trade Center on September 11. There is a partial collapse of the Cortlandt Street Station underneath the complex. IRT Broadway 1/9 service is shut down between Chambers Street and South Ferry. PATH lines adjacent to the site are ruined.
2002 - MTA Splits
MTA New York City Transit is officially separated into two separate companies called MTA Subways and MTA Buses.
2003 - Death of an Icon
New York City subways and buses stop accepting tokens, as MTA New York City Transit hikes fares on its buses and subways by 33 percent from a $1.50 to $2.00. It is the largest fair increase in city history.
2003 - Transit Center
The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and other agencies begin planning a new transportation hub at the World Trace Center site.
4th AVENUE, Manhattan
Among New York City’s numbered avenues, 1st through 12th, 4th Avenue has always been the odd duck– you can tell just by looking at a map. While most avenues are extraordinarily lengthy, spanning much of the island from north to south, 4th runs just six short blocks between Cooper and Union Squares and while all of NYC’s numbered avenues run parallel to the island’s northward tilt (though not true north) 4th runs northwest athwart the other avenues, forming a “V” at the Bowery at Cooper Square. If it were permitted to continue on its general path uptown it would intersect with 5th Avenue at about 27th or 28th Street.
At one time 4th Avenue ran north between its numbered partners, 3rd Avenue and 5th Avenue….all the way to the Harlem River uptown.
ABOVE: Park Avenue South and West 23rd Street
Today’s 4th Avenue runs athwart the overall Manhattan grid because it is one of the oldest roads on the island, being (along with The Bowery itself) a remnant of the old Bowery Road — a colonial path that overlaid a Native American trail. Manhattan’s present grid was laid out on maps in 1811. Therefore, 4th Avenue doesn’t follow the grid since there was no grid system of streets when people first walked or drove horses on it.
As delineated in my Street Necrology: Classified 4-A page, 4th Avenue’s physical history is defined, in large part, by the coming of the iron horse in the mid-19th Century. By 1832 the New York and Harlem Railroad ran on The Bowery, pulled by real horses that far downtown, from about Centre Street north to 14th. The line intended to reach Harlem, and thecity permitted the NY&HRR to extend north along what would become 4th Avenue, then still a figment of city planners’ imaginations. Railroads at the time were filthy, noisy and dangerous, especially in a burgeoning urban environment, and only the poor and the attendant crime element would live along the route.
The city could take no more. Something had to be done –and the city took action. A tunnel was cut between East 33rd and 38th Streets in the 1850s to contain the steam belchers, and the city placed a landscaped garden path above the cut, renaming 4th Avenue Park Avenue at that point.
Eventually the city made 42nd Street the furthest point south the steam rails could travel, believing falsely that civilization would never extend north of there (a mistake the city had previously made decades earlier by placing City Hall at the junction of Broadway and the Bowery Road). The city continued to relentlessly expand, however, and steam railroads continued to plague an increasingly genteel district.
The city continued to rename the route Park Avenue in sections above that point. By 1896, even the sections of road in the Bronx alongside the railroad, now either elevated, in a tunnel, or in an open cut, were renamed Park Avenue, and today, walking along gritty Park Avenue in, say, Morrisania or Fordham, you have to remind yourself that this is indeed the same Park Avenue that accommodates the Lever House and St. Batholomew’s Church a few miles to the south.
Forgotten Fan Darian Jon Fernando has some additional information: Actually, the renaming of Fourth Avenue … extended down to 34th Street until 1924. In that year, a real estate developer names Henry Mandel made a deal with the city to extend Park Avenue down 2 blocks so his new development on the East side of the Avenue between 32nd and 33rd Streets could be named “One Park Avenue”. (Just like today, a good sounding address is worth jumping through hoops for.) Could any developer pull off a thing like that in 2009? Somehow, I seriously doubt it!
BTW: I found this information in “New York’s Architectural Holdouts” by Andrew Alpern and Seymour Durst, where there is an interesting back-story concerning the original holder of the “One Park Avenue” title.
By the mid-20th Century, residents along 4th Avenue from East 32nd south to Union Square petitioned to become a part of Park Avenue as well. Their dream didn’t exactly come true — doing that would force a change in house numbers for Park Avenue’s entire length because the Bronx numbers are an extension of Manhattan’s — but the City Council did officially change Fourth to Park Avenue South on May 5, 1959. (A similar situation arose in the1910s when 7th Avenue was extended south to accommodate the IRT subway the extension became 7th Avenue South, for reasons much along the same lines. That leaves the short run from Cooper to Union the only remaining stretch of 4th Avenue.
The two buildings shown above, along Park Avenue South, contain reminders of Park Avenue South’s original name.
I began my 4th Avenue survey at the “V” formed by the junction of The Bowery and Cooper Square. Some mapmakers, Hagstrom in particular, have insisted on marking the two streets of the V as 3rd and 4th Avenues, but the city’s Department of Transportation, the only opinion that counts, marks both from the fork at East 4th north to St. Mark’s Place as “Cooper Square.” 4th Avenue continues Cooper Square’s street numbering.
A brace of new buildings, some commissioned by Cooper Union, some not, have appeared on The Bowery and Cooper Square in 2009, The Bowery is rapidly evolving into an up-market residential district, something its former down-and-outers as well as the carny hawkers, ragged actors, and hot corn girls who paraded the route before the bums got there, all of them shrouded by the Third Avenue El over each sidewalk, could scarcely have imagined.
The tall building at left, unofficially called the Shark’s Fin, is the new Cooper Square Hotel, completed in 2008 by the Carlos Zapata Studio. The corner building, housing the Dolphin Restaurant in 2009, has been home to Beat Generation poets and musicians in times gone by, including LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and Diane DiPrima. There has been a succession of trompe l’oeil artwork on the side of the building.
Music publisher Carl Fischer, and the gigantic note visible from Cooper Square (not shown here, but you can’t miss it) have been an indelible part of Cooper Square for many years. Patriarch Fischer (1849-1923) immigrated from Germany in 1872 and was succeeded by his son Walter Fischer and later, son-in-law Frank Hayden Connor. Fischer Music was located in Cooper Square from the late 19th Century, but in 1923 the firm constructed its 12-story office building, later with the Big Note, which continued to house company offices until 1999. Above, we see the Fischer Building behind a large Coca-Cola ad (this spot is now filled by the “undulating” Gwathmey Astor Place luxury loft building). At right is an ad on East 16th Street just east of Union Square for Fischer Musical Instruments, a 1930s offshoot of the music publisher. Though the Fischer Building is now luxury lofts as well, they have piquantly redone the Big Note just recently. Meanwhile, Fischer still has an online presence as well as offices at 65 Bleecker Street in NoHo.
Who is that guy? Inventor and industrialist Peter Cooper himself, who here turns his back on the school he founded in 1857. From FNY’s View From the Coop page:
Cooper Square (Astor Place at 3rd and 4th Avenues), was named for industrialist and inventor Peter Cooper (1791-1883), the developer of the first practical steam engine. He helped build America’s iron and cable industries (partnering with Samuel Morse in laying the first trans-Atlantic cable), and was one of the first developers of gelatin made from rendering mammal remains. In 1857 he founded ?Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in a new brownstone building at one of Manhattan’s true crossroads, the Bowery (originally the Post Road) and Astor Place, once known as Art Street. The building is supported by steel rails invented by Cooper himself.
The statue was produced in 1894 by NYC-raised sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), with the pediment desined by Stanford White. Saint-Gaudens’ other major works include portraits of Admiral David Farragut in Union Square a standing Lincoln in Lincoln Park, Chicago, and a seated Lincoln in Grant Park, Chicago the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston Common the gilded General William Tecumseh Sherman in Grand Army Plaza, Central Park and the Charles Stewart Parnell monument in Dublin, Ireland (Sain-Gaudens was born in Dublin and spent the first 6 months of his life there, before his family emigtated to the USA).
Cooper Union Foundation building, facing Astor Place on Cooper Square. Cooper acquired land here early in his career, after running a grocery on nearby Stuyvesant Street. When the time had come to found this institution, he deliberately placed it at this crossroads to mediate class divisions even in the mid-19th Century, Broadway and the Bowery were on different levels.
The “Union” in the name comes from the important junction of roads, but also the union of art and science and the Union of states, in the late 1850s beginning to sunder by the questions of abolition and states’ rights. The Union’s second coup was Abraham Lincoln’s appearance here in early 1860, kicking off his presidential campaign. (According to legend, after the speech Lincoln repaired to McSorley’s Ale House on East 7th, if indeed it was there at the time whether he had the light or the dark was unrecorded.) The first great Cooper Union speaker was Mark Twain, as he gave the building’s kickoff lecture in 1859. Every US president followed Lincoln’s suit until Woodrow Wilson (who was followed, ironically, by a succession of ineffective Republicans). The large arched windows were once display windows, as Cooper Union housed ground-floor stores that subsidized the school.
Looking at the photo above left you see a cylindrical “protuberance” on the left side. Cooper designed the building with space for an elevator, even before such a mad concept had been practically demonstrated. (Instead, the first Otis elevator was installed in the Haughwout Building on Broadway and Broome Street in SoHo in the same era.)
Of course, your webmaster was impressed by the light stanchions, which must have at one time been gaslit.
This 1942 exposure by one of the 20th Century’s most prolific, yet unsung photographers, Charles Cushman, shows Cooper Square and the Cooper Union Foundation Building as they were in 1942. The building just north of it, the 1853 American Bible Society building, has disappeared to be replaced by a nondescript Cooper Union engineering lecture hall and classroom building it hopes to demolish and replace with a high-rise. The Met Life tower and the King of All Buildings loom further uptown.
And here is that nondescript lecture hall building. What’s more interesting here at Astor Place (foreground) and Cooper Square are what you see here in the triangle formed by the Square, Astor Place (front) and Lafayette Street — Alamo, the turnable black cube installed by sculptor Tony Rosenthal in 1967. What is little remembered is that the statue of Samuel S. Cox, Ohio congressman, Coast Guard sponsor, and mailman’s friend, originally stood here before being shuffled off to Tompkins Square Park. We will get to that subway kiosk in the rear presently. Slight panic occurred in 2005 when Alamo was removed for restoration for a few months in 2005.
Wanamaker’s. One of the few buildings in NYC to occupy an entire square block (Macy’s doesn’t, for example) the former John Wanamaker department store was designed by Daniel H. Burnham (who also helmed the Fuller, or Flatiron, Building completed in 1902, the same year this masterpiece took its place in Cooper Square). Believe it or not this building is an annex, an addition to the Alexander Turney Stewart & Company dry goods store on Broadway when the Stewart store began to founder in 1896, Wanamaker rode in from Philly and built what you see here. Wanamaker’s remained in business until 1954. Since then Department of Motor Vehicles offices have occupied the building, as well as the K-Mart (formerly Kresge’s) on the ground floor. The building’s original staircase connecting to to the Astor Place IRT station is still there.
On the left of the photo, you can see a part of the Charles Gwathmey Astor Place luxury loft, “Sculpture For Living,” a building that Miss Representation finds “sickeningly unpleasant” although your webmaster has something of a soft spot for it. It’s academic, anyway, since I am still awaiting my Magamillions ship to come in and will never be able to live there.
The sailors in Green and Comden’s On the Town list Wanamaker’s as a preferred destination, and the 5th Avenue bus’s southern end used to be called the Wanamaker Terminal. Just north of the venerable department store, you can see the Stewart House, named for the Irish entrepreneur and real estate mogul who pioneered Ladies Mile retail in the 1800s, and who also created the Long Island town of Garden City and built a short-lived railroad to connect it to NYC. Cruisegoer Leon Klinghoffer, who was pushed to his death into the Mediterranean Sea from the liner Achille Lauro by Palestine Liberation Front terrorists in 1985, resided there.
A look south from Astor Place as we see Cooper Union and Cooper Square Hotel. The Square’s new buildings have been derided in some architectural schools but I welcome the contrast between the Italianate 1850s trade school and the glass-walled 21st Century buildings that will accompany it. I’m reminded of Copley Square in Boston, where the Romanesque H. H. Richardson Trinity Church can be seen in distorted reflection on the nearby John Hancock Tower.
That mad manipulator of crockery, Jim Power, is still doing what he has done for 25 years — decorating lamppost bases with various detritus that he glues on to the posts — despite the DOT’s best efforts to thwart him (though the DOT has gotten on board with him of late — persistence pays!). RIGHT: some lampposts in Cooper Square do a devil’s combination of octa-pole bases and shafts with Donald Deskey masts, a combination that is an esthetic train wreck.
“I’ve got a bike, you can ride it if you like, it’s got a basket, a bell that rings, and things that make it look good/I’d give it to you if I could but I borrowed it…” — Syd Barrett
Cooper Union students park their bikes here on a pethora of bike-securing devices.
LEFT: Official NYC bike-lock stanchion.
ABOVE: the old reliable, a slotted signpost, is just as good as the new stuff. RIGHT: Most NYC drivers firmly aver that noise is necessary.
At one time, all IRT subway entrances had kiosks like this one. I say entrances — there were entrances and exits, and the exits had their own design. As auto traffic became more and more prevalent, drivers discovered that these massive kiosks ruined sightlines, and more and more accidents occurred thus the IRT began phasing them out, removing the last one in the early 1960s. However, when the Astor Place station was restored in the mid-1980s, it was decided to replicate the entrance kiosk, and this is it. There is always a line for the Mud coffee truck here.
Ah, at East 9th, we’re finally on 4th Avenue proper. Looking south on the photo left, past the Gwathmey tower and old Wanamaker’s, as Lafayette Street’s traffic feeds onto 4th Avenue. RIGHT: in a campaign that screamed “please deface me” the longrunning FOX-TV cartoon King of the Hill installed some large ads around town in the fall of 2008.
East 10th Street: a handsome 1930s-era apartment on the NE corner and across the street, a Benjamin Moore paint store. Moore, an immigrant Irishman, opened his first store on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, in a spot now occupied by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
Though historic Grace Church fronts on Broadway where it bends at East 10th Street, it maintains a presence on 4th: an opening between buildings vouchsafes a glimpse. RIGHT: East 11th Street is interrupted between Broadway and 4th Avenue by James Renwick Jr.’s 1883 Grace Memorial House, which was reputedly the first day care center in NYC. 11th Street is interrupted, according to legend, because landowner Henry Brevoort refused to budge when the streets were being cut through in the early 19th Century. By contrast, 11th was bruited through the Second Shearith Israel Cemetery on West 11th Street near 6th Avenue, forcing the disinterment of remains and reinterment in a cemetery on West 21st just off 6th.
The furiously Moderne Cooper Station Post Office, NE corner of 4th Avenue and East 11th. It was constructed in the mid-1930s by the Works Progress Administration. This is the PO where Newman, the scheming postman from Seinfeld played by Wayne Knight worked.
The routine-looking 115 4th Avenue with the gym on the ground floor actually recalls two historic figures in the Cooper-Union Square area. “Petersfield” was the mansion belonging to Petrus Stuyvesant, great grandson of Peter Stuyvesant, Director General of New Amsterdam in the colonial era. It was located on a high hill, long since leveled, overlooking the East River at approximately where 1st Avenue and East 15th Street are now.
The Stuyvesant property contained grassland, hills, meadows, ponds and rivulets one of which, the Crommessie Fly, later was shortened by the British to “Gramercy.” There were also Native American gravesites. Petersfield, the mansion, was in ruin by the mid-1830s by then, the Manhattan grid was cut through and the area was increasingly urban. Few relics of the Stuyvesant property persisted into later years, though a pear tree planted by Peter Stuyvesant himself in 1647 remained at the corner of 3rd Avenue and East 13th Street until 1867, when it was run into by a horsecart. And, Stuyvesant Street, which breaks the grid pattern between 3rd Avenue and East 9th Street and 2nd Avenue and East 10th Street, was originally the driveway to Peter Stuyvesant’s mansion (it burned down in 1778, perhaps torched by British occupiers during the Revolutionary War).
The Fish Building recalls the prominent (in politics and the military) Fish family of New York state. I found an unusual building called “Hamilton Fish Court” several years ago that also recalls this family, whose leading light was Hamilton Fish (1808-93) who duplicated DeWitt Clinton’s feat in becoming a US Representative from NY State, a Senator from NY State, and NY Governor.
From 1910 to the early 1960s lower 4th Avenue’s (there was an upper 4th then) most prominent attribute was its dozens of used book stores…
In a leisurely age that seems not so long ago, husbands and wives could always find plenty to do in the area around Broadway and 10th Street. The big attraction was the splendid old store of John Wanamaker with its 10 floors of frippery and folderol designed to absorb hours of any fashionable lady’s time. And for the husbands, to make their wait not only palatable but actually pleasant, there were Fourth Avenue’s antiquarian book stores. That period – the 20’s and 30’s – was the golden age for Booksellers’ Row, and it’s a time, unfortunately, that has passed forever. Wanamakers is gone, burned down four years ago, and the promoters, speculators, and builders who have been laying waste to the whole region are now beginning to nibble at the edges of Booksellers’ Row itself.
Some bookmen have already moved out, their shops demolished or their leases transferred to other businesses able to pay the rising rents more commensurate with those of the rising apartment buildings which are beginning to fill the district. Of the shops that remain, at least half are living on borrowed time, paying their rents from month to month and always uncertain of how much longer their buildings will remain standing. Village Voice, February 16, 1961
According to veteran humorist Fran Leibowitz, many of the shopowners were distinctly gruff and inhospitable in the old-fashioned New York style they “acted more as if you had broken into their house and were stealing their books.” Thirteen.org
One of the old 4th Avenue veterans, The Strand, moved several decades ago to Broadway and West 12th Street and expanded greatly, though it remains labyrinthine and hard to negotiate. A new used bookstore, Alabaster Books, has appeared in the last few years and who knows, 4th Avenue may become “booksellers’ row” again.
The International Tailoring Company building at 4th Avenue and East 12th was constructed in 1921, but its monogrammed initials hark back to the Beaux Arts era a couple of decades earlier. Some more detail can be found at NYCJPG.
Though most of the book sellers have gone, 4th Avenue has become an unlikely hotbed for Halloween costumes, or for any other time of year. Halloween Adventure is on the ground floor of the 1888 building The Renwick. RIGHT: a great escape at 112 4th Avenue
Blimpies seem to be dying off in NYC as Subway seems to be finally winning the battle between the hero titans (hoagies, for you folks in Philly, grinders for Boston). Blimpies are a much better buy than Subway, as the portions are a lot thicker. I’ve had good Blimpies here at 4th and 13th, but not-so-good ones with almost stale bread. The Yankee poster is from 1988, the only year Jack Clark (lower right) was a Yankee. In the background is NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
In a practice occurring with greater frequency around town, a building interior is being gutted with just the facade remaining an 11 or 14-story condo called Rising Sun will go here, with the older shell retained for effect. Probably the most prominent example of this is the Sir Norman Foster Hearst Tower on 8th Avenue and West 57th Street. While it was still a going concern this building hosted the popular clubs Plaid and earlier, Cat Club.
The Cat Club was the first place I ever saw my beloved Killing Joke circa 1989. In the crowd with me were Joey Ramone (who lived nearby at the time), Handsome Dick Manitoba and Johnny Feedback of Kraut. Also saw the oft-forgotten Primitives there (remember “Crash”?) When it morphed into the Grand, I saw Big Country, Ethyl Meatplow, Cranes, Redd Kross, Motherhead Bug, Mephiskapheles and the almighty COP SHOOT COP there a few times. It was one of my favorite live venues for a while. Sigh. So much for that. comments, Vanishing New York
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, The Ugliest Building in NYC. This thing resembles a giant vent shaft. It is in fact the Union Square 14, a multiplex theatre with 14 screens. The Broadway side facing Union Square is the faltering Virgin Megastore, which will probably go away soon (2009). Too bad — I like the big music megastores, but ’twas Apple killed them with easily downloadable Itunes on Ipods, carried by Ipeople. Compare it to the 1893 Cornelius Roosevelt Buiding on the far left, its facade filled with Easter eggs like terra cotta devils’ heads and initials.
4th Avenue ends at Union Square, with Park Avenue South taking its place from East 17th Street on north. The NE corner of Union Square has been occupied by the twin Zeckendorf Towers since 1987 (they block the clock tower of the fab 1914-1926 Con Ed Building. But before that, this was S. Klein On the Square, shown here during its demolition in 1978.
SOURCES: Jim Naureckas’ New York Songlines
Kenneth Dunshee’s As You Pass By
Gerald R. Wolfe’s New York: A Guide to the Metropolis
ForgottenFan Larry Rogak passes on a blog dedicated to an avenue even shorterth Avenue. Hmmmm….
14th STREET, Manhattan
In “Mellow Yellow” Donovan is actually saying he’s just mad about Frontine, but in 1960s transistor radio-squawk that was always rendered Fourteen, and I thought he liked teenagers, which wouldn’t have surprised me. Your webmaster has always been mad about 14th– East and West 14th, the first numbered street to go coast to coast — of Manhattan, from the Hudson to the East Rivers. That’s where I walked in October 2008 on a street that has its share of interesting architecture, mass transit, parkland, lampposts, signage and atmosphere.
West 14th Street is present at the ‘birth’ of 10th and 11th Avenues (from West Street) at its far western end, and the triangle of land formed by the three thoroughfares is home to the Liberty Inn, which goes back all the way to its 1908 construction by poultry wholesalers. It has long been a haunt for seafarers (as the Strand Hotel) and has operated as the Liberty since 1969. The Liberty was home to a gay club on the ground floor called The Anvil from 1974-1986. It’s still something of a hot-sheets joint.
10th Avenue is one of the longest north-south routes in Manhattan. As Amsterdam Avenue, which it becomes at West 59th Street, it marches north all the way to Fort George Avenue at High Bridge Park.
A highway sign guides traffic to the “meat market,” a term that could be applied to more than one “meat market” at one time. These days, the innuendo is ascendant as the Far West Side’s center of meat wholesaling is being dispersed away from these few blocks — though there are still some around, this is now a fashion and recreational center with boutiques, hotels, restaurants and clubs.
Hudson River Park is located in the quadrilateral formed by West 14th & 15th Streets and 10th and 11th Avenues. At left: a look across the park at the under-construction 450 West 14th, the “High Line [Office] Building,” and the Standard Hotel, completed in 2008 and straddling the old freight line, now a lengthy urban park/promenade. The hotel’s concrete stanchions have been colloquially called “stripper legs” which is appropriate, since some hotel patrons have been known for showing their shortcomings to High Line walkers. Only in New York, kids. RIGHT: this is actually just a small section of Hudson River Park, which properly extends along the river from Battery Park north to West 59th Street, though much of it is yet undeveloped. The arched iron gate is echoic of the one across 11th Avenue marking the White Star-Cunard Lines piers that used to be there. Through this gate we see the Pier 57 building, until 2003 an MTA bus depot.
The West Side Freight Railroad, now the High Line, actually burrows through a number of buildings along its route, such as the Nabisco baking facility now home to Chelsea Market…
…and 450 West 14th Street, which was, in its earlier buff-bricked existence, Cudahy Cold Storage, a meat warehouse where cattle carcasses were delivered by rail and processed for consumption. Loading docks on the side of the tracks allowed delivery from the WSFR.
M & W Packing, the last meatpacker left on West 14th Street.
Washington Street, which runs, with some interruptions, from West 14th Street south to Battery Park. The Standard dominates the right side of the photo.
1887 brick apartment house built as worker housing by the Astor family, later a cold storage meat warehouse, and then purchased and restored, along with the installation of an asymmetrical glass dome, by fashion doyenne Diane Von Furstenberg, who, along with husband, communications mogul Barry Diller, has been a major donor to the High Line project.
On the M&W Packing building, note the faded name of a previous tenant, Edward Davis. Also note that West 14th between 9th and 10th Avenues still features paving with vintage Belgian blocks.
The south side of West 14th is home to art galleries such as The Heller and museums such as the Ground Zero Museum Workshop:
The Ground Zero Museum Workshop in the Meat Packing District on West 14th Street features stunning images, rare video and remnants from the Ground Zero Recovery Period, all packed into an intimate and emotional space. On display are 100 of Gary Marlon Suson’s most well-known images, including the charred Genesis 11: Tower of Babylon Bible Page found in the WTC rubble, the Frozen Clock stuck at 10:02am, marking the collapse of the South Tower and several FDNY Honor Guard images. The actual clock itself is also on display in the museum. NewYork.com
Though most warehouses and packers have been converted to new uses, their old metal sidewalk awnings have been piquantly retained.
Stella McCartney boutique. Stella, second child of Paul and Linda McCartney, is an internationally renowned fashion designer.
The intersection of West 14th and 9th Avenue — Hudson Street begins its march south to Tribeca here as well — has had multiple changes echoic of the overall transformation of the Meatpacking District as old buildings have been shined up like new and new things like pedestrian plazas and bicycle lanes have sprung up. Just south of here, 9th Avenue begins at Greenwich and Gansevoort Streets and continues under its own name north to West 59th, where it hands off to Columbus Avenue. 9th Avenue isn’t done, though — there’s a pair of short stretches running north from West 201st, and 9th Ave. provides Broadway’s final intersection on the island of Manhattan before it spans the Harlem River. Like many other of 14th Street’s intersections there are some magnificent structures found on this corner.
New York’s 3rd Apple store (where the mac your webmaster typed this on was purchased 1/1/08) was once part of the M & W Packing “empire,” later becoming part of the Western Beef supermarket chain.
Former area resident (now in Nyons, France) Patricia Fieldsteel, writing in The Villager, remembers the unique vibe:
There were open white-plastic barrels of pig ears and snouts in brine: 10 and 20-gallon jugs of pork bellies and carpet-sized rolls of tripe. You needed a strong constitution to shop at Western Beef, which originally was a warehouse where one walked into a glacial auditorium-sized freezer with entire cow, hog and sheep carcasses hanging from hooks on the ceiling… anyone who wanted to become a vegetarian only needed to go in their meat department and they would be cured forever of eating meat.
Tripe has been replaced by IPads! Directly across 9th Avenue is The Diner and the Old Homestead Steak House, opened in 1869 (in what could be the same building standing there today). Directly to the rear is the Porter House, a 1905 warehouse. What looks like a Borg Cube has landed on the roof.
On the south side of West 14th and 9th is the Kelly Building.
Between 9th and 8th Avenues: At 330 is the Church of Our Lady of Guadeloupe at St. Bernard, built in 1875 by prolific (700 churches designed) ecclesiastical architect Patrick Keely in neo-Gothic. The pre-existing St. Bernard Parish combined OLG (see below) in 2003.
A Deco doorway, at 315, the Vidon apartment building.
14th Street between 7th and 9th Avenues was once the location where Spanish immigrants lived and worked. On this block was the Spanish-American Workers Alliance, and we will see more evidence once we pass 8th Avenue. HP Lovecraft’s “Cool Air” was about a recently deceased doctor — one Dr. Muñoz — who keeps himself ‘alive’ with air conditioning. The story was set on this block:
The place was a four-story mansion of brownstone, dating apparently from the late forties, and fitted with woodwork and marble whose stained and sullied splendour argued a descent from high levels of tasteful opulence. In the rooms, large and lofty, and decorated with impossible paper and ridiculously ornate stucco cornices, there lingered a depressing mustiness and hint of obscure cookery but the floors were clean, the linen tolerably regular, and the hot water not too often cold or turned off, so that I came to regard it as at least a bearable place to hibernate till one might really live again. The landlady, a slatternly, almost bearded Spanish woman named Herrero, did not annoy me with gossip or with criticisms of the late-burning electric light in my third-floor front hall room and my fellow-lodgers were as quiet and uncommunicative as one might desire, being mostly Spaniards a little above the coarsest and crudest grade. Only the din of street cars in the thoroughfare below proved a serious annoyance.
(Despite Lovecraft’s erudition and mastery of the horrific literary form, his upbringing in the Protestant New England of the 19-oughts did not permit him to regard anyone but white Northern Europeans as anything but subhuman, and this has to be kept in mind when reading both his fiction and non-fiction.)
Here we find two more monumental edifices and an underground transportation hub.
This, actually, is two FNY motifs in one — this beautiful copper domed, Corinthian-columned building on the NW corner of 8th Avenue and West 14th Street is the former New York Bank For Savings, constructed in 1897 by architect Robert Henderson Robertson. It passed through incarnations as Goldome Bank, Central Carpet, and most recently, Balducci’s, which closed its NYC locations in April 2009. The Classic Revival bank resembles its contemporary, the Bowery Savings Bank in Chinatown. The former bank was restored in the 1980s by Robert Scarano Jr. Note the white marble exterior and the stained glass windows surrounding the dome.
The copper clock features renderings of bees and beehives, a traditional symbol of thrift.
On the opposite corner is a building even more majestic, if that’s possible: what was originally the New York County National Bank (ghost letters can still be seen on the pediment), from 1907 by architects DeLemos and Cordes with Rudolph Daus. (DeLemos and Cordes also designed other monumental buildings like the Siegel Cooper Dry Goods Store on 6th Avenue and West 18th and Macy’s in Herald Square)
After a stint as Manufacturers Trust– later Manufacturers Hanover Bank the building became a theater and then Nickel, a spa for men.
8th Avenue and 14th Street is the site of a small subway interchange. The BMT Canarsie Line’s western terminal has been at 8th Avenue since 1931 (the rest of the line in Manhattan opened in 1924) and there is an express station of the IND 8th Avenue line here (left).
Oddly, for many years, this was the only non-IND station using IND design. When the Canarsie line was extended west in 1931 the new station was built to IND specs (1970s view, above left). A late 1990s renovation copied the mosaics used elsewhere on the line, but without painstaking mosaic work paneling was used instead. The train car is a vintage R9 car used for a fan trip. Photos: nycsubway.org
North Village Wine & Liquors sign
242 West 14th, where the dirty videos went, at least some of them, after Times Square was cleaned up. Adjoining 246 was formerly Nell’s, a ‘quiet club’ and Patrick Bateman haunt run by Rocky Horror actress Nell Campbell.
Between 8th and 7th Avenues, you will see several walk-up apartment buildings with stairs and vintage railings. These likely went up in the early 1850s.
More evidence of a Spanish-American population, the Spanish Benevolent Society (La Nacional) and restaurant at #239. Adjoining to the left is #241, one of the first masonry buildings on West 14th, built by Andrew Norwood in 1847.
The unusual brownstone at 229 West 14th is the former Church of St. Guadeloupe (the parish merged with St Bernard a block west — see above). The facade can be described as Spanish Baroque. It was built in 1853 and received this redesign in 1921. According to NY Songlines’ Jim Naureckas, Jack Kerouac was a regular parishioner at one time. Today it is the home for offices of the merged parishes.
Marble and stained glass exterior detail. There are 3 pairs of mysterious (to me) initials, so if anyone knows what they stand for, let me know. There’s what looks like “SHJ” (Sacred Heart of Jesus?) above the balcony window, and the “TAR” and AM” on accompanying friezes.
The Donut Pub, at #203, bears the stained-glass signature of a former bierkeller or perhaps more genteel saloon.
The mystery of the statue on the exterior of the narrow, red-brick masterpiece (200 West 14th) on the SW corner of 7th Avenue and West 14th Street was solved for me by Naureckas, who explains that this is the old Jeanne d’Arc Building, once a place where out of town French stayed when in town. Wally G on Flickr explains further:
200 West 14th Street, also known as the Jeanne d’ Arc, was designed by architect James W. Cole and built for owner Henry Meinken between 1888 and 1889. The French flat originally housed eight families above ground-level commercial spaces. Sophisticated facades hint at Cole’s desire to present the corner building as a middle-class dwelling. They are composed of American-bond brick carved brownstone sills, lintels, stringcourses, and pilasters and a projecting pressed-metal cornice. The north elevation projects a central entrance surrounded by carved figures, and above it, a stone statue of Joan of Arc. Aside from its architectural merit, 200 West 14th Street is significant as the earliest existing “French flat” along 14th Street, and as a remnant of the street’s brief period as an upper- and middle-class residential enclave.
200 West 14th is guarded by armless & legless caryatids and griffins over its front entrance balcony. I have never figured out what the inscription on the Joan of Arc statue is…it looks like “Lear” or “ear.” My guess is it once said “Jeanne D’Arc” and most of it has broken off. A heroic equestrian statue of Joan can be found at Riverside Drive and West 93rd Street.
One of two papaya-hot dog joints on 14th Street, this one was in the national Papaya King chain. Though the combination hits the spot, I had often wondered at how the duo came to be yoked like this. The answer lies in location. Bunned meat wasn’t offered when the original Papaya King opened in the heart of Yorkville at East 86th Street and 3rd Avenue in 1931, but franks were soon added to the bill in the then-heavily German enclave. Grey’s Papaya and Papaya Dog are competitors.
[This Papaya King closed in 2010, but another papaya dog joint is at 7th and 23rd.]
My aunt used to make this dessert with Cool Whip and Jell-O. You wound up with a big white glop of Cool Whip on your plate, with colored bits of Jell-O visible here and there. I’m reminded of the culinary triumph by the white and pastel blue, yellow and green terra cotta on the SE corner of 7th Avenue and West 14th built by Herman Lee Meader in 1913. Though polychrome terra cotta was widely available by this time, most leading architects were reluctant to use it, feeling that too many colors would be garish, but with restraint, a beautiful building could be designed.
The 7th Avenue IRT has a stop at 14th Street. When the IND built lines along 6th and 8th Avenues in the 1930s, it also constructed passageways connecting the lines to 7th Avenue (I am unsure if an extra fare had to be paid prior to the lines’ consolidation in 1940). This, the closed one, goes to 8th Avenue the one to 6th Avenue is still open and provides a transfer to the F train, or a walk along West 14th if you want to stay out of the rain.
ABOVE: 138-146 West 14th Street, Roman Revival lofts. Manhattan campus of Pratt Institute.
A bit north of the Sewing Machine/Vacuum Cleaner District, West 23rd and 6th and the blocks radiating from there.
The magnificent Deco of the Salvation Army Temple and Executive Offices on 120 West 14th is somewhat obscured behind scaffolding as the exterior gets a big cleanup. It was built in 1929.
14th Street was among the first streets to get a major lamppost makeover, with these huge looped lamps reminiscent of the Williamsburg Bridge loops, which have been put back in a recent restoration. At first, when these makeovers were executed, the city didn’t install exact copies of the old Bishop Crook and longarmed Corvington forms — instead, the city did approximations. Faux-Corvs were installed on 8th Avenue in midtown, Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn and Main Street in Flushing.
Later, manufacturers obtained molds that matched the old forms exactly — and the city was quick to install retro Crooks and Corvs all over town.
The 14th Street “bigloops” date to the early 1990s, though the mini-me versions lighting the sidewalks were installed several years later.
An interesting new sign, and a pair of vintage: Good Stuff Diner, 109 West 14th Lynn’s and the former Dapper Dan Imperial Clothes.
Good Stuff takes its name literally as its signiture burger is the Juicy Lucy: a slab of cheese is cooked into the burger.
Dapper Dan is now an art gallery,/event space that has its very own facebook page. As O Brother Where Art Thou fans know, Dapper Dan was the pomade of choice for Ulysses Everett McGill. It’s also a Michael Jackson title.
6th Avenue is actually one of NYC’s shorter north-south avenues, though it begins in Tribeca, rather further south than any other. It only makes it as far north as Central Park South — the stretch north of Central Park was renamed Lenox Avenue in 1887, and over a century later, subtitled Malcolm X Boulevard.
The building with the conical cornice (100 West 14th) at the SW corner of 6th and West 14th was constructed in 1896 by architect Theo Thomson. It may look seamless but there are actually three buildings here that share a facade. Photo: Eden Pictures
Directly to its right is a cast iron building, 104 West 14th, constructed in 1875, far afield from the castirons’ usual haven in Tribeca.
Sol Moscot Opticians is a longtime tenant of 69 West 14th, the corner building formerly home to The Living Theatre, an experimental company that got Martin Sheen his start.
Sixth Avenue Bicycles has had a giant mural for decades.
On the SE corner is/was a corner store built by Henry Siegel, of the even bigger Siegel/Cooper Dry Goods Store a few blocks north. It was constructed in 1903 to fill a space formerly held by R.H. Macy’s — what is today the World’s Biggest store moved to Herald Square in 1902. A facade presently (11/09) covered by scaffolding, and some red stars on the exterior of the New School on West 13th, testify to Macy’s former presence.
The IND 6th Avenue line opened in the late 1930s, replacing the already torn down 6th Avenue El. In recent years the MTA has been running vintage R9 cars and other older models decked out in Christmas finery during the holidays, taking a cue from Chicago’s holiday trains — though not as richly decorated.
Another grand cast iron facade, this one the old Ludwig Brothers Dry Goods store constructed by architect W.W. Smith in 1878 and enlarged to present size in 1899. It was later Rothenberg’s and then Macy’s biggest competitor next to Gimbel’s, Hearn’s.
#33 West 14th, home of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union Local 169. In Van Cortlandt Village, we’ve seen housing constructed under the auspices of the Amalgamated. The building is also home to Gallery 169. Next door at #31 was a building that hosted offices of The Little Review, the magazine where James Joyce’s “Ulysses” was first published.
Just as West 14th is bookended by a pair of guardian banks at 8th Avenue, so it is at 5th Avenue, a pair of office towers — #1 and #2 West 14th.
The speculative commercial buildings at 1 West 14th Street/2-4 West 14th Street (on the northwest and southwest corner 14th Street and Fifth Avenue) provide a strong visible boundary between East and West 14th Street and illustrate the differing scale of the avenues and the cross street. Designed by Buchman and Fox and Robert Maynicke and constructed in 1902 and 1907, the buildings exemplify the incorporation of new technology into the preferred architectural styles of the period. Historic Preservation Studio
Spingler Building, 5-9 Union Square West near East 14th. Built 1896 (were there more great buildings between 1890-1910 than any other era?) by William H. Hume and Son. It originally contained stores, showrooms, manufaturers and industrial lofts. Note the tripartite style, an architecural sandwich: two floors with wide windows at the bottom, yellow-bricked center, and attic floor and cornice. The name harkens back to the Spingler House, a hotel formerly in the locale — a Henry Spingler owned much of the land here in the colonial era.
Though unions have certainly agitated here over the years, Union Square — briefly interrupting Broadway between East 14th and 17th Streets — is named for the convergence, in the early 1800s, of Broadway and Boston Post Road, which segment is now 4th Avenue, the shortest numbered avenue in Manhattan. East 14th, and its parallel streets, joined the party in the 1820s when it was graded through. Originally a potter’s field (Washington Square was a burial ground as well) Union Square was officially opened in 1839. University Place connects Washington and Union Squares.
Lapidus designed one of his most ambitious stores, in three essentially separate parts: a long side wall of rich Roman brick facing University Place, topped by a high clerestory of industrial windows a billboard-type facade with floating letters on 14th Street, angled in from the street wall and a three-story glass tower floating almost free at the corner. This was “the tallest show window – 42 feet high – in New York,” Lapidus told The Herald Tribune. — Christopher Gray, New York Times
Subway entrance, Union Square postcard view soon after service began in 1904 on IRT Subway. Union Square is a major interchange between two BMT lines, the Broadway Line (R, N, W), and the Canarsie (the L) under 14th Street, as well as the original IRT Line that began at City Hall and ran to 157th Street in 1904. The line was extended the following year, subsequently divided, and is now part of the IRT Lexington Avenue Line (#4, 5, 6).
Kantilal Patel’s statue of Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948) the spiritual leader of India during its independence campaign, was installed in the traffic triangle at East 14th and Union Square West in 1986. Union Square was chosen as an appropriate location for Gandhi’s statue due to its history as a center for nonviolent protest.
Henry Kirke Brown/John Quincy Ward’s magnificent mounted Washington is the centerpiece of Union Square Park. It’s been here a long time — one of the first statues erected in NYC, it stood at what was the northern outskirts of town when it was positioned at Union Square East and East 14th Street in 1854. The site was chosen because, according to legend, Washington greeted NY citizenry here after the British evacuated town November 25, 1783. If you haven’t had enough Brown, his Lincoln is in the northern end of the park.
Union Square’s newsstands and subway kiosks are all built to the same spec — check the little onion domes on top. This is one that hasn’t yet been torn down for a new CEMUSA streamlined model.
Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi’s Marquis de Lafayette can be found at Union Square East and East 15th Street. Lafayette arrived in the colonies at age 19 in 1777, believing in the cause for their freedom. In commanding American and French troops during the Revolution, Lafayette was awarded an honorary generalship and remained a lifelong friend of Washington. Further uptown, the two are memorialized together in a statue alongside Morningside Park. Soon after American independence came the French Revolution, and the overall relationship between the USA and France became rocky.
Lafayette, who was imprisoned during the French Revolution and opposed Napoleon, returned to the USA for a triumphal tour in 1824. Bartholdi went on to produce “Liberty Enlightening The World.”
Speaking of Rocky, perhaps he knows what the numbers on the Union Square Clock mean. Well, he isn’t talking, so Doanie will explain.
The 15 numbers of the digital clock display time going and coming relative to midnight. Read time going left to right and time coming in the opposite direction. So, if the clock reads 180746***135205 it means that it is 6:07 P.M. (18 hours/07 minutes/46 seconds since midnight) and that there are 5 hours/52 minutes/13 seconds remaining until midnight. The three numbers in between are a blur of moving numbers. It is like a digital hourglass.
From a first look you wouldn’t believe there two buildings, on the north side of East 14th from Irving Place east to 3rd Avenue, are the same building. They are, and they aren’t. The Doric-columned building is the original Con Ed building, designed by Henry Hardenburgh in 1913, and in 1927 Warren and Wetmore added the huge temple and clock tower.
Much of the 14th Street elevation of the new building was designed to copy Hardenbergh’s original structure. However, for the corner, Warren & Wetmore designed a 26-story tower that would be a prominent landmark as it rose above the low buildings of its neighborhood and would be a visible symbol of the utility company. The tower is faced with limestone and has a three-story Doric colonnade at the base. the tall shaft is set back from the colonnade and rises uninterrupted 21 stories to a modest cornice, above which are four clockfaces and four corner urns. Near the top, the tower sets back slightly and takes the form of a temple capped by a pyramidal roof that is crowned by a 38-foot-high bronze lantern.
This tower was planned to be dramatically lighted at night, advertising the wonders of the electricity that the company sold. Known as the “Tower of Light,” this was memorial to the company’s employees who had died in World War I. The building was well-received upon completion an editorial published in The Architect commented that “the new tower-building designed by Warren and Wetmore…is, to our mind, a building of unusual merit and distinction. ” Wired NY Forum
The south side of East 14th from Irving to 3rd Avenue is dominated by the bland NYU University Hall, built in 1998 over the bones of old Lüchow’s (complete with ümlaüt) the grand old German eatery, a hangout for piano man William Steinway, Enrico Caruso, Cole Porter, O. Henry, Al Smith, and Victor Herbert it was the Elaine’s of its time.
Luchow’s opened when Union Square was New York’s theater and music hall district. It consisted of seven separate dining rooms, a beer garden, a bar, and a men’s grill. One room was lined with animal heads another displayed a collection of beer steins. Must have been a serious dining experience. Of course, when the city’s fortunes turned in the 1970s, so did Luchow’s. The restaurant shut its doors for good after a mysterious 1982 fire. Ephemeral New York
And then there was the Palladium, the old 1926 Academy of Music. Though Tito Puente got the mambo craze started there in the Fab Fifties, it was during the rock era that the Palladium made its name. The Academy hosted the Stones, Beach Boys, Yes, Grateful Dead, Byrds, Fleetwood Mac, Lou Reed, Stooges, New York Dolls, Genesis, Springsteen, Frank Zappa and after a 1976 show by The Band it was rechristened The Palladium. I saw the Ramones on New Years Eve in 1979 here, the Pretenders when they were breaking in the spring of 1980 and the Pogues on St. Patrick’s Day in 1990 here among many other acts. The guitar-smashing shot on Clash London Calling LP was made here (I saw the Clash at Bonds, not here, though). The Palladium went quietly in 1997.
Between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, East 14th is quite unusual — it is lined on both sides with shade trees, as well as quirky storefronts and remnants of historical organizations. For several years the shell of the Jefferson Theater stood on the block, until an empty lot was deemed preferable. At 212 East 14th was Movie Star News, where Irving Klaw photographed and sold posters of Bettie Page (1923-2008), the ultimate pin up queen.
Union Square Station: Crossroads of NYC’s Subways
Most people who visit New York City are under the impression that Manhattan’s largest transit hubs of public transportation outside of the airports, are located at Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Station. As far as a blend of subways lines, commuter railroads connecting New Jersey, Long Island and the rest of the Eastern corridor of the United States, those hubs stand as the largest public transportation hubs in New York City. As far as the New York City Subway line goes, outside of Pennsylvania station, one of the largest stations in which so many lines converge is non other than Union Square Station.
New York City’s Union Square Station is located at 14th street and Fourth Avenue in Lower Manhattan. However, don’t let the single address fool you as the station has multiple entrances and exits located over a large parcel of New York City real estate. The Union Square Station is also located underneath Union Square Park. Both the Subway station and the park share a long history.
In simple terms, one can get almost anywhere they wish in Manhattan, Queens, The Bronx, or Brooklyn from Union Square Station. There may be many transfers involved, but your journey can begin at Union Square Station. However it may be a journey that will require blood pressure pills, Tylenol or Mylanta. Union Square Station is HUGE! Depending on where you enter that station, your life can become a huge ball of confusion and despair, or just a simple swipe of your metro card.
There are certain entrances to Union Square Station that leave the rider with the choice of one train line. The entrance at East 16th Street and Union Square East for example will take you directly down to the 6 line. It’s very easy as you have only to make a choice of heading uptown or downtown. However, enter the station at the main 14th street and Fourth Avenue entrance and you will soon find yourself standing at the mother crossroads of eternal subway confusion. It’s not a place for tourist.
The main Union Square Subway Station has plenty of signs directing people to the different lines, but is begins to feel as you keep following the signs and then all of a sudden there gone. It’s also incredibly hot, it smells bad, and there are plenty of characters to keep you either entertained or scare you half to death.
Union Square Station is the ultimate connection station outside of Penn Station and Grand Central Station but without all the fancy fast food restaurants, drug stores, newsstands and Krispy Kreme counters. Union Square Station connects the following train lines and all these trains stop at Union Station except where noted. Good luck.
4 Line – Lexington Avenue Express- From Woodlawn Avenue Station in the Bronx to New Lots Avenue, Brooklyn.
5 Line – Lexington Avenue Express – From Eastchester-Dyre Avenue / 233 Street in the Bronx to Flatbush Avenue-Brooklyn College/ Nostrand Avenue. This is an express train and does not always stop at Union Square Station
6 Line – Lexington Avenue Local – From Pelham Bay Park / Bruckner Expressway in the Bronx to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall / Centre Street in Manhattan. This train stops at every station in Manhattan and the Bronx.
L Line – 14th Street Canarsie Local – From 8 Avenue / 14 Street in Manhattan to Canarsie-Rockaway Parkway / Glenwood Road in Brooklyn
N Line – Broadway Express – From Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard /31 Street to Coney Island Stillwell / Surf Avenue in Brooklyn
Q Line – Second Avenue Broadway Express – From 96 Street / 2 Avenue in Manhattan to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue / Surf Avenue in Brooklyn.
W line – Broadway Local – From Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard / 31 Street in Queens to Whitehall Street Broadway in Manhattan. Train only operates weekdays.
Manhattan's Forgotten Graveyards, Under Public Parks, Famous Hotels and Supermarkets
Here's a chilling thought for the Halloween season: If you're visiting one of New York's many amazing parks and squares, it's likely that you're standing on land that was formerly used as a cemetery or potter's field.
Manhattan is still dotted with several interesting historic cemeteries, such as the First Shearith Israel Graveyard at 55-57 St. James Place (pictured below, between 1870-1910). But a great many other burial grounds once existed but were removed due to new developments. And in several cases they even left the bodies behind!
Picture courtesy Museum of the City of New York
In the colonial era, the city of New York was mostly confined to the area south of today's City Hall. As New York rapidly grew starting in the early 19th century, its population naturally moved up the island.
At the same time, deadly epidemics ravaged the city during various periods, forcing the city to quickly develop burial grounds and potter's fields (for unclaimed bodies) on the edge of town. But as what was considered "the edge of town" moved further north, those burial grounds were suddenly considered valuable land. In many cases, they exhumed the corpses and turned those spots into well-manicured public parks.
Sometimes, however, they left the bodies where they lay.
Above: In 1831, President James Monroe was buried at New York City Marble Cemetery on Second Street. His body was later moved. (Courtesy Harper's Weekly)
Most of these burial plots date from before 1851, when the city passed an ordinance forbidding further burials below 86th Street. Historical cemeteries (like those at Trinity Church and Old St. Patrick's) and land with private vaults (such as the East Village marble cemeteries) were allowed to remain, and unique exceptions have been made, such as the singular grave of William Jenkins Worth in front of the Flatiron Building.
Here's just a handful of Manhattan's old burial sites:
Liberty Place (at Maiden Lane)
Late 17th century -1820s
This burial ground served New York's first Quaker congregation and is sometimes referred to as the Little Green Street Burial Ground of the Society of Friends (Liberty Place, a tiny alley today, was once known as Little Green Street). Its location is near the New York Federal Reserve.
In the 1820s, the Quakers sold this property, exhumed their dead, and moved to a new burial ground at.
Picture courtesy Whole Foods
Houston Street Burial Ground (105-107 East Houston Street)
This remained the principal cemetery for Quakers in New York during a period of incredible prosperity for New York City, thanks to the opening of Erie Canal and the planned formation of streets and avenue from the Commissioner's Plan of 1811.
Today this is the location of Whole Foods supermarket.
In 1848, the bodies were moved again to a private cemetery, where they remain today, located in today's Prospect Park. It was in this very cemetery in 1966 that the actor Montgomery Clift was laid to rest.
Picture courtesy Library of Congress
African Burial Ground
(Modern marker at Duane Street and Elk Street)
For almost one hundred years, starting in the 1690s, New York slaves and black freedmen alike were forced to bury their friends and loved ones outside the comfort of church and city limits, in an area south of Collect Pond, New York's source for fresh drinking water. As many as 20,000 bodies may have been interred here at one time.
It was a lonely and unprotected area at one point, in 1788, bodies were even exhumed from here illegally for medical experiments. New York simply developed over the land in the 19th century, building department stores, government buildings, even opera houses.
For decades, the area's original identity went unmarked, until burials were discovered during excavations in the 1990s. A spectacular monument was built here on one portion of the former burial ground and dedicated in 2007.
For more information on the African Burial Ground, check out our podcast on the incredible history of this area.
Courtesy New York Public Library
Washington Square Park
"Where now are asphalt walks, flowers, fountains, the Washington arch, and aristocratic homes, the poor were once buried by the thousands in nameless graves." (Kings Handbook of New York, 1893)
This plot was used as a potter's field during a devastating outbreak of yellow fever. When fashionable New Yorkers moved from the confines of lower Manhattan to this area of Greenwich Village, the burial ground was closed for business and a lovely park placed on top of it.
While this might seem truly morbid, in fact the city considered this a preventative and sanitary option. According to city records, a recommendation was made that "the present burial ground might serve extremely well for plantations of grove and forest trees, and thereby, instead of remaining receptacles of putrefying matter and hot beds of miasmata, might be rendered useful and ornamental."
Of course, in modern times, that "hot bed of miasmata" serves as one of New York's most bustling and vibrant outdoor spaces. But the city simply built over the burial ground. It was claimed during the 19th century that a blue mist could be seen hanging over the park at night, the creepy vapor of the remains underground.
It is believed that over 20,000 people are still buried here. Bodies are routinely uncovered during excavations.
If you'd like more information on the history of Washington Square Park, you might like my audio walking tour, which takes you through the park and around its perimeter.
St. Marks Church-in-the Bowery - Second Burial Ground
One of the East Village's most historic landmarks, St. Marks Church-in-the-Bowery has a very famous burial area on its immediate land, strewn with the vault markers of famed families, as well as that of New Amsterdam director-general Peter Stuyvesant. But the congregation owned another burial ground one block north for less wealthy members of the community. Most notably, many stars of the theater were buried here, including Stephen Price, impresario of New York's famed Park Theater.
According to historian Mary French, the land was donated to the church by Peter Stuyvesant IV, with an unusual stipulation, " that any of his present or former slaves and their children have the right to be interred in the burial ground free of charge."
This yard was closed for several years before St Mark's finally sold it in 1864, and the bodies were moved to Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn and Queens.
Probably late 1790s-1815
Potter's fields -- where the poor or unclaimed were buried -- moved frequently around the city as land values improved with the city's growth. This particular area at 14th Street was once comfortably outside of town, but its proximity near Bloomingdale Road (the future Broadway) soon required its functions as a burial plot be transferred to other usable fields, like Washington Square.
The land here was transformed into the elliptical-shaped Union Place, a strolling park surrounded by an iron fence. By the 1830s, Samuel Ruggles would modify it further into New York's toniest park, Union Square, luring the wealthy who quickly built homes of 'costly magnificence' around it.
For more on the history of Union Square, check out our podcast history on this fascinating park.
Picture courtesy New York Public Library
Madison Square Park
The short duration of this burial ground stems from the fact that it was used only to inter those who died at nearby at the hospital at nearby Belle Vue Farm (today's Bellevue Hospital) and the local almshouse during a devastating yellow fever epidemic. Later, with fears of a new war with England looming, the land was given to the U.S. Army as an arsenal, and the land that was later Washington Square became the official place to bury the dead.
There's some evidence to suggest that some of the remains were never moved.
1823-40 but possibly used as late as 1847
Yet another burial plot for paupers, still further north of city center. Soon however the adjoining land became an ideal spot to put the Croton Reservoir, supplying the city with drinking water. And, well, it wouldn't do to have a bunch of graves next to that, would it? After a duration as the location of the grand Crystal Palace Exposition, the land was turned into a park, named after editor William Cullen Bryant.
While it's unclear whether the old potter's field grants the park any kind of supernatural aura, the New York Public Library (on the site of the old Reservoir) provides some of the more interesting specters from the film Ghostbusters.
Park Avenue and 49th Street
In the early 18th century, the area soon to become known as Park Avenue, the richest street in America, was home to railroad tracks, cattle yards, various grim asylums and, yes, Manhattan's last potter's field.
Before Columbia University moved to Washington Heights, it was located here in this area of today's Midtown. The campus sat near this unpleasant spot, a potter's field so shockingly maintained that "the ends of coffins still protruded from the ground," according to historian Edward Sandford Martin, "a malodorous neighbor much in evidence and disrepute."
In the late 1850s, the city forced the potter's field off the island entirely, and the bodies were slated for removal to Ward's Island (today attached to Randall's Island). Given municipal corruption and delays, however, the project took years, with train passengers often greeted with the sight of coffin stacks and grisly open pits.
Today, that former burial plot is occupied by the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel, built on the property in 1931, long since transformed by the burial of tracks into Grand Central Terminal.
NOTE: Some of the dates above are estimates, as record keeping for these kinds of things is rather hit and miss! Many dates are from Carolee Inskeep's exhaustive survey of old New York burial grounds The Graveyard Shift.
And if you're in a Halloween mood, visit our blog and download our latest Halloween-themed podcast, Early Ghost Stories of Old New York!
#TheLIST: New York's Most Historic Night Clubs
With places like these, is it any wonder the city never sleeps?
New York City nightlife has always been pivotal within pop culture. From Copacabana to Studio 54 here's a look at the clubs that set the standard for the New York social scene.
Located within the heart of Harlem, the exclusive club was known for their highly accredited blues and jazz performers such as Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.
One of the oldest and most historic nightclubs in NYC, the Latin themed night club oozed with Old Hollywood glamour and sophistication.With performances from some of the largest acts in show business this establishment has stood the test of time.
Pictured: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz at the legendary nightclub.
Known for the sticker clad walls and prominent rock performances, this venue founded by Hilly Kristal helped to usher in new American music genres and revolutionize culture in downtown Manhattan.
Pictured: Debbie Harry on the stage before a performance.
Located on East 14th street, the downtown club founded by Studio 54's Steve Rubell was known as one of New York's largest rock venues and dance clubs&mdashwith iconic music stars such as Madonna making appearances.
Studio 54 was the pillar of the New York club scene for many years. Founded by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager. Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Bianca Jagger and Brooke Shields and Diane von Furstenberg are only a few of the notable faces that graced the dance floor through the years.
Founded by Rudolf Piper and Jim Fouratt, Danceteria served as Madonna's "birthplace" in 1982, making the discotheque the It place to be.
Pictured: The Rolling Stones at Danceteria promoting their album Emotional Rescue.
With the club opening hosted by Andy Warhol, this nightlife attraction was destined for greatness. Owned by Peter Gatien, the church turned nightclub was at the center of the punk and disco scene in the '80s.
Located in Chelsea, the once warehouse terminal was transformed into an epic nightclub where a who's who of Hip-Hop came to party.
This famous club founded by Paul Sevigny, located in the West Village serving as the fashion sets go-to spot, had a short yet impactful tenure. It's been said that New York City nightlife died with this club, which felt more like a living room where Chloe Sevigny, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Kirsten Dunst and more came to dance.
15 Union Square West: A historic building gets reborn, and then some
Even if you didn't know its history or architecture, 15 Union Square West blows you away the second you walk into its model apartment.
A giant 31-by-21-foot room with 16-foot ceilings and 17-foot low-iron impeccably clear windows overlooking Union Square would normally be enough to overwhelm your real estate senses. But then you'd see the 15-foot cast-iron stanchions. Left over from the building's first life as the 1897 Tiffany & Co. headquarters, they curve toward the high ceilings like your own personal Roman aqueduct.
Don't worry if you don't know what a stanchion is I didn't either. Like the iron poles that hold together velvet ropes at a nightclub, a stanchion is an upright bar, post or frame forming a support or barrier. Eran Chen, the architect, and Brack Capital Real Estate, the developer, decided to highlight the stanchions, making them the focal point of the apartments on the building's first five floors.
Chen, then with Perkins Eastman and now running his own firm, ODA, enveloped the stanchions in a glass structure, constructing a building within a building fronted by low-iron Austrian glass. (I didn't know this either, but low-iron glass means it's clearer, completely see-through at night, and reflective during the day. A luxury building down the street has windows that appear warped in the sun. These do not.)
As if that's not enough, Chen created a series of sky villas on top of the original building. Almost all of them have huge terraces with park views.
With interiors by New York's Vicente Wolf, one of the world's top designers, the homes have exquisite details like 2-inch-tall horizontal air slits, uniform shades that come down from the top and up from the bottom, claw-foot bathtubs, limestone and oak foyers, and shagreen finishes - made of shark skin - under the master bathroom sinks. (Shagreen perfectly absorbs bathroom moisture and is easy to clean, something else I didn't know. Perfected by the master leather worker for France's King Louis XV, it's so rough, it feels smooth. Just touching it was luxury.)
Are you getting it yet? This is the finest, most complex and maybe even magical new condominium project currently for sale in New York City. Here's its story.
- The History: Built in 1897, the Tiffany & Co. building at 15 Union Square West (USW) was one of the most ornate cast-iron structures in the city. At that time, Union Square was a luxury commercial corridor. As the city's wealth shifted uptown, so did retailers. Amalgamated Bank took over the Tiffany building on Union Square.
In 1952, a piece of the original cast iron fell off the building's façade, striking a Brooklyn man who later died of his injuries. In response to the accident, Amalgamated stripped the building of all its cast iron except the stanchions. Holding up the building, they were hidden between a layer of sheetrock on the inside and white brick on the outside.
"We knew this building had something special inside," says architect Chen. "We had to decide what to do with it. Other developers wanted to demolish it. Not Brack. We all saw an opportunity to do something incredible here."
- The Developer: Incredible meant keep the stanchions and allow the floors to be high enough so that each apartment enjoyed the full view of the park through windows as tall as the original building's ceiling height. Most developers would have cut these floors up, forming as many apartments as possible to maximize space and profit. Brack, who renovated 90 West St. after the World Trade Center tragedy, ties preservation to profit.
"It was clear to us that we owed it to New York to bring this back as much as we could," says Issac Hera, managing director and CFO of Brack Capital Real Estate. "The trick was to make a modern home out of something historic. This project is so special, it will be hard to let go. I almost don't want to finish it. When something is this good, you just have to show it to people. That's all. You don't even have to talk about it."
- The Architect: Eran Chen visited the site more than a dozen times, staring at it, walking Union Square, imagining what would go there. All he could think about was how to keep the original structure visible to people inside the apartments and on the street.
"Every site has a certain inherited character," says Chen. "You cannot change that. You have to have a deep understanding of what the site is and what it wants to be. We looked for the right glass that at night would be so clear, people walking by could see the stanchions. To make sure the residents could have some privacy, we put in shades that rise from the floor that are more opaque. The shades that come down from the top are not as thick. I wanted also to have as much outdoor space for the new apartments on top of the old building. It becomes a part of the park now."
- The Interior Designer: Vicente Wolf is a world traveler. He goes where most travelers do not. He has been to Ethiopia, the hills of Bhutan, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea. In his knapsack and head, he brings products back.
For 15 USW, Wolf hand-drew the bathroom fixtures and doorknobs, created jointly with home hardware manufacturer Sherle Wagner. A bathroom spout can weigh up to 7 pounds. The interior doorknob, called the Nugget, retails for $287.
Brack hired Wolf because he combines ancient design motifs with modern materials. He has designed for Clive Davis. In the model apartment, Wolf topped an ancient drum with stone to match the front foyer. To accentuate height, he used recently fabricated tall and thin Egyptian vases as decorative objects.
"I do not accept what is common experience," says Wolf, who has authored two photography books. "Seeing things in different parts of the world frees me from local convention."