New York Songlines: 19th Street

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HUDSON RIVER



Chelsea Piers

Chelsea Piers by kwsnyc, on Flickr

A waterfront complex designed by Warren & Wetmore and opened in 1910, these piers were a major hub for both freight and passenger liners; many immigrants actually docked here first before being taken by ferry to Ellis Island. Troops departed from here to the European front in both world wars. Chelsea Piers by edenpictures, on Flickr

As passengers took to the air and freight traffic shifted to New Jersey, the Chelsea Piers declined, until by the 1980s they were almost demolished for the West Side Highway project. When that fell through, the piers were turned over to a private entity, Chelsea Piers Management, for development into a sports complex--which opened in stages starting in 1995.

Pier 60

Jesse Owens sailed from this pier in 1936 aboard the S.S. Manhattan to take part in the Berlin Olympics. Now houses the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers, featuring swimming, running, cycling, rock climbing, basketball, sand volleyball, boxing, weight lifting, yoga, pilates and more. Also the Pier 60 event space.


S <===           11TH AVENUE           ===> N

South:

IAC Building

Corner (555 W 18th): Star architect Frank Gehry's first major building serves as the headquarters of Barry Diller's InterActive Corp.

594: This was the address of Kamikazi, a straight disco where Bruce Willis worked as a bartender. Later became the gay disco Tracks.

524: Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert

512: The Kitchen, performance center that actually started out in the kitchen of the Mercer Arts Center. Now in a 1880s ice-house. Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson are on the board (Glass as chair).

High Line Park

Bridging the street here is a disused elevated railroad that was used to transport freight along the Westside waterfront, replacing the street-level tracks at 10th and 11th avenues that earned those roads the nickname "Death Avenue." Built in 1929 at a cost of $150 million (more than $2 billion in today's dollars), it originally stretched from 35th Street to St. John's Park Terminal, now the Holland Tunnel rotary.

Partially torn down in 1960 and abandoned in 1980, it now stretches from Gansevoort almost to 34th--mostly running mid-block, so built to avoid dominating an avenue with an elevated platform. In its abandonment, the High Line became something of a natural wonder, overgrown with weeds and even trees, accessible only to those who risked trespassing on CSX Railroad property.

In 2009 it was opened to the public as New York City's newest park; it truly transforms its neighborhood and hence the city, though it lost some of the World Without Us quality that was its original appeal.

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High Line Park
























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Fulton Houses

NYCHA








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Corner (146 10th Ave): Moran's Chelsea, classic Irish restaurant in an 1853 building.

459: Postmasters; art space

449: Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay lived here with her mother and two sisters (1919-20). While living here she dated critic Edmund Wilson.

Corner (169 9th Ave): La Bergamote, French cafe/bakery


S <===           9TH AVENUE           ===> N

South:

Bayard Ruskin High School for the Humanities

Joyce Theater

Corner (175 8th Ave): Built in 1942 as the Elgin cinema, converted to one of NYC's premier dance spaces. Named not for James Joyce, but for the developer's daughter. The renovation helped spark a return of arts and restaurants to Eighth Avenue.

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S <===           8TH AVENUE           ===> N

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Corner (176 8th Ave): Nisos; Greek

250: Chelsea Court













Chadwin House apartments

Corner (140 7th Ave): The doorman, when asked, did not know who Chadwin was. Built in 1962.

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263: Tello's; snug Italian

261: The Noose; custom-made fetish gear

257: Lingo; snarky boutique, notable for selling women's clothing in the heart of boy-friendly Chelsea.

251: Was New York Motion Picture, silent film studios

225: G; archetypal Chelsea gay bar.

219: Dance Theater Workshop; founded in 1965 to support emerging choreographers. Its Bessie Schoenberg Theater is one of the primary dance spaces in Manhattan.

Peter McManus

Corner (152 7th Ave): The McManus family has owned and run this great Old New York joint since 1936. Edward Norton drinks here in Keeping the Faith.


S <===           7TH AVENUE           ===> N

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Corner: Con Edison substation

146: Engine Co. No. 3 (founded 1865; here 1967).

144: La Maison Moderne, funky housewares

110: Metropolitan Pavilion; exhibition space


B. Altman building

Corner (621 6th Ave): Was the "Palace of Trade" from 1876 to 1906. Today’s Man was latest occupant.

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151: Was A Different Light Books, important gay bookstore driven out by soaring rents.

Simpson-Crawford building

Corner (641 6th Ave): Building with Motherhood Maternity was Simpson-Crawford department store (1900; earlier building on site, 1879; bankrupt 1915). No price tags here; if you had to ask, you couldn’t afford it. Architecture is more restrained because Simpson-Crawford did not want the business of elevated train passengers.


S <===           6TH AVENUE           ===> N

South:

Siegel-Cooper's "Big Store"

Corner (616-632 6th Ave): Bed Bath Beyond, Filene's Basement; TJ Maxx. Was Siegel-Cooper, "The Big Store--a City in Itself" (1896-1914). In its day, the center of NYC shopping; "meet me at the fountain" was a catch phrase, referring to the store's centerpiece, which featured Daniel Chester French's statue of The Republic (today in California's Forest Lawn Cemetery). Henry Siegal is credited with introducing the free sample.

44: This was the address of Caroline May, where her fiancee, publishing heir James Gordon Bennett Jr., urinated into the fireplace during their engagement party. May's outraged brother horsewhipped Bennett, and then challenged him to the last recorded duel in U.S. history. The disgraced Bennett went into exile in Paris, where he founded the International Herald-Tribune.



26: Kyotoya, Japanese imports, including tea sets and tea from the town of Kyotoya.

22: 19th Street Gym

14: Uncle Moe's, San Francisco-style burritos

12: Upstairs Downstairs Antiques

8-10: Food Works Flatiron

4: Portfolio Restaurant & Gallery

2: News Bar, cafe with lots of magazines

Corner (140 5th Ave): Aveda is in a 12-story building from 1902.

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55: Visual Miracles

53: L'Acajou, French bistro. The name means "The Mahogany."

51: Red Lounge; serves pizza

47-49: Tiger Schulmann's Karate. Schulmann was the North American full-contact karate champion for six years, and retired undefeated.

39: New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, formerly the School for Film and Television, an acting school. Julia Roberts is an alum, as is Lost's Matthew Fox. The Big Apple Ranch, a gay country bar, is at the same address.

37: Flatiron Lounge, a bar opened in 2003 with Art Deco style, including a 30-foot mahogany bar dating to 1927. Called "best new bar" and "best cocktail list" by Time Out New York--and their office is nowhere near here.

35: Was Magickal Childe, occult shop, center of the pagan revival of the early 1970s.

17: Go-Go, club and restaurant, was Discoteque. Earlier La Colonna, fashionable 1980s restaurant.

11: Goodstein Building, beaux arts, c. 1900. Now McGraw-Hill publishers. Sam Flax, anti-union art supply store, is on ground floor.

9: Revolution Books, Maoist bookstore owned by the Revolutionary Community Party.

5: Was Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siquieros' Experimental Workshop; where Jackson Pollack, in 1936, learned to drip and throw paint.

Corner (142 5th Ave): Weiss & Mahoney, "the Peaceful Army & Navy Store," is built on the site of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church (1852-75).


S <===           5TH AVENUE           ===> N

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Arnold Constable building

Corner: Nine West, Victoria's Secret are in former department store (1869-1914) that took up the entire block from 5th to 6th avenues; founded by Aaron Arnold and son-in-law James Constable, it offered "Everything From Cradle to Grave." Mary Todd Lincoln was a frequent customer, as well as Carnegies, Rockefellers and Morgans.

ABC Carpets' carpet department occupies the eastern portion; the store pioneered revitalization of Ladies' Mile in 1960s.




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Corner (119 5th): Sephora; futuristic perfume chain

9-11: Martin Albert Interiors

5: Nativa; pricey, high-gloss bar

3: Gramercy School



Gorham Building

Corner (889 Broadway): ( Fishs Eddy, which sells virtually indestructible china, was Gorham Manufacturing Co. (1884), silver factory and store. Owned by the Goelet family, whose mansion was a block up Broadway.


S <===           BROADWAY           ===> N

South:

ABC Carpets & Home

Corner (888 Broadway): Fascinating furniture store. Was W & J Sloane carpets (1881-1912), which introduced oriental rugs to NYC, and carpeted Waldorf-Astoria, the coronation of Czar Nicholas II and the homes of NYC's elite. W(illiam) Sloane was foreman of jury that convicted Boss Tweed (1873).

30: Pipa, delicious tapas in a genie’s cave.




38: Le Pain Quotidien was 47th Street Photo

Corner (230 Park S): Burson-Marsteller, evil PR company; Poggen Pohl, "the ultimate kitchen"

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Corner (890-892 Broadway): Lawrence A. Wein Center for Dance and Theater; Loews 19th Street multiplex on ground floor. From 1899 to c. 1920, No. 890 was the address of McLoughlin Bros., pioneering children's book and game company.

35: Was home to Horace Greeley (1850-53), then editor of the New York Tribune. He kept a goat in the backyard.

39: Lamu, named for a Kenyan island, replaced Caffe Adulis, an Eritrean restaurant.

41: Was Toyo Kwan, 1930s Japanese.

43-45: Craft, spendy restaurant with do-it-yourself menu

47: Was Craftbar, more affordable version of Craft

49: Was 'wichcraft, the Craft thing in sandwich form


S <===           PARK AVENUE SOUTH           ===> N

South:

Corner: Angelo & Maxie's; flagship of steak chain named for the joint in "Lullaby of Broadway" where the "daffydils" entertain.

106: Tracy J's Watering Hole; owned by a celebrity who is not all that famous, so he has to explain who he is (some kind of basketball player) on a banner outside his bar. I find this a bit sad.

IRT Substation

108: This now-vacant structure, modelled on an Italian Renaissance pallazo, was built in 1902-04 to transfer power to the IRT line's third rail. When the Interborough Rapid Transit Co. was given permission to build a series of these, this proviso was included in the city's grant: "The railway and its equipment as contemplated by the contract constitute a great public work. All parts of the structure where exposed to public sight shall therefore be designed, constructed, and maintained with a view to the beauty of their appearance, as wall as to their efficiency."

112-114: Ruggles House; industrial loft building put up in 1913-14 was home to a variety of liberal groups, including the American Student Union, the League for Industrial Democracy, the American League for Peace and Democracy, International Labor Defense, etc.

116: Built c. 1851; alteration 1920-21.

118: Built c. 1851, but the facade is from 1944.

120: Brownstone built in 1853 and largely unaltered; muckraker Ida Tarbell lived here 1913-40.

122 (corner): Built c. 1853 as an Italianate rowhouse facing 19th Street; retrofitted in 1908 to have a storefront facing Irving Place. Now occupied by Choshi sushi, named for a Japanese fishing village.

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Corner (239 Park S): City Crab; Duke’s, Southern-themed

105: 1896 neo-Renaissance apartment building






109: Built in 1896 by banker Elihu Townsend, this Anglo-Italianate brownstone was home until 1906 to James Huslop, a prominent physician, and other doctors subsequently lived here. In 1985 Nick Pileggi wrote Wise Guy: Life in a Mafia Family here, and he and Martin Scorcese later adapted it here into the screenplay for Goodfellas.



111-113: Anglo-Italianate houses built c. 1855 by Judge Thomas J. Oakley. No. 113 was the office of the architectural firm of Herts & Tallant-- known for the New Amsterdam and Lyceum theaters--and the home of Henry Herts.

115-117: Anglo-Italianate brownstones built c. 1853.

119: Note stained glass. This was the headquarters of the League for Industrial Democracy, which was the parent organization of Students for a Democratic Society--but the LID changed the locks to keep the SDS out in 1962, for being insufficiently anti-Communist.




123 (corner): Bizarre terra cotta gargoyles and other creatures-- you really must check this out.


S <===           IRVING PLACE           ===> N

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The Block Beautiful

The eclectic architecture of this block is much celebrated.













124: Note Dutch-style gables




132: (1910; Frederick Sterner) Actresses Theda Bara, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Ethel Barrymore and Helen Hayes all are said to have lived here at one time or another; it also claims muckraker Ida Tarbell.

146: Painter George Bellows lived here 1910-25. Note studio skylight. Friends like Emma Goldman, John Reed and Eugene O'Neill often came over.

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127: Gothic (1854)

129: Former carriage house in Gothic style (1861)

131: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald came to a dinner party here at the house of critic Ernest Boyd; they fell asleep over the soup, Boyd recalled, with Scott later ''waking up suddenly again to telephone an order for two cases of champagne, together with a fleet of taxis to take us to a nightclub.''

135: Gothic (1845; remodeled by Sterner, 1920s)

139: Tuscan (1842-43). Home of architect Frederick Sterner, who designed or remodeled much of the block.

141: (1843; remodeled by Sterner) Sportscaster Ted Husing; note jockeys

145: Note tiles; a Sterner redesign.

147-149: (1861) Ceramics by Richard Winthrop Chandler

151: Novelist Carl Van Vechten, New York Times music critic, threw wild parties here with painter George Bellows. "I went there in the evening a young girl and came away in the morning an old woman."--Ethyl Barrymore

Corner (226 3rd): Piccolo Cafe; was Pitchoune, French bistro.


S <===           3RD AVENUE           ===> N

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234: Max Beckmann, German painter whose work was called "degenerate" by the Nazis, lived here in 1949-50.



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217: Donald Westlake's antihero Dortmunder lives here, or hereabouts.

Cabrini Medical Center

227: When Andy Warhol was shot in 1968, he was taken here to what was then Columbus Hospital--built in 1931, founded in 1891. Renamed for Mother Frances Cabrini, the first U.S. citizen to become a saint--certainly a better namesake than Columbus, who really was a monster.




S <===           2ND AVENUE           ===> N

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314: Menno House; offices of the Mennonite Central Committee, and the Peace and Anabaptist Library.





359: Christ Church Lutheran; founded 1868, building from 1948.

361: Philip Xavier School

Corner (327 1st Ave): Donna's Deli

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Corner: Augustus Saint-Gaudens Playground; named for sculptor of Farragut Memorial, Madison Square; Peter Cooper statue, Cooper Union; Sherman statue, Grand Army Plaza.

319: Augustus Saint-Gaudens Public School 40; built 1897-98 on the site of an earlier public school that sculptor Saint-Gaudens is believed to have attended.

Corner (329 1st Ave): MJ Armstrong's; pub opened in December 2001 and named after Michael Joseph Armstrong, a Cantor Fitzgerald employee who was killed in the September 11 attacks.


S <===           1ST AVENUE           ===> N

Rioters clashed with police at this intersection during the Draft Riots of 1863.

South:

Peter Cooper Village

420-440: Built in the late 1940s by Met Life Insurance Co. as affordable housing; now being converted to market-rate rentals. Built on the site of the notorious Gashouse District, where fumes from chemical plants kept out all but the poorest immigrants. Terrorized by the Gashouse Gang.


          FDR DRIVE          




EAST RIVER







Is your favorite 19th Street spot missing? Write to Jim Naureckas and tell him about it.

New York City Walk has a good photo essay on East 19th Street, featuring the "Block Beautiful."

New York Songlines home.

Sources for the Songlines.

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