New York Songlines: 24th Street

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HUDSON RIVER



Pier 64: Downtown Boathouse gives free kayaking lessons on the Hudson here.




S <===         12TH AVENUE               ===> N

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Thomas Smith Park

Named for a secretary of Tammany Hall's executive committee; mostly used as a dog run.









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U.S. Postal Service Vehicle Maintenance Facility












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

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530: LFL, cutting-edge gallery.

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. This section of the park was opened to visitors in 2011.

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Gagosian Gallery

555: Features work by big-name contemporary artists like Richard Serra, Damien Hirst, David Salle, Julian Schnabel.

High Line Park






















S <===           10TH AVENUE           ===> N

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London Terrace Apartments

Massive building with 1,670 units built in 1930. Built over and named for an 1845 strip of Greek Revival houses, aka "Millionaires' Row," designed by Alexander Jackson Davis.

London Terrace Post Office (10011)




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463: Chelsea Commons; seedy charm

437-459: These 12 houses from 1849-50 are landmarked; their landscaped front yards are enough to make them out of the ordinary in Manhattan.

411: Was the address of the Fireside Inn, described in a 1939 guidebook as "Cape Cod come to town."

401 (corner): El Quinto Pino, tiny tapas bar that's really a bar--no tables. The name means "The Fifth Pine" in Spanish--an expression that means roughly "where Christ lost his shoes."


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Penn South Houses

From 23rd to 29th streets between 8th and 9th avenues is a 1962 housing co-op built by the Ladies Garment Workers Union to provide housing for Garment District workers.

334 1/2: This defunct address was the site of the 24th Street Clubhouse, opened in 1940 as the first official meetingplace for Alcoholics Anonymous. Torn down 1959.

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359: St. Eleftherios, Greek orthodox church.











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

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250: Chelsea Gardens

McBurney YMCA

206: The oldest Y in NYC moved to this location 1904; recently moved to 14th Street. Named for Robert Ross McBurney, an early leader of the Y movement. Merrill met Lynch in the swimming pool (1913); other members have included Edward Albee, Andy Warhol and Al Pacino. William Saroyan stayed here when he came to NY in 1928, as did Keith Haring 50 years later. This Y inspired Village People's "YMCA."

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253: Jeanne D'arc Home

243: Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center; since 1959.

241: Chelsea Apartments; short-term apartments in a Chelsea brownstone as an alternative to hotels.

225: High School of Fashion Industries; dedicated to preparing students for fashion-industry careers.

Chelsea Mercantile Apartments

Corner (252 7th Ave): Formerly a federal building dating to 1906, now luxury rentals; has a Whole Foods on the ground floor.


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

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160: Marriott Execustay at The Chelsea; short-term furnished housing. Dedicated to Marcello Ruffino Roffi (1914-88).




140: Used to be Paddles, billed as "The Friendly S&M Club."




124: Olde Good Things, an antique store linked to the cult-like Church of Bible Understanding. They were lampooned on Seinfeld as the ''Carpet-Cleaning Cult.''

108: Hampton Inn Chelsea, a new high-rise hotel. I can't decide if the building--distinguished by a big glass square--is really ugly or kind of interesting.

"The Corner"

Corner (729 6th Ave): Empire Bagels was Koster & Bial's Concert Hall beer garden annex--known as "The Corner" (written on the corner of building). Later Billy's Topless, a neighborhood institution shut down by Giuliani.

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Corner (245 7th Ave): Chelsea Atelier; when this 1912 building was converted to luxury condos in 1997, it signaled a boom in the Chelsea real estate market. The same company that did the terra cotta here worked on the Flatiron and Woolworth Tower.

157: XES Lounge, called New York's best gay bar by New York Blade in 2004

Dusk Lounge

147: Generally mellow, atmospheric lounge with shattered mirrors on the walls and one-way mirrors in the bathrooms, and the most genuinely friendly bartenders I have ever met.

131: Was the studios of Kalem, the silent film company, before it moved to Southern California. Kalem--named for owners George Kleine, Samuel Long and Frank Marion--made the first film version of Ben Hur in 1907, with a chariot race shot a Sheepshead Bay. The studio made the first film shot on location outside the U.S.--The Lad From Old Ireland-- and its retelling of the Gospel story, From the Manger to the Cross, was the first five-reel picture ever made.

Gay Men's Health Crisis

119: GMHC, established in 1982 to combat the then-brand new AIDS epidemic, is located in the Tisch Building, dedicated in 1997.


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

South:




46 : The back entrance to the Masonic Lodge.

42: New York Web Partners










Stanford White Lovenest

22: This building, now humbly occupied by 22 Century Carpet, was once the hideaway by the noted architect, complete with a mirror-lined room and the notorious red velvet swing. His invitations to young women to come up and see his etchings here gave birth to the cliche. Here he began his fateful affair with 16-year-old showgirl Evelyn Nesbit. Five years later, after Nesbit married, White was shot and killed by her jealous husband, Harry K. Thaw, on the roof of White's Madison Square Garden. The building collapsed in 2007 after a 2003 fire--a sad end to a piece of New York history.







6: Ottimo Ristorante

Corner (200 5th Ave): International Toy Center, since 1925 center of U.S. toy business; note toy and holiday displays. Replaced Fifth Avenue Hotel (1858-1908), once the most exclusive hotel in NYC. Gathering place for fat cats like Boss Tweed, Jay Gould, Jim Fisk and Commodore Vanderbilt, who would would trade stocks here after hours. Also hangout for cultural types like Mark Twain, O. Henry, Edwin Booth, William Cullen Bryant and Stanford White. Setting of Gore Vidalís 1876. Earlier was Franconi's Hippodrome (1852-59); before that was Corporal Thompson's Madison Cottage, a roadhouse described by New York Herald as "one of the most agreeable spots for an afternoon's lounge in the suburbs of our city."

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53: During Prohibition there was a speakeasy at this address called Chez Desert, where "Dottie" promised a "gang of entertainers and hostesses (blondes, brunettes and redheads)."

47: Site of Martz Hotel, where O. Henry stayed when he first came to NYC in 1902.

43: Screw, New York's leading sex tabloid.

41: The Great New York Deli

27: Eugene, swanky retro nightclub. Includes Gypsy Tea.

25: La Samanna Inn, low-priced hotel named for a fancy hotel on the Caribbean's St. Martin.

19: Was The Cutting Room, restaurant and performance space owned by Chris Noth-- Sex and the City's "Mr. Big." Featured Le Scandal, an erotic cabaret formerly known as The Blue Angel--now moved to the West Bank Cafe on 42nd Street.

13: For many years this was the site of the Deutsherverein, or German Club, until it moved to 59th Street in 1890.

7: Universal Force Yoga

Corner (1107 Broadway): Toy Center North. Note skywalk connecting to Toy Center South (see below). Built on the site of the Albemarle Hotel; Sarah Bernhardt stayed here when she made her U.S. debut in 1880, her room redecorated in Parisian style to remind her of home; Lily Langtry stayed in same suite on her first U.S. visit, in 1882, but on opening night watched the theater burn down through opera glasses from the hotel.

BROADWAY       ===> N

Worth Square

Memorial to William Jenkins Worth, general who fought in the Seminole and Mexican wars, namesake of Ft. Worth, Texas and downtown's Worth St. Died of cholera in San Antonio, 1849; buried here 1857. Rectangular structure leads to Water Tunnel No. 1, carrying water from Catskills.

In 1899, an arch made of wood and plaster was erected over 5th Avenue between 25th and 24th streets to celebrate Admiral George Dewey's destruction of the Spanish fleet in Manilla Bay. Only Dewey's rapid fall in popularity prevented it from being replaced with a permanent stone version.


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

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Madison Square Park

The 1807 plan set aside 240 acres in this vicinity as The Parade, to be used for military training. By 1814, when it was named Madison Square after the current president, it had been reduced to 90 acres. In 1847, when Madison Square Park was opened, less than seven acres remained.

The park, which was laid out in its current form in 1870, was the center of New York society in the 1860s and '70s. "The vicinity of Madison Square is the brightest, prettiest and liveliest portion of the great city," James McCabe wrote in 1872.

The park provides a setting for O. Henry short stories like "The Cop and the Anthem" and "The Sparrows in Madison Square".

Eternal Light; WWI memorial flagpole (1918-23)


S <===           MADISON AVENUE           ===> N

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Met Life Tower

Designed by Napoleon LeBrun & Sons in 1909, it was the world's tallest building for four years (until the Woolworth Tower). It replaced the Madison Square Presbyterian Church (1855-1906), which was noted for being the pulpit of the Rev. Charles Parkhurst, a crusader against vice and corruption; his famous "undercover" tour of the underworld is chronicled in the book Low Life.









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Credit Suisse/First Boston

Corner (11 Madison): Built as Met Life North Building (1929), which is why the two buildings are connected by skyways; 100 stories planned, but stopped by Depression at 29. Expansions took over entire block by 1950. Considered an Art Deco masterwork; amazing corner arcades. Price Waterhouse a tenant here.

11 Madison Park is an expensive-but-worth-it restaurant on the 24th Street side owned by Union Square Cafe's Danny Meyer, featuring New American cuisine in a beautiful Art Deco dining room.

When the Madison Square Presbyterian Church was torn down to build the Met Life Tower in 1906, a new church was built on this corner, a Greek-style temple designed by Stanford White. It in turn was torn down in 1919 to make room for Met Life's expansion.


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

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124: Site of poet Wallace Stevens' New York home.

132-134: According to Walking the Flatiron, these four-story muddy-yellow brick houses resemble the one at 104 E. 26th Street, long since demolished, where Herman Melville lived.









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117: Copperfield's, formerly Miller's Harness Co.; the last survivor of Old Stable Row--a block of horse-and-buggy related businesses.

123: Peoples Improv Theater was the Blue Heron theater.

125: St. Francis Residence provides housing for homeless people with mental health issues. Founded in 1980 by three Franciscan brothers who converted the Hotel Beechwood, at that point a 100-room SRO, into their first home. The hotel is listed in a 1901 directory; in 1960 it was cited as a lodging bargain where you could get a single room for $2.63 a night. It remains a beautiful red-brick building.


S <===           LEXINGTON AVENUE           ===> N

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George Washington Hotel

Corner: Opened 1928; Christopher Isherwood and W.H. Auden stayed in 1939; Auden called it "much the nicest hotel in town." Entrance is on Lexington.

Ground-floor corner features the New York Student Housing Center.

144: Apartments have a bust of Washington over the door.


















168: American Dream Hostel

Corner: Gramercy Pawnbrokers

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Baruch College

CUNY's business school. Originally the business school of the College of the City of New York, the school was renamed in 1953 for for financier and presidential advisor Bernard Baruch, CCNY class of 1889. This building is Baruch's new "Vertical Campus"--one of the few new buildings that make the 21st Century seem like it might be fun. The Lexington side features the campus bookstore.

Among the buildings replaced by the Baruch's Vertical Campus were:

139: A stable built by Fiss, Doerr & Carroll Horse Company, which claimed to be the largest horse dealership in the world. Later was H. Kauffman & Sons Saddlery Co., which used to display Tom Thumb's tiny coach.

145: Was an 1887 stable taken over by Fiss, Doerr & Carroll.

147: Was Fiss, Doerr & Carroll's main horse auction mart--a splendid 1907 Beaux Art building that could seat a thousand customers around an enormous ring.

155: Was Fiss, Doerr & Carroll's seven-story stable, also built 1907. Later became RCA Victor Studios, where Elvis Presley recorded "Hound Dog" and "Don't Be Cruel" in 1956. Other musicians who used the recording facilities here include Marian Anderson, Harry Belafonte and Perry Como.


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

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200: The Crystal House; 1972 apartment building








238: Marti Kebab Restaurant

Corner: Mike's Pizza

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201 (corner): East Side Inn. Bar on ground floor is Spread, called the best make-out bar in NYC by Time Out New York.

The Marcel apartments

215: Penny Lane, 1977 apartment building whose lobby is designed to look like a London street.

225: Casa Mia, homey Italian

241: New York Comedy Club

245 (corner): Tracy Towers (apartments)


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

This block is closed to traffic.

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East Midtown Plaza Apartments

The AIA Guide is very excited about this 1972-74 complex, calling it "an ode to brick." It does not seem like well-planned urban space, though--the plaza seems kind of uninhabitable.








340: International Center for the Disabled; a rehabilitation center.

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305 (corner): New York Towers, 1966 apartment building








345: NYU's Schwartz Hall of Dental Science; includes a reduced-cost dental clinic.



Corner: Site of Walsh's Steak House; noted for great, thick broiled pork chops.


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

VA Medical Center










Is your favorite 24th Street spot missing? Write to Jim Naureckas and tell him about it.

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