New York Songlines: 26th Street

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HUDSON RIVER



Pier 66A: Kayaking lessons are given here by Downtown Boathouse.



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South:

U.S. Postal Service Vehicle Maintenance Facility









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Starrett-Lehigh Building

601: Nine miles of strip windows surround this 19-story, block-filling former factory-warehouse, now lofts; the AIA Guide calls it a "landmark of modern architecture" since its construction in 1931. The south entrance features offices for Martha Stewart Living, the headquarters of Club Monaco and Hugo Boss, the multimedia company Palm Pictures, the International Poster Center, the Pilates studio Stretch and several photography studios.


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

South:

534: Gorney Bravin + Lee

530: John Connelly Presents, a small, innovative gallery.

528: Galerie Lelong also has galleries in Paris and Zurich.

526: West Chelsea Arts Building features a number of art galleries, including Clementine, Greene Naftali, Ten in One and Henry Urbach Architecture. Bose Pacia features modern South Asian art. From 1979-85, this was Funhouse, an electro/break-dancing club. New Order's video "Confusion" was filmed here.

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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North:

527: Team Gallery

521: De Chiara












High Line Park
























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

South:

Elliott Houses

Named for Dr. John L. Elliott, a leader in the Society for Ethical Culture and founder of the Hudson Guild, an important Chelsea social agency.

Chelsea Houses











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Elliott Houses






W 27TH DR         N ===>

Corner (281 9th Ave): Chelsea School (PS 33), K-6. Also houses PS 138 for autistic children.




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

South:

Penn South Houses

Stretching from 23rd to 29th streets between 8th and 9th avenues, this 1962 housing co-op was built by the Ladies Garment Workers Union to provide housing for the Garment District.

Manor Community Church; congregation founded 1855, building from 1907.

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Penn South Houses

Maverick Theater

This performane space under a supermaket under a tennis court is home to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, a coalition of improv groups that got kicked out of their old home, a former strip club on West 22nd, because it was a firetrap. UCBT is one of the cultural gems of New York City--highly recommended.


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

South:

Cormer (320 8th Ave): Daniella, an Italian that has, according to Zagat, some of the best food in Chelsea.

250: Former Wells Fargo building is now Paddles, "the friendly S/M club." Also home to Pandora's Box, another S/M dungeon.

242: Was Wessel + O'Connor Gallery (1997-2001)-- moved to DUMBO

236: On the 8th floor here is the Jazz Record Center, which has an incredible inventory of jazz classics.






200 (corner): Chelsea Centro; new apartments. Built on the site of Guffanti's, gaslight-era restaurant.

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Corner (322 8th Ave): This building--once the Pennsylvania Exchange Bank--houses offices of Amnesty International, Bacon's clipping service, the Chakrasambara Buddhist Center and the Rotary Club of New York.

Chelsea Television Studios

221: Home of the Ricki Lake Show and Judge Hatchett. Was Adolph Zukor's Famous Players, a silent film company that featured Broadway actors in adaptations of classics; after merging with other film companies, it became Paramount Studios. Mel Brooks' The Producers was shot here in 1967.

Fashion Institute of Technology

Corner: A state university founded in 1944 to provide "an MIT for the fashion industries." The architecture looks inspired by Stonehenge. On this block is the school's Museum of Fashion.


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

South:

Lefcourt Clothing Center

Corner (275 7th Ave): This 1929 building originally housed garment workshops, one of the first lofts built for that purpose; now houses the garment workers' union UNITE--the merged ILGWU and ACTWU. Organic Market is on this corner on the ground floor.

160: Was Minnesota Fats billiards supplies

158: New York Dance Center offers everything from ballroom dancing to Japanese sword-fighting.

156: Chelsea Bicycles

154: Below Co Co Sushi is Muse Karaoke Studio--very friendly, nice song selection and really good TVs.

152: Benisty Hair, fashion-y salon. Upstairs is MK Park Martial Arts Center--Tae Kwon Do.

150: Maxine Grand fabrics; Empire Pump & Motor

144: Lois Hanier, "an inoffensive French Saloon keeper," was murdered here on Christmas Eve 1881 by one Michael McGloin. Inspector Thomas Byrnes' capture of McGloin has been described as "one of the finest pieces of detective work ever done in any city."

134: Chelsea Arts Building

132: 26th St Gourmet Deli was Mother West Deli-- in undoubtedly the oldest building on the block. Recently demolished, unfortunately.

130: A1 Color Lab

Neutral Ground

122: The prime gathering place for players of collectible card games and fantasy roleplaying games (e.g. Dungeons & Dragons). The building is the Dezer Building; downstairs is Permanent Foliage: Replica and Preserved Botanicals-- i.e., fake plants.

114: Was Metropolitan Fencing, sword-fighting school-- complete with Touche Cafe.

110: New York Wood Flooring Corp showroom

100 (corner): Chelsea Tower--new, slightly sinister highrise.

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North:

177 (corner): Building that was S&W (Summer & Winter?) clothing has attractive brick arches.









165: S&W Ladies Wear--remnant of the long-running store on the corner.

155: Sculpture House Casting

153: Zucker's Fine Gifts







147: KDM Hardware

143: Burgundy Wine Company holds nightly tastings.

135: Studio of Mercer Media (formerly on Mercer Street), where the CounterSpin radio show is produced. During the blackout of August 28, 2003 I had to walk up 12 flights of pitch-black stairs here to escort my pregnant wife down. A theater seems to be going in here on the ground floor.

127: Black Door Bar was the site of the first-ever reunion of interns from The Nation magazine, October 3, 2002.



119: Marjorie's Catering; On the Move Events

117: Avenue A Cards, art postcards and posters--transplanted from St Marks Place, I believe.

111: Montauk Credit Union

105: Sewtech Sewing Machine Co. shows the block's Garment District roots.

99: Time Sewing Machine Co., another survivor

Corner (775 6th Ave): FAS: Fifth Avenue Style, cheap clothing


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

South:

Chelsea Landmark

Block: This 35-story apartment building in 2007 replaced a parking lot with big weekend flea market--featured in the children's book My New York. "Kristen," the professional escort whose assignation with Gov. Elliot Spitzer led to his resignation, lived here at the time the scandal broke.

38: The Block USA Sportswear

36: Sirtaj, Indian take-out; I often eat the vegetable biryani here.

30: Was Markus Antique Gallery, including the International Antiques Center.

28: The building with the yellow-painted ground floor was the Hotel Caledonia, where writer O. Henry lived (1906-07) before moving to the Chelsea Hotel; he kept a room here for writing. He collapsed here June 3, 1910, and died two days later.

26: The Lambs Club, an actors' society, had its first permanent offices at this address. Among its many famous members are counted Fred Astaire, Gene Autry, several Barrymores, Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan, Cecil B. DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks, William S. Hart, Victor Herbert, Bert Lahr, Alan J. Lerner, Frederick Loewe, Ring Lardner, Will Rogers and John Philip Sousa. By 1897, the brownstone had become the first clubhouse of the Yale Club. Now a parking lot.

22-24: Metro Line was Regal Wear

20: A well-preserved classic brownstone (sans stoop).

16: Built in 1866 as Trinity Chapel's Clergy House; now offices for St. Sava.

St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral

15: Back entrance. Before 1943, this was the Epicopalian Trinity Chapel, an satellite of downtown's Trinity Church, built 1850-55 to a Richard Upjohn plan. (He also did downtown's Trinity Church and what is now The Limelight.) Diarist George Templeton Strong was a member of the congregation; novelist Edith Wharton was (unhappily) married here in 1885.

After being sold to the Orthodox, the church was renamed for the first archbishop of Serbia. The exiled King Peter II of Yugoslavia attended mass here in the 1940s.

St. James Building

Corner (1133 Broadway): This ornate 1897 office building, surmounted by Ionic pillars, provided offices for architects, including its designer, Bruce Price, and the Flatiron's Daniel Burnham. Future Israeli prime minister Golda Meir worked here for the Pioneer Women's Organization for Palestine (1932-34). From 1965 to 1968, this was the base of the Mattachine Society, the leading pre-Stonewall gay rights group. Back to Africa Imports is on the ground floor on the 26th Street side.

Built on the site of the fashionable St James Hotel, which Confederate saboteurs tried to burn down on November 25, 1864.

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55 (corner): The orangey brick Capitol at Chelsea was built on the site of The Racquet Club, the first sports club in NYC. Later the University Athletic Club. The building, the most interesting on this stretch of 6th Avenue, was landmarked, but money spoke louder than architecture. The Antique Cafe on the ground floor used to be a block away on 25th Street.








37: The Princess Marion Kiamie building houses Satalla, the "temple of world music"; Stepping Out Studios, which offers free "OutDancing" gay dance classes; Gstaad, Swiss-themed lounge; and Kavehaz, a jazz gallery cafe bar restaurant.

35: Sportstar USA

33: Mite Inc Imports Exports & Wholesale

31: B.W. Sportswear

29: The Von-Hoffman building, with fancy pillars, houses the Latin American Restaurant.

25: A handsome red brick building, defaced on the lowest two floors, houses The Source Clothing Company, affiliated with the hip-hop magazine.

23: For a time this was the headquarters of the Communist Party USA; the offices were bombed a half-dozen times from 1964 to 1972, with a particularly powerful blast in 1966 destroying the stained glass in St. Sava's apse.

21: Writers House literary agency-- which represents such writers as Nora Roberts, Ken Follett, Erica Jong and Neil Gaiman-- is in the former HQ of the Astor family real estate empire. A cute little old house.

19: A-1 Hats, wholesaler

15-17: Pro-Land Inc. wholesale sportswear. Upstairs is The Breathing Project, nonprofit yoga space.

13: Thunderbird Sportswear, hat and cap wholesaler


















Corner (1141 Broadway): Houses wholesalers Epoch USA (hats), Fortuna Jewelry.


S <===           BROADWAY           ===> N

South:

Block (212 5th Ave): The 5th Avenue corner was the site of Dodworth Studios, where Teddy Roosevelt took dance lessons as a boy. In 1876 Delmonico's, at the time the most fashionable restaurant in New York, moved here. This location was the birthplace of Lobster Newberg and Eggs Benedict. The women's organization Sorosis met in an upstairs room. When Delmonico's moved uptown in 1899, it became Cafe Martin, where on June 25, 1906 architect Stanford White had his last meal before being shot at his Madison Square Garden. This building went up in 1913; the FX cable channel was here in the 1990s.

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Corner (1146 Broadway): Was Price Leader Inc.







Corner (220 5th Ave): Crystal Clear Galleries is on the ground floor of the Croisic Building (1912)--on the site of the Croisic Hotel, named for Richard de Logerot, Marquis de Croisic, aristocrat and hotelier. Fancy gargoyles on the upper floors.


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

South:

Madison Square Park

The 1807 plan set aside 240 acres in this vicinity as The Parade, to be used for military training. In that same year, the U.S. Arsenal was built here to defend the strategic intersection of the Bloomingdale Road (now Broadway) and the Eastern Post Road. By 1814, when the park was named Madison Square after the then-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.

In July 1901, an attempt to turn seating in the park into a for-profit concession sparked rioting.

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

The U.S. Arsenal was converted by 1824 to the House of Refuge of the Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents--the first such institution in the country.

Admiral Farragut Memorial

1881 commemoration of David Glasgow Farragut, Civil War fleet commander, best remembered for his "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" line. Sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, pedestal by Stanford White. Considered to be the first use of Art Nouveau in U.S.

Chester Arthur Statue

Commemorates the 21st president, who lived and took his oath of office nearby on Lexington Avenue.

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In Willa Cather's My Mortal Enemy, protagonist Myra Henshawe lives in a brownstone on this block, in an era when fashionable townhouses lined Madison Square.

Gift Building

Corner (225 5th Ave): Handsome red-brick building was formerly the Brunswick Hotel, noted as the home of the Coaching Club, which held carriage parades up 5th Avenue. Waldorf chef Oscar Tschirky and restaurateur Louis Sherry got their starts here as bellhops. On July 14, 1880, on the 16th day of a celebrated 40-day fast, Dr. Henry S. Tanner stopped here and drank two ounces of water. It's now "the premiere international giftware showplace." On the ground floor was Cafe Atomico (1998-2004).







11: House International Silver Co. and other silverware wholesalers. This building was used for rooftop shots in Spider-Man 2.



15: Madison Square Building houses, among others, the Vietnamese-American Chamber of Commerce. This used to be the headquarters of Lionel Trains; on the second floor there was a huge model train layout surrounded by display cases of older Lionel train sets.

21: This four-story Georgian-style building was built in 1926 by textile maker Clarence B. Williams. It was the longtime headquarters of Plumbers Local 1. It's now converted to luxury condos, with just four units, each stretching the whole length of the building to East 27th Street. (It's a 30-second walk from one end of a unit to the other.) Chelsea Clinton is among the first to own a unit.

23-25: A stone oak wreath marks the entrance of the Neptune Building, a 1910 design by Maynicke and Franke. Now the showroom for Hafele, maker of architectural and furniture fixtures.

Corner (50 Madison): Built in 1896 for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In 2005, modernized and expanded above the second floor.


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

South:

Merchandise Mart

Corner (41 Madison): Out-of-place black-glass modernist building built in 1974 has showrooms for china, silver, crystal etc. Built on site of Jerome Mansion (1859-1967), birthplace of Jennie Jerome, Winston Churchill's mother. Later housed Manhattan Club, meetingplace for Democrats like Grover Cleveland, Al Smith, FDR, and birthplace of the Manhattan cocktail.

You can drink an (expensive) Manhattan at Le 26, fancy cafe--formerly Chazal.










Corner (360 Park Ave S): Lerner Building is home to Reed Elsevier, monopolistic science publisher.

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New York Life Building

Block (372 Park Ave S): A 1928 building by Cass Gilbert, the designer of the Woolworth Tower; the rooftop pyramid is a trademark of his. Built on site of New York, New Haven & Hartford Depot, which in 1871 became P.T. Barnum's Hippodrome, later Gilmore's Garden, which the Vanderbilt family turned into the original Madison Square Garden.

This was torn down and rebuilt in 1890 to a design by Stanford White--considered his masterwork. Topped by Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Diana (now in Philadelphia Museum of Art; a smaller copy is at the Met). In 1906, White was shot and killed in his building's Roof Garden by Harry K. Thaw, jealous husband of White's former mistress Evelyn Nesbit.

In 1900, the Garden was the site of the first U.S. auto show. In 1913, it hosted the Patterson Strike Pageant, organized by Mabel Dodge and Big Bill Haywood, directed by John Reed with scenery painted by John Sloan. The longest Democratic convention in history was held here in 1924, picking John Davis after 17 days.



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

This intersection is dubbed Herman Melville Square.

South:

104 (corner): Office building next to the Armory has the address of Herman Melville's home from 1863-91, where he wrote Billy Budd. National Law Journal has offices here.

69th Regimental Armory

68 (corner): This building was the home of the Armory Show in 1913, which introduced modern art to the United States. Organized by the American Association of Painters and Sculptors, a group that represented the "Ashcan School" of social realism, the show brought widespread attention (and initially ridicule) to abstract painters like Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh and Cezanne. Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase was singled out for abuse and parody.

The "Fighting 69th" of the New York Army National Guard was "New York's only official Irish regiment, according to New York City Landmarks. The troop fought in the Civil War with heavy casualties, and took part in both world wars.

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Corner (365 Park Ave S): Hotel Giraffe, tall and slender, includes the restaurant Barna (formerly Sciuscia, and before that Chinoiserie).


111: Several amalgamated and modernized rowhouses?




117-127: Row of handsome brownstones, with stoops intact









129 (corner): Building (commonly known as 88 Lexington) houses the Proprioceptive Writing Center.


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

South:

Corner (77 Lexington): Famous Original Ray's, not so much either. Since 1964, though. Also the Fava Mediterranean Grill.

134: Was Salon Mexico

138: Baruch College Student Health Center

152: The back entrance of Baruch College's Newman Library, built in 1894 as a power station for the cable cars of the Metropolitan Street Railway Company of New York, and later the Lexington Company. Converted to a library in 1994 by Davis Brody Bond.

Corner (354 3rd Ave): Vertigo is an updating of Abbey Tavern, long-running Irish pub; in the 1960s was Tobin's, described as having "old-time decor but modern prices." The building has recently been modernized as well--an interesting treatment of fire escapes.

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Corner: Saravandaas, Indian vegetarian with five A's in its name.

137-139: Hill House





147-149: Amalgamated Industrial and Toy & Novelty Workers of America Local 223



153: Just east of this building is a private lane called Broadway Alley-- said to be Manhattan's last dirt road. It has one address on it, 8 Broadway Alley.

Corner (358 3rd Ave): Bamiyan, Afghan


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

South:

Corner (355 3rd Ave): Innovative Woodwork

206-210: Entrance to a charming inner courtyard.

220: Grubbiness probably helps this modern yet old apartment house.

226-230: Elaborately detailed apartments

232: "The only Old Law tenement left in the entire goddamn zip code," according to a reader.

238: Liberty Studios is owned by filmmaker Anthony Lover, who made a Ingmar Bergman parody called "De Duva" that briefly tricked me into thinking I could speak Danish.

240: Holographic Studios, a commercial hologram lab with a free gallery of 3-D images.

242-244: Old three-story rowhouses

Corner (459 2nd Ave): Mexico Lindo restaurant

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Corner: Sunflower Diner

203: Ollie's Place Pet Supplies/Cat Adoption Center

207: Tatany seafood takeout was Moo/Shoes vegan footwear. "And before vegan footwear was... a butcher's shop!" notes a reader.

215: Anthony's Haircutters, old-school Sicilian barbers.

225: Sibling to No. 220

239: An attractive brick plaza with a waterfall, provided by the Parc East tower in order to get a zoning variance. The city sued the building in 2000 because it had locked a passageway that was supposed to connect this mini-park with 27th Street.

Corner (240 E 27th): Parc East apartment tower


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South:

310: Address of the Riverside Rest Association, which cared for women released from Blackwell's Island, including "women who are addicted to alcohol, or victims of the opium habit, or immoral."

330 (corner): Phipps Houses South were built by the Phipps Houses Group, a nonprofit development group founded in 1905 by Henry Phipp, a business partner of Andrew Carnegie. These buildings were part of a project to provide nearby affordable housing for Bellevue workers. People who put up money for the project sued the group in 2002 to force the buildings to become for-profit. Includes the Acorn School.

334: NYU dorm













342 (corner): NYU School of Medicine's Basic Science Building, built in 1897 for Bellevue Hospital Medical College

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Phipps Plaza West Apartments

Corner (462 2nd Ave): These buildings were put up in 1976 by the Phipps Houses Group as a major part of the South Bellevue Urban Renewal project. Since 2002, rival lawsuits have sought to take the project out of the Mitchell-Lama program or keep the housing nonprofit until 2011. On the ground floor is Totonno's, the second Manhattan branch of a beloved Coney Island pizzeria. Used to be Old San Juan Too, Puerto Rican/Argentine. The Vineyard Theatre, now in the Zeckendorf, used to be here.

Corner: Bellevue South Park, a small neighborhood recreation area


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Public Health Lab

Block (455 1st Ave): houses the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center.

This center played a key role in developing the combination drug therapy that has greatly reduced the death rate from HIV in the U.S. In 1996, Dr. David Ho, the center's director, was named Time's person of the year.


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

South:

Hunter College Brookdale Health Science Center

Block (435 E 25th St): Includes the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing, the Brookdale Center on Aging and the Hunter College School of the Health Professions.

416-422: Was the address of the New-York Bible and Fruit Mission to the Public Hospitals

















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Bellevue Hospital

This institution got its start in 1794, when the city needed a site to treat victims of a yellow fever epidemic far from the city center, they bought the Belle Vue estate of Peter Keteltas, named for its beautiful view of the East River. In 1811 additional land nearby was purchased from the Kip family.

Songwriter Stephen Foster, who fatally injured himself in a Bowery flophouse, died here in 1864. Socialist Congressmember Meyer London died here after being struck by a car in 1926.

People used to refer to the emergency ward as the Eastman Pavilion because gangster Monk Eastman sent so many people here with his club.

It's most famous for its psychological services; Dr. Norman Jolliffe's study of patients here helped establish the modern concept of alcoholism. Santa Claus was sent to Bellevue for observation in Miracle on 34th Street, and Ray Milland dried out here in The Lost Weekend. In "For You," Bruce Springsteen sang that "They're waiting for you at Bellevue/With their oxygen masks."


          FDR DRIVE          




EAST RIVER







Is your favorite 26th Street spot missing? Write to Jim Naureckas and tell him about it.

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