New York Songlines: 27th Street

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HUDSON RIVER









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South:

Starrett-Lehigh Building

Nine miles of strip windows surround this 19-story square-block former factory-warehouse, now lofts; the AIA Guide calls it a "landmark of modern architecture" since its construction in 1931, but calls the north facade (on 27th Street) "ponderous" and "astonishingly heavy-handed."

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615: In 2003, NYPD officers shot and killed Ousmane Zongo, an unarmed African art dealer, at Chelsea Mini-Storage here, mistakenly believing him to be part of a CD counterfeiting ring.


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South:

544: Cain, safari-themed nightclub with a reservations-only door policy.

532: Home is supposed to look like a rock star's living room.

530: The New York branch of Spirit, a New Age-y Dublin dance club. Former site of Twilo, 1990s dance club with the best sound system in NYC; Danny Tenaglia's home base. Closed by Giuliani in a club crackdown. From 1989 until 1995, it was Sound Factory, where DJ Junior Vasquez became famous. Upstairs is BED New York, a high-priced bed-themed club with a reputation for surly service.

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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547: Cornel Dewitt Gallery. Upstairs is A Classical Record, which boasts more than 45,000 (!) classical, opera and jazz records. This building also houses Aperture, a foundation started by Ansel Adams and other photography greats.

515: Bungalow 8, exclusive bar whose men's room is "perhaps the best in Manhattan," according to the New York Observer.

High Line Park




























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

South:

436: Hudson Guild

Elliott Houses, built 1947, are 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.




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Chelsea Park









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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.





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

South:

Corner (338 8th Ave): Utopia Diner

250: Gus' Figs Bistro, Mediterranean; Cafe 27

Fashion Institute of Technology

236: The Fur Art Building is a 1928 design by William I. Hohauser.

234: Fashion Design Bookstore

230: Co-Ed Dormitory

220: Nagler Hall

210: Alumni Hall

Corner: Shirley Goodman Resource Center

Museum at FIT

Ball-and-hoop statue is Eye of Fashion (Cronbach, 1976).

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A: FIT's Dubinsky Student Center; built in 1977 and named for the ILGWU leader who helped found the American Labor Party and New York's Liberal Party.

Hammarskjold statue




B: Business & Liberal Arts Center





C: Marvin Feldman Center




D: Fred P. Pomerantz Art & Design Center


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

Abraham Franklin, a disabled coachman, was lynched from a lamppost at this intersection during the Draft Riots of 1863 for being African-American.

South:

Corner: Manhattan Heroes, old-school sandwich shop.

158: Was NYC Liquidators, videos and DVDs at bargain basement prices. The building is a 12-story 1913 Browne & Almiroty design.

154: Aadar Leather, the raw material, crammed to the ceiling

144: Buchman & Fox planned this 1912 12-story building.

122: Offices of the left journal Monthly Review. The Brecht Forum also used to be located here. The building is a 12-story Townsend, Steinle & Haskell design from 1913.

118: World Electronics, part of the Wholesale District, in Maximilian Zipkes' 12-story building from 1911

114: William H. Birkmire designed this 12-story building in 1908.

FAIR

112: Above Mega Trading Corp were the offices of the media watch group FAIR from 2001-09. Also houses Ceramica Arnon, designer tile workshop.

104: Sona Toys Novelty is in a 1910 12-story building by Frederick C. Browne. Since 2009, it's the address of FAIR, the media watch group that produces the magazine Extra! (edited since 1990 by New York Songlines compiler Jim Naureckas) as well as the radio show CounterSpin.

Corner (793 6th Ave): Great H&B Trading Co.

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153: George M. McCabe designed this 12-story 1913 building.

129: The modeling agency Click has the penthouse office in a 1911 Buchman & Fox building.

121: The offices of MADRE, the international women's human rights organization, are above Lucky Toys, in a 12-story 1910 building by Buchman & Fox.

115: Manhattan Wholesalers Inc. is in a 12-story 1911 building by Maximilian Zipkes. Jay-Z and Beyonce have a recording studio here.

109: Grand Success Inc.

107: The building housing the Ace Banner company was a brothel in the 1870s--one of 22 on this block at that time, though this is the only one whose building still stands. A New York sex guide of the era described Mrs. Standly's at this address as "very quiet."

103-105: Was G Bar (previously Nye); more than one friend had a crazy story about this place. Was the Margaret Strachan Home and Mission, dedicated to saving the fallen women of the Tenderloin. The location was chosen because of "the licentiousness then rife in the vicinity of 27th Street" (King's Handbook)-- still pretty rife today, actually.

101: New Dragon Toy Wholesaler

99: The Buzz, honestly named liquor store

Corner (795 6th Ave): Sheng Po Enterprises, wholesaler


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

South:

The Capitol at Chelsea

Corner (774 6th Ave): Built on the site of The Racquet Club, the first sports club in NYC, built 1876. Later the University Athletic Club, finally the Coogan Building. The most interesting structure on this stretch of 6th Avenue, it was landmarked, but money spoke louder than architecture. Now an unfortunate orangey high-rise.

50: Master Cutting Table Co. has been here at least since the 1960s.

The Capitol has a plaza behind it--nice bamboo.

40: Hair Motion, wig wholesaler

28: Center for Book Arts is in a handsome red brick building.

22: From 1889 until 1892, this was the address of the Manhattan Chess Club. In 1890-91, club member Wilhelm Steinitz defended his world champion title here against Isidor Gunsberg.

Corner (1157 Broadway): Broadway Plaza Hotel (and Broadway Pizza) are on the site of the Holland Brothers' Kinetoscope Parlor, the world's first movie house--where Edison's hand-cranked movies were first shown on April 6, 1894. Also the site of the studio of John Rogers, a popular 19th Century sculptor.

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Corner (800 6th Ave): The Aston, a luxury high-rise. Above a blocky base, the tower is comparatively stylish, with windows layered like fish scales. Also known as the Archstone Chelsea after being bought by one of the largest apartment management companies in the country.

49: Radio Wave Building, where Nikolai Tesla, electrical genius who invented (among many other things) alternating current, stayed in 1892, when this was the Hotel Gerlach.




39: Senton Hotel, long-standing budget hotel painted a peculiar bright blue.

31: The Stella Adler School of Acting, famous for nurturing Brando, De Niro, Harvey Keitel etc., is now at this address.




Corner (1165-1175 Broadway): Was the Coleman House Hotel, built 1907-- note Chicago School-style bay windows. Now houses such wholesale outlets as Fashion City, Lavish International, Manhattan Street Wear and Over Mars Ltd.


S <===           BROADWAY           ===> N

South:

Block (1150 Broadway): The Victoria Building, a 19-story design by Schwartz & Gross that went up in 1914, is on the site of the Victoria Hotel, where President Grover Cleveland lived between his two separated terms of office. The current building houses the wholesaler India Cottage Emporium and the National Tree Company (Christmas trees, that is).

The 5th Avenue end of the building houses Alpine Designs, oddly named Oriental furniture store. (This is the upscale part of the Wholesale District.) On the roof is 230 Fifth, a trendy bar with a spectacular view.

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Corner (1158 Broadway): Source USA (formerly Undefeated Wear) is in a peculiar red-and-black vertically striped building.

17: Hip Hop Wear is in a cute four-story brick building.

15: Was Da Jump Off, streetwear wholesaler

Corner (234 5th Ave): Naturally Tasty health food restaurant; Hobby Squirrel, scale-model kit boutique, is on the 4th floor.

At this corner, on December 12, 1910, 25-year-old Dorothy Arnold was seen for the last time. The disappearance of the wealthy young woman is a mystery that has never been solved.


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

South:

The Grand Madison

225 (block): Handsome red-brick building was formerly the Brunswick Hotel, noted as the home of the Coaching Club, which held carriage parades up 5th Avenue. 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. Later it was known as the Gift Building, "the premiere international giftware showplace." Now converted to luxury condos--why couldn't they have called it The Brunswick, a name with 125 years of history?

14: Building held up by owls and scholarly gargoyles is the Madison Square Building, a 1912 highrise by Maynicke & Franke. On the ground floor was Happy Valley, glitzy club, which was Wonderland which was Social Club.














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museumofse[x]

Corner (233 5th Ave): A newish institution dedicated to erotic history and culture. Its website had an amazing map of Manhattan's sexual history.

The Gershwin Hotel

7: A funky, affordable hotel filled with original art by the likes of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. A unique lodging experience.

The structures coming out of the building's facade are a work of art called "Tongues and Flames" by Finnish artist Stefan Lindfors. Includes the art-filled bar Gallery and the restaurant Tang.

9: This beautiful brick and terra-cotta building is the back of the Prince George Hotel. Once the fashionable haunt of personalities like Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell, this 1906 hotel was the first to boast a private bath in every room. Later a notorious welfare hotel. Still a home for the formerly homeless, now much better run--and it looks great.

17: Le Trapeze, an old-school swingers' club.

21 (corner): Madison Hotel was once part of a chain that included the Senton up the street. Includes Kebab King (formerly Bun Tikki) and Madison Kiosk.


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

This spot has a claim to being the birthplace of baseball, since the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, which helped develop the game's modern rules, played at an empty lot around here.

South:

New York Life Building

Designed in 1928 by Cass Gilbert, who did the Woolworth Tower; the rooftop pyramid is a trademark.

Built on site of New York, New Haven & Hartford Depot, which in 1871 became P.T. Barnum's Hippodrome, later Gilmore's Garden, a roofless three-story arena that 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 the Philadelphia Museum of Art; a smaller copy is at the Met). In 1906, White was shot and killed in the Roof Garden by Harry K. Thaw, jealous husband of White's former mistress Evelyn Nesbit.

What would become the Westminster Kennel Show began here in 1877. Jumbo the elephant was presented by Barnum at the old Garden in 1882; heavyweight champion John L. Sullivan was indicted for "fighting without weapons" after a bout there with the British champ in 1884. In 1895, the rebuilt Garden was the site of the first U.S. cat show, and in 1900 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 W. Davis after 17 days and 103 ballots.

In the building's northeast corner is Houstonís, a fancy American restaurant.

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North:

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Block (28 E 28th): This modern building houses Ziff Davis Media, publisher of PC Magazine and other technology-oriented titles. There's also extra offices for New York Life here.

31-33: The address of a fancy brothel visited by Rev. Charles Parkhurst on his famous tour of the New York underworld. Here he witnessed a game of naked leapfrog.

35: Site of the Gonoga Hotel, later the Oxford-- part of the same chain that included the Senton and the Madison up the street.






















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

South:

Corner (381 Park Ave S): The Fourth Avenue Building--dating back to 1910, before Park Avenue South was renamed. Impressive gilding. Primehouse, steaks, was a fratty sports bar called the Park Avenue Country Club.

114: Vision Unlimited/Gotham Eye Associates

116: Blue Smoke, voted best barbecue of 2005 by Time Out readers; downstairs is Jazz Standard, a live-music club. In a 12-story 1915 building by Rouse & Goldstone.

124: i Trulli, Italian restaurant with matching wine bar Enoteca.

126: Townhouse with fancy entrance








Corner (90 Lexington): Prison-like modernist mid-rise from 1959

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Corner (387 Park Ave S): This building with the Puerto Rico-based Doral Bank on the ground floor was the long-time home of Marvel Comics. The buiilding now houses Basic Books and the magazine Wine Spectator.

111: Devon Shops French Furniture is on the ground floor of the corner building.

119: The bar Vig 27 was Aubette, leather-clad French, and in the 1980s Tory's, a luxurious (and illegal) after-hours club frequented by celebrities.

121-123: Kiamie Arcade Building--impressive pillars. Houses Aki Sushi III and Vino, Italian wine shop. Used to have the Veggie Center and its VivaVeggie Society, which seem to have gone underground.

129: Chennai Garden (formerly Jaipur Elite Indian Cuisine), a vegetarian Indian that marks the beginning of "Curry Hill." In the 1930s this was the Balkan Restaurant.

Corner (100 Lexington): Saravana Bhavan was Cardamomm, Indian noted for its wine list. Building also houses the Om Boutique--sarees, Indian videos, etc.


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

South:

Corner (97 Lexington): New York Deli Lex

134: Om Saree Palace, Indian clothing; Roomali, tasty Indian wraps; Kenara Paan Shop, "Pakistani Indian Audio Videos Newspapers Magazines Candys"

Teatro Repertorio Espanol

138: A Spanish-language company founded in 1968, moved here in 1972 to the Gramercy Arts Theater, which was started by Butler Davenport as a free theater--considered the first ''Off-Broadway'' theater (though obviously not the first theater off of Broadway). Andy Warhol's Sleep premiered here January 17, 1964.

140: Stone Creek, sylish bar, was Cafe Goa

142: Seven-story red brick apartment building. A 2003 court case here determined that new building owners are not liable for rent overcharges by previous owners.

150: Gotham House apartments. The private lane to its east is called Broadway Alley-- said to be Manhattan's last dirt road. It has one address on it, 8 Broadway Alley.

160 (corner): La Delice Bakery, attractive pastries in an unattractive white brick building (1963)

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Corner (99 Lexington): Curry Leaf, Indian owned by Kalustyan's, where many restaurants buy their ingredients

133-135: Unusual two-story tenements have Barber $hop on ground floor.

137: Was Pak Middle East Books-- notable arched tenement windows

143: Was Vinoteca, an event space for wine tastings, wine education, etc., owned by the guy who owns I Trulli and Vino.














145 (corner): Townsway apartments, 15 floors of brown brick built 1964


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

South:

200: Victoria House apartments

218-222: Wild carved faces--check out the guy sticking his tongue out above No. 218.

234-236: First Christian Church of the Valley; Spanish/English Assemblies of God church

240: Parc East Tower, 1977 building with 26 floors

















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Rodeo Bar

Corner (375 3rd Ave): Urban honky-tonk. The bar is in a converted horse trailer. The band American Ambulance made me cry here with their song "Hey Richard Nixon."

St Illuminator's Armenian Apostolic Church

221: Once was the hub of a sizable Armenian community. The church, built in 1923, was named for Gregory the Illuminator, who converted Armenia to Christianity.

225: Nathan Straus Houses Community Center

Nathan Straus Houses

243-245: public housing named for a co-owner of Macy's who gave much of his wealth to philanthropic projects, including lodging houses, a tuberculosis sanitarium for children, World War I relief and health centers in Palestine. Straus was a primary proponent of the pasteurization of milk.

P.S. 14 used to be on this site.


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

South:

Kips Bay Court

Corner (460-520 2nd Ave): Was Phipps Plaza West Apartments, large complex built in 1976 as part of the South Bellevue Urban Renewal program to provide nearby affordable housing for Bellevue workers. "Phipps" is Henry Phipps, a partner of Andrew Carnegie's who in 1905 founded the nonprofit development group that carried out the project. In 2002, however, people who put up money for the project sued to force it out of the Mitchell-Lama nonprofit housing program.

Public Health Laboratories

Corner (455 1st Ave): A division of the NYC Department of Health; houses the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, which played a key role in developing the combination drug therapy that greatly reduced the death rate from HIV. In 1996, Dr. David Ho, the center's director, was named Time's person of the year.

Theodore Roszak's 1969 statue Sentinel honors ''those intrepid men and women who dedicate themselves to science and humanity.''

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Kips Bay Court



























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

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 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.

It's most famous for its psychological services; Santa Claus is sent to Bellevue for observation in Miracle on 34th Street, and Ray Milland dries out here in The Lost Weekend. In "For You," Bruce Springsteen sings that "They're waiting for you at Bellevue/With their oxygen masks."


          FDR DRIVE          

Waterside Plaza






EAST RIVER







Is your favorite 27th Street spot missing? Write to Jim Naureckas and tell him about it.

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