New York Songlines: 29th Street

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HUDSON RIVER









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609: Ruby Falls is a warehouse-turned-nightclub that doubles as an art gallery.


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512: Coral Room; this ocean liner-themed bar--a former warehouse--features a 35-foot-long, 10,000 gallon aquarium with 200 fish and sometimes a scantily clad mermaid.

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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High Line Park
























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

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Block (314 10th Ave): Abandoned-looking building is Morgan South, an annex to the main post office that is used for mail transport and sorting operations. An employee explains that it looks abandoned in part because of "the grafitti-proof paint they used: Spray-paint doesn't stick to it ... and it doesn't stick very well to anything else, i.e. the structure itself."



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Morgan Processing and Distribution Center

Twenty million pieces of mail for Manhattan and the Bronx are processed at this Postal Service facility every day. During the anthrax attacks of 2001, spores were discovered in barcoding machines here; despite a lawsuit from the postal union, the building was never shut down for cleaning.


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

This block between 8th and 9th avenues was once called Lamartine Place, separately numbered from the rest of the street.

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317: Was the address of the Petipas' sisters boardinghouse, where painter John Butler Yeats (father of the poet) lived. John Sloan painted Yeats and Petipas, showing him dining there with artists and literary figures.


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

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260 (corner): Biricchino; snug Northern Italian, noted for its sausages.

252: NY School of Dry Cleaners; Tiecrafters ("custom tiemakers since 1952"); American Barber Institute

250: Professional Security Bureau Ltd.

218: Jean Claude Mastroianni, eclectic designer and vintage shop; offers relics like Liillian Russell's kimono and the burlap suitcase Jackie Kennedy took to India in 1962.

212: Altered Stages; home to the 29th Street Repertory Company.

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249: Panos Furs

245: Blade; fencing equipment. Was the official supplier of the 1996 U.S. Olympic fencing team.












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

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Corner (333 7th): Seventh Avenue Building; Guy & Gallard, fancy coffee mini-chain, on the ground floor.

158: Modern Store Fixtures & Design Inc.

154: Yo Sushi; upstairs is the People's Improv Theater.

146: The India Building; houses Best Vast Imports, O-Bok Oriental Herbs Trading Co.

130: The Randell Press; "fine printers since 1925."

128: The address of The Rosaline, musician Scott Joplin's home.

106: Art Directors Club, non-profit space housing events and exhibitions related to commercial design.

Corner: America Gourmet Food, deli

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171: Martinez Cigars, since 1974.

159: The Dress Company, wholesalers

135: Neo Vu Sunglasses; Sascha Ascher housewares

131: Joseph A. Biunno, antique restoration since 1910.

129: Cross Towne Clothing Manufacturers & Importers

127: Springland Trading Inc., Chinese importers

123: Moon Belt Company


101: Assist International: Investigations & Security Guards

Corner: Video Camera Sound


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

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Corner (832 6th): Joe & Donna Costume Jewelry; the beginning of a block filled with wholesale outlets. This was (apparently) the site of The Haymarket, the Tenderloin's most famous dance hall. A venue for "respectable vice," the dancers here would give private exhibitions of the cancan in curtained booths. O. Henry and Eugene O'Neill both hung out here.

52: Paramount Party Supplies & Decorations; also offers "Glowing Products."

50: Mississippi Trading

40: 7 Trading

34: The address of The Cairo, a leading dance hall of the tenderloin era-- where the dancers moonlighted as prostitutes.




30: U.S.A. Hua Tai Group Inc.


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Corner (836 6th): Pink Stone general merchandise

53: Boricua City, everything Puerto Rican (upstairs from Pink Stone); Mission Accessory

51: New York Bakery, Korean in a cute 3-story tenement

49: C&C Hat Factory; Moon Belt Company

43: Koreana

39: EuroSport Bag is at the address of John Daly's gambling den, the leading house in the city from 1885-95. "Its food and wine were said to rival Delmonico's"--Infamous Manhattan

37: One Trading Co.

35: Venice Enterprises of N.Y. Inc.

33: Was the address of Billy Tracy's saloon. A thief and a forger, Tracy was shot here in 1881 by Charles P. Miller, "king of the bunco men." Tracy lived to later shoot Miller more successfully.

Corner (1205 Broadway): Tomato, wholesaler


S <===           BROADWAY           ===> N

29th Street between Broadway and 5th Avenue has been dubbed Norman Vincent Peale Way.

South:

Breslin Apartments

Corner (1186 Broadway): Opening in 1904 as the Hotel Breslin, it was noted in its heyday for attracting boxers like Joe Louis and Gene Tunney fighting at Madison Square Garden. In 1951, an 83-year-old W.E.B. du Bois was arrested here for running the anti-Korean War Peace Information Center. Now an SRO threatened with gentrification. The ground floor houses Silver Street, Speed Zone Inc., Drama Ltd. Creative Clothing and other wholesalers.

Previously on this site was Sturtevant House, where on June 2, 1873, novelist (and accused Confederate spy) Mansfield Walworth was shot to death by his son for making threats against the son's mother.

14: Singh Imports

















2: Building with gargoyles, grape vines and other gothic carvings houses Rockaway Sportswear.

Corner: 29th Street Deli; Royal Sari House

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Gilsey House

Corner (1200 Broadway): This beautifully restored cast-iron Second Empire landmark is a former grand hotel (1872-1911), the first to offer telephone service to guests. Noted for its bar made of silver dollars, it was a favorite of Diamond Jim Brady and Oscar Wilde. Converted to housing in 1979. Ground floor now occupied by wholesale sellers like New York Sunglasses and Hair Accessories.

17: Panaria New York, candy store in wing of Gilsey.

15: Ash-Shallal Kebab Cuisine

13-9: Four-story tenements

11: Chandni Restaurant, halal food

9: Safenet Computer

5: Marble Collegiate Church Office, an elegant red-brick-and-limestone building that houses the New York Theological Seminary, founded in 1900 as the Bible Teacher's College.

Marble Collegiate Church

1 (corner): Built in 1854 for a congregation that dates back to 1628, this Dutch Reformed church is noted for being the pulpit of Norman Vincent Peale, who combined Christianity with motivational speaking in such books as The Power of Positive Thinking. Richard Nixon attended this church and was influenced by Peale; his daughter Julie married Dwight Eisenhower II here in 1968. Other famous weddings here include Enrico Caruso's to Dorothy Benjamin in 1918, Donald Trump's to Ivana in 1977 (he also met Marla Maples there), and Liza Minelli's to David Guest in 2002.

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

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Corner (261 5th Ave): Interesting polychrome houses Harounian Rugs.









10: Madison Belvedere Apartments, tall building with a gold pagoda on the roof.


The Carlton on Madison

22 (corner): A really nice-looking old hotel, built in 1904. In 1980, when it was The Seville (and apparently not so nice), a victim of serial killer Richard Cottingham was found here. On a happier note, media critic A.J. Liebling lived here in 1949-50. Groucho Marx once worked here as a bellhop.

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Corner (267 5th): Burton Building houses Greek-owned Marathon Bank; was Portfolio Textiles.

Little Church Around the Corner

1: When the Church of the Atonement on Madison Avenue was asked to hold a funeral for actor George Holland in 1870, the pastor suggested that there was a "little church around the corner" that would be a more appropriate venue for such a disreputable event as an actor's funeral. The Church of the Transfiguration--as the place is formally known-- went on to hold funerals for actors Edwin Booth, James and Lester Wallack, and Richard Mansfield, as well as writer O. Henry. Woody Allen seeks religion here in Hannah and Her Sisters.

The church rectory served as a safe house for the Underground Railroad, and the church sheltered African-Americans during the Draft Riots of 1863.

15 (corner): Alpina Graphics


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

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Corner (89-95 Madison): Emmet Building, a 1912 neo-Renaissance office building named for the gynecologist who built it (and lived in the penthouse). Houses M & T Bank branch. Lots of gargoyles and scholars.






30: Campanile, Italian

34: Home base of NYC Indymedia, a grassroots media cooperative, and of 2600, a magazine for hackers. Used to be Notwork, a sort of hackers' clubhouse.

36: Stampworx

40: Community Prep High School was Murray Hill Borough Academy

44: Building demolished in 2008 was Metal Polishers Local 8A.


48: Demolished building was Ixta, fancy Mexican named for a Mexico City volcano; previous incarnations include Nader Restaurant (Persian) and Baba Neshan (Armenian).


Corner (420 Park Ave S): Demolished building was Interbank of New York

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Corner (99 Madison): Habib American Bank; headquarters of the U.S. branch of Pakistan's second-largest bank.

ThirtyThirty Hotel

29: Used to be the Martha Washington, which was a residence for women only for almost a hundred years after it opened in 1902. Once the home of author Jacqueline Susann, the hotel was where the opening scenes of the film version of her Valley of the Dolls was shot.

In the early 1980s, the hotel housed Danceteria, a nightclub and concert space where Madonna sometimes worked. She was discovered here when she persuaded the DJ to play one of her tapes. The disco scene in Madonna's film Desperately Seeking Susan was shot at the club.

Singer Sade served drinks at Danceteria, and Keith Haring worked in the cloakroom. Years earlier, Veronica Lake was a barmaid at the hotel.

33: 3-story tenement

35: Moldovan Mission to the U.N.

37: Was Green House Cuisine of China, in the International Textile Building--a small, ambitiously named townhouse.

43: Was Picasso Cafe

47: Cafe Journal


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

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Corner (419 Park Ave S): Bowker Building, a 1927 building noted for its odd polychromy. Houses the Acme Safe Co., serving the roadrunner-hunting community since 1904.











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Corner (425 Park Ave S): Park Audio

103: The quaint Deauville Hotel was Sid Vicious' residence at the time of his death; it also claims Courtney Love and football great Jim Brown as former guests. In 1960, it was the Hatfield Hotel, and you could stay the night for three bucks.

105: Manhattan Fruitier

111: Resto, hearty Belgian; was a Baluchi's branch

115: Weissman Furniture

119-121: Schottenstein Hall, a dorm for Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women.


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

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Corner (135 Lexington): Spice Corner

130: Shaheen Sweets & Restaurant



Our Lady of the Scapular and St Stephen Order of Carmelites; back entrance.


154 (corner): Habitat; apartment building

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133: Talmud Torah Adereth El, founded 1857, here since 1920.




155 (corner): Biltmore Plaza Apartments; 30 stories, built 1980.


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

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Corner (411 3rd Ave): Tonic is a glitzy club built on the site of Sam's Noodle Shop.

202: The Koehler Building houses Homefront Hardware.






230: Cafe Rustico, pizzeria

234: Firehouse for Engine Co. 16 and Ladder Co. 7 was built in 1967. Ladder 7 lost six members on September 11.

Corner (519 2nd Ave): Paddy Reilly's, Irish pub that boasts of being "the world's first and the only all-draft Guiness bar." Black 47 was the house band here.

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Corner (415 3rd Ave): Bistango Cafe

201 1/2: A carriage house dating back to c. 1790--one of the few 18th Century buildings in Manhattan.

203: The White Wood House is a rare wood frame building in Midtown Manhattan, built 1870. On the National Registry of Historic Places.

217: Seems to be a fossil shop.

227: Johnny Thunders, ex-New York Dolls guitarist, resided here at the time of his 1991 death in a New Orleans hotel room.

Corner: Vincent F. Albano Jr Playground; named for a local Republican leader, this small park was built on land purchased for the aborted Mid-Manhattan Expressway. Features the Mary Collins Playscape, honoring a community activist.


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

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Kips Bay Court

Corner (500 2nd Ave):

Large apartment complex was built in 1976 as Phipps Plaza West Apartments, 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 successfully sued to force it out of the Mitchell-Lama nonprofit housing program.

318: Actor Ben Gazzara lived at this address in the late 1930s and 1940s.

332: Renwick Gardens, presumably named for architect James Renwick, who never would have put his name on such a boring building.

338: The site of the Carmelite priory, which hid part of a cache of Thompson submachine guns here for the Irish revolution in 1921. (They were seized by the feds en route.)

340: Berkley Park is a 16-story apartment building from 2000, designed by Meltzer Mandl Architects around a central courtyard. Built on the site of Our Lady of the Scapular Church, established by Carmelite priests in 1889. (A scapular is a holy cloth worn by the Carmelites.) The church was called "the cradle of Irish independence in America" by Eamon de Valera, who took refuge here after he escaped from a British prison in 1919.

Corner (491 1st Ave): East Bay Diner & Cafe

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Corner (524-528 2nd Ave): Pinkerton Environmental Center; since 1979, a community garden and nature center for the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club.

301: Madison Square Boys & Girls Club; an early Modern 1940 building.









333: NYU Health Sciences Bookstore






















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

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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."

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The Morgue

Corner (520 1st Ave): Offices of the New York Medical Examiner. John Lennon, Andy Warhol and the Son of Sam victims all came here after their deaths.

























          FDR DRIVE          




EAST RIVER







Is your favorite 29th Street spot missing? Write to Jim Naureckas and tell him about it.

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