New York Songlines: Lafayette Street


Lafayette Street is named for the Marquis de Lafayette, whose arrival with French troops in support of the Continental Army decisively ended the Revolutionary War. When pro-war politicians were going around calling French fries "freedom fries," they should have insisted that this road be renamed Cornwallis Street.


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W <===               EAST 9TH STREET               ===> E

West:

Wanamaker's

Former department store (1907-1954) designed by Daniel Burnham, Flatiron's architect; center of New York shopping in early 20th Century. (It's one of the things a sailor wants to see in On the Town.)

For a long time, the former store housed the DMV. Now it's a K-Mart, among other businesses.

David Sarnoff, future president of RCA, manned the American Marconi radio station atop this building, where he relayed news of the 1912 Titanic disaster to the Hearst papers. (Sarnoff later falsely claimed to have been the first person in the U.S. to receive word of the shipwreck.)

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Astor Place Subway Kiosk

6 Train to Union Square

Many of the IRT subway entrances used to have Parisian-style kiosks on top, but the MTA decided to get rid of them all. This one was recreated in 1986 when the station below was being renovated. The beaver tiles in the station are a reference to John Jacob Astor, who made his fortune trading beaver furs for the hat industry.







W <===               EAST 8TH STREET               ===> E

West:

21 Astor Place

Corner: Was the Mercantile Library Building, designed in 1890 by George Harney; it housed the Chinese consulate in the 1920s. Later the UAW's District 65 Building.

On this site was the Astor Place Opera House, which was stormed by a mob on May 10, 1849, in what came to be known as the Astor Place Riots. The rioters objected to a performance of Macbeth by Charles Macready, an English Shakespearean actor who was viewed as more elitist than the crowd's homegrown favorite, Edwin Forrest, who was doing Macbeth at the same time. More than 30 people were killed in the riots, which were put down by the 7th Regiment National Guard.

6 Train to Bleecker Street

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The Alamo

Tilted black cube is a 1966 sculpture by Tony Rosenthal; he's reportedly amused that spinning the cube on its pivot has become an East Village tradition, so give it a whirl.

The statue of Samuel Cox now in Tompkins Square Park was originally here. Before Lafayette Place was extended to meet Fourth Avenue, it was the site of Little St. Ann's Church.

This area was once a crossroads of Indian trails, and it's become a gathering place for annual anti-Columbus protests.







W <===               ASTOR PLACE               ===> E

The street used to end to the south of this intersection, making Lafayette Place (as it was then called) an exclusive culdesac.

444 (corner): Astor Place Building, an eclectic 1876 structure by Griffith Thomas, used to house Astor Wines and Barnes & Noble.

438: Cobweb, antiques from Morocco and elsewhere.

436: Alan Moss, Art Deco and Art Moderne furniture

Collonade Row

428-434: Remains of Collonade Row (1833), Greek revival mansions housing NY's richest families, including John Jacob Astor, Cornelius Vanderbilt and the Delanos. Later home to Peter Cooper and William Cullen Bryant. Washington Irving, Dickens and Thackeray also stayed here.

No. 434 is the Astor Place Theater, which the original Blue Man Group has called home for years; No. 432 is Helena's, a tapas spot; No. 430 is Indochine, trendy French-Vietnamese. (Well, it's been trendy since 1984, which is quite a trend.)

(Former) Nobody Beats the Wiz warehouse was built as an annex to Wanamaker's (whose main building can be seen up the street). Five-ninths of Collonade Row was demolished for this structure, including 424, which is where John Jacob Astor lived.

418: NYU Medical Center









404: Jivamukti Yoga Center, supposed to be the biggest in the U.S., teaches vegetarianism and Sanskrit as well as yoga to its students, who include musician Sting and model Christy Turlington. The name means "Liberation from Separation." The Crunch Fitness branch here is the only one open 24 hours a day.

400 (corner): 1888 loft building

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Gwathmey Astor Place

445 (corner): Astor Place: Sculpture for Living, a mirror-finished, awkwardly shaped 21-story luxury loft building designed by Charles Gwathmey, who usually designs mansions for zillionaires (e.g. Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, the guy who owns Starbucks). The land here is owned by Cooper Union.

Walt Whitman used to live in a Cooper Square building whose lot is now part of this development.

Public Theater

425: Formerly the Astor Library (1854), a private archive founded by John Jacob Astor that was merged into the NY Public Library. Now the Public Theater, which is responsible for Shakespeare in the Park; Hair and A Chorus Line premiered here. HIAS on north wall stands for Hebrew Immigrant Aid & Sheltering Society, which used to be based here. Joe's Pub, named for Public Theater founder Joseph Papp, is a stylish cabaret attached to the theater.

417: Pangaea, exclusive club with exotic decor (scimitars, antelope skulls) and prices to match.

415: Butter, restaurant noted for birch treetrunk decor; was Belgo.

411: 1891 Romanesque Revival

403-405: The parking garage is built on the site of the Lafayette Baths, an important gay rendezvous in 1910s through '30s. For a time the baths were managed by Ira Gershwin.

401: 1893 loft building

DeVinne Press Building

393-399 (corner): An outstanding building that housed the leading printer of its day. Now houses the hip Italian restaurant Serafina; also the Art & Industrial Design Shop.


W <===               EAST 4TH STREET               ===> E

West:

Silk Building

388 (corner): Tower Records was the ground floor of this building, which has been home to Cher, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Keith Richards, Britney Spears and other celebs. This is Will Smith's one-customer video store in I Am Legend.

382: Screaming Mimi's, noted boutique, is in an 1896 loft building.

Schermerhorn Building

376-380 (corner): Built in 1889 on the site of the Schermerhorn mansion, this beautiful building was designed by Henry Hardenbergh, architect of the Plaza Hotel and the Dakota. On the ground floor is the Time Cafe, which Zagat's disses as "once trendy"; the Moroccan-themed Fez bar downstairs saw early shows by Fiona Apple, Norah Jones and Rufus Wainwright; Jeff Buckley used to play here regularly.

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Corner: Was Tower Video; Tower Books, which I miss, was upstairs.









341: This building is said to have been originally an orphanage. Later it was owned by artist Robert Rauschenberg.










W <===               GREAT JONES STREET               ===> E

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Corner: This used to be the Jones Diner, a classic eatery that was torn down for an expensive development. Supposedly it will include an expensive faux-retro diner--adding insult to injury.







W <===               BOND STREET               ===> E

West:





















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345: Elan, vintage furnishings, c. 1950

337: Marty's Cool Stuff, a junk store where the homeless sell found objects.

Shinbone Alley

This was the home of Archy the cockroach and Mehitabel the cat, characters created by Don Marquis for the New York Sun in 1916. They inspired a Broadway musical and animated film, both called Shinbone Alley.

War Resisters League

Corner: This building became known as the Peace Pentagon when the War Resisters League moved here in 1969 after their landlord at 6 Beekman Place asked them to leave in the aftermath of a police raid. Also houses groups like Nicaragua Network and Paper Tiger TV.


W <===               BLEECKER STREET               ===> E

West:

330: NoHo Star, restaurant where the Harper's staff hangs out. I believe it was instrumental in getting people to accept the term "NoHo" for the area north of Houston.

332: The place with the odd lizard-skeleton logo is Temple Bar, a posh tavern. "Temple Bar" is the name of an artsy neighborhood in Dublin, as well as a disassembled London landmark that some are trying to rebuild.

324: Bowery Residents Committee, a homeless aid group founded in 1973.



318 (corner): Win Restaurant Supplies Inc.; Happy Paws Pet Resort

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Corner: At the tip of this triangular block is a very narrow snack bar called Bite, where they "work like monkeys on speed to bring you pleasure in bread."

329: Eye Candy, hat boutique

325: On Lafayette Upholstery

323: Adore florist

Corner: Zachary's Smile, vintage fashions, formerly on Greenwich Avenue

Here was the godawful Yahoo sign, an embarrassing relic of the dot.com mania. It was replaced by a giant handheld videogame, forcing at least one Songlines reader to "endure movie ads and Playstation demos 24/7."


W <===               EAST HOUSTON STREET               ===> E

West:









298: Puck Fair, interesting Irish pub and restaurant. A discussion of who Puck is and why he should have a fair runs along an entire wall.

292: The Pop Shop is devoted to items that are emblazoned with the late Keith Haring's designs.

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Puck Building

Block (259 Lafayette): This Romanesque Revival landmark was built between 1885-1893, with additional construction in 1899 to replace part of the building that was torn down to make room for the extension of Lafayette Street. (The northeast corner is the original entrance.) The building housed the offices and printing plant of the Puck humor magazine, which was published until 1918. (William Randolph Hearst bought it in 1917 and closed it a year later.) Years later, the offices of Spy magazine were here. Billy Crystal proposes here in When Harry Met Sally.... Grace works here on Will and Grace.


W <===               JERSEY STREET               ===> E

West:

290 (corner): Triple 5 Soul, streetwear

286: Brooklyn Industries, outer-borough clothing

280: 280 Modern, vintage designer furnishings-- specializing in 1925-1965.

274: Supreme, cross-subcultural urbanwear

272: h272, club gear store owned by DJ Honda.

270: In the movie High Art, this was the address of the magazine Frame, which hires Ally Sheedy for a photo shoot.

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Corner (10 Jersey): This building houses the Mulberry Street branch of the NYPL.

285: Santa Maria Novella is named for a toiletry line, made by Italian monks, that dates to 1221; Catherine de Medici is said to have worn it. It's sold here. The lofts above have housed such celebrities as David Bowie and his supermodel wife Iman, hotelier Ian Schrager, tennis player Patrick McEnroe and Fox News heir Lachlan Murdoch.

273 (corner): Otto Tootsi Plohound, hip shoe store


W <===               PRINCE STREET               ===> E

West:

252: Vice, retail outlet connected to the magazine of the same name--Maxim for hipsters. And/or Amarcord, 1940s-80s vintage clothing.

250: T.F. Chen Cultural Center--someone's own personal religion.

244: Bicycle Habitat, high-end bikes since 1970s

242: Architectural Sculpture Ltd.

240: Lilliput Soho Kids

236: La Conquita restaurant

Corner (63 Spring): Lafayette Smoke Shop, classic newsstand

SUBWAY: 6 train to City Hall
This station appears in the movie Cloverfield, though the scene isn't shot on location.

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265: Nypull (pronounced "nipple"), new and vintage clothing; In God We Trust, retro fashion





237: Dewitt Bros Tool Co. Inc.

235: Sissy, handbags

233: This was the address of Joseph Petrosino, an NYPD detective who was chief of the Italian Bureau. He was killed doing undercover work in Sicily in 1909.

231 (corner): Chameleon Antique Lighting

SUBWAY: 6 train to Bleecker Street


W <===       SPRING STREET       ===> E

West:

Corner (62 Spring St): Spring Street Natural Restaurant, opened 1973--at this corner since 1985.

224: Midnight Cafe

222: Au Coin de Feu, French restaurant whose name means, I think, "at the fireplace."

218: Was The Falls, notorious bar where patron Imette St. Guillens was raped and murdered, allegedly by a bouncer who was told to take her home. The bar manager, Dan Dorrian, somehow forgot to tell police that St. Guillens had left with the bouncer, instead saying she had left on her own. Dorrian's family owns the bar, and also owned Dorrian's Red Hand, the Upper East Side bar where Robert Chambers met Jennifer Levin before killing her in Central Park in 1986. Earlier this space was Oona (1998-99), Cascabel (1993-98), L'Aubiniere (1991).

This building is owned by John Zaccaro, husband of one-time vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, and serves as the headquarters of his real estate empire; his associations with mobsters helped torpedo her national political career.

216: Lafayette Color Lab is in another Zaccaro-owned building.

212: Soho Eastanah, atmospheric Malaysian

210: One Kenmare Square, which is the name of this apartment development and not an actual address. The 2005 building by Andre Balasz features an undulating facade of black glass and black brick. DJ AM, aka Adam Goldstein, was found dead in his apartment here in August 2009, reportedly the victim of a drug overdose.

202 (corner): Beautiful orange-brick building with charming arches houses Dom's Fine Food, notable Italian grocery.

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225 (corner): The East River Savings Bank Building went up in 1927 to a Cass Gilbert design, originally housing one of the city's oldest banks, founded in 1848. It was converted to condos in 2004 and is now known as The Spring.

On the seventh floor in the late 1940s and '50s were the offices of EC Comics, whose horror comics like Tales From the Crypt were the focus of the comic book panic of the mid-'50s. EC also originated Mad magazine here. More recently Kanye West has been a resident.


CLEVELAND PL         S ===>

Cleveland Place

A little triangular park where Lafayette and Centre intersect is named for Grover Cleveland, the only president with two non-consecutive terms, and the only Democratic president between 1869 and 1913--making him popular with New York City's Democratic establishment. He was a former New York governor as well, and he lived and worked in Manhattan during a couple of periods in his life.

It's also called Joseph Petrosino Square, after a NYPD officer who went undercover against anarchists and the Black Hand. He was killed in 1909 investigating the Mafia in Sicily.


KENMARE ST     E ===>

203 (corner): China Times Weekly News is based in this pre-war loft building.

199 (corner): Calypso Home, connected to the Calypso clothing stores. And/or Odin, men's boutique.


W <===     BROOME STREET     ===> E

West:

188 (corner): The New York office of Sing Tao Daily, a Chinese-language daily founded in Hong Kong in 1938 that claims more readers than all its competitors combined. Back when Lafayette Street was called Elm Street, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was founded in a boardinghouse here in 1868.

186: Aji Ichiban, Asian snack-food franchise that describes itself as a "munchies paradise." Its three New York outlets are its first in the U.S.

182: Children's Museum of the Arts is "New York City's only hands-on art museum for children."

178: K & L Printing

176: Lafayette Seafood Corp.

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191: Double G Graphics Inc.

189: Studio New York

187: A. Trenkmann, 1917

183: Attractive orangey brick building with lion heads


177B: Hi-Fi A-V Supplies

175: Rudolph Bass Woodworking Machinery & Supplies, founded 1918


W <===     GRAND STREET     ===> E

West:

162A (corner): Grand Lafayette Variety Store

162: Tai Fortune Food Market

158: Wonton Specialist

Mondrian Hotel

150: A boutique hotel that opened in 2011, part of the Morgans group. The decor is said to be inspired by Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast. The hotel restaurant is Imperial No. 9, a sustainable seafood restaurant; there's also a bottle service club here called Mister H. Formerly on the site was the Chinatown Dialysis Center.

140 (corner): Was Maria's Bakery, Chinese pastries

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161 (corner): Long Double Star Trading; Lafayette Lounge


155: Abacus Business Computer






147: Grand Machinery Exchange




W <===     HOWARD STREET     ===> E

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Holiday Inn Manhattan Downtown

138 (corner): There's not many hotels in the Chinatown area, and this is probably the biggest. The building has some character. Includes H2 Cards, Ten Ren's Tea and Gemworks.


130: Was Wardard China & Porcelian, which was also a Chinese grocery.

128: Fu Kee Chinese Restaurant; Lafayette Souvenir

126: Tinny Beauty

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129: T.W. & C.B. Sheridan Co., a machinery manufacturer that dissolved in 1964.




125: Kinning Pharmacy


W <===     CANAL STREET     ===> E

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112 (corner): These landmarked, many-pillared cast-iron lofts are attributed to James Bogardus, a pioneer of cast-iron architecture, and may be his most important surviving work. Houses Bank of America and HSBC--the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank Company. Bruce, a Scottish immigrant who invented printing machinery, also has a library branch named after him in Harlem.




110 (corner): Hardware Building

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111: Comprises Excellent Dumpling House (which is!), New Wing Wong Restaurant and Lays Herbal Center.









109 (corner): Vien Dong Music Center


W <===     WALKER STREET     ===> E

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100 (corner): Loftworks, designer clothing retailer










90 (corner): The New York City Rescue Mission has been giving "spiritual hope, food, clothing and shelter to people in crisis in New York City" since 1872.

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101-105 (corner): Lafayette Towers houses Sau Voi Corp and Chinese Home Style.

DCTV Firehouse

87 (corner): This fanciful chateau, one of several remarkable firehouses designed by Napoleon LeBrun & sons, was built for Engine Co. 31, which was stationed here from 1895 until it was disbanded in 1972. It's now home to Downtown Community Television, and to the crucial alternative news show Democracy Now!, which moved here when Pacifica Radio was giving the show's co-host Amy Goodman a hard time.


W <===     WHITE STREET     ===> E

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80 (corner): Bagel Deluxe

70 (corner): The landmarked Ahrens Building, completed 1896, is a Romanesque Revival building with rusticated brickwork and striking arches, designed by George H. Griebel. Eric's Happy Deli is on the ground floor.


W <===         FRANKLIN ST

Family Court

60 (block): A cubistic building from 1975 by Haines, Lundberg & Waehler. It appears in the film The Bourne Ultimatum as a secret CIA training facility for assassins, with its address given as 415 East 71st Street.

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Civil Municipal Court Building

75 (corner): A "sleek but dull cube" (AIA Guide) built in 1960, designed by William Lescaze and Matthew Del Gaudio. A bas relief on the side of the building depicts Justice pointing to a baby and rejecting a snake. The innocence vs. guilt symbolism is somewhat out of place on a civil courthouse.




Collect Pond Park

The name commemorates the largest body of fresh water on Manhattan, originally a source of shellfish and drinking water--later direly polluted. Eventually it was drained by the canal that gave Canal Street its name, and filled in.


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50 (block): U.S. Office Building




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Department of Health, Hospitals & Sanitation

A "boxy neo-Classical cum Art Deco cube" (AIA Guide put up in 1935 to a Charles B. Meyers design. Bears the names of healthcare pioneers like Koch, Behring, Leewenhoek, Ehrlich, Billings and Harvey.









W <===     WORTH STREET     ===> E

West:

Federal Plaza

26 Federal Plaza: Jacob K. Javits Federal Office Building is named for the U.S. senator for New York from 1956 until 1980. He's remembered for his work passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the War Powers Act of 1973. They don't make Republicans like him anymore.

The building, which houses the New York offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly the INS), was begun in 1963 to a design by Kahn & Jacobs et al, with an expansion completed 1977.

The plaza here was the site of Richard Serra's Tilted Arc, a monumental metal sculpture installed in 1981 that was removed in 1989 due to public antipathy.

1 Federal Plaza: Part of the Javits complex, this wing houses the U.S. Court of International Trade, formerly the U.S. Customs Court, which has jurisdiction over international trade disputes.


W <===         DUANE ST






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Thomas Paine Park

Named for arguably the most important figure of the American Revolution, whose writings helped convince British colonists of the need for independence. Paine died in New York in 1809.





PEARL ST         ===> E

Foley Square

Named for Tammany Hall leader Big Tom Foley in 1926, a year after his death. Foley, in addition to being an alderman, sheriff, Tammany district leader and a mentor of Alfred Smith, was a saloonkeeper, and his last joint was located where his square is now.

The sculpture in the fountain here is called The Triumph of the Human Spirit; the boat-like shape represents the slave trade and all U.S. immigration; the black granite forms that rise above the "boat" are patterned on African antelope carvings.

There was an obscure TV show called Foley Square, a legal drama that ran for a few months in 1985-86.

See a 360-degree panorama of Foley Square!




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

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