Posts Tagged ‘Bleecker Street’

A nighttime view of Bleecker and Carmine Streets

April 5, 2013

It’s a dark night at this moment in time on the corner of Bleecker and Carmine Streets in 1915.

But there’s warmth and light from the shop windows and the apartments above, which illuminate small groups of Italian immigrants, who had settled into this part of the Village.

Luksbleeckerandcarminestreets2

Ashcan School artist and Greenwich Villager George Luks is the painter, and he often depicted immigrant crowds on city street corners.

Are we looking at the corner just across from Our Lady of Pompeii Church?

City signs that should have been spell-checked

November 12, 2012

New York street signs are a fascination of this website—very old signs and wonderfully ornate ones in particular.

But misspelled signs are fun too, like this one an Ephemeral reader sent over. It comes from Robert Wagner Middle School on East 76th Street. Hopefully it kept all the “loiters” away . . . .

City sign makers have put up some other fails in recent years. My favorite is this street sign from 2008 that was briefly installed in front of the Angelika Film Center on West Houston. Merser Street?

Another gem is this, um, Bleeker Street subway station sign, from May 2007, caught by a blogger at debcentral.com.

I’m assuming it’s been fixed since then, but who knows?

Gothamist has a fun compilation of other bastardizations and typos here.

Bleecker Street: “headquarters of Bohemianism”

August 3, 2011

“He who does not know Bleecker Street does not know New York,” wrote James D. McCabe in his 1872 guidebook Lights and Shadows of New York Life. “It is of all the localities of the metropolis one of the best worth studying.”

Why did McCabe single out Bleecker? In post–Civil War New York, it was a perfect example of how quickly a thoroughfare can go from fancy to shabby chic.

“It was once the abode of wealth and fashion, as its fine old mansion testify,” states McCabe, referring to the grand detached houses that lined Bleecker from the Bowery to Sixth Avenue.

“Twenty-five years ago they were homes of wealth and refinement . . . the old mansions are [now] put to the viler uses of third-rate boarding houses and restaurants.”

Bleecker’s rep sank thanks to the bordellos that began lining nearby Greene and Mercer Streets. Soon it became the center of Bohemianism—a label that applied into the 1960s, when Bleecker hosted Beat writers, folk musicians, and edgy comedians.

“You may dress as you please, live as you please, do as you please in all things, and no comments will be made. There is no ‘society’ here to worry your life with its claims and laws. Life here is based on principles which differ from those which prevail in other parts of the city.”

[Van Nest mansion drawing: courtesy of the NYPL Digital Collection]

A seedy place to stay in the Village in 1970

July 27, 2010

If you were a guy who could only swing $2.75 per night in 1970 but really wanted a room of your own in the West Village, then the New Greenwich Hotel may have been your best option.

This ad comes from the December 2, 1970 New York Post. If separate showers are a main selling point, it was probably pretty rundown.

Interestingly, the handsome block-wide building at 160 Bleecker was built as a lodging house for poor gentlemen almost a century earlier, in 1896.

It was Mills House Number One, a clean hostel that encouraged residents to get a steady job. Mills hostels were the brainchild of philanthropist Darius Ogden Mills; three existed in New York City by 1904. 

“By the 1960s it came to be known as the Greenwich, and was a seedy hotel which was generally considered a source of crime and drug activity in the neighborhood,” states the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation report on the South Village.

In 1976 it was converted to luxe apartments and renamed the Atrium.

The giant Picasso on Bleecker Street

March 3, 2010

Some New Yorkers love it; others loathe it. But the 36-foot “Bust of Sylvette” has greeted passersby in a plaza on the Village-SoHo border since 1968.

Sylvette has been around long enough to get landmark status—which it achieved in 2008, along with the three I.M. Pei-designed Silver Towers apartment buildings it fronts between Bleecker and Houston Streets.

Technically it’s not even a Picasso sculpture but a “reinterpretation” of his much smaller “Portrait of Sylvette,” completed in 1934.

Pei asked Picasso to design a monument for him, so he had a collaborator recreate Sylvette by sandblasting her into 60 tons of concrete. 

A Bleecker Street home for “fallen women”

February 3, 2010

Today, Bleecker Street near Mott Street is a pricey stretch of real estate.

But in 1883, Bleecker here featured “a row of houses of the lowest character” located “between the up-town feeders and the down-town cess-pools which they supply,” according to a New York Times article that year.

In other words, it was the perfect place for a home for fallen women: females who had given in to sin via sex, gambling, booze, or prostitution, or all of the above.

The Florence Night Mission, at 21 or 29 Bleecker (it’s listed at both addresses in separate source books), aimed to help these women. It was founded by Charles Crittenton in memory of his little daughter Florence.

The goal: “to reclaim the fallen women of the neighborhood, by providing them with lodging and food until they are strong enough to go out to work for themselves, and by Gospel meetings, which are held nightly at midnight,” states King’s Handbook of New York City, published in 1892.

I couldn’t find any information on how many women the mission helped or when it closed up shop.

But the Florence Night Mission wasn’t a one-home operation for long. By 1914, there 76 homes nationwide helping poor girls and women.

The organization, now called The National Crittenton Foundation, still serves women and their families today.

Three ways of looking at 329 Bleecker Street

September 2, 2008

Decades before Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, and Magnolia colonized Bleecker Street in the West Village, it was a small-scale main street running through the Village’s thriving Italian neighborhood, packed with groceries, fish stores, and bakeries.

This little building, on Bleecker and Christopher Streets, looks like a grocery; see the crates getting some shade (no AC back then) behind the canopy. It was constructed between 1802 and 1810, predating the city’s grid system. The photo is from 1925.

Over the years the little house and storefront continued to be used as a grocery store or deli. Here it is in 1975. Looks like it was painted white.

Today, the house—and remarkably, the other houses around it—still stands. The clapboard siding, shutters, and old-style lamppost are gone, but the little quarter-round windows remain.

Bleecker Street in the ’60s

April 13, 2008

The inside photo from “The New Inside Guide to Greenwich Village,” published in 1965. Books like these become obsolete by the time they make it to store shelves—true New York ephemera.


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