Where Greta Garbo was left alone

In 1953, Swedish-born actress Greta Garbo purchased a 7-room apartment at The Campanile, a co-op at the eastern end of 52nd Street—a cul-de-sac beside the East River. 

GarbowalkingnycShe lived there for the next 37 years, until her death in 1990.Gretagarbo1925

Reclusive and uninterested in giving interviews, she was often seen going on long walks through her midtown neighborhood dressed unassumingly like any other New Yorker.

“I want to be alone,” she had said in one of her most famous movies, Grand Hotel

And though paparazzi managed to get occasional shots of her strolling around the city, she mostly was.

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12 Responses to “Where Greta Garbo was left alone”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    New York City is certainly the place to be alone. I never saw Garbo, at least I don’t think I did, but I did see others lost in thought and wandering the city streets. Bob Dylan, I spotted him in the 1970s on Lower 5th Avenue. John Lennon, he was crossing Madison Avenue in the 60s, looking very smug with himself. And Paul Simon, looked like he was talking to himself in the 50s. Abbie Hoffman would come by to visit my boss at Evergreen Book Club on 11th Street before he got busted or ran away from getting busted…I now forget which. I love the way NY used to be…anonymous…you could vanish and be alone just as you always wanted, just as Garbo said, “I want to be alone…”

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Celebrities who want to be left alone seem to be for the most part. I think the ones who complain about the paparazzi secretly court all the attention.

  3. petey Says:

    i saw warhol just standing there, waiting for a bus on 3rd in the 60s once. nobody approached him. i saw woody allen having an argument on madison in the 70s; they were just walking along, though it was late and dark and i didn’t know it was him until they were upon me. jackie onassis used to jog the reservoir without incident. we manhattanites are just so jaded :).

  4. John G. Caulfield Says:

    Can anyone identify where Garbo is walking by in this photo?

    She is definitely on the south side of the street, walking east.

    From the buildings that are visible, it appears she is either on 50th Street between Second and First, or else on 51st Street just east of First and heading toward Beekman Place, or else 52nd Street between Second and First.

    More than once, I saw Garbo coming out off a Chock Full o’Nuts on the west side of Fifth Avenue, which I believe was near 47th Street. She was quite inconspicuous.

    Just for fun, here is a (very partial) list of the famous or near-famous, or famous-to-some, who lived between 45th and 59th Streets, east of Park, at various times during the years 1945 to 1992 (roughly from south to north): Walter Cronkite, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Frank O’Hara (poet), Kurt Vonnegut, Katherine Hepburn, Alma Gluck, Efraim Zimbalist, Robert Kennedy, Johnny Carson, Truman Capote, one of Liza Minelli’s husbands, Douglas MacArthur, Genevieve (sort of a French Zsa-Zsa who often appeared on Jack Paar show), Trini Lopez, John Steinbeck, Pop Tunick (bar owner), Eamonn Doran (legendary bar owner), Louis Lent (local lawyer and realtor), “Papa” Bardini (well-regarded Italian chef), Al Smith’s daughter, Irving Berlin, Jack Gasnick (hardware store owner and raconteur), Jerry Dellafemina (legendary ad man), Sarnoff of RCA (I forget his first name), Huntington Hartford, Philip Johnson, Brett Smiley (glam pop star of early ’70s), either Dino or Felix (or both) of the Young Rascals, one of the Monkees (Davey Jones?), Priscilla Buckley (sister of Bill), P.J. Clarke, Mrs. Lane of Lane Bryant, Mrs. Lou Gehrig, Greta Garbo, Betty Hutton, Hermione Gingold, Rod McKuen, Dennis Smith, Alice Cooper, Bill Cullen, Ed Clark (Libertarian Party presidentisal nominee in 1980), Joseph E. Levine, Cyrus Vance, Rocky Graziano, Lee Rankin (NYC Corp Counsel), Mrs. H.J. Heinz (the elder), Kurt Waldheim, Charlotte Ford, Marilyn Monroe, Van Johnson, Henry Morgan, Mike McEwen (NY Ranger), Governor Carey’s wealthy Greek lady friend Eva (last name escapes me), Anne Blythe, Mary Higgins Clark, Al Goldstein, Jake LaMotta, Michael Caine, Walt Frazier, John Cheever, Charlie Carberry (federal prosecutor, foe of union corruption), Ray Milland, Stewart Mott, Mrs. Jackie Gleason, Paul Simon, Phil Esposito.

    (I also have heard, but am not sure, that James Cagney, John Lennon, J.D. Salinger, Elizabeth Arden, and Suzanne Somers have lived in the area.)

    • Helen Graham Says:

      I’ve just found this because I googled “Pop Tunick’s bar” (from the line in the James Schuyler poem, ‘Dining out with Doug and Frank”) – might you know where this bar was? (I assume in New York?). This is not an idle question – if one posed three years on from this thread (I’m a historian and I’ve been looking looking to find traces of this bar for quite some time….)

      • John G. Caulfield Says:

        Ms. Graham, you are in luck.

        “Pop Tunick’s” was around for years before it became the “long gone gay bar” of Schuyler’s name-dropping reminiscent poem. (I do like Schuyler, by the way. You mauy note that my “laundry list” of neighborhood notables includes Frank O’Hara, who lived on East 48th Street.) My grandfather was a bartender there. It was popular with the Irish community during Prohibition and into the 1930s, and, based on what I can piece together; the juke box only started to get filled with Lena Horne (and, no doubt, Judy Garland) tunes around the end of WWII. (I reckon that Schuyler’s evening with the Finn was between 1945 and 1948.)

        Anyway, the address was 978 Second Avenue. The building is still there, and there has been a bar in the same location since Prohibition, probably before.

        Pop Tunick and his wife werre immigrants from Russia. My father remembers them. They had a son who became a dentist, who, for a time, had a practice in the Buchanan, a building on the west side of Third Avenue, that spans 47th to 48th Streets.

        “Pop Tunick’s” became “Hennessy’s”,and was certainly such no later than 1954. In 1964 it became the “Green Derby”. In 1983 it became “Kennedy’s”. Then it was “Old Galway”, now it is “Irish Exit”.

        Until only a few years ago, the name of the bar (including when it was “Pop Tunick’s” was on a long vertical lighted display that ran the length of the building.

        Now for the best part. You can see a picturre of the bar from the mid-1930s. Google “nypl” and “photographic views”. Search in Manhattan for photos of Second Avenue (or maybe 53rd or 52nd Street.) There is the sign, to the left (east side) of the (truly long gone) Second Avenure El.

        I am happy to share any other information you might be interested in.

      • John G. Caulfield Says:

        Further details re the photo:

        When you get to the NYPL site, go to the main collection. It is photo # 707878f. Or search for “2nd Ave. – 52nd St.”

        Zoom in. You will see the almost building-long sign that was there until around 1998, I think (when “Oldgalway” became “Clancy’s”, which later became “Irish Exit”).

        Along the top horizontal you can see”Pop Tunick’s”. Down th long vertical, it says “Restaurant”. Along the bottom horizontal, it says “Bar”.

  5. jj burns Says:

    it is east 52nd street btw 1st + 2nd ave -approx 328 e 52 th st ! nice block !

  6. Anders Says:

    The picture shows Garbo on her way home to her apartment. Wonder what she was thinking about on her many solitary walks ? Did she ever feel really lonely ? Or was she absolutely happy with her solitary life all the time ? Does anyone know which places she usually visited on her many walks ?

  7. Mike Ghelardi Says:

    My neighbor was in Blomingdale’s with his girl friend who was trying on a dress. Ms. Garbo intervened and said it looked perfectly well on the girlfriend. They all three chatted a little bit, and Greta ambled off. They were totally charmed, and lovef Ms garbo after that. She was often seen at the farmers market on 67th between 1st and York. Locals loved having her about, admired her but left her alone.

  8. Laura Daitch Says:

    I assume that the main reason why the Late Great Greta
    Garbo always wanted to be left alone was because of
    the simple fact that she was a very private, reclusive person who cherished her privacy and shyed mass publicity connected with
    her great Fame and the Glamourous Image that Hollywood had
    “concocted” for her during her Heyday in the 1920’s thru the early
    40’s…. I think she made the right decision by turning her back
    on all the Hollywood Hype that she had been forcibly subjected
    to and which she rightfuilly loathed- all throughout her Hollywood
    career…which made her even more of a fascinating and enigmatic
    Figure after her premature retirement in the early 1940’s.
    She will forever be remembered by her millions of admiring Fans
    the world over as one of the most beautiful, mysterious yet elusive and charismatic Hollywood Legends to ever have graced the Silver
    Screen…RIP to the Great & unforgettable Garbo.xxx

  9. Laura Daitch Says:

    where is my comment on your Blog ? Laura Daitch

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