The hippest hangout in the 1960s East Village

You know how everyone always complains that a once-cool bar or club has been ruined because it’s been discovered by bridge-and-tunnel types?

The same gripes were repeated in the mid-1960s about the Dom (above, in 1966, photo by Fred W. McDarrah).

Occupying the former Polish National Home at 19-25 St. Marks Place, it was once the burgeoning East Village’s hippest nightspot—run by Stanley Tolkin, proprieter of Beat hangout Stanley’s bar on Avenue B and 12th Street.

When exactly it opened depends on what book or article you read, but it seems to have hit maximum hipness in the mid-1960s. The Dom apparently wasn’t one space but an upstairs dance club/performance art area plus a downstairs bar/restaurant.

But by the time this grumbling review came out in 1965’s The Inside Guide to Greenwich Village, the place was over, invaded by “another element.”

The Dom disappeared sometime in 1967, when the space became the Balloon Farm, then the Electric Circus, next a community center/rehab facility, and over the years a succession of other short-lived bars and cafes.

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28 Responses to “The hippest hangout in the 1960s East Village”

  1. Chris Sauer Says:

    check this out, I love this stream of old NYC stuff…

  2. D. Says:

    I remember the Electric Circus’ radio spots (I only got to go once.)

  3. The Day | The Cats of Tompkins Square Park (Jazz Cats, That Is) - The Local East Village Blog - Says:

    […] Ephemeral New York points to an entry in “The Inside Guide to Greenwich Village” indicating that the fabled St. Marks club The Dom only made it six months before it was invaded by “another element” with “absolutely no cool whatsoever.” […]

  4. Joe R Says:

    I may have misremembered but doesn’t this building show up in Clint Eastwood’s “Coogan’s Bluff”?

  5. Seen and Heard Around the Village 8.29.11: East Edition Says:

    […] The Dom was the hippest East Village hangout in the 60′s (Ephemeral New York) […]

  6. ------------m Says:

    the Balloon Farm, & then the Electric Circus were in another space entered through the buildings front stairs. they existed at the same time as the Dom.

  7. Steve Says:

    The Dom was home to Warhol’s “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” in 1966, where The Velvet Underground was introduced to the world. Possibly the most influential (and coolest) rock band ever. While too young to have gone or to remember, I do remember the pop music television show “Where the Action Is” (’65-’67) whose schtick was to travel around the country to the cool spots “where the action is.” I clearly remember the episode featuring the Electric Circus. When I moved to the E.Village in ’77 I walked by the old place and immediately recognized it from the show that I had seen 10 or more years earlier when I was 8-10.

  8. Stanley’s: a bohemian 1960s East Village bar « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] was run by Stanley Tolkin, who later opened the Dom on St. Marks Place, a bar-slash-performance space that took heat in the mid to late 1960s for attracting a very uncool […]

  9. Frank R. Says:

    I saw the Mothers of Invention at the Dom in 1966, I guess. It was the first time I saw huge projected light shows on the walls. It was amazing. Not many people there. Most were wandering around, sort of dancing to the pictures which seemed to be where the music was coming from. Downstairs was a jazz club and bar. v. crowded, v. late . Yeah, I’d say it was the hippest place on earth. Especially when Zappa was there.

  10. “The affluent set invades the East Village” « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] there were the artists,’ [Stanley] Tolkin said.” Tolkin was the owner of Stanley’s, on Avenue B and 12th Street, a hangout for painters, musicians, and […]

  11. Virginia K Says:

    I remember the Dom, we used to go there
    a lot to dance. It’s the only club I
    ever truly loved. I think we drank rye and ginger ale and danced to 50s music in the middle 60s. If anybody has any links
    to pictures videos articles references hope
    you’ll post them.

    • Calvin Says:

      I lived on 2nd ave and 1st in 1967, the Dom was the hotest dance club in NYC tri-state…best dancing,girls and girls … meet my now wife of 49 years there many good people

  12. Rich L Says:

    The photo took me back. I was a child in the 50’s in NYC, and since my parents were from Poland, we were heavily involved in the Polish community. “The Dom” didn’t yet exist. I recall going up those steps to the Polski Dom Narodowy. Inside was just a large meeting hall with a stage, and we’d go there often for various Polish community events. (In fact, I have exactly one photo of me with my parents in front of that stage. Not worth posting as you can’t see much background.) I’m sure there was a bar (we were Polish, right?), and likely a kitchen, but I don’t remember at all, since all I did was run around on the squeaky wooden floor and scream with the other kids while the “old people” sat around discussing boring “important” stuff. When I was a teen in the 60’s and it became the Electric Circus, I went to see what they’d done to the place. It was unrecognizable, as the large hall was subdivided and remodeled into the infamous go-go club. I never went back inside after that. Even then, I wanted to keep my childhood memories.

  13. Michael McGuire Says:

    The last time I was at the Dom was the summer of ’66 when my friends and I were celebrating (ugh) my draft notice. When I returned from the Army in late ’68, it was gone. That might have been the exclamation point on my youth.

  14. Virginia Kelley NYC Says:

    As to the Dom-to-Electric-Circus change, I am almost sure that the Dom was downstairs, in a very plain space that seemed like the parish social hall of the church you grew up in, and the Electric Circus was upstairs. I don’t know if they co-existed briefly but they could have.

  15. frank r. Says:

    The Dom was the whole place, upstairs and downstairs. Before EC came along.

  16. Ollie Colvin Says:

    The Dom was the best Disco in Ny. The Kennedy frequently visited. I was a bouncer there.With Charlie Green and Joe Shaw.Ron Van Clief was also a bouncer there.Ron was the star of the movie the black Judo expert.

    • Calvin Says:

      Big John was the head bouncer in 1967…nice guy

      • Nicholas Rockwell Says:

        I was the night porter at the Dom in 1967 for a while. At that time Big John, who IIRC had played football for the Giants and Charlie “The Devil” Green were the bouncers who put the chairs up before I started sweeping and mopping. As noted elswhere, the Dom was the bar and disco downstairs and the Electric circus was a separate club upstairs. Very different crowds.

  17. bill stoneley Says:

    bill stoneley saw sly stone in 1968 but pictures here don’t match my memory!

  18. richard connerty Says:

    I waited tables at the Dom for Stanly Toking and his manager/partner Bill Graves during it’s heyday,summer 66-67.
    I worked with the bouncers, Charlie Green, Joe Shaw, and a big British fellow who was a professor at a private school uptown.
    It was a mixed crowd but a largely black cliental. The house band was the great Moe, Adrian, and the Sculptors, a racially mied band, very unusual then. Eventually the side bar hosted a popular jazz venue led by Tony Scott who recorded with Billie Holliday.
    That was phased out when Tolkin hired the Velvet Underground with Nico.
    Stanley soon hosted Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable upstairs
    and that venue morphed in the Electric Circus

  19. Charles A. Ralston Says:

    Recall listening to Roy Haynes, drums with Charlie Haden bass and Jeremy Steig, vibes at The Dom. Pianist also but can’t recall name. Spring 1965. Place on north side of St Marks Pl. off 2nd Ave. entrance was below street level. Had a long bar on the right and band stand to the left.

  20. Jan Blaszczak Says:

    Dear all, I am working on a book devoted to Stanley Tolkin, therefore I would appreciate, if You agreed to share Your memories related to Mr Tolkin and the extraordinary venues he run. My email is: I would be greatful for any help.

  21. St. Marks Place was once a posh New York street | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Europeans, charity workers, gangsters, bohemians, punk rockers, tourists, and college kids all […]

  22. wallace sobel Says:

    The Polish club was upstairs, and the entrance was up the stairs next door. The Dom was just below street level and, basically a jazz club, and dance floor. The Polish club left and it became the Balloon Farm, an underground dance hall. The Balloon Farm then became Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable where Nico and the Velvet Underground were the house band. That, eventually, became The Electric Circus. The Fillmore East was a few blocks to the south on second. I think that the big change, the downturn, so to speak, came when the hippies that came, in mass, and then brought in the runaways, homeless and others that slept on the street, I lived across the street, sharing an apartment with my friend Tony, a childhood friend, from The Dom, and eventually had to move out because I could not get in, and out, of my pad, because of the wall to wall bodies crashing up and down the street. I could not leave my pad without stepping on someone … I could not see the sidewalk. But those were the great times, exciting times and watching the changes, as the block became ultra cool, with limos pulling up … a mind blower. I moved over to Alphabet City sharing an apartment with a guy I worked with … George.

  23. Seen and Heard Around the Village 8.29.11: East Edition – Village Preservation Says:

    […] The Dom was the hippest East Village hangout in the 60’s (Ephemeral New York) […]

  24. Edie Says:

    Dom was downstairs. I used to go on Monday, Ladies’ Night, when girls got in for free and danced all night. Balloon Farm and Electric Circus different venues altogether.

  25. richard velez Says:

    w2hat about the anex bar ave b

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