The bums and barflies on a 10th Avenue corner

“Well-bred people are no fun to paint,” Reginald Marsh once reportedly said.


Known for his exaggerated, carnival-like paintings of crowds of showgirls, shoppers, and Coney Island beach-goers, Marsh was deeply taken by the forgotten men of 1930s New York—casualties of the Depression who gathered at bars and on breadlines.

reginaldmarshcorner2016His 1931 etching, “Tenth Avenue at 27th Street,” gives us a detailed look at a crowd of anonymous men lined up along the side of a shadowy saloon in a rough-edged neighborhood.

The men either look away, leaning against the bar like it’s a lifeboat, or leer at a lone woman.

Hmm . . . what would Marsh think of this same corner 86 years later, with the High Line and art galleries drawing the well-bred people who never made it into his sketchbook?

[Second image: Google]

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11 Responses to “The bums and barflies on a 10th Avenue corner”

  1. Tyler Says:

    I lived at 24th and 10th. There was an abandoned corner bar from that era at 25th Street unironically named Joe’s Tavern with a big green neon sign running along the side.

  2. Ruth Rosenthal Says:

    Reginald Marsh–one of my favorites. I think Marsh would find NYC very boring, in 2016. The Highline is fun to walk along but the people are meh–mostly, rich, wealthy consumers.

  3. Tyler Says:

    My decidedly non wealthy family had been living in Chelsea since 1962. I’m the last. Priced out. My rent doubled over three years.

    The highline and the associated erection of all those glass towers attracted wealthy tourists from all over the world looking for a pied-a-tierre who pretty much would pay anything asked.

    The local merchants did not benefit because there are limited exits off the highline. The merchants also suffered because all those empty apartments don’t buy milk. I was the only one actually living on my floor just before I moved.

    The locals prefer to go the Hudson and not have to look at all those damn tourists. You can’t walk your dog up there.

    Ironically the only people who can stay are the ones in the projects which gives the new Chelsea a kind of third world very rich and very poor vibe.

    I’m getting used to the Bronx but I really miss Chelsea.

  4. wendy Says:

    It actually looks just like the corner of Mercer and Prince — the front of Fanelli’s.

  5. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Great observation. It’s certainly possible this is Fanelli’s and Marsh changed the location. The only small difference I see is that this etching has a fire escape on the tenement window over the bar, and I don’t think the windows above Fanelli’s ever led to a fire escape.

    • wendy Says:

      I seem to r4member one (I lived in SoHo in the 70’s), but it’s entirely possible that with work done, a fire exit was placed someplace else.

  6. marygerdt Says:

    Reblogged this on Journey Through The Universe and commented:
    Great article from Ephemeral NY…

  7. Timothy Grier Says:

    I’m a native New Yorker who has been living in Washington DC since the 80s. I am fortunate to work in the Old US Postal Service HQ building which has several WPA murals. Among the best are two by Reginald Marsh “Unloading the Mail” and “Sorting the Mail”.

  8. The crowds inside a 14th Street subway station | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Marsh painted everything in his New York of the 1930s and 1940s: Bowery crowds, showgirls, forgotten men, Coney Island beachgoers, tugboats, panhandlers, and […]

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