A lost East Village alley on a 1963 downtown map

Old maps tell us a lot about the subtle changes to New York’s streetscape. Take this illustrated map of the Village that’s almost 60 years old, for example.

Published in August 1963 by the Village Voice, the map covers not just Greenwich Village but a portion of the Meatpacking District (see “Little West 12th Street” in very small print), a slice of Chelsea, and a bit Gramercy Park, with that sliver of Irving Place at the top right.

The map extends all the way east to First Avenue. Makes sense; the newly christened East Village was at the time becoming a hipster alternative to pricey Greenwich Village, with its own clubs, bars, theaters, and head shops. The new, young residents here would likely be Village Voice readers.

“Stuyvesant Alley,” by Armin Landeck, 1940

Much of the Village Voice map aligns with the streetscape today. But there’s something missing in the contemporary East Village—it’s a place name on the map between Third and Second Avenues and East 11th and 12th Streets.

“Stuyvesant Alley,” the map says, marking a slender lane in the middle of the block. Okay, but there’s no Stuyvesant Alley anymore. So what happened to it?

Stuyvesant Alley, not named on this 1868 map

First, let’s see what the backstory is. The “Stuyvesant” name is obvious; the alley was created on land once part of the farm Peter Stuyvesant established for himself and his descendants in the 17th century. Parcels of his “bouwerie” were sold off for development in later centuries, but the Stuyvesant name stuck.

Stuyvesant Alley appears in several 19th century neighborhood maps, like the one above, from 1868. The alley isn’t named, but it runs through East 11th to East 12th Street. It also seems to have some small buildings lining it—perhaps stables?

By 1879, the alley’s name made it on the map (above), along with other places in the heavily developed neighborhood, like the Astor Place Hotel and Tivoli Theatre.

In the 1920s, Stuyvesant Alley showed up in an article in the New York Herald. An art exhibit was to be held at One Stuyvesant Alley in November 1922, the paper reported, hosted by a group of painters who called themselves the Co-Arts Club.

“The Co-Arts Club has established themselves in Stuyvesant Alley, the last frontier of Bohemianism on the East Side,” the Herald stated wistfully. “The ruthless march of tenements and factories has left only the alley untouched and the light bathes the studios there with an undimmed purposefulness.”

The painting of the alley as a narrow driveway surrounded by red brick and stone buildings (second image above) is the work of Armin Landeck in 1940. Whether Landeck’s depiction was true to life is hard to know; it’s also unclear which end of the alley he’s looking down.

His view is different from that of this 1934 photo of Third Avenue and East 11th Street (above), which shows the buildings on either side of the entrance to Stuyvesant Alley.

The alley made it into the 1960s, since it’s on the Village Voice map. But the trail goes cold after that.

To explain its undocumented disappearance, I’m going with what the Village Preservation’s Off the Grid blog concluded in 2014, when they took a closer look at Stuyvesant Alley: “The alley appears to have been wiped from the map in the 1980s when NYU built their large dorm on the corner of Third Avenue and East 11th Street.”

Thanks to Mick Dementiuk for sending the link to the map my way.

[Top image: Village Voice map via The Copa Room; second image: Brooklyn Museum; third image: fourth, fifth, and sixth images: NYPL]

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15 Responses to “A lost East Village alley on a 1963 downtown map”

  1. Mykola Mick Dementiuk Says:

    My own crawling through those stinking streets was captured in the now out-of-print 100 Whores, sort my confessional book of the time, available here no charge.

  2. Jim Walsh Says:

    I have in my humble collection a humpback porcelain street sign from the intersection of Stuyvesant Al. and east 11th st.. Wish I could post a picture. The sign dates back to the 40’s or 50’s, give or take.

  3. countrypaul Says:

    Interesting story. I notice the alley is very close to Stuyvesant Street, the shortened remnant of last true east-west street in Manhattan. Also, Mykola, there is no link to your book, just a plaintext “here.” Want to try again, please?

  4. Nancy Anderson Says:

    Thanks for this Stuyvesant Alley column. Even a long time explorer of nooks, crannies and other Manhattan street irregularities like me, never knew about this lost Alley

    Best regards Nancy Anderson


  5. Kiwiwriter Says:

    On occasion, I would go over there (usually for chow at the Second Avenue Deli, and later to Finerty’s for a Giants bus party or Giants baseball event), and I knew about Stuyvesant Alley, but could not find it.

    Figures that NYU, in its endless effort to take over the East Village, swallowed it alive. Next it’ll eat up St. Mark’s-the-Bouwerie. Supposedly, when buildings or streets are messed with there, ol’ Petrus’s wooden leg taps in its grave.

  6. Mykola Mick Dementiuk Says:

    You know what I think happened, after the early 60s many buildings were torn down and 11th-12th St & 3rd Ave added the anonymous little avenue to its now empty lot which for many years after, extended itself to become a parking lot. Eventually the NYU dorm. My how NYC changes…

  7. velovixen Says:

    I wonder how many other alleys and mini-streets have been lost to rapacious development or through other means.

  8. WendyWriter Says:

    Also worth noting that what we now call Stuyvesant was considered an extension of Astor Place at one point

  9. A lost East Village alley on a 1963 downtown map – Urban Fishing Pole Lifestyle Says:

    […] A lost East Village alley on a 1963 downtown map […]

  10. Larry Gertner Says:

    Walked down here this morning. The building with the fire escape is still there. The alley looks like it would be about where the streetligy stanchion. Wish I could post my comparison photo…

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