Posts Tagged ‘Adelina Patti’

The block known as “Genius Row” in the Village

February 28, 2011

Stephen Crane (at left), O. Henry, Willa Cather, opera singer Adelina Patti—they all spent time bunking in one of the red brick row houses on Washington Square South between Thompson Street and LaGuardia Place.

Dubbed “Genius Row” because of its brain trust of creative residents in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the block was dominated by one row house in particular: the “House of Genius” at 61 Washington Square South.

Leased by a Swiss woman named Madame Blanchard in 1886, the House of Genius became a boardinghouse for bohemian writers, musicians, and artists—the only people she’d rent to.

“The third and fourth floors were also emblazoned with artistic murals and poetry etched by the former guests,” according to the New York Preservation Archive Project.

But after Madame Blanchard died in 1937, a developer bought Genius Row, planning to bulldoze the row houses and put up a high-rise.

Village residents fought hard against the plan, but the developer secured evictions and reduced the entire block to rubble.

In the end, however, he didn’t get his high-rise. In 1948 he sold the property to New York University, which constructed a student center there.

[Writer and Village resident Willa Cather]

Breaking barriers at Carnegie Hall

April 16, 2009

In 1892, soprano Sissieretta Jones became the first African American to perform at Carnegie Hall. Reportedly she sang “Ava Maria” as well as selections from Verdi’s “La Traviata” at the year-old music venue.

sissierettajonesShe was no New York City novice though. Jones had already made a name for herself singing both arias and popular tunes at smaller halls, like Wallack’s Theater on Broadway and 13th Street and Steinway Hall on 14th near University Place. At Steinway Hall she got the nickname the “Black Patti,” after Italian opera singer Adelina Patti.

A few months before her Carnegie Hall debut, she performed at Madison Square Garden as part of the “Negro Grand Jubilee” for an audience of 75,000.

Jones became nationally and internationally renowned. But frustrated by racism at many music venues, she eventually formed the Black Patti Troubadours, a vaudville-like music revue that toured major cities for decades.

She died in 1933, reportedly broke, in her hometown of Providence.