Posts Tagged ‘Avenue B’

When Avenue B was the “German Broadway”

June 18, 2012

A lot has been written about the East Village’s late–19th century incarnation as an enclave called Kleindeutschland, aka Little Germany.

Tompkins Square Park was the center of this vibrant neighborhood.

And while “Avenue A was the street for beer halls, oyster saloons, and groceries,” Avenue B was the neighborhood’s commercial artery, known as the “German Broadway.”

“Each basement was a workshop, every first floor was a store, and the partially roofed sidewalks were markets for goods of all sorts,” states  All the Nations Under Heaven: an Ethnic and Racial History of New York City.

I wish some trace of Avenue B’s German past still existed.

Instead, I’ll just imagine the shops that probably occupied the lower level of 45-47 Avenue B, built in 1880.

And I’ll imagine that the Evangelical Lutheran Trinity Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession in the City of New York still worshiped at this church on Avenue B and 9th Street, built in 1847 and home to the Lutherans since 1863.

The photo, from the NYPL Digital Collection, dates to the 1930s, but the church was torn down in 1975.

The 1980s “art junkies” of Avenue B

November 1, 2010

“East Village galleries are multiplying like white rats,” states an article in the October 1983 edition of the East Village Eye.

That’s just a slight exaggeration. Roughly between 1980 and 1987, hundreds of galleries opened in the neighborhood, making Second Avenue to Avenue B the center of an art scene that drew inspiration from punk, graffiti, and performance art.

This party pic from the East Village Eye suggests that much emphasis was placed on the scene as well as the art itself.

The end of the East Village as a gallery mecca has been attributed to many things: the 1987 stock market crash; AIDS; the death of Andy Warhol in 1987 and protege Jean-Michel Basquiat a year later; and of course, rising rents.

It’s been memorialized in books and museum retrospectives, like this one at the New Museum in 2004.

1980s East Village cafes still packing crowds

August 4, 2010

Restaurants have always had a short shelf life in New York.

But even in today’s frat bar-happy, quasi-Bridge and Tunnel East Village, some old-school eateries are still drawing crowds.

From the January 1986 issue of local arts newspaper the East Village Eye comes this ad for Life Cafe—once a refuge for the bloody and battered who were caught up in the Tompkins Square Park riots of the late 1980s.

I never knew Yaffa Cafe had a slogan. But here it is in their ad from the same newspaper.

Another day on Avenue B and 14th Street

July 20, 2009

This 1918 photo, from a postcard available at the South Street Seaport Museum, gives a nice snapshot of life at one ordinary Manhattan street corner.

AvenueB1918There’s a street lamp with humpback-style street signs, a tenement building that would have been about 20 years old at the time, an ad for a long-gone cigarette brand, a fire box, and a newspaper box extolling pedestrians to “read the New York Herald.”

A corner bar advertises “pure lager beer ales & porter.”

The best details are the people. A little girl snacking, a woman in a doorway with something wrapped around her head, and a figure leaning out the second-story window, a blanket draped out the windowsill. 

Photo by B. Merlis.

A short-lived club in the 1980s East Village

May 6, 2009

Before wine bars, bank branches, and sushi restaurants took over the East Village, there were hole-in-the-wall clubs like 8BC, a gallery and performance space on Eighth Street between Avenues B and C. Opened in 1983, the place was over by the end of 1985.


The club is long-gone, but the tenement building still stands today. Of course, the art and graffiti has all been cleaned off and the facade spruced up and bricked over. And instead of empty lots, it’s flanked on both sides by gardens.

The original Stuyvesant Town

January 10, 2009

Before the 9,000-apartment, red-brick housing development across Fourteenth Street opened in 1947, a small walk-up tenement at 219 Avenue B had the Stuyvesant name on its far more humble facade.

“Stuyvesant Apartments” is serious faded and covered in grime, but it was constructed in 1910, predating Stuy Town by 37 years.


There’s a lot of Stuyvesant in the vicinity: Stuyvesant Street near St. Mark’s Church, the old Stuyvesant High School building on East 15th Street, and Stuyvesant Square off Second Avenue in the teens.

No wonder: Petrus Stuyvesant, the Dutch-born director-general of New Netherland, had his farm—or bouwerie—here in the 1600s.

“Avenue B—the Place to Be”

June 18, 2008

“3 Teens Kill 4” is a great name for a band, isn’t it? The weather was probably hot as hell on July 11, 1982—the afternoon they played at Tompkins Square Park, according to this ad from the East Village Eye.

The East Village “Groovy Murders”

April 29, 2008

This unremarkable tenement building at 169 Avenue B hides a gruesome secret. In October 1967, rich-girl-turned-runaway Linda Fitzpatrick was found bludgeoned to death in a sleeping bag in the basement with her drug-dealing boyfriend, James “Groovy” Hutchinson. 

The murders triggered much hand-wringing by parents and authorities on why “good” kids like Linda were turning to drugs and the East Village hippie lifestyle. Read her story in the terrific Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times article by J. Anthony Lukas. (Unfortunately, you have to pay for it in the NYT archive.)