Posts Tagged ‘East Village 1960s’

A lost East Village alley on a 1963 downtown map

February 28, 2022

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]

A helpful guide to 1967 East Village drug slang

September 5, 2013

newbohemiaguyLate 1960s drug culture apparently had readers of The New York Times perplexed.

How else to explain this article, dated April 16, 1967, that translates slang words and phrases spoken by East Village drug users?

The reporter hung out with young adults who were part of the “scene,” in other words, “people over 25 years old who hold sporadic jobs when they need money and can be understood only by other members of the “acid bag.”

It reads like a quick anthropological study of a primitive culture or tribe.

“The lingo of the ‘head,’ or drug user, is as diverse and incomprehensible to an outsider as the laboratory jargon of a nuclear physicist,” states the article.

“‘Head’ also has two meanings—what a person thinks and what drug he uses. . . .”

Eastvillageslangnytimesclip“A ‘shrink’ is a psychiatrist. Acid is LSD; grass is marijuana; a joint is a marijuana cigarette and a high is the feeling after using a drug.”

“In the East Village, people don’t carry things in a bag.  They carry things in a sack,” the article goes on. “A ‘bag’ is what they like and ‘what’s happening.'”

My favorite: “When a person’s mind is blown, he hears a phrase, word, poem, story, or sound that is ‘too much.'”

“The affluent set invades the East Village”

December 7, 2011

So read the headline from a New York Times article. Was it from 2002? 1996? 1988?

It actually dates to November 1964, and the piece chronicles a familiar story: how the artists and writers who moved to the neighborhood when it was rundown and unsafe resented the onslaught of rich uptowners who came to live there—or just slum it for the night.

“The uptown rich, who popularized Small’s Paradise in Harlem and the Peppermint Lounge in Midtown, have discovered the East Village nightspots,” explained the Times.

“‘First 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 poets.

“‘Then there were the teachers and writers, and little by little, we had everyone—advertising men, doctors who live in walk-up tenements, lawyers just starting out, construction workers.'”

“‘They all seem to work at something during the day,’ Tolkin said. ‘But at night, they change their clothes and become Beatniks.'”

The owner of Slug’s, another Bohemian bar on East Third Street, had this to say about the uptowners:

“‘They’re bored, and they have no other place to go. It has to become a fashionable place. It always happens to places like this. I’m going to raise my prices then.'”

[Fred W. McDarrah photos from The New Bohemia, by John Gruen, published in 1965]

The hippest hangout in the 1960s East Village

August 24, 2011

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.

The topless cellist arrested by the NYPD

October 28, 2009

Charlotte Moorman, a native Texan, trained for a traditional concert hall career as a cellist.

But after moving to Manhattan in the late 1950s to study at Juilliard and play in the American Symphony Orchestra, she became interested in avant-garde works and mixed media.

CharlottemoormanIn 1963 she founded an avant-garde art festival and began performing around the city with composer Nam June Paik.

Her concerts were pretty cutting edge: She played the cello nude from the waist up.

Today, it’s actually legal for women to go topless. But it was shocking stuff back in the 1960s. She and the fully-clothed Paik were even arrested at a 1967 show in Midtown.

Cops released Paik, but Moorman was tried and found guilty of  indecent exposure. The verdict was later overturned. 

She continued to perform works such as “Cello Sonata No. 1 for Adults Only” and “TV Bra for Living Sculpture,” during which she donned a bra composed of two tiny televisions.