Posts Tagged ‘Ethel Rosenberg’

East Side cross streets carved into corners

February 2, 2012

Wherever you’ll find old-school brick and brownstone buildings, you’ll also be able to spot some addresses carved into the facade.

I love the fancy numerals on this brick 76th Street tenement. That’s definitely not Helvetica.

Henington Hall, off Avenue B, was a meeting place for political groups and speakers in the first half of the 20th century and today functions as an art studio.

Interestingly, it’s where David Greenglass—who helped send his sister, Ethel Rosenberg, to the electric chair—got married in 1942.

Used to be an elementary school at this corner on 51st Street and First Avenue. At some point it went up for sale and was bought by a developer—who kept the 1892 facade and built a high-rise inside it.

The women’s prison in the middle of the Village

March 14, 2011

It’s doubtful that today’s Greenwich Village residents would allow the city to put up a fortress-like jail behind Jefferson Market, the 19th century courthouse-turned-library at Sixth and Greenwich Avenues.

But the Village was different in the 1930s. When city officials decided to replace an old jail that was part of Jefferson Market, they weren’t met with NIMBY opposition.

So in 1932, the Women’s House of Detention opened.

Modern and bright (WPA murals lined the walls), it focused on reforming the inmates, often charged with prostitution.

There were some illustrious inmates, held for other crimes, like Ethel Rosenberg, Angela Davis, and Valerie Solanas, who shot Andy Warhol in 1968.

Longtime Village residents still miss the street theater: Inmates on higher floors catcalled men on the street and cussed out visiting boyfriends and husbands on the sidewalk below.

By the 1960s, it was overcrowded and as unsafe as the jail it replaced. Closed in 1971 (inmates were shipped off the Rikers Island), the building was bulldozed in 1974.

A lovely garden was planted in its place.

Defunct Sheriff Street’s infamous resident

March 10, 2009

Sheriff Street used to run from Houston to Grand Streets on the Lower East Side. But then housing developments built in the 1940s obliterated it, and all that remains now is this lonely sign beside the Williamsburg Bridge.

sheriffstreetsign Not much distinguished Sheriff Street from other streets in the jam-packed immigrant neighborhood in the early part of the 20th century.

Except for one thing: Sheriff Street was the location of the childhood home of Ethel Rosenberg, executed with her husband Julius for espionage in 1953.

According to Ethel Rosenberg: Beyond the Myths, by Ilene Philipson, Sheriff Street was a loud, dingy block:

“[Ethel] was delivered at 64 Sheriff Street, a tenement house between Rivington and Delancey Streets. The trains traveling to and from Brooklyn over the Williamsburg Bridge, a half-block away, provided a loud and constant drone against which the street offered up its cacophony of voices and clatter.”


“A synogogue and several small machine shops were also on the block. Taken together, these various enterprises gave Sheriff Street a distinctly commercial cast, although the many  tenements housed hundreds of people above the din and tumult of the street,” Philipson writes.