Posts Tagged ‘Greenwich Village’

Where Seventh Avenue once abruptly ended

May 1, 2010

This 1912 photo shows what was then the end of Seventh Avenue, with Greenwich Avenue to  the left and West 11th Street on the right.

It looks quaint and Village-like, but it wouldn’t last much longer.

City officials had already decided to extend Seventh Avenue to Varick Street to build the IRT Seventh Avenue subway. A lengthened Seventh Avenue would also improve traffic flow downtown, they reasoned.

So the headquarters of Monahan’s, a shipping company, met the wrecking ball a year later. And a not particularly attractive thoroughfare christened Seventh Avenue South came into existence.

Here’s the same stretch of the Village today. In the 1912 photo, you can see the fence of St. Vincent’s Hospital at the far left. The ghost of the hospital is still there.

Polly’s MacDougal Street hangout

June 23, 2008

Looks like a jolly crowd inside Polly’s restaurant, at 137 MacDougal Street, around 1915. Polly Holladay was an anarchist who opened her eatery when Greenwich Village hit its bohemian heights in the teens.

The place was an instant hit. The artistically minded and politically active—such as Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Emma Goldman—were regulars. Polly’s moved around the block in 1919, closing for good not long after, about the time when the Village’s bohemian rep made it a favorite for tourists.

The building that housed Polly’s has attracted a lot of attention lately. New York University, which owns 133-139 MacDougal, wants to demolish most of it and put a new structure inside the old facade.

That’s not sitting well with local activists, who note that such a historic building—it formed the epicenter of an artistic movement that included Eugene O’Neill’s Provincetown Playhouse, the Liberal Club, and the Heterodoxy Club (a feminist group)—should be preserved.

Max Bodenheim, Village poet and gadfly

June 8, 2008

When Mississippi native Maxwell Bodenheim arrived in New York in the 1920s, the talented poet and novelist became the quintessential Village bohemian, hitting up bars, charming the literati, and picking up star-struck chicks. By the 1930s, however, he’d slid into destitution, a bum selling poems for a quarter at the San Remo Cafe and Minetta Tavern.

At left is the cover of his final, posthumously published and ghostwritten book (the actual writer based it on Bodenheim’s drunken ramblings), My Life and Loves in Greenwich Village. Undated photo at right.


Bodenheim hung on in the Village for a few decades, sleeping on benches and doing stints in the drunk tank at Bellevue. He was murdered in 1954, shot in a sleazy hotel at 97 Third Avenue by a dishwasher he’d befriended. His third wife was stabbed to death in the room with him. 

The February 15, 1954 issue of Time had this to say:

“In the 1920s, when he settled down in Greenwich Village, Max hit his bohemian crescendo. A lusty, limpidly handsome man, he attracted women by the scores (at least two of his castoff in amoratas committed suicide). By 1935, Bodenheim was no longer in vogue…he sank gradually into the bleary stupor of the alcoholic.

“At the San Remo Cafe, caricaturist Jake Spencer smashed Bodenheim’s personal gin glass and proposed a toast. ‘Max was a splendid type,’ he said. ‘He used to write poetry in a booth here and then try to peddle the verse at the bar for a drink of gin.'”

Can you repeat the number please?

June 8, 2008

Here are three more old phone exchanges from store signs and the side of a building. First up is this number for Bernard Charles Real Estate on Greenwich and Charles Streets. The typeface looks very 1940s.

On Thompson Street is Frank’s. Gotta love a hand-painted sign.

Finally, Sixth Avenue’s unofficial welcome-to-the-Village sign. Where have you gone, Emil Talamini? An obituary from the New York Times in 1970 describes him as “a real estate broker and investor long active in the Greenwich Village area.” RIP.

St. Vincent’s and the Village movie theater

April 29, 2008

Opened in 1921, the stately Loew’s Sheridan occupied the triangle at Seventh Avenue, 12th Street, and Greenwich Avenue in the West Village. But crowds dwindled, and in 1969, St. Vincent’s Hospital tore down the theater, intending to put an 8-story structure in its place. Hmm, sounds familiar…

Alas, they never did. Instead, St. Vincent’s moved into the Maritime Building next door and built an incinerator on the Loew’s site. That didn’t sit well with neighborhood activists, who remain skeptical of the hospital’s current expansion plans, as this City Review piece outlines.

Freaky trivia: In 1933, a man bought a ticket at the theater with a $5 bill. Turns out it was a marked bill from the Lindbergh baby ransom, leading to the arrest of Bruno Hauptmann, reports a 1935 New York Times article. 

(New-York Historical Society photo)

Before folk singers took over Washington Square

April 27, 2008

Cars and buses were allowed to drive through the park under the Washington Arch, this 1920s postcard shows. Vehicles got the boot in the late 1950s.

Amazingly, city officials in the 1950s thought about putting a four-lane highway across the park or building a tunnel under the park that would emerge on West Broadway.

“A bit of the old Sixth Avenue El…”

April 20, 2008

Sixth Avenue must have been awfully dark and grimy back in the days of the hulking El. This photo is from 1938. The Jefferson Market clock building and Bigelow’s are still there, of course. But the hideous Women’s House of Detention met the wrecking ball in 1974. 

The Sixth Avenue El was dismantled in 1939 and sold as scrap metal to the Japanese, who supposedly melted it into ammo during World War II. Hence the great e.e. cummings anti-war line, “It took a nipponized bit of the old Sixth Avenue El, in the top of his head, to tell him.” The full poem is here.

Bleecker Street in the ’60s

April 13, 2008

The inside photo from “The New Inside Guide to Greenwich Village,” published in 1965. Books like these become obsolete by the time they make it to store shelves—true New York ephemera.