Posts Tagged ‘West Village alleys’

The artists and writers of 1920s St. Luke’s Place

July 28, 2016

In a neighborhood known for its charming brownstone-lined streets, St. Luke’s Place in the West Village stands out as exceptionally magical.

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Built in the early 1850s opposite a sprawling cemetery owned by Trinity Church, the 15 rowhouses span the north side of this slightly curved lane—which is actually Leroy Street, rechristened between Seventh Avenue and Hudson Street to give the block cachet.

Stlukesplace5and6mcnyStlukespaulcadmusThe first owners of these impressive homes, with their roomy parlors and grand entrances, were wealthy merchants.

By the 1910s and 1920s, like so much else in the Village, many were carved into flats and taken over by painters and writers. These newcomers gave St. Luke’s Place its literary and artistic reputation.

The roster of one-time residents features some diverse talent. Painter Paul Cadmus (above) lived at 5 St. Luke’s Place (left, with number 6 in 1939).

Number 11 (below in 1900, with 12 and 13) was home to Max Eastman, poet and publisher of the anarchist periodical The Masses.

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Sherwood Anderson resided in a one-room basement flat at number 12. Theodore Dreiser took an apartment at number 16 a month later (bottom photo, center) and began An American Tragedy there.

Stlukesmariannemoore1920sPoet Marianne Moore (left, in the 1920s in the Village) and her mother lived two doors down in the basement of number 14.

The location was convenient, as Moore worked in the public library built across the street after the cemetery was moved and the land turned into a city park.

St. Luke’s had other notable residents: sculptor Theodore Roszak kept his studio at number 1. Jazz Age mayor Jimmy Walker had his family home at number 6. West Side Story playwright Arthur Laurents owned number 9.

And as 1980s TV fans know, number 10 was used to represent the exterior of the Huxtable family home on The Cosby Show.

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St. Luke’s is as lovely as ever, and if it’s still home to many poets and painters, they keep a low profile. As for the ones who resided here in the 1920s and 1930s, if only we knew more about how their lives overlapped as neighbors.

[Second and third photos: MCNY; Paul Cadmus painting by Luigi Lucioni, Brooklyn Museum]

New York’s last gas lamp in a West Village alley

October 29, 2012

Is there an enclave in New York City lovelier than Patchin Place?

This one-lane stretch of circa-1850 brick walk-ups in the West Village is shaded by ailanthus trees and blocked off from traffic by a wrought-iron fence.

It’s shabby-romantic, the former home of many early 20th century writers.

But this little mews off West 10th Street and Sixth Avenue also contains an incredible 19th century old New York relic at its far end.

It’s the location of the last original gas lamp and stanchion in New York City.

The simple, elegantly designed lamp still illuminates the alley at night, and it helps light up the Christmas tree residents place in front of it every December.

Unfortunately, it’s no longer powered by gas; the lamp was wired for electricity in the 1920s.

Imagine the lovely glow it must have cast on Patchin Place until then!

Taking a walk down the Village’s Charles Lane

October 22, 2008

Charles Lane, a narrow alley from Washington to West Street in the West Village, is all that remains of the northern boundary of Newgate State Prison, which stood at the foot of the Hudson here from 1797 until the 1820s. Also known as Pig Alley, Charles Lane was later paved with unique stones not seen elsewhere in the city, according to the Greenwich Village Society of Historical Preservation.

Here’s Charles Lane in the 1930s, photographed by Berenice Abbott. Is that the old Ninth Avenue El that ran along Greenwich Street, or is it a remnant of the High Line?

Charles Lane today is surrounded by pricey West Village real estate, but it doesn’t look all that different, and the paving stones remain the same. Amazing it wasn’t bulldozed and turned into the Charles Lane Condos:


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