Walks in New York and elsewhere

My comments on buildings, shops, restaurants that catch my eye as I wander around New York City and other places.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bleecker Street II

Walking west, there is to the left, a little triangle with what has to be NYC's, if not the world's, thinnest building on it. The triangle is the result of the confluence of Mulberry, Lafayette and Bleecker in a configuration that would have been impossible if the 1811 grid had been imposed here. A little snack bar named "Bite" occupies the tip of the triangle.

On the north side of the street is The Culture Project Theatre, where the plays are more concerned with social and political issues than with entertainment. This marks the western boundary of NoHo East.

At 65 Bleecker, past Lafayette Street, at Crosby, is the Bayard-Condict Building, dating from 1899. This is the only building in New York City designed by Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright's "lieber Meister." Underneath its lavish ornament, the building reveals its structure. It may not be that tall by today's standards, but it meets Sullivan's demand that a syscraper be "a proud and soaring thing."

The angels spreading their wings beneath the cornice were a design element that the building's owner insisted on, presumably as a blessing for those who worked inside. The building is an individual landmark within the boundaries of the NoHo historic district.

On the northeast corner of Bleecker and Broadway is another impressive building, a contrasting chocolate brownstone and brick to the Bayard-Condict's vanilla terra-cotta. This was originally the Manahttan Savings Instition, designed by Stephen Decatur Hatch in a vaguely Romanesque revival style, built in 1889-90.

The letters MSI are still visible in the pediment.

Sources for Bleecker Street

The Street Book - Henry Moscow
AIA Guide
New York City Landmarks - Dolkart
NYC LPC Designation Report - NoHo
New York 1960 - Robert A.M. Stern et al

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bleecker Street

Bleecker Street begins at Bowery and ends at Hudson. The street follows a path that originally ran through the farm of the family of Anthony Bleecker, a writer who would have been completely forgotten had he no ceded the land to the city for a street in 1806. His generous act made it worth his while to sell parcels of the farm for development. The 1811 grid was not superimposed over this area, and Bleecker Street retains a curve.

Bleecker Street passes through three NYC-designated historic districts. From from east to west, they are NoHo East, NoHo and Greenwich Village. There are mixed uses along its entire length, giving the street great vitality, day and night.

The western boundary of NoHo East is the west side of Bowery. Standing at the foot of Bowery, and looking across the street are two small-scale but beloved cultural institutions, the Amato Opera, which has to be the world's smallest opera house

and CBGB's, the home of punk rock, which has received a great deal of press lately because it is threatened by eviction by its landlord. It is not safe to assume that the audiences don't overlap. This is New York, where anything is possible.

On the ground floor of 2 Bleecker, on the south side of the street, is bar named "Mannahatta" after the poem by Walt Whitman,
presumably because the building dates from Whitman's time. It was designed by Nicholas Whyte and constructed in 1868.

Across the street are a row of buildings ranging from the second decade of the 19th century (with later alterations) to the 1880s, conveying an idea of what the street looked like immediately after it ceased to be part of the farm.

7 Bleecker (the green ground floor) was built in 1816-17. The third floor was added later.

9 Bleecker has been the home of the Yippies. I'm not sure how to describe them -- zany political activists known for distinctively theatrical antics.

Next door, 11 Bleecker, is the wine bar, Quartino.

The Margaret Sanger Center and Planned Parenthood's executive offices are at 26 Bleecker.

Graffiti on #41: