On her own grassy island in the middle of Riverside Drive, Joan of Arc sits astride a horse, staring over the Hudson River. The sculpture’s artist is Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington, one of the first woman artists to be elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She studied and worked in the United States until 1906, when she moved to Paris. Joan of Arc became her muse while she was in France, so she researched the female historical figure extensively and began work on her sculpture. The piece is notable for being one of the first featuring a human being that Huntington attempted. Up to that point, the artist focused on animals. In 1910, Huntington finished her sculpture and won an Honorable Mention for it at the Paris Salon. Meanwhile, money was being raised in New York for a statue of Joan of Arc that would be placed by Riverside Park for the 500th anniversary of the saint’s birth. Huntington’s sculpture was chosen, making it the first equestrian statue by a woman to be erected in New York.
Perhaps not everyone today knows the name Emma Lazarus, but many New Yorkers can certainly recite the most famous lines from her sonnet, “The New Colossus”: "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…" The poem is engraved on a bronze plaque inside the Statue of Liberty, where it has welcomed new Americans to New York since 1903. Lazarus lived at this apartment on English Terrace row, which has also been home to writer Dashiell Hammett of The Maltese Falcon fame, as well as columnist Franklin Adams, a member of the Algonquin Round Table.
There is a plaque here that marks the residence of English-born poet, Wystan Hugh Auden, an East Villager from 1953 to 1972, a year before he died. Take a dip into a line from his poem "As I Walked Out One Evening"... that struck us as rather fitting for our own endeavor... As I walked out one evening, Walking down Bristol Street, The crowds upon the pavement Were fields of harvest wheat. Though best known for this elegant and tragic meditation on the nature of time, he published more than 400 poems during his lifetime, and also wrote many essays and reviews. Interestingly, the basement of the building where he lived once housed Russian left-wing newspaper Novy Mir, where Leon Trotsky spent time working in the years leading up to the Russian Revolution.
A counterculture icon perhaps best remembered for his poem Howl, Allen Ginsberg was one of the original members of the Beat Generation. He lived in this 2nd street apartment between 1958 and 1961, during which time he composed the poem Kaddish, an elegy for his mother, and edited fellow Beat poet William S. Burrough’s classic work Naked Lunch. It is said that he also spent time here planning the “Psychedelic Revolution” with former Harvard professor and LSD proponent Timothy Leary. Today, a plaque from the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center commemorates him: "Allen Ginsberg 1926-1997 - internationally acclaimed poet and member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters lived here from August 1958 - March 1961. His single poem, Howl, (1956) helped launch the Beat Generation. Kaddish (1961) A Mournful Elegy for his mother, Naomi, was written in apartment #16. "
A plaque placed at No. 50 commemorates the anarchist, Justus H. Schwab, who lived upstairs above the saloon he opened in the later part of the 1800′s and ran until his death in 1900. One of his obituaries reads: “Even this once so knotty figure has the axe of the All-conqueror felled. Flown is the thunder voice of former days, quenched is the fire in the imperial eye. With muffled step, Death stole into the well-known homestead at 50 East First Street - Justus H. Schwab at 6: 10 o’clock last night, and at the age of fifty-three, breathed his last. ” This lively saloon attracted the likes of Emma Goldman and many other radicals of the time.
There are both residents and businesses at this historic address marked by a plaque that reads "Minthorne House 1868. " According to a conversation with a gentleman who lives here, this entire area was once farmland belonging to the Minthorne family. Apparently, the building was the very first constructed on the plot although none of the Minthornes actually lived at this address. After contacting author and historian, Oliver Popenoe, we also learned that No. 72 1st Street "survived the 1811 grid that cut up Minthorne farm. " The farm once ran "west to east from the Bowery to what is now Orchard Street and south to north from present day First Street to Fifth Street... When the Minthorne farm was later divided up among nine heirs a tiny parcel was left over on First Street just east of the Bowery, " known as Extra Place. A highly developed, ever-changing part of Manhattan, it is amazing to think that the streets of the East Village were once vast farmland. In addition to the plaque that we discovered on 1st Street, we also found this one on a brick home between Second and Third Avenues that reads: Established 1831Constructed 1842
This rather simple-looking limestone building was home to the Hebrew Actors' Union, established in 1899, and was just off of what was then called “Yiddish Broadway” (the lower part of Second Avenue between Houston and 14th Street). At that time, Second Avenue was lined with theater houses that featured Yiddish productions. Most of the actors who starred in those productions belonged to the Hebrew Actors' Union - the first established actors' union in the U. S. For years, the union was an advocate for fair wages and decent working conditions. Today a plaque at this address and the name etched into the stone façade pay homage to its rich history. On the second floor of this building, up until recently, was Yiddish Artists and Friends, which was an actors' club that held periodic social events at this location.
Having made his comeback as the namesake of electric cars, Nikola Tesla accomplished quite a bit in his lifetime, much of it while living in New York City. Living and working out of this very building, the father of alternating current electrical systems pioneered radio wave communication in 1896 - giving the building its current name. During Tesla’s time, it was known as the Gerlach Hotel, built in 1883. Now, it houses businesses rather than travelers, but it has not forgotten its past: Broadway Wireless Center (an intellectual descendant) occupies the first floor and decorates its windows with neon and fluorescent tubes - also inventions of Tesla. A plaque hangs on the front of the building, honoring the great inventor. Drury Event Group, where our very own Creative Director works his day job, is also a tenant.