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.
62 East 4th Street has had a fascinating history. At its inception in 1889, it served as a social hall housing a musician's union known as Astoria Hall, as well as hosting meetings of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. In the 1930's, the ballroom was revamped as a theater and television studio and renamed Fortune Theater until Andy Warhol discovered it and left his legendary stamp here. In 1969, he rented it out to showcase a series of infamous porn films and called it Andy Warhol's Theater: Boys to Adore Galore. Over the years, the Yiddish theater had performances here, and many well known television shows used the space to film. Since 1987, the Duo Center has been here having raised the funds for renovations, and then remaining throughout construction to become home to what is now Duo Multicultural Arts Center and Rod Rogers Dance Company and Studio. Today the building is part of Fourth Arts Block (FAB) and operates as a center for film, dance, art, theater and music and is among New York's designated cultural districts.
Dating back to pre-Civil War days and formerly the St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran church, this stately red brick structure has been a synagogue since 1940. A devastating piece of New York history happened in 1904 when a boat filled with 1200 German immigrant women and children from the original church perished in a fire on the East River. Today, it has a modern Orthodox congregation that offers services every day of the year.
While strolling along Great Jones Street one day during the summer of 2016, I noticed the fire trucks pulling up to their house, getting ready to enter. I immediately quickened my pace and stood there, gazing inside. One of the firemen approached me and began chatting about the architecture and the history of Engine Company 33 and Ladder Company 9. I learned from this kind man, who has been with the department since 1983, that the building was designed by renowned architect Ernest Flagg. Pointing to the top of the firehouse, the fireman insisted that I go to my computer and have a look at old photos of the Beaux Arts Singer Building that once stood in lower Manhattan and compare the three-story arch and windows to his firehouse. He assured me that I would see the similarities, for Flagg chose to reuse these concepts when designing his skyscraper. For a short period in 1908, it was considered to be the tallest structure in the world. Sadly, it was knocked down in 1968. In 1899, the firehouse was originally conceived as a place where the chief of the department could work on a daily basis. Their main headquarters were uptown on 67th Street, but my friendly fireman proudly shared that this was where the highest uniformed person and his staff were housed. At the time, firemen were continuously on duty - "they only had an hour or two off a day until 1917 or 1918 and then it got a little bit better for them. " Thus, it was in this same building that the men ate their meals and slept whenever they could. I have not met a fireman while walking on the side streets who has not mentioned those who perished on September 11. Tragically, this firehouse lost ten of their fourteen heroic firefighters when the World Trade Center collapsed. At the conclusion of our conversation, this wonderful man told me that he would be "put out to pasture" in less than two years, as there is mandatory retirement at the young age of sixty-five in the fire department. There is no doubt that he will leave having had a full and meaningful career with his peers and that New York City is a better place because of him.
Not to be confused with New York Marble Cemetery just around the corner, this burial ground features custom gravestones and is the resting place of many prominent New Yorkers. Among them are James Lenox, founder of the New York Public Library, Stephen Allen, both governor and mayor of New York, the Kip family of Kips Bay; and several members of the Roosevelt family, including James Henry Roosevelt, founder of Roosevelt Hospital. Interestingly, we learned that President James Monroe was one of the first to be laid to rest here in 1831, but his body was later moved to Richmond, Virginia. New York City Marble Cemetery was designated as a landmark in the late 1960's. (The office is located at 72 East 1st Street)
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. "
Previously the home of Nice Guy Eddie’s, Boulton and Watt is one of the latest additions to the bar scene in the East Village. Several of the young people on the Manhattan Sideways team needed a place to host a casual after-hours business meeting, so they decided to kick things off by going back to 1st Street. They were pleased to find an eclectic array of specialty cocktails on the menu (including a new favorite, the Mexican Revolver) along with several wines and beers. They did not originally intend to dive into the food menu, but as they sat and held their meeting over drinks, a waiter came by and brought them a complimentary Scotch Egg! "Fried and delicious, " was how they described it - the perfect addition to their first time experience at this fun and energetic establishment. I have no doubt that they will become frequent visitors in the future.
Transformed from a building lot to a beautiful space to showcase art, the First Street Garden Art Park adds culture to 1st street. Beginning in the spring of 2012, a variety of cultural events have taken place in this art park which, in 2011, was home to the first BMW/Guggenheim project. There are scheduled weekend programs showcasing music, dance and collaborative art for adults and children. Stop by anytime and see the newly unveiled artwork constantly changing.
A dainty shop located on Extra Place - that little side street off of 1st Street where the Ramones photographed an Album Cover - Nalata Nalata features high quality décor sourced mainly from Japan. In the same way that Manhattan Sideways shares the stories of businesses on the sidestreets of Manhattan, Nalata Nalata, as their website explains, “is a retail experience founded on promoting awareness of the people and stories behind our curated lifestyle products. ”On my first visit to Nalata Nalata, I spoke with Angelique J. V. Chmielewski, who co-founded the business with her husband, Stevenson S. J. Aung. Originally from Alberta, Canada, Angelique came to New York to study fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology while Stevenson, her boyfriend at the time, fulfilled his masters in industrial design at the Pratt Institute. Nalata Nalata began as a website beautifully crafted to feature sections like Backstory, with write-ups on the brands behind the pieces, and Journal, detailing the journey and artistic endeavors through captioned photographs. In late 2013, Nalata Nalata opened in Extra Place as a pop-up store and, after falling in love with the spot, the owners decided to make it a permanent stay. Though functional in a traditional way, each product in the store contains intrinsic artistic and narrative values, many sourced from “multigenerational craftsmen who continue to refine their skill. ” Angelique first directed me to the porcelain Ju-Bakos, Japanese stacking boxes, which are traditionally used for food on special occasions. Representative of multilayered happiness, each box was crafted with a different glaze. Later, Angelique held up a glass terrarium box designed by 1012 Terra, a company based in Chiba, Japan that is focused on celebrating plant life. In the box was a dried flower reminiscent of the rose in Beauty and the Beast. “In order to preserve a flower, ” she explained, “pin it in the box and flip it upside-down. When it has completely dried out, it will be straight when turned upright. ”Though devoted to sharing the works of others, Nalata Nalata is cemented by the artistry of Angelique and Stevenson. From the custom-made cabinets to the slab roof ceiling, the two redesigned the entire interior of the store in the months before its opening, with the help of some additional hands. The carefully selected products perfectly complement the spare, bright space. The store's website also reveals a great deal of artistry, with each piece beautifully photographed, set to a white background, and matched with a whimsical remark and a few lines about its origins, making online shopping more homey and intimate. The wool blankets exclaim, “Cool nights, brisk mornings, frigid afternoons. Whatever weather the day may bring I’m a tried-and-true, dyed-in-the-wool cozy friend… Always by one’s side to provide warmth and comfort. ”Nalata Nalata is also working on their own line of products. One recent addition, the denim Ojami, bridges Japanese traditions and contemporary American design. Handmade in Kyoto, the Ojami are versatile pillows. Angelique and Stevenson enjoy using them as seats to “live low, ” but they also function as throw pillows. In the future, the couple hopes to get into more denim and hardware products, while continuing to curate objects they appreciate artistically and sentimentally. For now, Angelique says, “We are just happy to be here. ”