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‘Literally a Rat Hole’: How Seventh Street Squat Grew on a Governor’s Meadow

This week and next, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

209 E 7 is tucked between Graffiti Baptist Church and the Lower East Side Ecology Center Garden. Credit: Nadeen Shaker)

209 E 7 is tucked between Graffiti Baptist Church and the Lower East Side Ecology Center Garden. Credit: Nadeen Shaker)

In late October, I emailed Fly, a resident of the former Seventh Street Squat, to tell her that I was able to find out when her home of two decades had been built. The six-story apartment building at 209 East 7th Street was completed in 1897. “Interesting!” she wrote back, “There is a marker on the top of our building commemorating 1899 as the year the building was completed.”

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The Loner, the Lover, and the Trap Door of the Merchant’s House

This week and next, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

The doorway of Seabury Tredwell's house as it appeared in the 1930s (New York Public Library)

The doorway of Seabury Tredwell’s house as it appeared in the 1930s (New York Public Library)

By the time she died in 1984, Helen Worden Erskine had racked up an eclectic but impressive set of interviews. The longtime New York World society writer spoke with Prince Charles of England and presidents Eisenhower and Truman, among other political and cultural luminaries. But she was perhaps most famous for her fascination with the opposite end of society: recluses.

In the late 1930s, Erskine wrote a series of sensationalistic articles about the Collyer brothers, two wealthy hoarders who had all of Harlem talking. Erskine and other reporters launched their careers writing about the sordid details of the brothers’ lives and death, including the nearly month-long search for one of their bodies in 1947, which was eventually discovered in their home beneath piles of junk.

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When the Forward Building Rose Over the Lower East Side 'Like a Colossus'

All week, we’re bringing you a series of deep dives into the surprising histories of storied addresses. Back to our usual after the New Year.

Facade of the Jewish Daily Forward Building.

Facade of the Jewish Daily Forward Building.

On a warm June night in 2008 two officers of the NYPD’s 7th precinct picked up actress Tatum O’Neal as she was buying crack-cocaine outside her condo building in the Lower East Side. She told police she was researching an acting role.
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Happy 80th Birthday to America’s ‘First Experiment’ in Public Housing

All week, we’re bringing you a series of deep dives into the surprising histories of storied addresses. Back to our usual after the New Year.

First Houses, on the corner of Avenue A and East 3rd Street. (Photo: Lindsey Smith.)

First Houses, on the corner of Avenue A and East 3rd Street. (Photo: Lindsey Smith.)

The sleet beating down on East 3rd Street in January 1935 didn’t stop any of the hopeful applicants from standing in line for hours between 1st Avenue and Avenue A outside the office of the New York City Housing Authority. During the Great Depression people had gotten used to life in the queue. They did it for jobs, for public benefits, and for food. But this time the reason was altogether different.
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How the City’s First Community Garden Sprang From ‘Evil and Blackness’

All week, we’re bringing you a series of deep dives into the surprising histories of storied addresses. Back to our usual after the New Year.

(Photo: D.M. Mackey)

(Photo: D.M. Mackey)

A walk past the place where the Bowery meets East Houston gives not the slightest hint that until 40 years ago, this lush, fresh air respite called the Liz Christy Community Garden sheltered everyone from immigrants to swindlers, eventually deteriorating by the middle of the 20th century into an abandoned, garbage-strewn lot. In 1973, a group of local college students hauled away the trash, lay dirt and planted seeds. Later, the plot took the name of the art student who spearheaded the project.
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‘Cooper Square Is Here to Stay,’ But First They Had to Go On the Warpath

All week, we’re bringing you a series of deep dives into the surprising histories of storied addresses. Back to our usual after the New Year.

Cooper Square Protest Banner during the 1960s. Courtesy Cooper Square Committee.

Cooper Square Protest Banner during the 1960s. Courtesy Cooper Square Committee.

The buildings themselves never had many allies. Repeatedly condemned to death, 13 East Third Street, like its 20-odd siblings, stands in spite of itself, renovated rather than replaced. “I’m not a fan of them,” Val Orselli says as we peer out at an antique tenement from a window in his office.
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Behind Bars: How a Police Station House Became a Speakeasy

All week, we’re bringing you a series of deep dives into the surprising histories of storied addresses. Back to our usual after the New Year.

(Photo: Shanna Ravindra for NY Mag)

(Photo: Shanna Ravindra for NY Mag)

Given the history of the building at 105-107 Eldridge Street, it’s no surprise that the bartender at Fontana’s, the otherwise-laid back establishment at 105, checks everyone’s ID meticulously. Among the Chinese-owned vegetable shops and beside a discount sushi restaurant, the place is a bit of an anomaly on the border of Chinatown, near the Grand Ave. B, D stop. But the 146-year-old building has deep neighborhood ties that entwine law, liquor, and vice.
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Yellow Fever and Red Scare: the Very Colorful History of Knickerbocker Village

All week, we’re bringing you a series of deep dives into the surprising histories of storied addresses. Back to our usual after the New Year.

Aerial view of Knickerbocker Village  (Courtesy Downtown Express).

Aerial view of Knickerbocker Village (Courtesy Downtown Express).

I’d only been in New York two months when I first saw Knickerbocker Village. I was standing on the East River Bikeway facing Brooklyn marveling at the enormity of it all when suddenly a splash in the river interrupted my daydream.
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‘The Hottest Love Letter’: A Very Private Moment at The Public

All week, we’re bringing you a series of deep dives into the surprising histories of storied addresses. Back to our usual after the New Year.

The Astor Library's exterior in 1875 (Source: Manuscripts and Archives Division, NYPL)

The Astor Library’s exterior in 1875 (Source: Manuscripts and Archives Division, NYPL)

“Incidentally,” Alice Broadbent recalls at age 92, “one of these page boys wrote me the hottest love letter I’d ever received.”
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These Luxury Lofts Are Home to Rock History and a Rocket-Related Mystery

All week, we’re bringing you a series of deep dives into the surprising histories of storied addresses. Back to our usual after the New Year.

The building at 104 South 4th Street today. (Photo: Courtesy of aptsandlofts.com)

The building at 104 South 4th Street today. (Photo: Courtesy of aptsandlofts.com)

“Launch yourself into Rocket Factory Lofts,” beckons the website of the building on South 4th Street, near the East River waterfront. “Experience authentic, industrial loft living in this former rocket and plane parts factory.”
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How a Home For the Homeless Became a Celebrity Crash Pad

All week, we’re bringing you a series of deep dives into the surprising histories of storied addresses. Back to our usual after the New Year.

295 East 8th Street (Daytonian.com)

295 East 8th Street (Daytonian.com)

An ad for apartment 2W, at 295 East 8th Street, calls it “the most WOW loft you’ll ever see, fit for anyone with a flair for the spectacular.” Matt Dillon once lived in the massive brick building at the corner of Avenue B, across from Tompkins Square Park.
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Pulling Back the Curtain On the Amato Opera House, Before Its Next Act

The Amato Opera in Sept. of 2014, before construction.

The Amato Opera in Sept. of 2014, before construction.

All week, we’re bringing you a series of deep dives into the surprising histories of storied addresses. Back to our usual after the New Year.

It’s been five years since the Smallest Grand Opera in the World performed on top of a 20-foot-wide stage in downtown Manhattan. The tiny theater seated 107 people in total. But it had everything an opera house ought to have – a balcony, a trap door, and two beautiful chandeliers.
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