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The Whitehouse Hotel: a Home For Transients, Now in Transition

(Photo: Makini Brice)

(Photo: Makini Brice)

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 Whitehouse Hotel hasn’t been open since September 3, although a paper sign hanging in the window of the front door says the closure is only temporary. The end was so quick and unceremonious that even the hotel’s own website is still happily inviting prospective guests to billet at “the most affordable hostel with private accommodations in NYC.” Single rooms are on offer at rates as low as $30 a night. That is, until a look at the reservations calendar reveals consecutive dates colored in red for “unavailable” that stretch on to the end of 2015.
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Beneath Baruch Houses, a ‘Rough Block’ Wiped Off the Map

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.

Demolition in Progress 83-90 Goerck st, Rivington-stanton, 1934-1938. (By NY Tenement House Authority.)

Demolition in Progress 83-90 Goerck st, Rivington-stanton, 1934-1938. (By NY Tenement House Authority.)

Walk as far east on Houston Street as you can until lines of imposing brick towers shoot up over the river – about 27 acres of them. The streets no longer make sense in context and the lines don’t link up with the grid. It’s like you’ve passed into another city. Instead of the jumble of old-fashioned tenements with ladders hanging out the windows coexisting with storefronts and street life, you encounter 17 almost uniform towers with yards of greenery surrounding them – a luxury of space rarely seen in Manhattan. These buildings are tough, institutional even, with their glazed red brick to discourage vandalism, lines of bars in windows and signs that say, “Welcome to Bernard Baruch Houses” outside each building.
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'You See It All': The Wedding Mansion That Played Host to Warhol's 'Male Parade'

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.

Theatrical reappropriation in the second-floor theater. (Photo courtesy of Michelangelo Alasa.)

Theatrical reappropriation in the second-floor theater. (Photo courtesy of Michelangelo Alasa.)

As soon as Michelangelo Alasa heard that the theater on the second floor of 62 East 4th Street was up for rent, he grabbed a crowbar and moved toward the stairs. He swung open wooden doors on his way; his feet hit cracked, uneven white tile that on other occasions he’d stopped to admire. He made it to the stairs and began a slow, certain descent to the next floor. The marble stairway walls had been painted over since before his time, a murky indefinite color offensive mainly due to what it covered. It was 1996, and the time had come to liberate the remnants of the storied century-old theater and reclaim its striking heritage.
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From ‘The Witch’ to La MaMa: How Radical Art Tumbled into the East Village

UntitledAll 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 raucous audience inside Turn Hall grew increasingly impatient for the curtain’s rise. Police had just arrived at 66-68 East 4th Street, between Bowery and Second Avenue, to subdue the swelling mob at the door, those unfortunate souls without a ticket to see America’s first Yiddish play.

The spectators had paid a whopping five dollars for seats normally valued at 50 cents in 1882. Such was the excitement surrounding the sold-out performance of Koldunye, or The Witch. A production conceived of by the 13-year-old sweatshop worker named Boris Thomashefsky, the play brought professional Yiddish theater stateside, says historian Nahma Sandrow. But the real-life drama that night trumped the work of playwright Abraham Goldfaden: the leading lady had disappeared.
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Christmas With the Deadbeats at Boss Tweed's Ludlow Street Jail

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 exterior of the Ludlow Street Jail in 1895. (Source: Museum of the City of New York)

The exterior of the Ludlow Street Jail in 1895. (Source: Museum of the City of New York)

Christmas Day dinner at the Ludlow Street Jail in 1911 was outrageous. The Warden Thomas J. Rock served a lavish spread (turkey, sweet potatoes, celery, fruits, plum pudding, coffee, and even a Union-made cigar) and his prisoners, moved by their keeper’s kindness, presented Rock with something unexpected — a sixteen-inch silver loving cup, which they had managed to smuggle into the jail undetected. One prisoner, a lawyer locked up for failing to make alimony payments to his wife, stood to toast the Warden and gushed with sentiment.
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The Secret Lair of Dr. Strange, His Creators, and a Ghost of Christmas Past

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.

A passerby casts a typical Dr. Strange magical spell.

A passerby casts a typical Dr. Strange magical spell.

If you walk past 177 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village and see a middle-aged guy in black clothes and a flowing red cape making a horn sign with both hands, watch out for the multi-dimensional mayhem about to be unleashed.

To us mere mortals, 177 Bleecker may be a stately Queen Anne-style apartment building that rises five stories above a busy Manhattan street. But in the Marvel universe, the building has long been the home of Dr. Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme who’ll be played by Benedict Cumberbatch in a hotly anticipated film. Since Marvel introduced the master magician to the comic world in the 1960s, he has lived in his Sanctum Sanctorum at 177 Bleecker Street, and much of the universe-threatening action perpetrated by the forces of darkness against our unsuspecting world has taken place within these walls.
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Inside St. John the Baptist, Brooklyn’s ‘Castle Out of the Past’

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.

St. John the Baptist, boarded up.

St. John the Baptist, boarded up.

St. John the Baptist is ghostly, towering moribund over a row of vinyl-sided apartment houses on Willoughby and Hart Streets. The 120-year-old granite edifice lies a stone’s throw from the Myrtle-Broadway stop in Bushwick — you can spot its cross-topped cupolas over Bed-Stuy’s roofs as the train pulls into the station. The Tablet called it “a castle out of the past.” And that was in 1968.
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The Story of Greenpoint’s ‘Onion’ Dome May Well Bring a Tear to Your Eye

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: Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration)

(Photo: Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration)

On a Saturday, as the sun begins to set over McCarren Park, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration’s exotic onion domes start spilling their distinctive shadows across the patch of greenery at the corner of North 12th and Driggs Avenue. At this time, the Cathedral’s weekly Vespers service begins with the spontaneity of a music box that has just had its crank released. Within seconds, the interior of the Cathedral goes from dimly lit tranquility to enrapturing sensuality. Light starts to refract out of the cathedral’s chandelier, its crystal shell bathing the walls with a warm golden glow. The religious art includes numerous icons of Christ, all illumined, and the myriad of intricately painted pairs of eyes now seem to gaze down upon the congregation with an enigmatic stare. The air hangs heavy with a combination of angelic choral sounds and the smoky, aromatic fragrance of burning incense.
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The Steamy History of the Tenth Street Baths

Bath Night, circa 1945. (Weegee/International Center of Photography)

Bath Night, circa 1945. (Weegee/International Center of Photography)

A man named Alex beat me with a bundle of oak leaves at 268 East 10th Street.

That’s where the Russian and Turkish Baths Health Club is housed, in a renovated tenement building midway between First Avenue and Avenue A. Established in 1892, it’s New York City’s oldest – and for a while in the early ’90s, it was its only – bathhouse. And it feels it: the baths have the aura of an era lost to our world of flipped switches and pushed buttons.
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Shedding Light On the Church That Was Razed By NYU

Until we return to our usual schedule Jan. 3, enjoy this daily series of longer pieces in which we unravel the mysteries and the histories of storied addresses.

(Photos: Meghan White)

(Photos: Meghan White)

On cold days when I walk between Cooper and Union Squares, I find myself turning from Fourth Avenue onto East 12th Street to gaze in a sort of reverence at the façade of St. Ann’s Catholic Church. The first time I saw it, I was struggling to drag a Craigslist couch down four flights of stairs in the adjacent apartment building. Cushions in hand, I looked in awe and confusion at the strangeness of the 166-year-old stone façade, which seemed to be a trick of architecture, until I realized there was no church behind it, only long metal rods to prop up the wall and a 26-story NYU dorm casting the tower in dreary shadow.

Rich Williams has never experienced the perplexing moment of stumbling upon St. Ann’s that many East Village newbies have – nor did he watch its dismantling in 2005, as many older residents did. But in his basement in Schenectady, he still sees sunlight illuminating the dazzling colors of the early 1920s stained glass that once shone in the panes of the now-demolished church.

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Remembering the ‘Forgotten City,’ Greenpoint Terminal Market

Until we return to our usual schedule Jan. 3, enjoy this daily series of longer pieces in which we unravel the mysteries and the histories of storied addresses.

The Greenpoint Terminal today, during an exhibition there: (Photo: Nathan Kensinger)

The Greenpoint Terminal today, during an exhibition there: (Photo: Nathan Kensinger)

On a recent white-gray Sunday, the Historic Districts Council gave a tour of what remains of the Greenpoint Terminal Market, a complex of old industrial buildings along the East River that was engulfed in 2006 by a mysterious 10-alarm fire.  On the day of the blaze, billowing clouds of gray smoke stretched across the river, and could be seen all the way to Chelsea.

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To Find the Lower East Side’s Last Mikvah, Look For the Sign That Says ‘Ritualarium’

Until we return to our usual schedule Jan. 3, enjoy this daily series of longer pieces in which we unravel the mysteries and the histories of storied addresses. 

The building as it looks today. The top reads 1904 for the year of construction. (Photo: LuciaM)

The building as it looks today. The top reads 1904 for the year of construction. (Photo: LuciaM)

An elderly woman stands at the window of her East Broadway apartment, practicing tai chi. A light snow is falling on the street below, where two young men in flannel shirts and skinny jeans enter a craft beer shop. The yellow lights of Happy Family Chinese restaurant blink gently in the distance.

At the corner of East Broadway and Grand stands an unusual building. White stones fan out around its windows, creating a contrast against the deep red brick. Its distinctive exterior reflects the boldness of its founders, eager to establish themselves in a new country and unafraid to be seen or heard. The letters ATH are carved above the main door, a nod to Arnold Toynbee, the British economic historian whose work inspired the settlement house movement, lovingly engraved by the hardworking New Yorkers who admired him.
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