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The Halls of Umbrella House: Suicides, Slayings and Squatters On Avenue C

Herewith, the final installment (for now!) of our A Lot About a Plot series, diving deep into the histories of storied addresses around town.

Gabriel Pintado

(Photo: Gabriel Pintado)

Sometimes he hears them whispering in the halls.

“Horrible things have happened here,” Jean Paul tells me. “There are spirits still lingering here.”

Jean Paul Chatham is a 40-year-old gay plumber from Belize, dark-skinned with a large bush of curly, Creole hair that he keeps brushing away from in front of his face. He’s lived at Umbrella House for about 14 years. When he greets me he is shirtless, wearing camouflage pants and two protective amulets on a chain around his neck. Although clearly physically fit, he keeps apologizing for his appearance. He says his face looks the way it does because the entire building is trying to cast spells on him, or “bless him with negative energy,” as he puts it.

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Lights, Camera, Activism: How a Radical TV Studio Kept a Firehouse From Sinking

The DCTV building today (Photo by Mariam Elba)

The DCTV building today (Photo by Mariam Elba)

In 1978, Jon Alpert was out walking a colleague’s dog across from his loft at the intersection of Lafayette and White Streets. He stopped for the dog to do his business in front of a firehouse that had been abandoned eight years earlier, and noticed an auction sign on the door. There was a name and a number to call.

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Where an Armory Once Stood, Met Pool Swims Against the Tide of Gentrification

This week, we continue our series of deep dives into the histories of storied addresses.

Metropolitan Pool and Recreation Center on the corner of Metropolitan and Bedford Avenues (Nicki Fleischner).

Metropolitan Pool and Recreation Center on the corner of Metropolitan and Bedford Avenues (Nicki Fleischner).

It was a morning for nostalgia when Charles Hart won the bid to demolish Grand Army Hall on February 7, 1898. The building was a Brooklyn icon in sorry disrepair. Its roof leaked, its wooden floors had rotted, and the entire northern wall leaned over Metropolitan Avenue, threatening to collapse onto pedestrians below. Just 35 years ago the building had been constructed as an Armory during the Civil War, and now its very existence was a “menace to life and limb.”

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From Warfare to Housewares: The History of the Ikea Red Hook Site

This week, we continue our series of deep dives into the histories of storied addresses.

Ikea, located on the Erie basin of Red Hook. (Camila Osorio)

Ikea, located on the Erie basin of Red Hook. (Camila Osorio)

We’ve all been there: duking it out with a roommate or a significant other over which couch or flimsy dining room table to buy at Ikea. The memories are cringe-worthy. But for what it’s worth, Ikea’s corner of Red Hook has always been a cradle of conflict – and much deadlier conflict. As in, Dutch colonizers displacing Native Americans, and the British confronting Revolutionary armies led by General George Washington. It’s also where battleships dry-docked during the Civil War and World War II.

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Before the Spate of LES Towers, There Was Confucius Plaza

This week, we continue our series of deep dives into the histories of storied addresses.

(Photo by Jesse Coburn)

(Photo by Jesse Coburn)

Shopkeepers across the Bowery tracked its progress: 42 stories, 43, and finally 44. Pedestrians on Canal Street craned their necks up to take in the expanse of brick that stretched across the slow curve of its facade.

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‘A Strange Story’: How 160 Bleecker Went From Slum House to Bohemian Bastion

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

Evening in one of the courts in the Mills House, no. 1." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1902.

Evening in one of the courts in the Mills House, no. 1.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1902.

At the end of the 19th century, Ernest Flagg had a vision. Educated in the École des Beaux-Art in Paris, the young architect came back to New York in 1890 wanting to “reform the barbaric housing standards of the day.” Then he met banker and philanthropist Darius Odgen Mills, and before long Mills House No. 1, an inexpensive hotel for working men, opened in Greenwich Village in 1897.

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Bootlegers, Stuyvesants, and Slovaks: The Colorful History of Blue and Gold’s Building

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

Blue and Gold. (Photo: Yun Cee Ng)

Blue and Gold. (Photo: Yun Cee Ng)

You could spend a night at Blue and Gold Tavern without ever hearing a single word of Ukrainian, but the beloved bar embodies the East Village’s enduring reputation as a hub for New York’s Ukrainian diaspora. It’s owned by three generations of the Roscishewsky family, and takes its name from the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

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Why Did the Members of an East Village Fishing Club Go ‘Down to a Watery Grave’?

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

A docked tugboat, early morning on the East River. Early 1900s. (Photo courtesy of NYPL)

A docked tugboat, early morning on the East River. Early 1900s. (Photo courtesy of NYPL)

On the morning of June 24, 1894, the Kirchner brothers — Charles, Frank, William and Gus — probably rode the elevated train from 72nd Street to what is today the East Village. On the way, they would’ve passed the headquarters of the Herring Fishing Club. They were members of the club, located inside of a tenement house at 55 First Avenue, but it’s possible that when they disembarked at the 1st Avenue station, they instead walked directly to Pier 6 on the East River, where they boarded the James D. Nichol, a tugboat the club had chartered for a daylong fishing trip.

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The Riots and Radicals of Walhalla Hall

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

A mugshot of the anarchist Emma Goldman after she was arrested in Chicago in 1901. (Photo: Chicago Police Department via Library of Congress)

A mugshot of the anarchist Emma Goldman after she was arrested in Chicago in 1901. (Photo: Chicago Police Department via Library of Congress)

New York City reporters already knew all about Emma Goldman when she spoke to a group of unemployed Jews at Golden Rule Hall on August 17, 1893, one of the many venues on the Lower East Side that was home to dancing, music and radical politics. “If you are hungry and need bread, go and get it!” she intoned. “The shops are plentiful and the doors are open.”

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A Church Sheds Neon on the East Village’s Immigrant Past

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

The neon cross on today's Father's Heart Ministries Church (Ilaria Parogni)

The neon cross on today’s Father’s Heart Ministries Church (Ilaria Parogni)

Late at night, red light splashes onto the sidewalk from a flashy neon cross affixed incongruously to the simple but elegant Gothic Revival façade of a red brick building on 11th Street between avenues A and B. “Jesus Saves,” it blares. Inside is the bustle of the Father’s Heart Ministries, where the work of the church’s succession of occupants over the past century and a half contradicts what that crass latter-day choice of illumination might otherwise portend.

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The Ghosts of Clinton Hall: Riots, Fire, and Scandal On Astor Place

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

The old Astor Place Opera House. (Public Domain)

The old Astor Place Opera House. (Public Domain)

In 2012, when attendees of an anarchist book fair scuffled with police and attempted to smash the windows of the Starbucks on Astor Place, the mayhem—far uptown from Occupy Wall Street’s demonstrations at Zuccotti Park— seemed to come out of nowhere. But it was hardly the first instance of unrest staged at the onetime site of the Astor Place Opera House. Opened in 1847, the opera house catered to the wealthy residents of the neighborhood, singing an aria of exclusivity that offended the general public. It later became the stage for the Astor Place Riot, a bloody clash born out of tension between the rich and the poor in the theater world that forced the Opera House to shutter its doors.

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Veselka Will Close On Christmas, Once Again Changing With the Times

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

Veselka in the late 1960s (Courtesy: Veselka)

Veselka in the late 1960s (Courtesy: Veselka)

Anyone who wants Veselka’s famous pierogies, borscht and blintzes on December 25 will just have to wait. For the first time in more than 60 years ago, Veselka, the 24-hour Ukrainian restaurant at 144 2nd Avenue will close on Christmas Day.

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