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