A Lot about a plot

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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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The Clue To This Ukrainian Church’s Past Lies in a 140-Year-Old Safe

The inside cover of the 1869 Annual Trustees Report.

The inside cover of the 1869 Annual Trustees Report.

“We’re here for the youth service,” I insist, leaning close to the intercom and watching my breath escape in ghostly puffs into the frigid air. I scan the building from my perch on the back stoop; its white marble exterior and mansard roof shines in the rain and the soft glow of passing headlights.

Silence.

“The sign out front said 7:30 p.m…” I try again, holding down the “Talk” button with resolute firmness, “For the Ukrainian Evangelical Church service?”

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The Day After Christmas, When Sharpshooters Marched Up the Bowery

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.

Deutsch-Amerikanische Schützen Gesellschaft at 12 St. Marks Place, circa 1892.  (Kings Handbook)

Deutsch-Amerikanische Schützen Gesellschaft at 12 St. Marks Place, circa 1892. (Kings Handbook)

It’s the day after Christmas, and a group of what could be a thousand uniformed sharpshooters marches up the Bowery. It’s no zombie apocalypse but the German-American Shooting Society marching from its temporary meeting place at the Germania Assembly Rooms at 291-293 Bowery to its new headquarters at 12 St. Marks Place. The year is 1888.

Opening night of the new hall was the celebration of a long process to establish a permanent headquarters for the Society, which at the time was reported to number 1,400 members in 24 different companies. That evening “the entire building was handsomely draped and festooned with the national colors of Germany and America and with fancy banners,” according to the New York Times.

Today the only remnant of that scene is the German-American Shooting Society building itself at 12 St. Marks Place, now a historical landmark and one of the few remaining architectural vestiges of Little Germany.

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The True Story of Mr. and Mrs. Claus, the North Pole and Brooklyn Beer

Until we return from vacation Jan. 3, enjoy this daily series of longer pieces in which we unravel the histories of storied buildings. Presenting: A Lot About a Plot.

(Photo: Alistair Mackay)

(Photo: Alistair Mackay)

If you’ve ever hoisted a bottle of Brooklyn Lager and really looked at its Milton Glaser-designed logo, you may have noticed the words “Pre-Prohibition Style” hovering above the baseball-style “B.” And you may have asked yourself: how exactly can a brewery founded in 1988 claim to make “The Pre-Prohibition Beer”?

The answer lies miles away from Brooklyn Brewery’s Williamsburg headquarters, at 670 Bushwick Avenue. That’s where a three-story home resembling the mansion from Royal Tenenbaums – cast in deep red brick, with a conspicuous rounded tower – lurks behind a chain-link fence and a “No Trespassing” sign.

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