A Lot about a plot

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A Recently Desecrated Synagogue Was Once Home to a Lower East Side Villain

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

(Photo: Simone Somekh)

At 5pm on a cold Friday evening, a couple dozen men, most wearing black suits, walk towards a red brick, four-story building near Clinton Street on East Broadway. On the facade next to the entrance, large, dark-red and white marks suggest painted-over graffiti. The men do not seem to notice. Above them is a painted sign in Yiddish. Some briefly kiss the fingers of their right hand after touching the mezuzah affixed to the doorpost. As they pass through the narrow entrance, they also enter the Shabbat, the holiest day of the week for observant Jews.

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Trotsky, Auden, and the Abortionist: The Radical History of 77 St. Marks

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

Novy Mir‘s basement office at 77 St. Marks Place (Photo: Lewis Hine)

Leon Trotsky disembarked at New York harbor on January 13, 1917, expelled from Europe for agitating against World War I. His family would settle in the Bronx and call New York home for nearly three months.

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From Mobsters to Mekas: A Courthouse’s Second Act as Anthology Film Archives

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

Courtesy of AnthologyFilmArchives.org.

The building at the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Second Street that now houses the Anthology Film Archives has always been a crossroads, both symbolically and literally. This “international center for the preservation, study and exhibition of film and video” came into being in 1969 as a counter-thrust to Hollywood, making its focus American independent and avant-garde cinema.

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Greenpoint’s Astral Apartments, a Tumultuous Refuge for the Working Class

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

The Astral’s Franklin Street exterior

The Astral in Greenpoint has status in the National Register of Historic Places and as a New York City landmark, but not for the murder and mayhem that has emanated from 184 Franklin Avenue since its completion as housing for Charles Pratt’s employees link 131 years ago, in 1886.

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The Feud Between the Millionaire and the ‘King of the Hoboes’

This week, we continue with our series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

Jeff Davis, self-proclaimed King of Hoboes, pictured in the January 16, 1913 Tacoma Times. Image courtesy of Washington State Library, Olympia, WA, via Chronicling America.

Jeff Davis, self-proclaimed King of Hoboes, pictured in the January 16, 1913 Tacoma Times. (Image courtesy of Washington State Library, via Chronicling America.)

Heckles and howls echoed through the meeting rooms of 64 East 4th Street on February 1, 1913. “Down with How and his postage stamp philanthropy!” yelled Jeff Davis, the self-proclaimed King of the Hoboes. “He has never given us any of his mythical millions!”

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How Sex Sold Songs in New York’s Early Theater Days

This week, we continue with our series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

View of 444 Broadway as The Olympic Theatre, year unknown. Photo courtesy of The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library.

View of 444 Broadway as The Olympic Theatre, year unknown. Photo courtesy of The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library.

James Norman knew exactly what he was doing when he walked into 444 Broadway in the spring of 1862. And the woman he shot knew, too. The music was loud, drinks were flowing, and he was a jilted man. He gave $100 dollars (a hefty sum in 1862) to buy furniture to his fiancée Kate White, a waitress at the concert saloon on the ground floor of the building. She ran away with the money, never to be heard from again. They had met one of the many times he must have come in drunk, sweaty, and groping. It’s not hard to imagine why she took the money and ran.

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The Theater That Was a ‘Weapon in the Class Struggle’

This week, we continue with our series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

The Workers Laboratory Theatre, headquartered at 42 East 12th in the 1930s. (University of Wyoming American Heritage Center Archives)

The Workers Laboratory Theatre, headquartered at 42 East 12th street in the 1930s. (University of Wyoming American Heritage Center Archives)

In June 1931, with America’s working class still deep in the grip of the Great Depression, a handful of actors in New York City performed Art is a Weapon, a skit first adapted by the New York’s Workers’ Laboratory Theatre. It begins with a Capitalist, with a “silk topper and over-refined accent,” making his declaration about the limited uses of art. The workers respond by making the distinction between proletarian and bourgeois art; between art intended to amuse and enlighten the elite and art meant to liberate workers.

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Cracking the Case of the Mystery Safes in the Speakeasy Basement

This week, we continue with our series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

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(Photo: Nigar Hacizade)

If you walked into a building expecting to see a regular museum, but found an apartment-sized living room with minimal, seemingly random paraphernalia, unremarkable oil paintings and posters on the walls, and a $20 admission charge, what kind of review would you post on TripAdvisor? Would your visit even be long enough to merit one? And yet 56 of 70 reviews for the The Museum of the American Gangster, on the second floor of 78-80 Saint Marks Place, described it as “excellent” or “very good.” Half the reviewers on Yelp gave the place five stars. The glowing assessments have something in common: they all caution the visitor to get over any initial disappointment and enjoy the guided tour.

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From Anarchist Hangout to Bathhouse to Arcade: The Steamy History of 6 St. Marks

This week, we continue with our series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

6 St. Marks Place today (Photo by Prianka Srinivasan)

6 St. Marks Place today (Photo by Prianka Srinivasan)

It’s a little after seven on a Friday night, and the narrow basement of 6 St. Marks Place is heaving with booze and bodies. A young man juts his phone over his head and, like a digital periscope, slowly pans the room, recording the clusters of people huddled around the 56 arcades lining the walls. For countless other ‘90s kids, his enthusiasm is unsurprising. “Dude, they have Mortal Kombat!” he gushes, “I used to love that game!”

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