Lower East Side

The Lower East Side is a history rich area of Manhattan, both culturally and artistically. In the 18th and 19th Century, St. Mark's Place was home to many sophisticated and aristocratic families. However, late 19th century until around World War I, the area became home to hundreds of Jewish and non- Jewish Eastern Europeans, as well as small numbers of Italian and Irish immigrants who had arrived from Ellis Island, and were living in squalid and cramped conditions in tenements. Later, in the mid 20th century, the area was home to hippies, artists, writers, poets, and other bohemians, such as Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, and many others. Today, the area has been pretty cleaned up and gentrified and its real estate is very expensive, with a few remnants of its past still remaining.  

234 East 12th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue
In the late 19th and early 20th century, this was a boarding house run by Catherine Taylor. A notable resident was Butch Cassidy in 1901. 

Block Drugstore
This is one of the last family run drugstores in the city. It has been at its present location since 1885 and is still thriving. 

Hamilton- Holly House
Right in the middle of St. Mark's Place, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, this house was built in 1831 and was sold to Alexander Hamilton jr. in 1833. Today the building is a landmark, but is also home to the vintage clothing store Trash & Vaudeville. 

Shima/ Café Royal
Today it is a hip Japanese restaurant, but until 1953, this corner (SE corner of 12th Street and 2nd Ave) was Café Royal. The Café was described by New York Times Writer Richard F. Shepard as being "the uncontested artistic and intellectual center of the Yiddish- speaking world in America.... and enclave where artists, actors and writers came to debate, over endless glasses of tea, the great questions of art that have gone unanswered in every civilized language". 

St. Mark's-in-the-Bowery Church
There is an incredible amount of history at this church. It was built in 1854 on the site of the garden chapel of Peter Stuyvesant's estate. In the back of the church, there is a small graveyard, containing Stuyvesant's vault. In Charles Bukowski's novel Women the character Henry Chinaski "vomited on one of the graves" and is then told that he "just vomited on Peter Stuyvesant" (62) by a friend. The church has also been the meeting place for the St. Mark's Poetry Project, which puts on regular poetry readings and holds regular workshops. Some notable readers have been Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg, Ann Waldman, Thurston Moore, John Zorn, Phillip Glass, and Gregory Corso. In fact, Patti Smith's first performance was at St. Mark's Church and at the 40th Anniversary of this performance, which took place at the church as well, she pointed out where some of her friends had been sitting 40 years ago- those friends included Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, Sam Shepard, and Robert Mapplethorpe. The Poetry Project is also where Jim Carroll took poetry lessons as a boy. 

St. Mark's Place
This is a street that has had a lot of different histories. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was aristocratic where as in the mid- 20th century it was one of the seediest spots in town, lined with smoke shops and dive bars on the ground floor and drug rehab clinics upstairs. Today, it has a lot of tattoo, piercing, and vintage clothing shops, as well as several trendy frozen yogurt places and Japanese restaurants.

The Surma Book and Music Company
This is another old family store, it specializes in Ukrainian goods, from clothes, books and records to candles and easter eggs. 

The most common living situation in this area in the 19th and early 20th century was in tenements. Tenements were incredibly small and cramped apartments, appropriately sized for one small family, but housing usually around four families in one apartment, with bathtubs in the kitchen and toilets in the halls. The conditions were incredibly unhealthy, and often there was one or no windows. Most of the people who lived in tenements were immigrants, who had come to New York looking for work. 

There used to be many Slavic restaurants like this one in this area, however this is one of the last ones. Veselka was started in 1954 by Ukrainian WWII refugees. It is open 24 hours and it is harder to find a table at 2 in the morning than at 7 at night. Try the pierogis! 144 2nd Ave.  

Village East City Cinemas
While today it is a multiplex, in the 20's this structure was a part of the Jewish Rialto, a group of 20 theaters on 2nd Avenue showing only Yiddish stage performances. 

Alphabet City

On the eastern most part of the Lower East Side, the avenues become letters rather than numbers. The avenues go from A-D and reach from Houston Street to 14th Street. Today, the area has a largely Latino population. 

151 Avenue B between 9th and 10th Street
This row house housed Charlie "Bird" Parker from 1950- 1954 

Tompkins Square Park
Today, this park is welcoming to all with a lot of grass sitting space, benches, and playgrounds and basketball courts. However, in the 80's it was occupied by homeless encampments, which the city was trying to clear out. This lead to protests and an all night riot in 1988, in which many protestors and bystanders suffered extreme police brutality. Also, see American Elm in tree section

Astor Place

Astor Place is the name of a small street and surrounding area in downtown Manhattan. It was named for John Jacob Astor, who was the richest man in the world until he died in 1848. In the mid- 19th century, the area was the wealthiest in the city, and was home to the Astor, Vanderbilt, and Delano families. By the end of the century, the wealthy people had moved to the Upper East Side and warehouses had moved into the Astor Place area. Later on, in the 1960's and 70's the area became more populated and today, it is right near the main part of the NYU campus, St. Mark's Place, and Broadway. 

Astor Opera House 
The Astor Opera house was built in 1847 and was meant to be the fanciest and most sophisticated theater in the city, for only the people of the highest society. On May 10, 1949, a riot broke out in front of the theater over a dispute between American actor Edwin Forrest and British actor William Charles Macready. During the riot, state militia were called and shot into the crowd, and 25 people were killed and over 100 more were injured. The theater lost its good reputation and was closed and turned over to the New York Mercantile Library. A new building was built on the site, and today, the ground level is a Starbucks. 

The Bowery

The Bowery runs north from Canal Street and has had a rough reputation since the 19th century. In the past, it was a collection of cheap hotels, brothels, vaudeville houses, pawn shops, and the Bowery Mission. It was once home to CBGB & OMFUG, one of New York's most famous music venues. Like CBGB, most of the Bowery has been cleaned up and gentrified and is now the home of new condos, a Whole Foods and the New Museum. Towards the south, however, there is still some old character; the Lighting District and the Restaurant Supply District offer hundreds of options for those with very specific needs. The word 'bowery' comes from the Dutch word 'bouerie' which means farmer, because this area was all farms in the 19th century. 

The Bowery and Broadway 1831

Bowery Mission 
This is one of the last remaining aspects of the "old Bowery", and for good reason, it is one of the most important parts of the area. The mission has been around since 1879, and is a homeless shelter and soup kitchen for men who are down on their luck. 

CBGB & OMFUG/ John Varvatos 
Country Bluegrass Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers was a venue on the Bowery from 1973 to 2005. It saw hundreds of musicians play, including Patti Smith, The Ramones, Television, Talking Heads, Misfits, The Voidoids, The Cramps, Blondie, and The Clash, to name a few. It was closed in 2005 when the Bowery Residents' Committee charged CBGB owner Hilly Kristal with $91,000 in rent back payment. Unable to meet this demand, the club was closed, and later replaced by a John Varvatos clothing store. 

McGurk's Suicide Hall 
While this bar has not existed since 2005, it was known in the 19th century for knife fights, ale glasses being thrown, and high percentage of death among the clientele. Today, the site it is a development called Avalon. 

The New Museum
The New Museum is the only museum in New York City that shows exclusively contemporary art. It was founded in 1977 at its original location on 5th avenue. In 2007 it moved to its present location at 235 Bowery. Its stacked box structure was designed by a Tokyo based firm, Sejima + Nishizawa and a New York based firm, Gensler.