New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bomb Factory

On March 6, 1970, a townhouse at 18 west 11th Street exploded, leaving the entire building destroyed and damaging the neighboring building at number 16, where Dustin Hoffman was resident. An accidental detonation had occurred in a subbasement bomb factory run by members of the Weathermen. Weatherman ( or the Weathermen and later the Weather Underground Organization) was a small group of radicals formerly from the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). This group was very extreme, calling for the revolutionary overthrow of the US Government using violent means. The bombs had been intended to be used at Columbia University. The explosion killed three members and sent Cathy Wilkerson and Kathy Boudin running into the street naked (Wilkerson's family owned the building and were away on vacation). An F.B.I. report said that ''had all the explosives detonated, the explosion would have leveled everything on both sides of the street.'' The building, built in the 1840's by Henry Brevoort Jr., was once owned by Charles Merrill, a founder of Merrill Lynch & Company. His son, the poet James Merrill, was born there. James wrote a poem after the incident entitled 18 West 11th Street. There are too many details in this amazing story to go into here - I highly recommend the article by Mel Gussow from the New York Times in 2000 - click here. The lot sat vacant for nearly a decade before a replacement house, designed by Hugh Hardy, was was built in 1978. As you can see from the photo, the modern design was quite a departure from the 19th century row houses around it. The new design, with its angular facade jutting out, was controversial and took some effort to finally pass the landmarks commission. Very radical ...

Note: There is a Paddington Bear which the current residents keep in the picture window. His attire is changed according to the weather. Click here for photo.

11 comments:

claudine said...

Si je regarde bien le nounours, il va pleuvoir à New-York ! Claudine

Brian said...

It had rained the day before - I guess he was still prepared.

Greg said...

Interesting piece, I will definitely read the Gussow article.

Safe to say this area is a very desireable location today? And expensive?

Michael said...

That's quite the riveting story

jb said...

Trivia attack:

The name came from "Subterranean Homesick Blues" ... "You don't need a weather man To know which way the wind blows"

Brian said...

greg - Yes, this is one of the best blocks in the Village (11th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues).

jb - Thanks. I did read that and should have included it, but the posting was already getting long.

John Nez said...

During my 5 years in New York, back in the 1980's it seemed to be a common occurance for bombs to be set off in airline offices, banks and other buildings. They'd just tape off the area and the sidewalks would soon fill with people again.

Of course back then each of these bombings didn't come with the huge political sub-text of 'only Republicans can keep you safe!'

I only saw on bank robbery too... in all my time there. Bit of an anti-climax. And the only person I saw scrawling graffitti was a 10 year old blonde child in a private school blazer in Central Park!

lol!

Anne Corrons said...

I perfectly know this house because it's just near my home. I was impressed when I discovered this story.

• Eliane • said...

Interesting story. I've never seen that house and should go explore. Not shocking at all. But of course it's 2007.

Leslie said...

I was living at Rubin-NYU's girls dormitory on Fifth Ave and 10th St...I heard a big boom and suddenly the grey smoke was so thick that I couldn't see even one foot in front of my window.
What an intense time...student demonstrations at NYU and across the country, shutting down one college after another...power to the people.

Brian Dubé said...

Leslie - Wow. I did not know you were there for that.