New York Daily Photo Analytics

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Better When

I'm very surprised that I can find nothing written online or offline about this exquisite little building at 176 MacDougal Street in the Village. It sits at the corner of MacDougal Street and MacDougal Alley (click here). It is unusual in that much of it is unattached on four sides - atypical of small buildings like this in Manhattan. Coupled with its white-painted exterior, the building has a very free feeling to it. The detailing and window boxes gives it a European, perhaps Parisian, flavor. The retail space has gone through a number of incarnations over the years - currently it is a laundromat. At one time there was a restaurant called Shakespeare's here. Along 8th Street there were numerous bookstores - the one at the corner of MacDougal is where Bob Dylan was introduced to Allen Ginsberg in 1964. I was told that Robert Joffrey of the Joffrey Ballet lived atop the building in the photo; today I have learned however that it was next door at 180 MacDougal. Across the street was Capezio, a renowned maker of dance shoes. The Joffrey Ballet company was around the corner on 6th Avenue.

The neighborhood had the type of places that gave the Village its Bohemian, artsy, iconoclastic character. But all this nostalgia with remembrances, reveries and reminiscing reminds me of a great article in the New York Times which had a profound impact on me. It was written in 2001 by Jill Eisenstadt, a Brooklynite who recounts her parent's telling (ad nauseum) of how everything was better back when - seltzer, candy stores, cafeterias, stickball, stoopball, the trolley, mickeys, egg creams, Ebbets field and the Dodgers. I will leave you with the final few sentences of that article:

"Years from now, I'll probably tell my grandchildren about the old neighborhood. How merchants let me run up a tab if I was short on cash, how the pediatrician offered to make a house call in an emergency, how the baker made me promise to bring the babies in for their first cookies, how we all helped each other shovel the one snowfall of 1999. But when they ask what a shovel is, I hope I'll tell them the truth. That a shovel is a heavy tool. That nostalgia is a heavy comfort. That I don't really miss Brooklyn way back when. What I miss is being young. That everything is probably a lot better now."

Related Postings: Left Bank, New York; MacDougal Alley; Re-Creation; Washington Mews

10 comments:

Emanuele Cauda said...

Very emotional post. The idea of such a kind of area, nostalgia.
Thank you.

Lucy said...

Very beautiful post. I love also that the laundry is in the building on the first floor, very human and not yet gentrified out of existence...

Jim said...

Great pic and I enjoyed your story very much.

claudine said...

C'est une histoire très émouvante que tu nous racontes au sujet de cette maison. Merci !

rchrd said...

I used to live around there in the 60's. And I have photos on my photo blog, and
here

I check your site (and Joe Holmes' NYC) often looking for intersections.

My only regret is that I didn't take more pictures forty years ago. But it's hard to do in your own neighborhood. You're more likely to take many photos elsewhere and ignore your own back yard.

So my recommendation is to take lots of pictures of where you live now, and everything around you. Because in forty years it's all going to change and all you'll have left are your pictures and a few imprecise memories and the nagging question "Was it all as I remember it?"

I was in my early 20's living in the village in the 60's. It WAS quite a time.

rchrd said...

Actually, I need to make one correction to your statement about the bookstore on the corner. Yes, the store on the corner of MacDougal and 8th Street was the famous 8th Street Bookstore. But that was it's second home, having moved sometime around 1966 from across the street. The original 8th Street Bookstore had wood floors and was really funky, the way a bookstore should be funky. I remember attending a reading by (I think .. again, memories seem to fade after 40 years) LeRoi Jones. It was more likely the place where Alan and Dylan met. When they moved across the street to the corner of MacDougal, it became a bright shiny well-lit glitzy store, and lost much of the charm it once had.

They other funky bookstore of some importance was called the Paperback Gallery on Sheridan Square. It was in the basement of a big white building. Last time I was in NYC it had become a Yoga place.

There are pictures of Sheridan Sq taken in 1970 on my photo blog mentioned in the above comment.

-K- said...

Nice photo of a very intriguing building. Not having spent more than a few weekends in NYC, its photos like these that keep me hitting the 'net.

alx said...

I have fond memories of that restaurant, Shakespeare's. From the early 70's to this day, I still miss their cheddar cheese soup and so many memories.

Brian Dubé said...

All those small cozy neighborhood places I miss also.

Jeff said...

Wonderful, informative post and poignant thoughts.