Drawing SoHo

August 6, 2018

Christine Berrie’s vibrant drawing of the infamous Vesuvio Bakery storefront, drawn before the it became Birdbath, when loaves of bread filled its windows (until it sold out) and Tony Dapolito was behind the counter.

Happy summer! We’ve already entered into the dog days of August, so I thought I’d write about something light and cool.

SoHo has appeared in myriad media: photography, film, writing, spoken words, all of which have been discussed here. What about drawing, the oft overlooked yet most democratic of visual art forms? I thought it would be fun to look at some of the many ways SoHo has been drawn by artists, illustrators, architects, and children!

Advertisement for Dundas Dick & Co.’s Tasteless Medicines in New York Illustrated, an 1876 guide to New York City

This hand-drawn advertisement for Dundas Dick & Co.’s Tasteless Medicines gives us a glimpse into what SoHo looked like before SoHo was SoHo. In 1876, 35 & 37 Wooster was a “manufactory” of medicines that were distributed internationally, according to the writing on the crates along the sidewalk. This building is now home to none other than The Drawing Center!

Arthur Getz’s cover drawing of 101 Spring Street for The New Yorker magazine, October 13, 1980

Here’s another building we all know and love. 101 Spring Street, home of Judd Foundation and former home and studio of artist Donald Judd and his family. This drawing by Arthur Getz for The New Yorker is of the building’s pre-2013-restoration facade.

Drawing of a loft interior by Jeremy Stratton (age 5)

This drawing is from Jim Stratton’s 1978 book Pioneering in the Urban Wilderness: All About Lofts, where he writes:

How loft construction affects the child’s perceptions. Jeremy (age 5) conceives of his loft building in three stories. His double-bunk shares the top floor with a bowling alley, there’s a carpentry shop on Two, and a kitchen and bathroom on One. Note the mouse still in residence on the second floor.

Stephen Garnder’s 2011 sketch of the scene at Fanelli’s

This October 4, 2011 “sketch of the day” by Stephen Garnder depicts the scene at Fanelli’s, probably the only place in SoHo that has remained pretty much the same over the years.

 

Illustration of buildings on Broadway by Robert Miles Parker from the 1995 SoHo Guide

The 1995 edition of the SoHo Guide, an annual index of SoHo’s businesses and arts organizations published by the SoHo Partnership, includes drawings of SoHo streets by Robert Miles Parker.

 

The Noodle-Cutting Machine by Maira Kalman from the July 21, 2014 issue of The New Yorker

Here’s another one from The New Yorker: a drawingby the fabulous Maira Kalman of the noodle-cutting machine at Rafetto’s on Houston Street that she calls “a rickety, clackety, gorgeous gizmo—and reliable, too.”

SoHo Stairs by Simon Fieldhouse

Simon Fieldhouse’s drawing of SoHo fire escapes, one of the iconic features of so many New York buildings.

The Stupid $30,000 Purse Store by Roz Chast from her book Going into Town: A love Letter to New York

Nowhere in her most excellent and hilarious book Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York does Roz Chast say that this store is in SoHo, but I’d like to think it is, so I include it here. This book is a must must read for all New Yorkers!

Rendering by Paul Rudolph (ca. 1967-1972) of the interior of the HUB, part of the proposed but never built Lower Manhattan Expressway, from Paul Rudolph: Lower Manhattan Expressway, 2010

And last, a look into what SoHo could have been. This is a rendering by architect Paul Rudolph of the interior of the “HUB,” which was to be part of the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway. If built, the multi-lane highway would have run down Broome Street from the Hudson to the East Rivers. Complete with monorail-mounted “people movers,” the HUB was to be “a transportation interchange that connects the two eastern legs of the Expressway to existing subways, surface roads, pedestrian walkways.”

 

Remembering Michael Goldstein

July 9, 2018

Facebook post by Allan Tannenbaum remembering Michael Goldstein (photo: Allan Tannenbaum sohoblues.com)

Michael Goldstein, founder of the SoHo Weekly News, died on May 19 at the age of 79. One of SoHo’s great influencers, Goldstein left his mark on our neighborhood through his newspaper, as well as his larger-than-life personality.

The SoHo Weekly News (SWN) published Volume 1 Number 1 on October 11, 1973. Michael Goldstein once said that he started the paper so tate SoHo residents didn’t have to hang fliers everywhere to let people know what was going on. In an editorial in the inaugural issue Goldstein wrote:

Thank you for picking up our first issue. We are planning to report what’s going on down here honestly and fairly. To do that we need your help–in telling us your problems, filling us in on what’s happening and keeping us generally informed. The support for this paper, as you can see from the advertisements, comes from within the community. Starting next week, we would like to run as many community bulletins as possible (e.g.., playgroups, openings, bake sales, lost and found etc,). If you send us these items in writing, we’ll be happy to print them at no charge…

So began The SoHo Weekly News, which ran from October 1973 until March 1982, though Goldstein left in 1979 after he sold the paper to Associated News Group. The paper “defined the disparate region of lower Manhattan that became known as “SoHo”. If our experiment in creating a new culture and a new lifestyle eventually failed, the SoHo Weekly News did not fail in reporting it,” says contributing illustrator Harry Pincus. What began as a local paper grew in influence over the years to become a competitor of the Village Voice, the only other downtown paper to cover news and culture at the time.

Goldstein founded SWN after being burnt out by a successful career in public relations. As a music promoter, Goldstein “eventually represented a long roster of marquee clients that included Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. He boasted that he represented 10 different acts at the Woodstock festival in 1969, and that across the years 17 of his clients were voted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,” according to The New York Times.

Undated photo of the SWN staff, Michael Goldstein, seated center (photographer unknown, from the collection of Allan Wolper)

At SWN, Harry Pincus tells me Goldstein “hired a gang of young talents, like Cynthia Heimel, Allan Tannenbaum, Janel Bladow, Stephen Saban and Peter Occhiogrosso, as well as some old refugees and beatniks from the East Village Other and the Village Voice. Yakov Kohn, the editor, was a former Israeli ‘freedom fighter’ who ambulated with a cane and weighed about eighty pounds who had once thrown a ‘punk’ named Bob Dylan out of his jewelry store on MacDougal Street.” (See a brochure highlighting SWN staff here: soho_news_viewpoints_brochure)

Those who knew Michael Goldstein have vivid memories of his strong and seemingly irksome-yet-lovable character. Tannenbaum remembers when he was first hired by Goldstein. A young aspiring photographer in his late-20’s, Tannenbaum came to New York City by way of Rutgers and San Francisco State. Tipped off by a friend who mentioned that SWN was looking for a photographer, he went to Goldstein’s loft on Broome Street that also served as the paper’s office. Goldstein flipped though Tannenbaum’s portfolio and stopped at a photo of Jimi Hendrix, his former client, and told him, “Yeah, you know how to take pictures.” Goldstein sent him on an assignment to cover the Avant Garde Festival at Grand Central, promising to pay $5 a photo if they were good.

Michael Goldstein with Allan Tannenbaum at the 450 Broome Street SWN office (Photograph Allan Tannenbaum sohoblues.com)

Following that assignment, Goldstein put Tannenbaum on staff at $40 per week. Tannenbaum had recently been fired  from a job as a bartender (for failing to break up a fight), so he was collecting $45 in unemployment in addition, which more than covered his $90/month rent in his Brooklyn commune. Still, $40 was not a lot of money, so to make the deal more equitable, Tannenbaum asked Goldstein to pay for his film, to list him as Chief Photographer on the paper’s masthead, and to grant him full ownership of all his photos. Goldstein agreed to these terms and is said to have given “everyone a piece of the action in lieu of payment,” according to Allan Wolper, former Managing Editor of SWN.

“I am truly indebted to Michael for hiring me and giving me the rights to my pictures,” Tannenbaum says. “He hired me when I couldn’t even get a job as a photo researcher for Magnum photos and was thinking if I didn’t get something soon, maybe he was in the wrong line of work.”

Peter Occhiogrosso, Music Editor and Associate Editor at SWN from 1975 to 1982, says of Goldstein, “He was the only person who fired me and then hired me on the same day.” He describes SWN as a place where people had a freedom unlike most other places, and adds that Goldstein gave him a stepping stone to a career as a writer. Occhiogrosso, whose writing focused on jazz and the downtown music scene, adds that Goldstein “let me write about anybody, whatever length I wanted.”

December 3-9, 1980 issue of  SoHo News. Cover story about Yoko Ono by Peter Occhiogrosso, photo by Allan Tannenbaum.

“At a time when The Village Voice seemed to have a monopoly on coverage of Downtown news and arts, Michael offered an alternative,” Occhiogrosso told The New York Times. “Maybe because of his background in the rock ′n’ roll world, Michael was especially attuned to the developing music and associated night life scene south of 14th Street, but especially in the semi-industrial zone between Houston Street and the business district.”

Occhiogrosso, who worked at the Village Voice for around $50-$75 per story before he came to SWN, was asked by the Voice to choose between the higher paying, higher profile paper and SWN, who they saw as a direct competitor. He chose to go with SWN, even though they only paid $10 per story. When Occhiogrosso came onto staff, he told Goldstein that he had to be paid at least $50 a week, so Goldstein, who could not afford to pay him that much up front, offered him $20/week plus $30 in equity, a similar deal to Tannenbaum, who received equity through ownership of his photographs. Goldstein, a man of his word, paid Occiogrosso the accumulated $30 a week in equity when Associated News Group bought the paper from him. Another example of Goldstein giving staff “a piece of the action.”

Allan Wolper was also hired away from the Village Voice. He posits that it was Goldstein’s role at the paper to keep everyone there “a little crazy.” Stories of heated arguments and even throwing objects abound. “All that yelling and screaming gave birth to a lot of great journalism,” Wolper says, adding that it was also Goldstein’s belief that anything could happen and his gift for promotion that moved the paper forward.

Portrait of Michael Goldstein by Harry Pincus

Harry Pincus remembers the day he was hired by Goldstein at the SWN office:

There was a loud noise, and a seemingly deranged gentleman was ejected from the bowels of the office, hurling every vile epithet imaginable at [Goldstein,] the cherubic gentleman with the oversized eyeglasses. He then paused to dump a waste basket on [Goldtein’s] head, angrily slammed the door shut and fled to the street. Silence. The poor man was sitting there covered in garbage. His desk was covered in garbage.

One can only wonder what Goldstein had done to provoke such an outburst.

Allan Wolper remembers that Goldstein once told every writer who worked for him to go to newsstands and if SWN was not sold there, told them to demand why. This went on until his paper was featured at the “big newsstand” on 8th Street and 6th Avenue, right next to the Village Voice. SWN had arrived.

Even so, it drove Goldstein crazy when nobody believed that people were actually reading SWN. To prove that he did indeed have many readers, he decided to list an event on the back page with the incorrect time, and it worked. People showed up an hour early for the event. Point proven, and may people pissed off, I’m guessing.

Despite his shenanigans, Goldstein was a pillar of his community, and through his newspaper, he had a large hand in shaping SoHo’s culture. “The SoHo Weekly News was a welcome challenge to the Village Voice — and much hipper. All of us in SoHo certainly read it with enthusiasm. Michael Goldstein was a rising star in the downtown culture,” says Mark Gabor, former member of the SoHo Artists Association, an artists’ advocacy group.

“The scope of what he did was fantastic. He really gave openings to people who were coming up, emerging writers,” says Peter Occhiogrosso.

Harry Pincus sums it all up by lamenting, “Those days are gone forever, and there will never be another SoHo News. Or another Michael Goldstein.”

Back to the Future on Mercer Street

June 4, 2018

The facade of 155 Mercer Street in 1856 and today

After a long and meticulous renovation and restoration, Fireman’s Hall, at 155 Mercer Street, opened as Dolce & Gabbana, the high-end Italian fashion brand, on April 11. As a retail space, the store is quite impressive. D&G’s designers went all out, creating curated graffiti-covered walls as a backdrop to (tastefully?) garish furniture.

Interior of the new Dolce & Gabbana store in SoHo

The façade of the building has been carefully reconstructed to (almost) what it looked like when it was built in 1855, including the carved sign above the second floor window that reads “Firemen’s Hall.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Saint of SoHo

May 15, 2018

Razing the Church of St. Alphonsus Liguori at 310 West Broadway, now the Soho Grand Hotel, Harry Pincus 1981

This amazing photo, part of a series of the razing of the Church of St. Alphonsus Liguori taken by artist Harry Pincus in 1981, tells many stories. It tells us that there used to be a church where the SoHo Grand Hotel is today. It reminds us that the twin towers once stood downtown until they didn’t. It is proof that West Broadway was once home to a community of German Catholics and then at some point became a victim of urban decay and that it is now an affluent street with a high-end hotel. Read the rest of this entry »

SoHo Photos

March 31, 2018

Boys playing at Houston Street lot (image: Nancy Eder)

Ever since I put out a call for SoHo photos, I’ve received all kinds of images, of people, places, events from the 1970s through the present. I’ve included a selection below (click on any photo to view as slideshow), the beginning of what I hope turns into a much larger collection that encompasses as many SoHo stories as possible.

Please continue to send images to yukie@sohomemory.org, and please include a caption with place and date.

Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »

Canal Street Artists and Fleas

March 3, 2018

Two Stores on Canal Street ca. early 1980s (photo: Susan Fortgang)

 

Today I would like to share a collection of photos I received recently. These photos and their captions by artist Susan Fortgang capture Canal Street in the 1980’s and 1990’s when it was a lawless flea market free for all. Her in-depth descriptions tell the story of a bygone era that straddled the old and new SoHos and shows us an up-close look at a street that had a culture all of its own, an invaluable addition to our image collection!

Thank you to everyone who has submitted photos to the SoHo Memory Project Photo Archive thus far. For those of you who would still like to submit photos, it’s never too late! Please send photos to yukie@sohomemory.org, or email me or share a Dropbox folder. Read the rest of this entry »

Sweeping SoHo

February 3, 2018

Trash on Wooster Street in the early 1970s (photo: Jaime Davidovich)

If you haven’t heard yet, SoHo has a new “neighborhood improvement” group, an all-volunteer-run nonprofit called CleanUpSoHo dedicated to keeping SoHo streets clean. I, for one, have seen a huge improvement lately.

Our once relatively rubbish-free sidewalks became dotted with discarded shopping bags, coffee cups and food containers after the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless (ACE), subsidized by its founder, SoHo resident Henry Buhl, stopped cleaning our streets in the fall of 2016 due to funding challenges. And the problem only worsened as the weather got warmer and tourist season ramped up in the spring and summer of 2017.

SoHo is no stranger to trash talking. In the early-1970’s, after it became public knowledge that artists were living in SoHo’s then-manufacturing buildings, the SoHo Artists Association (SAA), a neighborhood advocacy group, lobbied for curb-side pickup of residential trash. Before then, because SoHo was not zoned for residential use, the City of New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) did not pick up household trash. Residents had to find creative ways to dispose of their trash — often illegally depositing it in public trash bins and commercial dumpsters. Businesses often complained, and artists were fined if trash was traced back to them through discarded mail with their name and address. Read the rest of this entry »

SoHo Guide

January 6, 2018

Happy new year!

As we enter year eight of The SoHo Memory Project, I thought we would revisit some of the many businesses that have come and gone from our community. This image gallery features a selection of advertisements placed in issues of the annual SoHo Guide, published by the SoHo Partnership. All of these advertisements date back to the mid-1990s.

The SoHo Partnership, founded by Henry Buhl, provided street cleaning services in SoHo from 1992 to 2016 and was the first collaboration between a community and a human services organization in New York City with the primary goal of providing job opportunities for the homeless. They also published an annual SoHo Guide, a handsome, spiral-bound book that contained listings for local businesses, as well as advertisements. More on the SoHo Partnership next month, but for now, take a look back at some of the businesses that made SoHo the shopping and dining neighborhood it is today. (click on any image to view as slideshow). Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Talk About SoHo

December 2, 2017

“SoHo in Transition” at NYPL Mulberry Street Branch, October 23, 2017

On Monday, October 23, I led a Community Conversation at the Mulberry Street branch of the New York Public Library on “SoHo in Transition.” It was the first in a series of three such conversations to take place this fall that examine SoHo’s past, present, and future. The purpose of these conversations is to engage dialogue that creates a greater connection among old and new residents of our community. This first conversation focused on SoHo’s past. Read the rest of this entry »

Dunn’s Deals: Douglas Dunn and the Lofts of SoHo

November 4, 2017

Cassations rehearsal at Douglas Dunn Studio, 541 Broadway, 3rd Floor. Decor by Mimi Gross. 2012

Douglas Dunn, choreographer, dancer and long-time resident of SoHo, recently shared with me a letter he wrote to Wendy Perron, also a choreographer and dancer, who is currently working on a book about Grand Union. Grand Union, in Perron’s words, was “a pivotal improvisation group that was unforgettable for downtown dancers in the 1970s.”

In his letter, Dunn shares memories of moving to and around SoHo, from apartment to loft to larger loft. His story captures SoHo’s evolving real estate landscape at the time, and also reads as a who’s who in modern dance. A fascinating story with beautiful photographs!

click on photographs below to view slideshow with captions

Read the rest of this entry »


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