Marthe Keller

Marthe Keller
Sat, 12/26/2020 - 22:23
When did you live in SoHo?

1974 - present

Where did you live in SoHo?

1974-78 regularly visited friends at 500 Broadway. In 1978 I moved to 39 Walker St, a building, owned by Gordon Matta Clark, Carol Gooden and Dennis Oppenheim and run by the artists and musicians who lived in it. Two of the original artists continue to live here.

What was your occupation when you lived in SoHo?

Artist with side jobs in graphic design.

What do you miss most about SoHo in the 1970s?

I miss the restaurant, FOOD and the fellow artists who cooked there and together pioneered my building and the neighborhood. I miss all the small manufacturing businesses and textile businesses where artists got rolls of fabric remnants. I miss the canvas companies and their sewing and grometting services as well as the discount hardware stores that lined Canal St. Artists could get amazing materials and help with fabricating their artworks right in the neighborhood. I miss Pearl Paint, Canal Jeans, The old fashioned Self Service Store, a general store that had everything you could ever need in long rows of bins. I miss the wholesale food importers like the gourmet garage, when it was a real garage where you got espresso beans by the kilo. I miss the Spice Store on Canal St with every spice and canned good under the sun. I also really miss the Kosher dairy restaurants that used to be all over Soho, and Dave's Luncheonette on the corner of Canal and Broadway where all the cabbies stopped for a hot dog and an egg cream served to them from the outdoor window. I miss the Chinese fresh noodle and tofu and congee shops. I also miss the Italian neighborhood in Soho with the church where my roommate's son was Baptised, and the bread bakery and pork sausage store, and the cheese store with fresh mozzarella hourly and Augie's cafè, bookie joint. Pino the excellent butcher is the last Italian store still in business below Houston St. I could go on...

What do you miss least about SoHo in the 1970s?

Legal battles to stay in our loft.

If you no longer live in SoHo, why did you leave?

I will never leave.

What is your most vivid SoHo memory?

The best memories are of the beautiful sounds of Richard Peck's saxophone reverberating in the alley when he practiced, and the Philip Glass Ensemble rehearsing Einstein on the Beach upstairs. I loved Nancy Lewis's choreography and the wonderful gumbo parties she and Richard gave for all the neighbors, and the cameraderie of artists helping each other to renovate and maintain the building. We all had antique "Peerless" stoves the artists got from a demolition. (See photo).

Is there anything else you would like to add to your profile?

We stayed through 9/11. I remember speaking to Elisabeth Murray, yelling up to her on her White St. fire escape while watching Building 7 collapse. She had her painting apron on, an example to us to go back to our studios, shut out the dust with plastic on the windows, and keep on painting. We didn't open the windows for many months.