1.26.2012

A Walk to Weegee's Street: Centre Market Place

From 1934 to 1947, the years that serve as the focus of the current Weegee exhibit at the ICP, the photographer lived in an apartment at 5 Centre Market Place in Manhattan. Living directly across the street from the old Police Headquarters, the freelance crime photographer had quick access to the activities of the police, and he often could get simple shots of suspects just by walking out his front door. While this area of Lower Manhattan has changed a great deal since Weegee's time, especially since the police long ago relocated their headquarters further downtown, the neighborhood around Centre Market Street makes a good destination for a walk.

from a city walk
Centre Market Place. #5, the taller building in the middle, is where Weegee lived
in the 1930s and 1940s. The building has been gutted and renovated.
The original front facade was replaced.

from a city walk
corner of Centre Market Place and Grand.
Centre Market Place is only one block long.

Weegee's apartment building at 5 Centre Market Place was gutted and renovated several years back, along with numbers 1, 2, and 4. (see the article "BIG DEAL; Found Treasures From All Over To Adorn Redone Town Houses" from September 26, 2004 in The New York Times). Now a rather post-modern looking townhouse and no longer a worn-looking tenement building, the current structure makes it difficult to imagine Weegee living in humble circumstances there. Using information from a photograph, the ICP exhibit attempts to do just that by recreating the interior of Weegee's apartment.

recreation of Weegee's apartment on Centre Street on exhibit at the ICP.

Several of Weegee's crime photos feature the Police Headquarters across the street at 240 Centre Street, most notably the windows protected by curvy iron bars. For example, look at the first picture from the previous post. And for comparison, here's the side of the building facing Weegee's old apartment building.

from a city walk
the east side of the old Police Headquarters on Centre Market Place

from a city walk
The old Police Headquarters, west side, looking south. City Hall is in the distance.

The Police Headquarters is grand. Converted to residential use in 1988, the Renaissance Revival building dates from 1905-1909 and is characterized by the AIA Guide to New York City as designed "in the manner of a French hotel de ville (town hall)." Truly one of the city's most elegant buildings, the old Police Headquarters must have impressed many a beat cop and smalltime mobster. The opening of the building in 1909 subsequently drew several crime-oriented businesses to the neighborhood - gun shops, bail bondsmen, police diners, and so forth.

from a city walk
Petrosino Square is to the north of Centre Market Place.
Cleveland Place is the street to the left; Lafayette Street to the right.
The view is toward the south.

from a city walk
The intersection of Centre Market Place and Grand Street, looking east.

from a city walk
Nearby, Little Italy still hangs in there. Mulberry Street, just south of Grand Street.

The surrounding neighborhood in 2012 currently sits in the crossroads of Little Italy, an expanding Chinatown, and the haute bourgeois bohemian area known as Nolita (north of Little Italy). It's proximate to the western edge of Soho. The area features many good restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and shops, and the mix of architecture makes for an entertaining walk. Personal favorites include La Esquina for Mexican food and the Landmark Coffee Shop for standard breakfast fare. Be sure to check out what's happening at the Storefront for Art and Architecture on Kenmare Street.


View Weegee's Street in a larger map

In 1947 Weegee moved to Hollywood. He remained there until 1952 and then returned to New York. When he was diagnosed with diabetes in 1957 he moved in with his companion, Wilma Wilcox, at her place on W. 47th Street. He died in New York on December 26, 1968. He was 69. (see Weegee's chronology on the ICP site.)

In 1973 the NYPD moved its headquarters a mile south to 1 Police Plaza near City Hall.

Street pictures by Walking Off the Big Apple from January 24 and 25, 2012. Picture of Weegee's apartment by Walking Off the Big Apple from the press preview, January 19, 2012.

3 comments:

Redstone soldier said...

Thanks Teri for this most interesting article. i seem to recall Weegee photos in the Daily News or the Daily Mirror, or perhaps both. I'll make a point of adding the destination to my City walks.

Austin S. Brooks said...

Teri, the background in this article is a great companion for the showing at ICP. I saw the show, too, and it's SUCH a great show. The pictures in the Weegee photography exhibition were sort of soul-stirring.

Teri Tynes said...

Thanks so much for these replies. The Weegee exhibit, as Austin points out, is really worth seeing.