5.09.2012

Lessons from East 10th Street

A walk on 10th Street from the Hudson River to the East River, or vice versa, affords many pleasures, including the opportunity to look at some of the city's most beautiful townhouses, local libraries, and historic churches, to sample the wares from small neighborhood stores, and to grab a decent cup of coffee. This sort of lateral city walk can also introduce visitors to some of the historical and visual distinctions between the west side and east side in this part of downtown.

Residential block of E. 10th from Fifth Ave. to University Place with townhouses from the 19th century

"The Ava"
9 East 10th Street, built in 1888
decorated in East Indian style with teakwood
once home to writer Dawn Powell

Devonshire House, detail
28 E. 10th Street at University Place
designed by architect Emery Roth, 1928

In general, the west side of Fifth Avenue tends to run formal and subdued in its color choices, while the East Village blocks, especially in the more eastern stretches in the Avenues, would be the more likely location to enjoy a brightly painted mural of cats and dogs or of a unicorn. The west side doesn't seem to go for this sort of thing, so that's why the myriad visual stimulations of E. 10th make for a rather fetching walk.

Grace Church
802 Broadway at E 10th


intersection of 4th Avenue and E 10th

Townhouses on the market
James Renwick, 1854
123-125 E 10th
St. Mark's Historic District
near intersection with Stuyvesant Street

Walking several blocks of any street most anywhere can provide a sense of the area. Whether there's variety, continuity, and above all else, visible evidence of human use (people out walking, playing, etc.), can provide a good sense of the health of a place. The idea of mixed use development, coupled with elements of surprise and delight, even a certain degree of messiness, is known among contemporary city observers and urban planners as essential elements of vital street life.

St. Marks Church in the Bowery
131 East 10th Street

Russian & Turkish Baths
268 E 10th

St. Nicholas of Myra Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church
288 East 10th Street at Avenue A

Human scale buildings and visual breaks in conformity certainly entertain those of us who like to see the world on foot. The opposite scenario is unwelcome, both for walking types and the area itself - a bland conformity block after block, an anesthesia or blindness to the historical landscape we have inherited. So far, E. 10th is still okay.

apartment buildings in 300 block of E 10th Street
across the street from Tompkins Square Park

NYPL Tompkins Square Library
331 East 10th

Charlie Parker Place
E 10th and Avenue B
The jazz legend lived at 151 Avenue B from 1950-1954

Follow these square scenes of East 10th Street, and understand that each one deserves fuller appreciation and exploration. This area of Manhattan goes deep, encompassing the Dutch foundations of New York in Peter Stuyvesant's farm, the commercial and religious life of the 18th and 19th centuries, turn-of-the-century immigration from southern and Eastern Europe, the burgeoning bohemia of the Village in the 1910s and 1920s, the aspirations of public housing, the downtown scene, a revolution in jazz, a cultural center of Latino New York, the neighborhood of "Rent" and of rising rents, stories of old-time and recent residents who love the place, and the many dreams and anxieties of every business that has run its course here.

Public School 64
605 East 9th (rear view on E. 10th between Avenue B and Avenue C)
1904-1906 by C. B. J. Snyder
(note: The two previous posts on this website featured a building by Snyder. Crazy coincidence, that.) 

Urban Vets Animal Hospital
163 Avenue C (at E 10th)
mural by longtime area resident and artist Antonio "Chico" Garcia.
Garcia worked in the city for 35 years. He moved to Florida, but he has returned to NYC
since then to paint a mural on Grand Street. (Story on Curbed, Jan. 4, 2012)

Dog by Chico. Urban Vets.

A walk in any city should be as stimulating. Strolling East 10th Street at any given time is like what the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus said about rivers. You can never step in the same street twice. This is especially true of New York and of this street in particular.

Unicorn by Chico


For more on West 10th, read these posts:
West 10th Street, From Fifth Avenue to Waverly Place
The Tenth Street Studio Building and a Walk to the Hudson River
From the Arch and Back Again: A Nighttime Stroll to See the Holiday Lights

For more on Chico, see this interview with the artist on The Local East Village, The New York Times, from November 7, 2011.


View A Walk on 10th Street in a larger map

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple made with the CameraBag app for the iPhone. Locate "Walking Off the Big Apple" on your mobile browser and stroll along. Walking the length of 10th Street from river to river is just a little over 2 miles.

1 comment:

Traci said...

Love the architecture and the murals.