Skip to main content

The Light in Hopper: The Diner on Greenwich Avenue. Yes, That Diner

June 8, 2010. Jeremiah's Vanishing New York has written a three-part thriller investigating the potential locations for Hopper's famous diner. Start with Part I here.

May 14, 2010. Update to post: From time to time, readers become interested in this post. Today was such a day. Thanks to a link from Jeremiah's Vanishing New York on May 14, 2010, a few readers have written to me about their own quest to find some certainty in the now-vanished diner. I consider the case open, because a photo of a diner resembling the Nighthawk has not yet surfaced. I based my original conjecture on a couple of things. First, Hopper said that his painting "was suggested by a restaurant on Greenwich Avenue where two streets meet." That gets us only so far, but the intersection of Greenwich and Seventh Avenue seemed a possibility. Second, several online sources published prior to my post cited this location (Mulry Square) as the home for the diner. When I blended my image and part of the painting together, the angles seem to match. Still, I could visit other locations on Greenwich Avenue and possibly achieve the same affect. In other words, I think this is an open case, and I encourage readers with specific local knowledge or good art history skills to offer their own theories of the location of Hopper's famous diner. It may turn out that Hopper, an artist, made sketches based on an actual restaurant, but that on returning to the studio on Washington Square, he mostly relied on his imagination. However the story turns out, I'm sorry the diner has vanished. Please leave your comments, knowledge, or speculations in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you. - TT

In the immediate weeks following Pearl Harbor, the attack that propelled the nation into World War II, Edward Hopper was busy painting a new canvas. He made several preparatory sketches for a scene at a diner. These sketches and studies included a seated man in a hat shown from the back, one of a man seated at the counter and leaning forward and another of a woman, sketches of the coffee maker, a salt shaker and other counter necessities. Hopper made studies for the general shape of the diner as seen from the outside. The eatery sat on a corner intersection of a city and featured a dynamic curve and large windows, these more like transparent walls, and he roughly penciled in the angle of the street behind the building. The point of view is that of a pedestrian passing along the street at night.

During his lifetime, Hopper spoke little about the stories behind his paintings, but for the famous finished painting we know as Nighthawks (1942), he made the location clear. From an interview with Katherine Kuh published in 1962:

Hopper: "[Nighthawks] was suggested by a restaurant on Greenwich Avenue where two streets meet. Nighthawks seems to be the way I think of a night street.
Question: Lonely and empty?
Hopper: I didn't see it as particularly lonely. I simplified the scene a great deal and made the restaurant bigger. Unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city." - quoted in Katharine Kuh, The Artist's' Voice: Talks with Seventeen Modern Artists, p. 134

Following in Hopper's footsteps, I walked from the place where he lived on Washington Square North to the intersection of Greenwich and Seventh Avenues to visit the location of the demolished diner. On this spot, a high chain link fence, dotted with hundreds of individual tiles to commemorate the events of 9-11, surrounds a mostly empty lot used to store equipment. Based on my conversations, I believe many locals know about the Nighthawks story, and from time to time, someone will propose a new plan for this corner lot.

Stand at a certain spot on the Seventh Avenue side of the intersection and squint your eyes. An icon of American culture may appear.

From Winter 2009

Image: Dayhawks (2009). Photoshop image of the diner section of Hopper's Nighthawks superimposed on an image of the southeast corner of Seventh and Greenwich Avenues, taken by Walking Off the Big Apple on February 4, 2009. Nighthawks (1942), oil on canvas, 33 1/8 x 60 inches, by Edward Hopper is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. This post is part of a series about the New York of Edward Hopper.

See the walk and location on a map at this follow-up post.

Comments

  1. And being able to go see this painting whenever I like is one of my consolations for living in Chicago and not in amazing New York. Did you get to see the touring exhibition of Hopper's work last year? It also appeared in Boston and DC. Incredible. On one wall was a Hopper quote that has stayed with me: "What I wanted to do was paint sunlight on the side of a house."

    ReplyDelete
  2. I didn't get to see the Hopper exhibition last year, although I wanted to travel to one of those cities to see it. I did see the large exhibition organized by the Whitney in 1980, and I remember it so well it feels like it was yesterday. Toward the end of these series of posts, I'll visit Hopper's paintings that are on exhibit in the local New York museums.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fascinating, and neat that you scoped out the location!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, Vidiot. It was startling to see the location, even empty, and then to see how well the diner fit the space when I was blending the two images.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous9:10 PM

    Awesome Photoshop job. Thank you for sharing the location of the diner with us. You did a great job with the perspective and sizing. Would love to have the city enlarge 'Nighthawks' and put it on a display board on that corner... how cool would that be for everyone to see.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nice Photoshop job. I make scratch-built scale models of diner (currently working on Phil's in N. Hollywood) and was thinking of the diner in Nighthawks as my next project./ Do you happen to have any information on dimensions, etc.? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Phil,
    The "real diner" depicted in Nighthawks is a bit mysterious,as a photo of the place Hopper describes has yet to materialize. As an artist, he was likely to alter the dimensions for his artistic purposes. So, I think you could make a wonderful speculative model just based on the painting.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anonymous6:05 PM

    I was told the painting location was across the street, the florist that is in your photo. and still looks like the painting if you remove the awnings. but......i was only told this once. big grain of salt.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anon - (Though I'm making an exception to my no Anon comments)- That's possible, too, you know. I'm not 100% sure about this location. Other have written me about alternative theories and locations, including yours, and I was considering this possibility just today. Hopper sketched and used his imagination for the painting. We may never see a picture of his diner at a corner on Greenwich Avenue.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Thank you for your response! Walking Off the Big Apple is accepting comments. Please be relevant to the content and do not solicit or engage in self-promotion. Thoughtful responses are welcome. Comments are moderated at all times.










Popular posts from this blog

Early Voting in Washington Heights, and A Walk

Early voting for the 2020 federal election in New York began on Saturday, October 24 and continues through Sunday, November 1. The weekend was overcast and autumnal, with the bright yellows of fall on display. In New York City, thousands of New Yorkers turned out at the 88 early voting locations and waited in long lines, many stretching around the block. 
Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn were two of the well-known sites, but most voting places were typical neighborhood places such as schools, churches, and hospitals.  In Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, two early voting locations were within a short walk of one another, causing some confusion for voters emerging from the 168th Street subway station. The Columbia University Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion, at 1150 St. Nicholas Avenue, was the closest to the train stop. The Fort Washington Avenue Armory at 216 Ft. Washington Avenue is located a couple of blocks to the west.On Saturday, I …

A Daytime Walk on Broadway and the Theater in the Dark

On October 9, the Broadway League announced that the theater season has been postponed through May 2021, leaving Broadway dark for the winter and into the spring of next year. According to the press release, “Broadway performances were initially suspended due to COVID 19 on March 12, 2020. At that time, 31 productions were running, including 8 new shows in previews. Additionally, 8 productions were in rehearsals preparing to open in the spring.”It’s hard to imagine New York without the theater. Even a daytime walk along the way in the Theater District near Times Square will reveal that the theater, in terms of live performances with an audience, has gone dark. Without Broadway, that leaves visitors to Times Square with few options for general amusement. Many stores and restaurants have closed as well. The lights are still up and blazing. When the Empire State Building was left nearly empty during the Great Depression, just a few years after it opened, the building crew kept the lights…

North Towards Autumn: A Day Trip on the Metro-North Hudson Line

The peak of autumn colors in New York City tends to fall sometime in the days following Halloween, but those anxiously waiting leaf change can simply travel north. 
One way to speed the fall season is to take the Hudson line of Metro-North north of the city and watch the greens fade to oranges and yellows and the occasional burst of red. Weekends during the month of October are ideal times to make the trip. The air tends to be crisp with bright blue skies, and the Hudson River glimmers like a mirror in the light of autumn. As the Hudson line hugs the river for much of the distance north, the train ride alone provides plenty of opportunities for sightseeing. Try to grab a window seat on the river side of the train car for views of the Palisades and the bends of the Hudson Highlands later in the trip.  Still, October is a great time for a walk. Exploring the villages along the Hudson line may be accomplished on foot, and many cater to visitors with signs and maps indicating the village’s…

A Weekend Walk on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail

Imagine strolling from town to town near the eastern shores of the Hudson River, walking a well-trodden path lined with trees and stately architecture and with easy access to cafes, local shops, and train stations for an easy ride home. Imagine a weekend when the sun is bright and the sun is warm, and many other people - but not too many - are out enjoying the same weather and the same stroll. Such were the pleasures on a recent Sunday, in the latter part of this unseasonal winter, along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail not too far north from New York City.


The Old Croton Aqueduct, the system that once delivered fresh water from the Croton River to New York City, was a huge and complex marvel of engineering. The trail sits on top of the aqueduct system. This post describes a walk along just a section of the trail, the one that begins at the Keeper’s House in Dobbs Ferry and ends in Irvington.


First, catch a Metro-North Hudson line train to Dobbs Ferry, a village in southern Westchester C…

MoMA in Masks

Update. Beginning September 28, MoMA will require all members to reserve tickets in advance.*Walking into the gallery devoted to Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (c 1920) at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on Saturday afternoon, I saw a woman seated on a bench. She was looking at the artist’s dreamy depiction of his garden at Giverny, and I thought for a moment she might be dreaming as well. As she was the only person occupying what is usually a packed room for fans of Impressionism, I was hesitant to invade her private garden reveries.I would enjoy my own such private moments with my favorite MoMA works that afternoon, including Marc Chagall’s I and the Village (1911). The painting depicts a colorful and geometric fairy tale of peasants and animals, memories of the artist’s childhood home outside Vitebsk. And I had a long time to feel the scorching sun of photographer Dorothea Lange’s Woman of the High Plains, Texas Panhandle (1938), a setting closer to my hometown. Later I would sit in t…

An Early Autumn Walk in Central Park: 2020 Edition

This week, the singer Diana Krall released a cover of “Autumn in New York,” the standard by Vernon Duke. An accompanying video, filmed in New York by Davis McCutcheon and directed by Mark Seliger, portrays the city in moody yet beautiful black and white tones. Beyond the lack of autumn colors, the film shows the empty streets of the pandemic city. The mood riffs on the underlying melancholy of the song’s lyrics, that the fall season “is often mingled with pain.”

When I think of autumn in New York, I automatically imagine walking in Central Park in the vivid colors of the season. The images here, from a meandering one-mile stroll this past Saturday, show only a hint of autumnal glory but reflect more conventional representations of both the season and the song. Yet, walking in Central Park at the beginning of autumn is tinged for me with a hint of sadness, or truthfully, with some anxiety about the coming months.

I hadn’t ventured into Central Park since before the pandemic. While I’ve b…

NYC Re-openings and Travel Advice

What will open, and how will you get there? This list will be updated following official announcements.
UPDATED October 10, 2020. Many favorite local destinations have now reopened. 

Openings  - General Information and Popular Destinations   
• Restaurants: Consult this NYC Department of Transportation map (updated link) for restaurants currently open in NYC. Starting September 30, NYC allowed indoor dining at 25% capacity.
• As of September 25, outdoor dining in NYC has been extended FOREVER.
• The 9/11 Memorial reopened on Saturday, July 4. Visitors must wear masks and keep social distancing practices.
• (update) Libraries: NYPL. The library will allow a grab-and-go service at 50 locations.
Governors Island reopened July 15 with advance reserved tickets. 
• The High Line reopened on July 16, with several rules and limitations in place, including timed entry passes - available July 9. Entrance only at Gansevoort Street. See High Line website for details. 
The Bronx Zoo reopened July 20 fo…

The Lonesome Metropolis: A Walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center

As New York City reopens, why do the attractions of the great metropolis still look mostly deserted on a summer morning? A morning walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center sought to address this question. As it turns out, there are several adequate explanations. But for what happens next, there are no right answers.

Many neighborhoods outside of tourist New York are still buzzing along. While some residents of wealthier neighborhoods have largely decamped to mountain cabins, beach houses, and other second homes, the less wealthy have nowhere to go and may still be working. Just visit Washington Heights or Corona or Flatbush, and you’ll see sidewalks full of shoppers and summer evening street partiers. Those who fled the city remain only a fraction of the total population.  

Other renowned parts of the city such as City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge have been frequently occupied, as in Occupied, with crowds protesting police violence. This week, NYPD officers in riot gear remove…

Museums in New York Open on Mondays

Please see this post for current announcements of reopenings.
Please consult the museum websites for changes in days and hours.
UPDATED September 23, 2020
Advance tickets required for many museum reopenings. Please check museum websites for details.
• The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) reopened to the public on August 27, with new hours for the first month, through September 27: from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday to the public; and from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. on Mondays for MoMA members only. Admission will be free to all visitors Tuesday through Sunday, through September 27, made possible by UNIQLO. See this new post on WOTBA for a sense of the experience attending the museum.
• New-York Historical Society reopened on August 14 with an outdoor exhibition, "Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine,” in the rear courtyard. The exhibit by activist Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman will highlight how New Yorkers weathered the quarantine.
• The Metropolitan …

The City Turned Inside Out: A Walk from Battery Park to Fulton Street

While the cast of HAMILTON sings “The World Turned Upside Down,” New Yorkers could easily hum along to “The City Turned Inside Out” this summer. (not a real song) Where once a city’s important work took place indoors - within the soaring office buildings, famous restaurants, legendary museums, and storied performance halls, the COVID-19 epidemic has literally turned the residents outdoors. 

At least it’s summer in the city, when spending time outdoors is common and pleasant enough. Still, the city remains strange this summer of 2020. 

With the absence of tourists, and with office workers connecting virtually from home, many of the city’s main attractions aren’t attracting many visitors. A walk from the Battery to Fulton Street on a pleasant Thursday afternoon bore this out. 

It’s uplifting to at least find plants that are alive and happy. Thanks to the city’s gardeners and landscapers, the city parks are looking particularly lush and splendid this summer. The grounds of Battery Park feel…