Skip to main content

The Place Where Joe Papp Lived

People commonly refer to the Public Theater on Lafayette as "the house that Papp built," referring to its legendary founder Joseph Papp (1921-1991), but let's now consider a place where Papp lived, a handsome modern apartment building in Greenwich Village at 40 E. 9th Street.

Known as The Sheridan, the 13-story structure between Broadway and University Place, built in 1950, features deep large terraces and a spacious private landscaped garden. The Historic Landmarks Preservation Center has marked Papp's residence here with one of their oval red cultural medallions, noting his importance as the "dynamic founder and impresario of the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater." He lived in the building from 1973 until 1991, the year of his death.

The Sheridan, 40 E. 9th
The Sheridan, 40 E. 9th St., between University Place and Broadway.
Papp moved to the building in 1973.


According to Helen Epstein's biography, Joe Papp: An American Life, the 52-year-old director, his long-time assistant and future wife Gail Merrifield, and his second son, Tony, moved to the apartment on E. 9th Street in the summer of 1973. As Epstein notes, in marked contrast to his previous large apartment on the Upper West Side, one packed with Victorian furniture, his new apartment "was small, bright and – except for beds, one couch and one chair – completely unfurnished." (p. 302)

Leaving a 20-year marriage along with the uptown apartment, Papp was starting anew. Importantly, the move downtown afforded closer proximity to his greatest preoccupation, the bustling theatrical spaces on Lafayette.


The Sheridan, (rear facing E. 8th)
back of The Sheraton, view from E. 8th Street. Retail stores are below at street level.
Is this not a classic image of New York apartment life in summer?

Joe didn't have far to go. The Public Theater is a quick zigzag walk away - E. 9th over to Broadway, south to E. 8th, east to Astor Place, and then south to the theater, housed in the old Astor Library. By 1973, when he moved to E. 9th, his reputation was already well established.

A native New Yorker born in Williamsburg in Brooklyn to Russian Jewish immigrants, Joseph Papirofsky (later Joe Papp) founded the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1954. The festival began holding performances in Central Park in 1957, eventually establishing a summer home in the Delacorte Theater. Seeking to find a year-round home for performances, in 1967 Papp acquired the use of the old Astor Library from the city, rallying to save the Romanesque Revival building from demolition. In producing and directing accessible Shakespeare and contemporary original plays for all people, Papp built new audiences through his innovative and democratic casting.

Following in his footsteps, let's take The Joe Papp Walk:

Start at The Sheridan at 40 E. 9th, noticing the red plaque in his honor on the front fence. (Check out the back of the building on E. 8th, too, rising up above several retail stores.) To walk in Papp's shoes, proceed to Broadway, stopping at the intersection to check out a picturesque vista to the immediate north dominated by the Gothic Revival of Grace Church and to the south, the grand old facades of Broadway.

Walk east over to Astor Place, noticing not only the massive old Wanamaker Department Store Annex (attention KMart shoppers, southeast corner), but the many domineering apartment buildings constructed during the careless decades following the war.

Intersection Broadway and E. 9th, Grace Church
looking north toward Grace Church (Gothic Revival, 1840s with later renovations,
James Renwick, Jr. architect)


former Wanamaker department store
originally Wanamaker Department Store Annex, 1904, D. H. Burnham & Co., nw corner.


Broadway near E. 9th
walking south along Broadway between E. 9th and E. 8th Streets.

From Astor Place, pretend that the glassy Sculpture for Living is not there (for 1973 authenticity sake) and walk over to "the Public," a pleasantly scaled building of a rich brick red. (In 2011, the building is undergoing an extensive renovation.) If the walk takes places on certain days of the evening, consider capping off the Joe Papp walk with a toast to Joe at Joe's Pub.

Lafayette, Public Theater is one the left
On the left, The Public Theater, Lafayette.


sign for Joe's Pub
Joe's Pub



View The Joe Papp Walk in a larger map

• For more on the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center's Cultural Medallion program, see their website here.

Website for The Public Theater 

Website for Joe's Pub 

• Related on Walking Off the Big Apple: For more on the architecture near Astor Place and south along Broadway and Lafayette, please see the post Buildings To Know in NoHo: An Illustrated Self-Guided Tour and Map.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple. More pix in this set on Flickr WOTBA.





Popular posts from this blog

Museums in New York Open on Mondays

Update: As of March 12, 2020, many New York arts institutions have temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Please see this post for announcements of reopenings.
On August 14, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that low-risk cultural activities, museums, aquariums, and other low risk cultural arts can reopen in New York City on August 24. 

Come back to this page for any updates about reopenings.
(Currently CLOSED) Several museums in New York City are open on Mondays, including MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney.
This list has been expanded to include free or pay-what-you-wish hours.


American Museum of Natural History Central Park West and 79th Street
See the post, Big Things to See at the American Museum of Natural History.
Cooper Hewitt
2 East 91st St.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Ave

Jewish Museum 1109 Fifth Ave

Metropolitan Museum of Art 100 Fifth Avenue
See the post 25 Things To Do Near the Metropolitan Museum of …

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…

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…

The Company of Nature: Walking With Butterflies in Fort Tryon Park

If wandering the empty urban canyons feels a little lonely and depressing, a better idea would be to head to the nearest park. This past Saturday, a day that was sunny but not too hot, Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan turned out to be the perfect place to not only satisfy wanderlust but to rediscover the company of nature. Butterflies were there. Hundreds of butterflies - Tiger Swallowtails, Monarch Butterflies, Black Swallowtails, Cabbage White Butterflies, and Silver Spotted Skippers, among them. Moths, too, although I have not yet learned their names.  The Heather Garden is situated just beyond the entrance to Fort Tryon Park. With seasonal plantings, the garden is always a serene spot.  Observing butterflies involves watching their interaction with blooming flowers and shrubs. The Tiger Swallowtails are easy to find and found here in significant numbers. Just look for the Butterfly Bushes. The Cabbage White Butterflies are here in abundance, too, though not as showy as the swallow…

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…

The Most Beautiful Bridge in the World

Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier (1887 - 1965), the leading proponent of the International Style of modern architecture, visited NYC on several occasions in the 1930s and 1940s, and he made much to say about the skyscraper city. He didn’t think much of the faux tops of the tall buildings nor did he care about the haphazard city planning, but he did fall madly in love with one particular bridge: 
"The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city. It is painted an aluminum color and, between water and sky, you see nothing but the bent cord supported by two steel towers. When your car moves up the ramp the two towers rise so high that it brings you happiness; their structure is so pure, so resolute, so regular that here, finally, steel architecture seems to laugh. The car reaches an unexpectedly wide apro…

Taking a Constitutional Walk

A long time ago individuals going out for a walk, especially to get fresh air and exercise, often referred to the activity as "taking a constitutional walk." The word "constitutional" refers to one's constitution or physical makeup, so a constitutional walk was considered beneficial to one's overall wellbeing. (Or, as some would prefer to call it, "wellness.") The phrase is more common in British literature than in American letters.

As early as the mid-nineteenth century, many American commentators expressed concern that their countrymen were falling into lazy and unhealthy habits. Newspaper columnists and editorial writers urged their readers to take up the practice of the "constitutional" walk.



One such essay, "Walking as an Exercise," originally printed in the Philadelphia Gazette and reprinted in New England Farmer, Volume 11, 1859, urges the people of farm areas to take up walking. City dwellers seemed to have the advantag…

NYC Re-openings and Travel Advice

As the pandemic crisis improves in New York State, several NYC attractions are scheduling their re-openings. What will open, and how will you get there? This list will be updated following official announcements.
UPDATED August 14, 2020. With the state of New York currently ahead of the class in the pandemic outbreak across the US, many favorite local destinations have started to reopen. The rollout is designed to be gradual, with geographic regions advancing according to a fixed set of metrics. 
New York City, the hardest hit area in the first months of the crisis, entered Phase 4 on Monday, July 20. The local exception: indoors of malls, restaurants, and cultural institutions.
On August 14, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that low-risk cultural activities, museums, aquariums, and other low risk cultural arts can reopen in New York City on August 24

Openings     
Phase 4 began in NYC on July 20. Stay outside! (Forward.ny.gov) NO indoor dining!
• Restaurants: Consult this NYC Department o…

Delacroix’s Cats

Following its record-breaking debut at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the blockbuster Delacroix exhibit has opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. While not all of the works could travel, as some are intrinsic to the Louvre, the big cats made the trip to the city. For the Delacroix exhibit poster, the Met has selected Young Tiger Playing with Its Mother, the artist’s great and surprising painting from 1830, as the signature and defining work of the exhibition.


Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798–1863), known as the leading Romantic painter of his era, loved cats. His many notebooks show preparatory sketches of lions, tigers, and several charming domestic cats. The big cats, for the most part, made it into big paintings. At 52 x 76.6 in. (130 x 195 cm), Young Tiger Playing with Its Mother, 1830, is astonishingly large for an animal painting of his time, a size normally devoted to a history painting. His most famous work, La Liberté guidant le peuple, dates from the same year.�…

Starstruck at MoMA

(Update July 31, 2020. Please note: After reopening in 2019, MoMA is currently closed as a result of the pandemic. MoMA has not announced its reopening.) 
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Midtown Manhattan is undergoing a significant renovation and expansion that will increase gallery space by thirty percent upon completion in 2019. In the midst of renovation and following a long hot summer, the museum may currently look a little rough around the edges and even disorienting for longtime patrons. For starters, you’ll need to enter the museum on W. 54th Street instead of W. 53rd Street while the work is taking place, and the museum store is now currently on the second floor next to the coffee bar which has also moved.


This state of affairs didn’t stop visitors on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend from making a pilgrimage to the museum to gaze at treasures of modern art. In an age of quickly disposable digital imagery, the original and cherished works still exude their aura. Ironically,…