The strange history of the East Village’s most famous street

The corner of Second Avenue and St. Mark’s Place in 1968.

“St. Marks Place—the three blocks of East Eighth Street that run from Astor Place to Tompkins Square Park—has become a symbol of the East Village. Head shops serve as a reminder of the street’s hippie heyday, while stalwart Federal mansions remain a link to the area’s more distant—and upscale—past. If something has happened in the East Village in the last two centuries, there’s a good chance St. Marks Place has played a role. Yet the street has never been a perfect microcosm of the East Village; those mansions were an anomaly, and the hippies were, too. St. Marks is the most famous street in the East Village, but is it a part of the ‘real’ neighborhood at all? The farmland that today comprises St. Marks Place was originally owned by Dutch Director General Peter Stuyvesant, who bought the bouwerij (or ‘Bowery’ as it came to be known) in 1651. … By 1960, the term was edging into the culture. In an article entitled ‘Village’ Spills Across 3d Avenue,’ the Times talked about the availability of apartments for ‘$40 and down’ in an area ‘increasingly [known as] Village East or East Village.’ The term Village East didn’t stick around for long. By 1963, Cue’s New York: A Leisurely Guide to Manhattan, was already sending folks to the East Village for its cafes, galleries, and charming Beatniks—people like Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg, a longtime area resident and denizen of Gem Spa at the corner of St. Marks and Second Avenue. Despite Ginsberg’s eventual place among the first ranks of American poets, the most influential poet to live in the East Village at the time wasn’t a Beat at all—it was W.H. Auden, who resided at 77 St. Marks (former home of Trotsky’s Novy Mir), drank copious amount of booze at the Holiday Cocktail Lounge next door at No. 75, and went to the bathroom at the liquor store on the corner because his apartment apparently had no facilities. Auden’s situation wasn’t atypical.  … Within a year, St. Marks Place had become the magnet for the East Coast counter-culture. For years, the old Arlington Hall (having been expanded one more building to the east) had been owned by a Polish social club; known as the Dom, it became a popular hangout for the Beats and then a nightclub. In 1966, Andy Warhol opened the Exploding Plastic Inevitable in the Dom’s upstairs space, installing the Velvet Underground as the house band. … Among the most famous denizens of St. Marks during its ’60s heyday were Abbie Hoffman, who co-founded the Youth International Party (‘Yippies’) at No. 30 with Jerry Rubin, and Lenny Bruce, who lived at No. 13. …”
NY Curbed
W – 8th Street and St. Mark’s Place
The Atlantic: St. Marks Is Dead and the Complexity of Gentrification, amazon

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Allen Ginsberg, Books, Burroughs, Hippie, Jack Kerouac, Jerry Rubin, Marijuana, Music, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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