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Irving Place

The Two Ends of Irving Place

Irving Place from Google Earth

The Irving Place I observed is a street filled with ironic dichotomies. There are both longing and rejection between new versus old, music versus silence, middle class versus wealthy, public versus private institutions, and globalized versus Victorian . The lower Irving Place, 14 to 17th streets, represents the new, music, middle class, public, and globalization and is considerably integrated into the larger part of contemporary New York City; the upper Irving, 17th to Gramercy Park, represents the old, silence, wealthy, and private because it resists change and strives to maintain its Victorian status. It is interesting to see how both ends of Irving Place support the arts through contrasting methods. To understand the complexities of Irving Place, one must first explore its historical progression.

"Washington Irving House"

Irving Place and Gramercy Park were established in 1831 by Samuel B. Ruggles (Moscow, 62). He had petitioned city of New York to make an extra street between Third and Fourth Avenues, where he owned most of the land. He dedicated the street which runs from 14thstreet to Gramercy Park South to his good friend Washington Irving, a diplomat and a writer, who was at the peak of his career. It opened in 1833 as a prime location due to Union Square Park in the west, Gramercy Park in the north, and later Stuyvesant Square to the East in 1836 (Harris, 12). Later, Washington Irving was thought to have lived on Irving Place, but it was only his nephew, Edgar Irving, who did (14). It was because of this confusion that kept Irving Place from having something other than residential homes and residential area-friendly businesses built (22).

Greek Revival & Italianate Architecture (Google Search)

The architecture, stores and venues, and residents of this area were exclusive. First, the architectures were fashionable and up to date. In the 1830~40’s, they were built as Greek Revival style rowhouses; in the 50’s they were Italianate style rowhouses (65); in 1870 they started experimenting with flathouses which hold many rooms and multiple tenants . Even though the rent was high, hundreds of middle-class applicants flocked here because of all the “clubs, concerts, lecture, operas, and houses they most desire to frequent (Where and How).

Irving Place always attracted middle-class and upper-middle class from the establishment to the present day. The first occupants of Irving Place until 1880’s were “well-to-do merchants, bankers, politicians, professional men, and their extended families” (Harris, 1); the second set of occupants were artists and writers such as Broadway and vaudeville stars (20); and the latest set of occupants since the 30’s were salesmen and clerks who work at garment factories and wholesalers(23). During this early period, Irving Place and area near Union Square became a most desirable living quarters because of the high-quality venues surround them. There were various shopping quarters around Union Square until later when they moved to midtown (14).

Academy of Music 14th and Irving, now demolished

The influx of new cultures made it possible for the lower Irving to progress. Various public musical institutions were established here. Academy of Music opened in 1854 on the North block of 14thstreet near Irving Place. Irving Hall opened in 1859, which was replaced by Amberg Theater in 1888 when German immigrants, Kleindeutschland, centered lower Irving Place as their living quarters, which was later replaced by Irving Place Theater, which is now demolished (19). The Irving Hall served its purpose as “a ballroom, concert, and lecture hall annex to the Academy [of Music]… and served as the home to the NY Philharmonic in 1861-63” (17), described as “a new and elegant temple of the light fantastic foe” (General) in the NY Times in 1860. Next block was Steinway Hall, which served as a piano showroom and a recital hall (NY, 200). The Kleindeutschland “had a major influence on the political, cultural, and especially musical life of the neighborhood” (Harris, 19).

Miyavi, Line of Crowd & Neon Lights

Even though Academy of Music, Irving Hall, and other venues may have been demolished, the legacy still lives on through Irving Plaza, a concert venue that holds hundreds of shows every year (Naurekas). Irving Plaza is one of the most famous venues in New York City, therefore in the world. Ramel, one of the security guards who I interviewed, said that the most surprising thing about working at Irving Plaza was “I realize that music is universal. It’s like a cultural melting pot” (Washington). There is a special connection between New York City and music, and music is a catalyst for globalization of different cultures. It attracts the artistic, the international, and a predominantly middle-class audience.

Between 15th and 17th streets is an asyndeton, “the suppression of linking words such as conjunctions and adverbs, either within a sentence or between sentences” (De Certeau, 101) because they are institutions not in particular pertaining to the tangible cultural aspect of Irving Place. It seems as though it is a fragment between Irving Place into the elitist and organized upper Irving and the more public lower Irving. NYC Human Resources Administration is on the east side and Washington Irving High School and an occult organization Rosicrucian Order are on the west side.

File:Gramercy-park-2007.jpg

Gramercy Park Today (Wikipedia)

On the contrary, Gramercy Park and it surrounding areas are quiet, private, relatively unchanged and Victorian since 1831. Gramercy Park is the only surviving private park in Manhattan; it is properly nicknamed “A Victorian Gentleman Who Refused to Die” (Gramercy Park) and its residents have always been upper class. It seems that the Gramercy Park residents prefer to keep the park increasingly “ornamental,” the original vision by Samuel B. Ruggles who designed the park so that the people living in the townhouses would have a view of the park from a height. Ever since its conception, the residents of this area are allowed to a key that opens the gates to the very private and quiet 2-acre park, only if they pay a high annual fee. It is a highly sought-after park, and many neighbors detest the exclusiveness while wanting to be inside. Gramercy Park has become even more restrictive since 2007 because the residents do now allow guests in the park on what used to be “Gramercy Park Day” (Molloy). However, there is nowhere else in the country that resembles the Gramercy Park neighborhood and it is valuable for that matter.

File:Players Club.jpg

Players Club, 16 Gramercy Park (Wikipedia)

The National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park (Google Search)

There are two clubs next to Gramercy Park: The National Arts Club and The Players Club; both of these exclusive private institutions are markers of a Victorian tradition, and it is remarkable that both still survive to this day. The Players Club, founded in 1888 by Edwin Booth, Mark Twain and 13 others, is located on 16 Gramercy Park. It was the first gentlemen’s club in America that sought “the promotion of social intercourse between members of the dramatic profession and the kindred professions of literature, painting, architecture, sculpture and music, law and medicine, and the patrons of the arts…” (Welcome). The National Arts Club, which was founded in 1898 and found its home on Gramercy Park South in 1906, is an exclusive and private non-profit organization whose goal is to foster an appreciation for the fine arts. National Arts Club is an exception to gentlemen’s clubs because it was the first club to admit women as equals from its inception (NAC).

NAC Tiffany Stained Glass Ceiling


Inside the National Arts Club is a Tiffany stained glass ceiling made by Donald McDonald in 1860 (Navema). Early working women in the early 1900’s in NYC were also stained glass artisans. Susan Vreeland’s novel Clara and Mr. Tiffany is a story of New York’s artists who lived below 23rd street in the early 1900’s, a rarely depicted subject in New York fictions. It often shows the dichotomy between the working class women and the upper class customers. Mr. Tiffany’s workers lived on an Irving Place boarding house, where they shared the struggles of being independent women. Even though Clara Driscoll’s stained glass works are more intricate, wealthy customers refuse to pay higher prices for women’s work and instead pay more for men’s pieces (Vreeland, 247). Even then, there was a desire for the arts but the rejection of gender and status.

“The Key to Gramercy Park” is a song by Deadsy that seems to sum up the relationship between the two Irvings.

From the other side of the Underscene / To the boulevard of broken dreams / To find the key to Gramercy Park … Now I’ve got the key to Gramercy Park / Out of my way and I’m safe, not afraid of the dark / Now I’ve got the key to Gramercy Park / But I might, might miss breaking in through the bars

Metaphorically, Deadsy is talking about their career which started in the underground scene and took off into the mainstream media. In terms of Gramercy Park itself, it seems to show the love/hate relationship between middle class and the wealthy, and how it is safe to be sheltered in a sanctuary like Gramercy Park but regrettable to be out of touch with the larger world. Both ends of Irving Place have an appreciation of the arts, but they address it in opposing manners. Lower Irving tends to openly promote globalization of cultures while Gramercy Park and upper Irving are the more reserved because they nurture the Victorian tradition, which many outsiders do not understand. There is a complete contrast of atmosphere within Irving Place, a dichotomy of desire and rejection. There is such a dynamic relationship between people and its institutions dictate where and what kind of people belong there, through the ways its residents are culturalized. The whole of Irving Place is a patron of the arts because of its history.

Works Cited

De Certeau, Michel. “Walking in the City.” The Practice of Everyday Life. Translated
by Steven Rendall. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1988. 91-
110.

“GENERAL CITY NEWS. ” New York Times (1857-1922)  21  Dec. 1860,ProQuest Historical Newspapers New York Times (1851-2007) w/ Index (1851-1993), ProQuest. Web.  13 Sep. 2011.

“Gramercy Park: Now Elitist Only 364 Days a Year — Daily Intel.” New York Magazine — NYC Guide to Restaurants, Fashion, Nightlife, Shopping, Politics, Movies. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2011. <http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2007/05/gramercy_park_now_elitist_only.html&gt;.

Harris, Gale, and Jay Shockley. “EAST 17th STREET/IRVING PLACE HISTORIC DISTRICT DESIGNATION REPORT.” NYC Gov. NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2011. <www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/reports/EAST_17TH_STREET_-_IRVING_PLACE_-_HISTORIC_DISTRICT.pdf>.

Molloy, Joanna. “Gramercy Park Siege: Manhattan’s only private oasis is site of battle to make it open to the public – New York Daily News.” NY Daily News. N.p., 30 Apr. 2010. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-04-30/local/27063127_1_henry-james-trustees-gates&gt;.

Moscow, Henry. The Street Book: An Encyclopedia of Manhattan’s Street Names and Their Origins. New York: Fordham University Press, 1990. Print.

“NAC – History.” The National Arts Club. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2011. <http://nationalartsclub.org/pb_About_history.htm&gt;.

Naurekas, Jim. “Lexington Avenue and Irving Place: New York Songlines.” New York Songlines: Virtual Walking Tours of Manhattan Streets. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2011.  <http://www.nysonglines.com/lexington.htm&gt;.

Navema. “Stained Glass Dome Ceiling above The Bar by Donald MacDonald (ca. 1860) | Flickr – Photo Sharing!.” Flickr – Photo Sharing. N.p., 26 Jan. 2010. Web. 9 Dec. 2011. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/28488028@N06/4311067984/&gt;.

NY, Federal Writers’ Project. New York City Guide; a comprehensive guide to the five boroughs of the metropolis–Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Richmond …. New York: Random House, 1939. Print.

Vreeland, Susan. Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel. New York: Random House, 2011. Print.

Washington, Ramel. Personal Interview. 31 October 2011.

“Welcome to a Certain Club.” The Players Club. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2011. <www.theplayersnyc.org/members/comp>.

“Where and How to Live in New-York. ” New York Times (1857-1922) 26 Apr. 1870, ProQuest Historical Newspapers New York Times (1851-2007) w/ Index (1851-1993), ProQuest. Web. 13 Sep. 2011.

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History of Irving Place
Samuel B Ruggles

Irving Place was established in 1831 by Samuel B. Ruggles who also built Gramercy Park (Moscow, 62). He had petitioned city of New York to make an extra street between Third and Fourth Avenues, where he owned most of the land. He dedicated the street which runs from 14thstreet to Gramercy Park South to his good friend Washington Irving, a diplomat and a writer, who was at the peak of his career. It opened in 1833 as a prime location due to Union Square Park in the west, Gramercy Park in the north, and later Stuyvesant Square to the East in 1836 (Harris, 12).

The architecture, stores and venues, and residents of this area were exclusive. First, the architectures were fashionable and up to date. In the 1830~40’s, they were built as Greek Revival style rowhouses which use red bricks for walls and stairs from the sidewalk up to the entrance; in the 50’s they were Italianate style rowhouses which use brownstones (65); in 1870 they started experimenting with flathouses which hold many rooms and multiple tenants (Where and How). After 1873, there were no longer single-family rowhouses on East 17th and Irving (Harris, 2). Even though the rent costed $1500 per year [$21375 in 2002 value, my calculation] in 1870 on Irving Place in a 20 feet by 60 feet flathouse, hundreds of applicants flocked here because of all the “clubs, concerts, lecture, operas, and houses they most desire to frequent (Where and How).

A Sidewalk on Irving Place

A Sidewalk on Irving Place

Irving Place always attracted middle-class and upper-middle class from the establishment to the present day. The first occupants of Irving Place until 1880’s were “well-to-do merchants, bankers, politicians, professional men, and their extended families” (Harris, 1); the second set of occupants were artists and writers such as Broadway and vaudeville stars (20); and the latest set of occupants since the 30’s were salesmen and clerks who work at garment factories and wholesalers(23). [*the fashion district is now deteriorating in NYC so there could have been another wave of occupants… I couldn’t find exactly what kind of people now live on Irving, but I’m pretty sure they have some sort of lucrative careers.]

During this early period, Irving Place and area near Union Square became a most desirable living quarters because of the high-quality venues surround them. There were various shopping quarters around Union Square until later when they moved to midtown (14). Academy of Music opened in 1854 on the North block of 14thstreet near Irving Place. Irving Hall opened in 1859, which was replaced by Amberg Theater in 1888 when German immigrants, Kleindeutschland, centered Irving Place as their living quarters, which was later replaced by Irving Place Theater, which is now demolished (19). The Irving Hall served its purpose as “a ballroom, concert, and lecture hall annex

to the Academy [of Music]… and served as the home to the NY Philharmonic in 1861-63” (17), described as “a new and elegant temple of the light fantastic foe” (General) in the NY Times in 1860. Next block was Steinway Hall, which served as a piano showroom and a recital hall (NY, 200). The Kleindeutschland “had a major influence on the political, cultural, and especially musical life of the neighborhood” (Harris, 19)… which brings us to the present day.

Irving Plaza

Puffy Ami Yumi Show October 10, 2010

Even though Academy of Music, Irving Hall, and other venues may have been demolished, the legacy still lives on through Irving Plaza, a concert venue that holds hundreds of shows every year (Naurekas). The Irving Plaza is the flower of Irving Place; it is the hottest place to be on this street. Other businesses include sushi restaurant, bakery, coffee bar and Pete’s Tavern (a saloonwhich has survived since 1864 through the Prohibition Era) between 19th and 18th streets, two restaurants and two bars between 18th and 17th, “Washington Irving House” and Washington Irving High School between 17th and 16th, Irving Plaza between 16th and 15th, and Zeckendorf Towers and Con Ed Building between 15th and 14th (Naureckas). Other than the aforementioned businesses, Irving Place is largely a residential area, just as it was back in the 1800’s.

Fun Fact: Washington Irving was thought to had lived on Irving Place, but it was only his nephew, Edgar Irving, who did. (Harris, 14). It was because of this confusion that kept Irving Place from having something other than residential homes and residential area-friendly businesses built. (22)

Works Cited

“GENERAL CITY NEWS. ” New York Times (1857-1922)  21  Dec. 1860,ProQuest Historical Newspapers New York Times (1851-2007) w/ Index (1851-1993), ProQuest. Web.  13 Sep. 2011.

Harris, Gale, and Jay Shockley. “EAST 17th STREET/IRVING PLACE HISTORIC DISTRICT DESIGNATION REPORT.” NYC Gov. NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2011. <www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/reports/EAST_17TH_STREET_-_IRVING_PLACE_-_HISTORIC_DISTRICT.pdf>.

Moscow, Henry. The Street Book: An Encyclopedia of Manhattan’s Street Names and Their Origins. New York: Fordham University Press, 1990. Print.

Naurekas, Jim. “Lexington Avenue and Irving Place: New York Songlines.” New York Songlines: Virtual Walking Tours of Manhattan Streets. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2011.  <http://www.nysonglines.com/lexington.htm&gt;

NY, Federal Writers’ Project. New York City Guide; a comprehensive guide to the five boroughs of the metropolis–Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Richmond …. New York: Random House, 1939. Print.

“Where and How to Live in New-York. ” New York Times (1857-1922) 26 Apr. 1870, ProQuest Historical Newspapers New York Times (1851-2007) w/ Index (1851-1993), ProQuest. Web. 13 Sep. 2011.


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The Gramercy Park Plaque

The (Self-Explanatory) Gramercy Park Plaque

Irving Place and Gramercy Park happen to be some of the most historically sustained places in New York City because of their exclusiveness. On the north end of Irving Place, one arrives at the Gramercy Park—the only surviving private park on Manhattan Island. It stayed relatively unchanged since 1831 when it was established, and, as written in the plaque, it was appointed as a Historic District. Gramercy Park and its surrounding areas give off a quaint atmosphere, as if one is suddenly transported onto a wealthy street somewhere in Europe.

A Statue in the Park - Through the Iron Gates

Compared to the rest of the city’s parks and their surrounding environment, Gramercy Park may be the elitist, unwelcoming place of all. The sidewalks do not get enough sunlight except on the park itself because of the tall apartments, and only people who live in buildings surrounding the park have access to the inside of the park if they pay a high annual fee. The restrictive policy leaves the others who do not live in the luxurious apartments peering inside the iron gates wondering how it might be to jog on the clean, untouched gravel paths.

A Bird Palace in Gramercy Park

The park’s enticing force drew writers such as Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Henry James and O. Henry (who wrote Gift of the Magi at Pete’s Tavern) to Irving Place. Even Sarah Jessica Parker attempted to purchase a house around the Gramercy Park but was outbid by $18 million.

36 Gramercy Park East - Notice the Two Knights at the Entrance

In fact, when 40 mostly minority students of Washington Irving High School went into Gramercy Park on a field trip in 2001, they were reported to the police by the park trustee; they were not charged with trespassing. This episode could have resulted in civil law suit. Since 2007 the keyholders of the Park no longer allow the public into the park on the used-to-be annual “Gramercy Park Day.” It is “Now elitist only 364 days a year” because the park goes public only on every Christmas Eve. It seems that the Gramercy Park residents prefer to keep the park “ornamental,” the original vision by Samuel B. Ruggles who designed the park so that the people living in the townhouses would have a view of the park from a height. I was not able to take great pictures from the ground level because of this design.

Park from Ground Level

The park’s nickname is “A Victorian Gentleman Who Refused To Die,” and the old ways have made the area an increasingly uncomfortable and lifeless environment. Outsiders watch with perturbed eyes as the Gramercy Park’s restrictiveness is bringing down the elitist neighborhood with its decay.

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Walking on Irving Place

Irving Place was surprisingly busy with people at 2 in the afternoon on a weekday. As I observed, Irving Place increasingly seemed like an asyndeton, “the suppression of linking words such as conjunctions and adverbs, either within a sentence or between sentences” (De Certeau, 101) because it was not all that uniform throughout. I had known that though Irving Place is a largely upper-middle class and upper-class residential and leisurely street, but I was surprised at how the bottom of the street—14th to 17th—felt the most fragmented compared to the quiet, elitist and organized 17th to 20th. The block between 14th and 15th have what one would normally see on a bigger street—a sports bar on the west side and the NY Sports Club on the east side.

West side of 15th and Irving

East side of 15th and Irving

The next block has on its west side Irving Plaza, which houses as a concert venue as well as a church on Sundays, and on its east side the office of the Rosicrucian Order, an occult organization.

Irving Plaza and Gum Marks

Rosicrucian Order

Next block has New York City’s Human Resources Administration and Washington Irving house on the west side while the Washington Irving High School is on the east side.

NYC Human Resources Administration

A View from the Sidewalk on 16th--To the Left Is Human Resources Administration, To the Right Is Washington Irving High School

Southwest Corner of 17th and Irving--Notice the Gum Marks

The transition starts on 17th street. Up to this intersection, there are numerous gum drop marks on the concrete sidewalk that have turned black overtime that prove that many people traversed the area and the level of their etiquette.

Above 17th street, I observed that many people, in their 20’s to 80’s, sat in one of the quaint, expensive restaurants and chatted away or simply sat on a set of steps or a bench. I wondered how these people can be so leisurely at 2 in the afternoon on a weekday. Since bodily dispositions are culturally or socially produced through “mimetic processes” (Morris 685), I was able to see (or judge) that the people who were quite old had the air of upper class people who lived in the vicinity. I was unsure of others, if they live or do not live around Irving Place, but it was sure that they had the time and money to enjoy such luxury at that particular hour of the day. These people define Irving Place space into a particular place, a sensuous and sumptuous place.

People at 71 Irving Place Coffee and Tea Bar, and Friend of a Farmer

Old Men Conversing at the Restaurant "Friend of a Farmer"

Contrastingly as I was walking away from Irving Place towards Union Square on 16th street, I saw a mob of Beth Israel Hospital nurses pouring out of a building. I was able to immediately identify that they were not the type of people (middle-class) to be spotted on the upper side of Irving Place, since “[a] type of walking mobilizes particular semiotic regimes that are articulated to different ideological meanings; for example, the display of certain [clothing]… of various ‘community’ identities that are organized around particular mythologies” (Morris, 689). The nurses had a bright blue uniform and a giggly, schoolgirl-like atmosphere to them as they linked their arms and walked towards the direction of Union Square. From the memory of the past, similar present, into an anticipated future (690), all were happening at that precise moment; these women were looking forward to having lunch together like they do every day.

Reflection of Nurses

The Group of Beth Israel Nurses

I was able to see a complete contrast of atmosphere between Irving Place and the streets connected to it. There is such a dynamic relationship between people and how the street, its buildings and businesses dictate where and what kind of people belong there. Every block is different and none are the same, you only need to turn at the corner to see a completely different New York on Irving Place.

Works Cited

Certeau, Michel de. “Walking in the City.” The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984. 91-108. Print.

Morris, Brian. “What We Talk about When We Talk about ‘Walking in the City’.” Cultural Studies Vol. 18 No. 5. Online: Routledge, 2004. 675-697. Print.

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Irving Place through the NY times Historical Database

Many of the articles about Irving Place found in the database announced music shows at Irving Hall, debated over the supposed “Irving House,” but (referring to the readings) most importantly lamented the loss of the quiet neighborhood by the intrusion of big buildings and small stores. The different opinions on this subject matter were covered in articles “Million-Dollar Operation on Irving Place Corner: Second Large Project Recently Undertaken in Hitherto Neglected Neighborhood—Details of the Structure” and “Irving Place Changes: Tall Buildings and Stores Robbing it of its Quiet Atmosphere,” both written in 1909 when the new plans took off. Irving Place the street was not photographed or documented much while it was still a quiet, residential area considering it was a more private, residential part of New York. Only the apartments around Gramercy Park are the remnants of what Irving Place might had been, since now the lower streets—14th to 17th—are mostly big buildings (NYC Human Resources Center, bike shop, Rosicrucian Order, Irving Plaza), while the upper streets—17th to 20th—are still largely residential but is bustling and spotted with restaurants, a spa, a yoga studio, and other small businesses. Crang says in his essay “Envisioning Urban Histories” that “History does not form a presence on the scene but an absence and loss or, rather, a ghostly presence that haunts the city–not life as it was but life as it has been forgotten” (Crang, 448) This is very true of Irving Place since one feels the ghostly absence of life in the lower section of Irving, as if the 100-year-old-lamentations still echo through time and its current residents.

Although there are no remaining photographs left to describe the process, these articles are substitutes as “narratives of destruction” (444). The “Irving Place Changes” article in particular talks about the “air of old-fashioned dignity and substantial respectability rare in a street so near the centres of business” (Irving). This is still the case now. As I have commented on an earlier entry, the Gramercy Park has been called “The Victorian Gentleman Who Refused to Die,” and it fits quite well into how history becomes a ghost that haunts the city since the Gramercy Park is often considered elitist and some frown upon the privileged atmosphere even though it’s only been preserved through decades and the changing city. It is history you can see in present day, yet people do not revel by it, they are instead offended. The article also uses words such as “robbed,” “destroyed,” and “lose.” The second article, “Million Dollar Operation on Irving Place Corner” which talks about the construction of the current NYC Human Resources Center, interestingly describes Irving Place as a “neglected neighborhood” that had “nothing about it to indicate that Union Square and the Subway were only a short block away,” and that the new construction would “change the whole outlook for its [Irving Place’s] future (Million). It goes on to talk positively about the development and change the surrounding area will be going through. The journalist believes that Irving Place needs to be transitioned into the greater part of NYC. It seems that the past should only live in photographs lest they become stagnant in the present, and some things are better to be forgotten and only reminded from time to time, but unfortunately that is not possible for Irving Place.

Works Cited
Crang, M. “Envisioning Urban Histories.” Environment and Planning. 1996. Print. 493.
“Irving Place Changes.” New York Times (1857-1922): 13. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007). Jan 03 1909. Web. 5 Oct. 2011 .
“Million-Dollar Operation on Irving Place Corner.” New York Times (1857-1922): 13. ProQuest. Jun 20 1909. Web. 5 Oct. 2011 .

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Archival Photography of Irving Place

As I found out during the library resource tour and the research of this entry, I used the most informative archival document of Irving Place— EAST 17th STREET/IRVING PLACE HISTORIC DISTRICT DESIGNATION REPORT— in the first entry of this page. So unfortunately, this entry is not going to be as spectacular, but here are some newfound miscellaneous revelations of Irving Place through NYPL Digital Gallery.

View to north from 14th street

This is the view of Irving Place from 14th street to the north from early 1900’s. There is nothing recognizable about this section of the street, except that maybe the scaffolding on one of the buildings resembles that of Irving Plaza. There is an unexplained platform running across overhead on 15th street. I wonder what this could be, since I could not find any information about a platform running across Irving above ground level.

"Washington Irving House"

Info from NYC.GOV

Here is the picture of the “fake” Washington Irving house, which is probably the most well-preserved building out of the entire street. Notice that it has unique architectural style that is not the typical New York style. NYC.GOV’s citymap application shows that this house was built in 1800 (estimated), which is around or before when Ruggles established Irving Place in 1831.

Gramercy Park South

Gramercy Park seems strangely barren 100 years ago; you can actually see Lexington Avenue through the park. Now there are many more trees, bushes and more privacy in this area, which may have changed the residents’ vision of how the park should be managed and diminished their generosity to outsiders. There is much more sunlight and warmth then than now, even with the same iron gates that keep out intruders. Would have Ruggles wanted to make the park solely “decorative” to those who live up high in one of the townhouses? Which is his true intention?

View to north from 18th street

One of the NYT historical article lamented that Irving Place was becoming plagued with small businesses over a short period of time. This picture shows west block of Irving between 18th and 19th streets where it is now taken over by quaint restaurants. Had I not seen this picture, I would have never understood why the residents were so furious with the changes. The street probably resembles what the typical New York street would have looked like, which takes away the identity of Irving Place.

Consolidated Gas Tower

Con Edison Tower

The Con Edison clock tower building used to be Consolidated Gas Company’s, since Con Edison expanded. It looks exactly the same except for the bright neon lights.

Highlighted on the left is Steinway, on the right is Academy of Music

Academy of Music 14th and Irving, now demolished

Lastly, this early map shows exactly where the former Steinway building and Academy of Music building were located—but for the life of me I cannot decipher what the rest of the map indicates.

Picture Sources in Order:
14th street http://images.nypl.org/index.php?id=711229F&t=w
Washington Irving House http://images.nypl.org/index.php?id=711396F&t=w
NYC.GOV http://gis.nyc.gov/doitt/nycitymap/
Gramercy Park South http://images.nypl.org/index.php?id=720050F&t=w
18th street http://images.nypl.org/index.php?id=720648F&t=w
Consolidated Gas Tower http://images.nypl.org/index.php?id=711227F&t=w
Con Edison Tower http://www.takethehandle.com/2010/03/05/corner-by-corner-14th-street-irving-place/
Early Map of Irving Place
Academy of Music http://images.nypl.org/index.php?id=G91F216_039F&t=w


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Susan Vreeland’s Clara and Mr. Tiffany

Clara and Mr. Tiffany was published this year (2011), and it gives a sense of professional working women’s position in the early 1900’s New York. The book is grounded in historical facts, that the protagonist Clara Driscoll, the famous artistic contributor behind Tiffany studios, who was hired by Mr. Tiffany who is now known for his tiffany lamps (Hofer). The novel is a representation of New York’s artists who lived below 23rd street in the early 1900’s, a rarely depicted subject in New York fictions. For example, House of Mirth depicted a Victorian-era New York just above the 23rd street and the Hamptons, among other lavish locations.

Tiffany Lamps, Stained Glass. Google Search.

Trager, 138

It would have been quicker to go to Peter Cooper’s Restaurant near the studio, but the three misses lunched there, and that meant six ears vibrating with curiosity. I had a reason to get Theresa and Marion into Healy’s Café on Irving and Eighteenth, in addition to their chicken hash, which I loved. On the way, I urged them to try it with chunky applesauce and corn bread.

As we approached the café, a dapper man walking in the opposite direction opened the door for us, and a sheaf of handwritten pages slipped out of his hand.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Marion.

“It’s nothing.” The man continued to hold the door for the three of us while his papers were blowing away. Once inside, we watched him chase them, enter the café, and sit at the far table.

“One of the men at my boardinghouse knows him,” I said in a near whisper. “He lives alone across the street, and takes his meals here. Rumor has it that he was in prison once. He writes stories here about characters who have lost respectability or integrity and find a way to win it back again. He goes by the name of O. Henry.” (Vreeland, 360-361)

As did The Colossus of New York and A Walker in the City, Clara and Mr. Tiffany includes [food and] gossiping about strange people in its story. For example, in The Colossus: “Such a strange bunch. Such thin walls in this place. Ire and compassion have been neighbors for years, eavesdropping on arguments and clucking tongues, but they haven’t seen each other for years” (Whitehead, 78), and in A Walker: “I had never known anyone like them. They were weary people, strange and bereft people” (Kazin, 118).

It is interesting to see how Vreeland shows the irony of gossip in this short passage of Clara’s observation of O. Henry in Healy’s Café – now Pete’s Tavern. Clara decides to avoid eating at Peter Cooper’s restaurant because she would be talked about, yet she is the one to gossip about another person. The fact that all of these NY fictions—Clara and Mr. Tiffany, House of Mirth, The Colossus of New York, A Walker in the City—have someone talking about someone else’s eccentricity, means that everyone is eccentric and everyone is at the mercy of others’ mouths,b ut New York gossip not quite like small town gossip because the dynamic of its population is unique of New York’s cosmopolitanism.

On another note, O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi was famously written at Healy’s Café/Pete’s Tavern.

Pete's Tavern

Works Cited

Hofer, Margaret K., Nina Gray, and Martin Eidelberg. “Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls: The Women of Tiffany Studios by Margaret K. Hofer, Nina Gray, from Antiques & Fine Art magazine.” Antiques and Fine Art – The #1 Selling Antiques Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. .

Kazin, Alfred. A Walker in the City. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1951. Print.

Trager, James. The New York Chronology: the ultimate compendium of events, people, and anecdotes from the Dutch to the present. London, England: Harper Resource, 2003. Print.

Vreeland, Susan. Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel. New York: Random House, 2011. Print.

Whitehead, Colson. “Broadway.” The Colossus of New York: A City in Thirteen Parts. New York: Doubleday, 2003. 73-85. Print.

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Irving Plaza and August Rush

August Rush, or Evan Taylor

The August Rushis not the greatest film, but the representation of New York City, however, is excellent. August Rush, or Evan Taylor, is an unintended orphan and a gifted musician who finds his way back to New York City where his parents live, both of whom are renowned musicians. Louis Connelly is his long-lost father, who is the lead singer of a rock band.

Louis Connelly walks out of Irving Plaza in frustration.

His subplot constantly returns to Irving Plaza, where he and his band play on the night that he and Lyla, Evan’s mother, meet. Everything outside of the portrayal of the show is surprisingly accurate, since many New York City films tend to glamorize or depict an abstract version of it. There was no “drifting”: “a deliberate attempt to assess the ambience of the city by putting space together in a counter-intuitive way, through the artifice of looking for (false?) origins and traditions” (Leach, 213). By starting off by introducing a group of young runaway boys then moving towards Evan’s parents, the audience can see the nitty-gritty of the city—both the dark and the good; the maneuvering of children, adult, and traffic; and AN ACTUAL DIRTY NYC SUBWAY. Clearly, this film was directed by someone who knew the city well and was familiar with the atmosphere of Union Square, Washington Square Park, and the surrounding neighborhood.

Returning to the portrayal of Irving Plaza and Louis Connelly’s band, it is somewhat disappointing to see a less-than-authentic dynamic in the audience in the beginning credits, before Evan was born. This part of the film might have been “drifted”.

Louis and his guitarist harmonize as the crowd moshes horribly

The audience was not moshing properly; they were jumping up and down instead of pushing each other, and the people in the middle of the floor were jumping higher than the ones in front of the stage. This subtle difference has a great impact, since the rest of the movie has such a flawless representation of NYC. NYC is known for the best shows in all the world, and August Rushtries too hard to portray one.

Louis begs Irving Plaza's manager to hear one song

Eleven years later, Louis Connelly decides to perform again with the band. He goes straight to Irving Plaza’s manager and plays for him, begging him to hear one song so that he can prove himself worthy of Irving Plaza. This is entirely inaccurate because musicians do not directly go to the venue to book—or beg, for that matter—to play a show at a legitimate concert hall like Irving Plaza. Any professional band would have a booking agent, who would have to call the venue’s booker in order to formally set up a date. If it were a small club or a café, Louis’s method would have worked.

The expression of approval.

Nevertheless, he is approved by the manager and he and his band magically reunite and they play a night at Irving Plaza THAT SAME NIGHT.

One night at Irving Plaza

They also magically have a private van and roadies within hours—after more than ten years of hibernation.

Louis's band members cheer and drink beer after the show in their magical van.

Here is the concert from the film; footage starts at 0:50.

Here is the real-life example of an excellent concert at Irving Plaza, brought to you by yours truly and The Damned–the original Punk Goth band of the 70’s. The crowd goes wild on their opening song. Notice the smooth yet rough flow of the crowd and fist-pumping at every beat.


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Nightlife at Irving Plaza and Interview
Irving Plaza is one of the most famous venues in New York City, therefore in the world. It is known for hosting concerts for some of the greatest artists of the times. Artists of various genres perform there on many nights, and each night there is a different kind of crowd. At night, Irving Plaza brightens up the block with neon lights on its scaffolding. Something about the neon lights excite Irving Plaza’s night-revellers.

Halloween, Miyavi, Line of Crowd & Neon Lights

Vibrant hues invite the audience into the world of “underground” night life, where they can stay up and not go home (Shlor, 239). People stand in line for hours in hopes to stand in front of the stage. When the show starts, the lights captivate the audience and replicate the sounds created. Irving Plaza has the same character that is reflected on the interior as well as the exterior: “The street is external and internal space at the same time; seen from the enclosed spaces that line it, it is part of the external world, and in the course of privatization of certain needs and tasks various functions are withdrawn from it step by step” (238). The artist is often the puppeteer of the audience who wishes to be dominated.

Miyavi and the Puppets

In enclosed spaces night life can more easily be controlled, domesticated, civilized, reduced to a manageable scale (251), and lights and music are the tools of exhilaration. Outside, noise barely escapes until the crowd is released at midnight.

There is another side to Irving Plaza. Hillsong Church holds service throughout the day on Sundays when “the image of the street changes with its functions” (236). There are no neon lights, no devious people. One interesting detail about Hillsong Church is that its band, Hillsong, is a famously known Christian band. They play in Irving Plaza for the services and tour on their own.

On the night of Miyavi, I had the chance to talk to one of the friendly security guards at Irving Plaza.

Q. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
A. My name is Ramel. I’ve been working at Irving Plaza for thirteen years. Started off when I was about seventeen. One of the guys saw me and they liked what they saw and they said “Hey, this guy can defend himself! Come work for security.” And I got my security license. I’ve been working here ever since.

Q. What was your first impression?
A. First Impression was, wow. This is weird. Different music, different genres, different crowds. One of my first shows was an English band. It was weird because I didn’t know their lingo. And some guy goes, “Hey, can I get a lighter fag?” And I said “What d’you call me?” and he’s “No, I mean lighter for me fags.” Then I found out that they call fags cigarettes. You learn a lot from different crowds.

Q. What has surprised you most about working at Irving Plaza?
A. You can find different people going to different shows. I thought I’d never see so many Mexicans at a country show, so many black guys at a rock show. There are different genres different people and I realize that music is universal. It’s like a cultural melting pot.

Q. Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working here.
A. I don’t watch sports but a lot of celebrities come by. I don’t know who they are but somebody tells me who they are. Also other musicians that I’m not particularly interested in their genre, and I’ve never seen them on TV but they might be super famous in their country or wherever they’re from. Crowds of people might cling to them then I’m like, they must be somebody, it must be a celebrity. That’s how I find out about who’s who! One time I met Mick Jagger and I said “You know you have to get back to the end of the line!” I felt bad after I found out it was him.

Q. What do you do when you aren’t working at Irving Plaza?
A. I’m a landlord and I own a brownstone out in Brooklyn. I run out the land and collect the money and pay bills. That’s about it. I was in school for a while but it got complicated working late nights then having to wake up and work early in the morning, so I left that alone for a few semesters. I plan on going back.

Q. What might someone be suprised to know about you?
A. That the smallest guy like me, 5’6”, is capable of defending himself. I might not pick on a big guy, but the little guy always gives me the attitude. So they’ll be surprised.

Q. Do you have any crazy stories while working here?
A. Just the drunk girl stories where I put ‘em in a cab then they’ll get out around the corner. Then you feel for their safety. I’m surprised that a lot of guys still carry around knives, like hunting knives, and they still try to get in and a lot of police officers don’t like to check their firearms, but it’s the rule here.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?
A. Irving Plaza is a great place to work. I get to see free concerts. I love it.

I have a colorful Flickr collection of concert photos from Miyavi 10/31, Howard Jones 10/18, Jane’s Addiction 10/17, X 9/30, Yngwie Malmsteen 10/13, The Damned 10/22, and Tom Tom Club 10/3. The best way to browse through the album is to enlarge it to full screen–you will be able to see the details in caption and smoothly scroll through pictures.

Here are some of the videos from the nights at Irving Plaza. They have all been filmed by me and all are watchable for up to 1080p for your viewing pleasure. In all of these footages it becomes quite evident that the better the show is, the more obedient the audience becomes, whether that translates into moshing, singing along, or following the musician’s every command. Every musician at every show that I’ve been to seems to love to emphasize that they’re in NYC. Jane’s Addiction, especially, made jokes about NYC between every song. There is a special connection between music and NYC.
Miyavi

Jane’s Addiction

Yngwie Malmsteen

X – Los Angeles

The Tom Tom Club

Works Cited
http://hillsongnyc.com/church-times-locations
Schlor, Joachim. “Nights in the Big City”
Washington, Ramel. Personal Interview. 31 October 2011.


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111 Gramercy Park and Gramercy Park

111 Gramercy Park Logo

Gramercy Park Logo

Both renditions of the pilot were unsold. It seems that even TV pilots can reflect the “Victorian gentleman who refused to die” quality of Gramercy Park. Each pilots have focus on different characters. 111 Gramercy Park was the first to be made and it focuses more on the people living in the apartments and less on the nannies who work for them. Gramercy Park tries to focus on everyone equally. The former comes off as almost a Korean drama that deals with the complexities of rich aristocratic families whose main concerns are to hold onto one’s social standing and paying off women to keep them from marrying their sons, but has in-depth character development. The latter turns out to be on the borderline of a cheesy soap opera with simple characters such as the immature trust fund baby, the dazed nanny, overbearing mistress of the house, among others.

GP The Dazed Nanny

111 GP Nannies

111 GP Lavish Party

111 GP Limousine

Friends and Sex & the City are the closer examples to these TV pilots. Whereas Friends represents New York City in one compact block, these pilots show it in one luxurious building. Its characters are compartmentalized into each of their rooms, such as “Apartment 7A – The Hanovers,” “Apartment 5C – The Warners,” and “Apartment 6B – The Quinns.” They also show the glamour of New York City, but not as much as Sex & the City would—111 Gramercy Park is more about the technicalities of having a certain status and living in such neighborhood while Gramercy Park fills the time with sex romp scenes (cop out?).

GP Sex Romp

111 Gramercy Park has an inauthentic quality because was shot in Toronto, and this is apparent throughout the episode. The shot of “Gramercy Park” and the apartment are probably an imagined drawing. (I could not tell because the quality was too grainy.) The Park looks so public and spacious to the point that it looks like the south side of Central Park. Also, the architecture of 111 Gramercy Park is not like the real apartments surrounding the park because there are no steps leading to the entrance and the doors are not glass. Thus, in 111 Gramercy Park, “what counts is not the authenticity of a piece” (1) but the idea —Gramercy Park in New York City upholds a Victorian lifestyle even in modern times.

111 GP's representation of "Gramercy Park"

111 GP A Toronto Entrance

It is surprising that Gramercy Park was actually shot in New York City and inside Gramercy Park since the keyholders of the park are firm about the alienation of outsiders. For the first time, we can see the view of the park from the sky. This is a rare piece of the city one can hardly find.

GP Notice the Yellow NYC Cab Behind Her

GP A Rare Shot of Gramercy Park

Through observations of media representations of Irving Place, I found that movies and TV shows are able to excel at either correct representation of the city or the actual development of the story, but only one at a time.

Works Cited
111 Gramercy Park http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWVqs4c_CaE
Gramercy Park http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ny2MJUO-tg&feature=related
Sadler, William J. and Haskins, Ekaterina V. Metonymy and the Metropolis: Television Show Settings and the Image of New York City


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Gramercy Park and Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind

Because sounds of a place can give it a specific identity, Gramercy Park and Irving Place are known for being the quieter parts of the town and is considered more respectable. These streets have minimal sound level; the only loud noises are sirens that occasionally come from Union Square or Third Avenue.

I found the Gramercy Park video ironic. To a person who does not see the video in serious light would think that Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” was a perfect representation of “An oasis of beauty and tranquility in the heart of Manhattan,” which is the description of the video. The video suggests that the jazzy, bluesy and calm piano music is the essence of tranquility but the history of jazz suggests that it is not the case. Corbould talks about the origins of jazz in upper NYC as a “modern expression of primitivism” which was “faster and more complex than African music” and used all kinds of tools such as cowbells, spoons and even screams to make mechanic-primitive noise. All the noise is reduced to silence in Billy Joel’s rendition of jazz which is perfectly parallel to the aural atmosphere of Gramercy Park; there is no human sound escaping the townhouses, and if one tries hard she can hear the silence just like the song itself. The reason Gramercy Park neighborhood is respectable is the silence, which is directly related to the fact that the neighborhood is predominately white, and vice versa (861).

As an analogy—as I recall a Maceo Parker show, he and his band played a Billy Joel style jazz song—very calm, classy, and ample amount of piano—to which the crowd became confused. At the end of the song, he abruptly cut off his saxophone playing and said, “That’s not the kind of jazz we play,” and sped up in a James Brown jazz fashion. During the show, I slowly began to understand that the original New York jazz genre which has much more power and funk than the whitewashed version. After many cultural filterings, Billy Joel mixed jazz with his classical roots and created the calmer, “whiter” version of jazz, one that appeals to the greater mainstream population of America. It goes the same for the youtube video—the “white” culture enjoys the tranquility of Gramercy Park in a nevertheless “New York state of mind,” inevitably a mixture of many diverse cultures no matter how high the iron fence stands.

Works Cited
Corbould, Clare “Streets , Sounds and Identity in Interwar Harlem.” Journal of Social History – Volume 40, Number 4, Summer 2007, pp. 859-894


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Digital Representation of Irving Place

Irving Place from Google Earth

Through Google Earth, Google Maps and Foursquare, I was able to find an another Irving Place. Here, Irving Place is a mixed reality environment where the physical and virtual spaces are combined because of temporalization and spatialization. For example, the virtual Irving Place in Google Earth has two different times. Irving Place has street-view pictures from after 2009 with the present red neon Irving Plaza banner intact; its intersection, 15th street, dates from between 2007 and 2009 when Irving Plaza was renovated and briefly renamed as “The Fillmore at NYC Irving Plaza” (Sisario).

Fillmore (2007-9), view from 15th street

Morphing Fillmore (2007-9) and Irving Plaza (2010-)

Also, the scaffolding on 18th street remains on Irving Place view while the view from 18th street does not have it. Then, the dated street-views are ‘virtual’ because it is “immaterial, outside of time, both distant and close” (Galloway 390).

Irving Place 19th Street, morphing 2007 and 2009 into one place - one with scaffolding, one without.

Google Earth and Google Maps focus on mapping places of consumerism, as does Amble Time discussed in the reading (392). Many places are out of order in these interactive maps where its users create the reflection of the geographical counterpart. The users are more focused on highlighting the leisure aspects of the city rather than laborious, governmental, or educational. For example, restaurants such as Casa Mono and Pure Food & Wine are in their correct locations, while Washington Irving High School is incorrectly located on the west side of the block between 16th and 17th, virtually replacing and eradicating the important NYC Human Resources building.

Incorrect map showing Washington Irving HS on the opposite block; no NYC Human Resources

Only when NYC Human Resources Administration is googled does it pop up on Google Maps; it is incorrectly named N Y City of Human Resources, with a personal comment: “i hate that they dont pick up there phones”. It seems as though NYC Human Resources Administration building has no virtual or physical presence.

Incorrectly Titled & Vague Presence

Whereas NYC HR Administration is void in the virtual map, other consumerist and leisurly places on Irving Place have significant physical and online presence. Irving Plaza has 10529 check-ins because it is a popular concert venue.

Zekendorf Towers Pool has 65 check-ins.

Coffee & Tea Bar has special offers on Foursquare, which makes its mobile users post 82 tips and count up to 5882 check ins.Even the Bench ouside of Coffee & Tea Bar has 12 check-ins.

Sometimes, Google Maps, Google Earth, and Foursquare are tools for the outsiders to see a virtual map of exclusive spaces. The National Arts Club, located on Gramercy Park, is an exclusive nonprofit arts organization (NAC). The pictures of the interior of this beautiful building are only a click away in Google Earth.

Going back to Clara & Mr. Tiffany (2011)!

Also, Irving Place 1 Zekendorf tower rooftop deck has pictures on Foursquare, something that only its residents can enjoy.

Zekendorf Towers - An Insider's Look

The users and dwellers of the physical spaces can “manipulate, or shape, their city” by “spatialization and temporalization” (Galloway 403), and they can make exclusive places tangible.

Works Cited
Galloway, Anne. “Ubiquitous Computing & the City: Imitations of Everyday Life.” Cultural Studies. London: Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2004. 384-408. Print.
“NAC – History.” The National Arts Club. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2011. .
Sisario, Ben. “Arts, Briefly – New Name for Irving Plaza – NYTimes.com.” The New York Times. N.p., 30 Mar. 2007. Web. 20 Nov. 2011. .

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