And The Mysteries It Holds
Every neighborhood in New York City and each of the streets it contains holds secrets to be uncovered. Walker Street, nestled between Chinatown and TriBeCa in lower Manhattan, is one of the streets that has it’s history most deeply buried, some of which may never be known.
The neighborhood of TriBeCa, home of Walker Street, was an open marshland throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries . In 1646, Jan Jansen Damen bought some of the marsh property, and it became known as Calk Hook Farm . After Damen’s death, the land was split and named Rutger’s Farm, and in 1746 Rutger’s was bought again by Leonard Lispenard and renamed Lispenard Fam, part of the greater Lispenard Meadows . By 1810, the farms were no longer, for the streets of lower Manhattan were being laid out in the midst of a wave of urbanization .
Walker Street is named after Benjamin Walker (1753 – 1818), a Revolutionary War officer and Congress representative . Upon his death, he was first buried in the Old Village Burying Ground on Water Street in downtown Manhattan, in honor of his service in New York City for many years, but was relocated to Forest Hill Cemetery in Utica, New York, the city in which he passed away . Therefore, also in honor of his service in New York City, Walker Street was named.
Walker Street runs west to east, beginning at 6th Avenue and continuing until it intersects with Canal Street. Because of it’s length, it actually runs through two very distinct downtown neighborhoods, beginning in the TriBeCa East Historic District and ending in Chinatown. The TriBeCa East Historic District was designated on December 8, 1992 by the Landmarks Preservation Commission of New York City  and it identifies buildings and such with the most “architectural, historic, cultural, and aesthetic significance” . Among these buildings, many of them are the sites of the old New York dry goods district, which was originally situated along the East River, then to the Hudson , but was plagued by fires which destroyed many of the buildings. As a result, the dry goods district was constantly being moved further and further uptown , but the stories of such devastating disasters still lingered.
An example of such event occurred on June 24th, 1894, when an extremely large fire took place at 21 Walker Street, the location of Louis Gordon’s shirt factory . The fire ripped through the building, and in it’s path left nothing but hundreds of dollars worth of damages and a band name for the factory owner. The fire was not accidental in any way; in fact, the factory owner himself set fire to his business in attempt to collect $52,000 in insurance for himself and a “gang” of others . Not only was this an inconvenience for everyone involved in this factory, but the fire and accompanying explosion caused damage to several of the surrounding buildings as well . This was enough to bring it to court, and the trials finally took place on December 17, 1895, and after several witnesses spoke out about what they had seen prior to the event, it was clear that Gordon was in on the crime. But even still, it took a long time to finally gather enough evidence to make the decision .
Not only were these mysterious and devastating events occurring in real life, but they are being written about and incorporated into fiction as well. Leaves from the note-book of a New York detective: the private record of J.B. is a mystery novel written by John Babbington Williams, published in 1865 . The novel contains a collection of 30 different mystery stories, all situated in different locations around New York City. One in particular, entitled “The Walker Street Tragedy,” tells the story of a murder that occurs in the house of a wealthy family on Walker Street. The story is set in the year of 1844, and it begins with a description of Walker Street back in that time. It points out two peculiar houses in which the architecture didn’t match the style of even an old New York street, already making the setting of the story very mysterious, playing off of the truthful Walker Street environment. And just like with the fire of Louis Gordon’s shirt factory, the murder of Mr. Stephen Alford goes to court, and the mystery is sought out from there.
Fictional texts aren’t the only source of written material dishing up mysteries in the neighborhood, however. While walking up Walker Street, it is uncharacteristic to see much written word, besides the occasional flyer or poster or business sign. Most of the time, all that surrounds the street are towering lofts and luxury apartment buildings, clean and pristine in appearance. When passing by Cortlandt Alley, however, the atmosphere completely changes as the walls suddenly become full of graffiti and other street art. It’s enough to catch the ordinary passer-by off guard because it truly does seem a bit uncharacteristic to have this loud expression pop out of nowhere. These indecipherable words and symbols only make one wonder, what does it all mean? Why did they do it? Who did it? And when? Behind everything that has covered and weathered this graffiti causing it to become hidden and unknown, there are stories, and these stories would tell so incredibly much if only they could be uncovered. Until then, they’re only mysteries.
Being that Walker Street is in the heart of two Manhattan neighborhoods, walking along Walker Street is quite fascinating, yet mysterious as well. At the far eastern end of the street, Chinese lanterns light the path for pedestrians, creating a warm and romantic atmosphere, yet at the same time it remains mysterious because it represents a culture so different and foreign to Americans. Continuing westward, the environments certainly change, but the mystery never dies. At the western most end of the street, looking down 6th Avenue provides a clear view of lower Manhattan, right where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center used to stand tall. Now all that is seen is the construction of the new World Trade Center, growing taller and taller by the day, symbolizing the past and containing a story all it’s own. Even the new is mysterious, and this is an intriguing characteristic of Walker Street.
Not only do the different neighborhoods create a contrasting atmosphere, but different times of day do as well. During the day, TriBeCa and Chinatown are alive and well. There are shop owners and employees working, pedestrians and shoppers passing through, automobiles zipping down the narrow street. Conversation is being shared, shouts are being passed, life is being lived. Sure, it’s not as alive as say the heart of SoHo or Times Square, but it creates a pleasant and settling environment. At night, however, the complete opposite can be said. The shops in Chinatown clean up their storefronts and close up for the night, leaving nothing but lit up lanterns on display, lighting the sidewalks and streets. And from there, the street just darkens and quiets more. Every storefront is dark and lonely, with only the occasional lit up window display for show. This creates a shallow and cold feel, with no warm lights pouring from upstairs windows onto the street, and only dark shadows being cast by the buildings towering on either side. Nighttime brought on a silence that is unusually found in New York City, the city that never sleeps.
 Moscow, Henry. The Street Book: an Encyclopedia of Manhattan’s Street Names and Their Origins. New York: Fordham UP, 1990. Print.
 “The Gordon Trial For Arson.” New York Times (1857-1922). ProQuest Historical Newspapers:The New York Times (1851-2007) with Index (1851-1993). Dec 17 1895. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
 “Hired to Start Fires.” New York Times (1857-1922): 9. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007) with Index (1851-1993). Dec 05 1895. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
 Brampton, James, and John Babbington. Williams. Leaves from the Note-book of a New York Detective: the Private Record of J.B. New York: Dick & Fitzgerald, 1865. Print.
— September 14, 2011 —
Welcome to Walker Street, a pint-sized block that begins in the heart of Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighborhood and ends in Chinatown. Stretching only a mere 30 feet from side to side, Walker Street runs eastbound from Church Street to Canal Street, although it can be followed from as far west as West Street, having the name Beach Street (or Ericsson Place) before crossing Church Street and becoming Walker 1 . Beach street, named after Paul Bache (son-in-law of Anthony Lispenard, owner of Lispenard Meadows), was the first street to be carved from the farm at the end of the 18th century 2 . Therefore, although no exact date can be found, it can be assumed that Walker Street’s existence came to be relatively soon after.
Walker Street is named after Benjamin Walker (1753 – 1818), revolutionary war officer and Congress representative 3 . Some of the oldest historical buildings on Walker Street include a Lutheran church that was sold for good in 1868 and seems to no longer stand, although no information about its deconstruction can be found. This church was initially built as an English speaking Lutheran church in 1822, before being sold at auction 4 in 1826 and converted into a German speaking Lutheran church 5 . It was at that time known as St. Matthew’s, and was a popular destination for German Lutheran industrialists during that era. When these workers first moved to Brooklyn, there were no other German speaking churches in the area, so they took the trip to Manhattan to attend mass at St. Matthew’s 6 . Some time later, St. Matthew’s became known as Christ and old Trinity, but Christ church was sold in 1831. In 1838, the remaining congregation assumed the name St. Matthew’s before being sold in 1868 5 .
In more modern times, Walker Street is mostly made up of condominiums and little bars, shops, and convenience stores. One of these condominiums is at 40 Walker Street, holding a historic location. Originally built in 1849, this is the location of an old TriBeCa textile merchant’s building which expresses an old New York feel with its intricate detail and beautiful architecture. It has been completely restored and converted into an apartment building, consisting of 3 floors of 2 BR/2 BA apartments and one duplex penthouse 7 . Heading east on the street, Western Spirit sits on its intersection with Broadway on the southwest corner. Western Spirit is a personal favorite place of mine, consisting of Western clothing, shoes, décor and knick-knacks. Any time I am down in the TriBeCa area, I make it a point to say hello to my statuesque Indian friend who stands tall in the doorway to greet customers as I wonder around the store and find myself taken away in a mid-Western wonderland.
Heading further east on Walker Street, right past the intersection of Cortlandt Alley is 87 Walker Street, or USA Beauty School. The outside resembles an old beauty parlor, adding the atmosphere and charm of old New York. Moving further east still intersects Lafayette Street, where a crazy man yelling at pedestrians and drivers on the street can be found, either searching for some spare change or just having a casual conversation with a willing passerby. Crossing Lafayette Street and moving even further east begins the transition from TriBeCa to Chinatown, and at the intersection of Walker and Baxter Street is Dragon Land Bakery, which has been added to my list of places to visit in the near future. It is the home of traditional Chinese baked goods, including breads, muffins, and all things of the sort. Dragon Land is also a popular destination for kids who are in the mood for bubble tea, another one of its specialties 8 . Just east of the Baxter Street intersection, Walker Street collides with Canal Street at Mulberry Street, bringing you right into the heart of Chinatown.
Despite it’s seemingly simplistic existence, I can tell Walker Street has some deep history that I look forward to uncovering as I immerse myself in its surroundings. Even though I lived in TriBeCa during my sophomore year at NYU and walked past Walker Street countless times, not nearly enough time was spent discovering its secrets and stories. I guess now’s my chance!
3 Moscow, Henry. The Street Book: an Encyclopedia of Manhattan’s Street Names and Their Origins. New York: Fordham UP, 1990. Print.
— September 21, 2011 —
As you can tell, Walker Street doesn’t just consist of the usual Kelly Green street signs we’re used to seeing everywhere. Layered on top of the common green sign on several of the intersections along Walker Street, there can be seen brown street signs. While they may look relatively similar and can be easily ignored by any passerby, when they are looked at closely, one can come to find that these ordinary signs actually hold strong significance. Along the top edge of the sign is stated “TRIBECA EAST HISTORIC DISTRICT” and this is actually what makes Walker Street so historically significant.
The Tribeca East Historic District is a designated area of lower Manhattan, with Canal Street as its northernmost boundary, Worth Street as its southernmost, Cortlandt Alley as its general easternmost and West Broadyway as its general westernmost. It was designated on December 8, 1992 by the Landmarks Preservation Commission of New York City and it identifies buildings and such with the most “architectural, historic, cultural, and aesthetic significance” 1 . Among these buildings, many of them are the sites of the old New York dry goods district that sprang up as the result of the flourish of American textile markets. The original dry goods district was situated along the East River, but after a great fire destroyed many of the buildings and locations, along with the rising trouble in navigating the East River by boat and barge, the district was moved across town to an area closer to the Hudson River, now known as TriBeCa, and continued to flourish 1. Critics claimed that the many storefronts and and loft buildings created an atmosphere that allowed New York City “to vie with the greatest continental cities of Europe” (3), and this charm can still be felt while walking along Walker Street, as well as any of the other designated streets of the TriBeCa East Historic District.
Going further into the past, TriBeCa was mainly an open marshland throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (7). The first property to be owned on the marsh was known as Calk Hook Farm, bought by Jan Jansen Damen in 1646 (7). After Damen’s death, the land was split up but later reassembled and named Rutger’s Farm between 1723 and 1725 (7). In 1746, Rutger’s Farm was bought by Leonard Lispenard and renamed Lispenard Farm, part of the greater Lispenard Meadows (7). Eventually, after covering any water remaining near Canal Street and divvying up the rest of the farm land, by 1810 most of the streets in what is now the historic district had been laid out and a new wave of urbanization was occurring, and along with it the dry goods district aforementioned was being established (8). Later on in the nineteenth century, as the dry goods district was migrating further uptown, office buildings and other taller structures were being placed in TriBeCa, and in the 1970s many loft buildings were being built and incorporated into the district (8). Since then, the area (especially Walker Street) has been inhabited by luxury apartment and condominium complexes, but still nestled in along the streets are little shops and storefronts which express this vast history of old New York.
There is clearly so much history crammed into such a small neighborhood, and it’s amazing how little of it is known until one digs a little deeper and spends the time uncovering the past.
Ever wonder what TriBeCa stands for? Triangle Below Canal Street. It was given this nickname in the mid-1970s (3).
* All page numbers refer to linked document above.
— September 27, 2011 —
While walking down Walker Street, one can experience many different things. Perhaps this is because at one end of the street you’re in the heart of TriBeCa, and as you travel down the street you are brought through a transition, which leaves you in the heart of Chinatown. The TriBeCa end of the street has a typical New York feel to it, with shops and cinemas and restaurants sitting side by side along the avenue. Moving eastward, one crosses Church Street, and then Broadway, and by the time one gets to the corner of Walker and Lafayette Street, you feel like you’re in another world, or at least another country. There lies the border of Chinatown, full of sidewalk shops and eateries, lanterns and lights, and everything that would create a Chinese atmosphere. And as you continue further east, past Centre and Baxter Streets, Walker finally meets its end at its intersection with Canal Street, which as stated above, is right in the heart of New York City’s Chinatown. And within these changing sceneries and atmospheres lie so much history, which has over time been hidden and covered, waiting to be retold.
These changes in atmosphere relate very well to what De Certeau discusses in his piece “Walking The City.” At a point in his piece, De Certeau mentions the stories that are withheld in every city street, and what they can reveal when uncovered from everything they’re hidden by. He writes, “stories are becoming private and sink into the secluded places in neighborhoods, families, or individuals, while the rumors propagated by the media cover everything and, gathered under the figure of the City, the masterword of an anonymous law, the substitute for all proper names, they wipe out or combat any superstitions guilty of still resisting the figure” (De Certeau 108). Using Walker Street as an example, take this graffiti found on a wall at the intersection of Walker with Cortlandt Alley. As I walked by and saw this entire wall covered with it, I couldn’t help but wonder what does it all mean? How long has it been there? Who drew these words, symbols, and images? What was the driving force behind these expressions? It’s uncertain if these answers could ever be found, but it relates so well to what De Certeau is explaining; behind everything that has covered and weathered this graffiti causing it to become hidden and unknown, there are stories, and these stories would tell so incredibly much if only they could be uncovered.
I also found myself able to relate to something Brian Morris mentions in his piece “Walking In The City.” As I approached the corner of Walker and Church Streets, I looked further downtown at the mist-covered skyline of Lower Manhattan, and there towering up was the Freedom Tower in the midst of construction. Just seeing this image, along with the eeriness of the night, gave me the strangest feeling, as if I were in a dream or something. It truly impacted me as I took in this sight, and I could relate very well with what Morris discusses on page 686. He writes about a “significant property of ‘intensity’, which describes an everyday awareness or feeling of a connection between the strolling body and the world” (Morris 686), and as I stood on the corner taking in my surroundings, I was immediately brought back to the memory of September 11th, and I was reminded of how much that event impacted me and the rest of those living in New York, both then and now. I also felt this so-called connection that Morris mentions, feeling so connected to the city, and as well as those around me, in that very situation.
Michel De Certeau, “Walking In The City”
Brian Morris, “What We Talk About When We Talk About ‘Walking In The City'”
— October 5, 2011 —
Taking a look at Walker Street today, most of what can be seen are new high-rise buildings and luxury apartments. These buildings are obviously not what was put there in the beginning, and knowing that TriBeCa was once the sight of Manhattan’s dry goods district, I set off to discover what was there in the past. Going through the Historical New York Times database, I was suddenly overwhelmed by article after article about fires taking place in the factories located down in that district. I was amazed by just how many of them there were, specifically this fire that took place at 21 Walker Street back in 1894. As I read through these articles, I couldn’t help but think of the Triangle Factory fire and the devastation that event caused, and it intrigued me to read into this fire to see if the two happenings had anything in common. What I ended up finding was something completely different.
On June 24th, 1894, an extremely large fire took place at 21 Walker Street, the location of Louis Gordon’s shirt factory. The fire ripped through the building, and in it’s path left nothing but hundreds of dollars in damages and a bad name for the factory owner. As it turned out, this fire was not accidental in any way. Louis Gordon set fire to his own factory himself, with the intention of collecting for himself and a “gang” of others, $52,000 in insurance from the damage it was to cause 1 . Not only was this an inconvenience to everyone involved with this factory, but the fire and accompanying explosion caused damage to several surrounding buildings as well, inconveniencing them as well. As stated in the article, “[he] scattered the stuff over the shirts and table and stairs. Then Gluckman arranged the candle to cause the ignition. When the explosion came the shock was so great that it broke the windows in the opposite buildings. 2 ” Later posted in a New York Times article on December 17, 1895, when the trials were finally taking place, several witnesses spoke out about what they had seen prior to the event, giving evidence that Gordon was in on this crime. A bookkeeper, Alexander Schleister, saw the incendiaries meet in a wine cellar at his place of work, where they arranged the fire 1 .
Fires in dry goods factories back in those times seem to have been a common occurrence, and perhaps the great amount of fires is another leading cause of the movement of the TriBeCa dry goods district away from the downtown Manhattan area. Unlike the Triangle Factory fire in NYU’s own Brown Building, which still stands tall today, the factory building at 21 Walker Street has since been deconstructed or build up on at least; all that stands there today is yet another high-rise, home of the TriBeCa Community School, Cambridge University, and the Power 1051 FM radio station. Whether or not the fire caused the building’s deconstruction is unknown to me, but even still, as time goes on, less and less of old New York is left for us to experience, and these stories and events will remain otherwise unknown to us until we take the time to uncover them.
“The Gordon Trial For Arson.” New York Times (1857-1922). ProQuest Historical Newspapers:The New York Times (1851-2007) with Index (1851-1993). Dec 17 1895. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
“Hired to Start Fires.” New York Times (1857-1922): 9. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007) with Index (1851-1993). Dec 05 1895. Web. 4 Oct. 2011 <https://ezproxy.library.nyu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/95324337?accountid=12768>.
— October 17, 2011 —
As far back as records can tell us, who and what is found on Walker Street has remained relatively the same since the late 19th century. The street and its surrounding ones have been laid out since about 1810 1 , and really all that has changed are the types of buildings and businesses that are found down in that area of TriBeCa. The earliest map that can be found is from 1894, showing Walker and its neighboring streets in a very similar (identical, in fact) layout as they are found today.
Considering these are maps from 1894, the end of the 19th century, it is interesting that all of the names in this neighborhood have remained the same for such a long period of time, as it is not uncommon for street names to be changed, or added to, up to several times during only a short amount of time. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that Walker Street is part of the TriBeCa Historic District, and all of these streets have a specific history about them that is not to be changed by current day events and happenings.
When speaking of who can be found down on Walker Street, let’s take a look at the 2000 census. Walker Street is situated within 3 different tracts, 33, 31, and 29. Starting with tract 33, the westernmost tract, the total population is 3,696 people 2 . Within this group, 2,430 people reside in the counted 875 family households, as opposed to the 1,266 people residing in the counted 964 nonfamily households 2 . Of these people, the age demographic seems to be on the younger side, with a total of 455 children under 18 living in a family household, in comparison to the 94 people who are 65 years of age or older 2 .
Moving eastward to tract 31, which embodies the middle portion of Walker Street in the northern section of it, we have a total population of 1,726 people 3 . Of these people, 377 of them reside in 140 family households, and 202 of them reside in 156 nonfamily households 3 . Again, the age demographic leans to the younger side again, with a total of 82 children under the age of 18 living in a family household, and 28 people who are at least 65 years old 3 .
The easternmost tract in which Walker Street is included is 29, which only holds TriBeCa in it’s northwestern-most corner. Tract 29 has the by-far largest population despite its relatively similar size to tract 33, with a total population of 7,422 people 4 . 4,522 of these people live within 1,389 family households, and 1,049 of them live within 857 nonfamily households 4 . These numbers show that this tract contains more families to nonfamilies than the other two tracts discussed above. However, unlike the above 2 tracts, the age demographic is not younger but rather much older according to the census. There are 489 children under 18 living in family households, compared to the astounding 1,097 people who are 65 years of age or older 4 .
In regards to the census results, Walker Street only holds a minuscule part of each tract discussed, but it can be assumed that in relation to each other, the results for Walker Street alone would reflect the results of each overall tract as well.
— October 19, 2011 —
I thought it was going to be impossible to find any sort of fictional work written solely about Walker Street itself, and had just about given up on my specific search for something more broad, when I came across this gem of a collection of mystery stories. Leaves from the note-book of a New York detective : the private record of J.B. is a fictional mystery novel written by John Babbington Williams and was originally published in 1865 1 . It is said that the stories in this novel appeal especially to fans of Sherlock Holmes, who didn’t come around until 2 decades later, so it is clearly is a collection of crime and mystery stories that will leave you on the edge of your seat in anticipation, wonder and surprise. This collection contains 30 different mystery stories, all situated in different locations around New York City. One in particular, entitled The Walker Street Tragedy, caught my eye and was the answer to all I had been searching for–a fictional work, based right on Walker Street itself. I immediately dove into the story, and despite not being the biggest crime and mystery fan, was intrigued by it and was playing detective myself, jumping to conclusions and solving the mystery myself.
The story begins in a description of old Walker Street in the year of 1844, specifically of two homes in which were especially outstanding in the surrounding environment. They are described as being unusual, two old brick houses surrounded by more modern buildings around it. Just the fact that these two homes exist in a place they normally wouldn’t be found sets an eerie mood. The narrator goes on to describe the people who live in one of these homes, Mr. Stephen Alford and his daughter Clara Alford, with whom J.B. falls in love with and is the reason why he becomes so involved with the house’s inhabitants. Suddenly, as J.B. reads in the New York Tribune one morning, Mr. Alford is found dead in his home, and it is up to J.B. to solve the mystery of who committed the crime and why he did so. In the end it is Mr. Alford’s dentist, Dr. Seroque, who murdered him in revenge for Mr. Alford chastising him over his practice. As in nearly all mystery stories, the detective triumphs all in the end, and although everyone might not be living happily ever after–such as the murdered man and his hanged murderer–it is a victory on the part of J.B.
Williams, John Babbington. Leaves from the Note-book of a New York Detective: the Private Record of J.B. Yardley, Penn.: Westholme Pub., 2008.
— October 26, 2011 —
Little did I know, until doing a search on On The Set Of New York, that a movie I have seen multiple times and have come to love contained a scene that was filmed right on Walker Street. Definitely, Maybe is a romantic comedy released in 2008 starring Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz and Elizabeth Banks 1 . Will Hayes, played by Reynolds, is a father who is going through an divorce and throughout the movie is telling the story of how he and his 10-year-old daughter Maya’s (Breslin) mother met. He is reluctant to telling the story, but gives in to Maya’s request under the condition of changing the names of the three possible women to create a sort of mystery for her to solve. In the end, Maya guesses her real mother, Sarah (called Emily in the story; played by Banks), but is still concerned for her father because she realizes he is still in love with April (Fisher) because hers was the only name he didn’t change in his story. At the end of the movie, Maya convinces Will to go to April’s apartment to give her a gift, a book that had been lost some time ago in which her father had written a dedication in for her before he passed away. He held onto the book for so long because it was the only thing left of her. From that point on in the movie, we can all assume they all lived happily ever after, as so many romantic comedies do.
The movie is based entirely in New York and was shot on location, including many scenes in Central Park and the upper-east side. At one specific point in the story, when Will is telling a story about Summer (who’s real name is Natasha; played by Weisz) the couple is seen walking down Walker Street one night, as the Tribeca Park Deli (1 Walker Street) is clearly visible in the background. Also in the same scene, the couple is later seen sitting on a bench in Tribeca Park, which is right at the intersection of Walker and West Broadway, where Walker turns into Beach Street.
The street doesn’t really serve any significance in the movie unfortunately, but because the scene takes place late at night, the viewer gets feel for the calm, almost deserted mood that is present down in that area, or so I have come to find anyway.
— November 2, 2011 —
Walking down Walker Street once the sun goes down and the streetlights go on is like being in another world. During the day, there are tons of people going this way and that, in and out of shops in Chinatown, restaurants and coffee shops in TriBeCa. It seems just like any other downtown Manhattan street. However, at night the street takes on a completely different atmosphere, and like Joachim Schlor mentions in his piece “Night-walking,” “streets change their character…their appearance – and ‘reputation’ – change with the changing hours” (326). However, the change actually experienced, the street becoming this dark, nearly desolate area, wasn’t exactly what was expected, as New York is known as the “city that never sleeps.”
The shops in Chinatown clean up their storefronts and close up for the night, leaving nothing but lit up lanterns on display, lighting the sidewalks and streets. Moving from Chinatown into TriBeCa, the street does nothing but seem to darken and empty out even more. Every store front is dark and lonely, and even the apartment buildings seem invisible as there aren’t many lights on to be seen. All that exists is the silhouette of an apartment building, casting shadows onto the street below. Occasionally there will be a lit, yet still personless, store window, such as this lighting store that was just passed the Broadway intersection. It was closed, but the lights were left on as a display for any passersby. Occasionally, the street would fill up with more people as it approached busier intersections with Broadway and Church Street, but the further away from these intersections you walk, the darker and emptier the street becomes again. The entire time I spent walking down Walker Street, I honestly only passed a handful of people. There was no one walking to or from their apartment, no one walking a dog, no one getting in or out of a car parked on the side of the street, not even a bicyclist. In Cortlandt Alley, a few people could be seen mingling at the other end, and there was a store employee closing the gate on his storefront. But these people weren’t enough to break the eerie silence that is rarely found anywhere within Manhattan.
According to Schlor, “as the evening and night-time streets become increasingly lively, establishments of nocturnal entertainment change their character, opening up onto the street, offering the chance to come in for a brief moment, and to leave again at will” (250). According to what I actually experienced, however, Walker Street nearly shut down completely with the setting of the sun and emptied out until the start of a new day.
Joachim Schlor, “Night-walking”
— November 9, 2011 —
While I couldn’t necessarily find a television show that had a direct relation to Walker Street, such as taking place on or being filmed on Walker Street, I did find some television history dating back to the mid-1940s that is related to the street.
Located at 46 Walker Street is the Soho Repertory Theatre, founded in July of 1945 by Jerry Englebach and Marlene Swarth 1 . Holding only 73 seats 1 , this off-Broadway theatre has been the home of many television and play productions for over half a century. Among these productions, the 1956 teleplay Requiem For A Heavyweight was a live television show that premiered on October 11 and was produced by Rod Serling 2 . The show is based on boxer Harlan “Mountain” McClintock, played by Jack Palance, who has reached the end of his career 2 . Starring along side Palance is Keenan Wynn as Maish, his manager, Ed Wynn as Army, his cut man, and Kim Hunter as Grace Carney, a social worker who helps him find a new career 2 .
From this television show, a British version was adapted in 1957, as well as a Dutch version in 1959 2 . And later on in 1962, it was adapted into a film, starring Anthony Quinn as McClintock, Jackie Gleason as Maish, Mickey Rooney as Army, and Julie Harris as Grace Carney 2 .
Even though there really isn’t anything to do with Walker Street in the teleplay, this groundbreaking theatre has since been the home to many independent productions of the kind.
— November 16, 2011 —https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B9maZgDIerujZTRmYjU3ZmUtMDFiNy00ZDBjLTgyNGQtZjc2NjMzYTk5YTc2&sort=name&layout=list&num=50
While I was taking a walk down Walker Street one weekend, I took out my phone and made a recording of my surroundings as I walked from Centre Street to Broadway along Walker. As usual, there weren’t many people to be found walking down the street, regardless of it being a beautiful autumn Saturday afternoon. In my recording, the only sound that can be heard at first is the sound of my shoes on the sidewalk pavement, and the howling of the wind into my microphone. Nearing the intersection of Walker and Lafayette, distant voices can be heard, but nothing as overwhelming as would be found in say Times Square. There was just a peaceful mood about the environment. Moving further along Walker Street, eventually a car drives by and the music that was playing loudly from inside can be heard, but just as quickly as it had come into range of being heard, it was gone again, and we are left in silence again. By the time I had reached the intersection with Broadway, the silence does diminish a bit with the sound of more pedestrian traffic, car horns and stereo music, but even still the atmosphere is relatively calm for New York City.
Clare Corbould in her piece “Streets, Sound And Identity In Interwar Harlem” mentions in the beginning that “other areas in New York City were also represented frequently as ‘noisy,’ notably Chinatown, the Lower East Side, Tin Pan Alley and, at night at least, Broadway” (859). I found that even though part of the route I walked on Walker Street went through parts of Chinatown, that this wasn’t necessarily true. As mentioned above, I have been many places in the city that I would consider louder than where I was walking, but to have Corbould state something so opposite really shocked me. She did mention something that I did find relatable on Walker Street though, and that was her mentioning of the rhythm of life. Between the hustling footsteps and the music heard from afar in my recording, there was a kind of literal rhythm going on. It’s amazing how even though everyone is going at their own pace, in some strange way everything seems to move together so smoothly in a huge, and rather overwhelming and hectic, city such as New York.
Clare Corbould, “Streets, Sound And Identity In Interwar Harlem”
— November 21, 2011 —
Social networking sites and apps have become such a staple in today’s society, especially with younger generations, and that’s why I decided to turn to social networking to get a digital representation of Walker Street.
SCVNGR is a social networking website, that has apps available for iPhone and Android devices, that is designed to be a game of finding places, completing challenges, and earning points. It’s a new way of discovering new places that will fit your liking or uncovering an area that may be completely new to you. When you sign in to your SCVNGR account, it shows you how many places you have checked in at since you’ve started playing, how many treks you have embarked on and completed, how many challenges you have accepted and accomplished, and how many points you have earned. You can also earn badges from completing the above tasks as well. And with it being a social networking site, you can also add a description about yourself to your page, and on your page are “featured players,” or friends that you add as well.
When playing the game, you can search in two ways: by what you are looking for (coffeeshop, bar, restaurant, hotel, etc.) or by location (what does your area have to offer?). Once your search is completed, a list of places and addresses is created, along with stats of activity, visits, people and challenges. Every location on the list is then placed on a map with corresponding letters, letting you know where exactly it is located.
When I typed in Walker Street, New York, NY I was given a pretty lengthy list of a variety of things, many of which I have never even heard of. The most active location is the intersection of Broadway and Canal Street (just a block or two north of Walker Street), which is known for its many shops and prime location at the intersection of SoHo, TriBeCa and Chinatown. It shows activity (how many events have occurred here) = 53, visits (how many check-ins there have been) = 41, people (how many individuals have checked in) = 37, and challenges (how many challenges are available to you at this location) = 4. Next on the list is Canal and Lafayette, another busy intersection, showing activity = 37, visits = 33, people = 29, and challenges = 4. Third on the list is M1-5, a popular cocktail bar located at 52 Walker Street. It is significant;y less active on SCVNGR though, with activity = 17, visits = 8, people = 7, and challenges = 4.The next place on the list that is actually located on Walker Street isn’t until the 10th location on the list, STEADY at 60-66 Walker Street. The stats for this location show that activity = 6, visits = 3, people = 2, and challenges = 4. That is the only other place actually on Walker Street, the others are just local and similar destinations, mostly including of fast-food restaurants, delis, clubs and stores. I guess this proves Walker Street’s location being in the heart of New York’s top shopping and night life district, however, it is much less popular than Times Square, for example, whose stats soar past those of Walker Street. Perhaps this is because while Times Square is a top tourist destination, TriBeCa is more of a shopping and night life destination for the locals of the city.
When you click on your desired location on the list, SCVNGR brings you to its own page, showing the place’s address, phone number and website, along with a more precise map and more in depth statistics. Looking at M1-5, it tells us that 17 challenges have been completed, there have been 8 visits, 7 unique visitors, 1.14 visits per person (some people have been there more than once), 37.5% social coefficient, and Tuesday is it’s most popular day. Also, in a pie chart, it shoes that check-ins are the most popular activity to take place there, and social check-ins (through other social networking sites), snapping pictures, and saying something (making a comment about the location) are all tied for second place in activities being done there. It also shows us that within the last 28 days, no activity has been done at M1-5.
I feel that using more popular social networking sites, such as Facebook or Four-Square, would send back different results just because they’re more known by the public. I had never heard of SCVNGR, and on the list I found it on it wasn’t very near the top, either. But it does seem to be known by enough to be racking up some stats at locations not only all around NYC, but around the entire country.