22 February 2012

Patchin Place

Patchin Place is a small cul-de-sac in the Village steeped in history. Out on a walk the other day, I decided to open its iron gate and take a peek inside.

Home to ten brick row houses built in the 1840s and the last remaining gas light in the city (now refitted for electricity), which can be seen at the far end of the photo above, Patchin Place is a quaint reminder of old New York. It's also one of the most famous addresses in the Village. Many artists have lived here, including John Cowper Powys, Theodore Dreiser, and even Marlon Brando.

1 Patchin Place

John Reed and Louise Bryant of Reds fame lived at number one during the teens. It was here that Reed began to write Ten Days That Shook the World, his first hand account of the Russian Revolution.

4 Patchin Place

In 1923, poet E.E. Cummings moved into number 4, which he would keep as a residence until he died in 1962. In a letter he once wrote "For a couple of decades the topfloorback room at 4 Patchin Place, which Sibley originally gave me, meant Safety & Peace & the truth of Dreaming & the bliss of Work." Today the house displays a memorial plaque to its former resident, the only Patchin Place address to do so.

5 Patchin Place

Across at number five lived Cummings' friend Djuna Barnes. The author of Nightwood took up residence in the tiny one-room apartment in 1942 after having lived in Europe for years. There she became a recluse, prompting Cummings to yell out "Are you still alive, Djuna?" from time to time. She would remain there until her death in 1982.

Across from Patchin Place can be seen the Jefferson Market tower. Once the Jefferson Market Courthouse, today it's a branch of the New York Public Library, a fitting neighbour for such a literary address.

Photos by Michele.

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