31 March 2014

On Sullivan Street

Sullivan Street, which runs from Soho to Greenwich Village, is a favourite street of mine. I walk down it almost daily and adore its architecture and how quiet it is, especially when compared to the nearby bustling streets. Named for American Revolutionary War General John Sullivan, who would go on to become governor (then call “president”) of New Hampshire, it has been home to some well-known residents including Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who was born at number 177. One day last fall, I walked from one end to the other, taking some photos along the way. Here are a few of them.

Starting at the corner of Sullivan and Broome Street in Soho, these first few tree-lined blocks are filled with a mix of Federal row houses, Italianate-style apartment buildings, and the Vesuvio Playground. There's also a handful of businesses, including a great bodega/newsstand (Soho News International) and leather goods shop (Il Bisonte) as well as some restaurants including Blue Ribbon and Alidoro, which makes some of the best sandwiches in the city (you just have to be careful and follow the rules when you order). 

The block between Prince and Houston though is my favourite. It is heavily populated with places to eat including the Dutch, Local, Once Upon a Tart , and Pepe Rosso. The last is not surprising as this block still has traces of its Italian past from the style of the buildings to the still present Pino's Prime Meat (Joe’s Dairy, maker of some amazing Mozzarella, shuttered its doors in 2013 after being open for 60 years). The block ends with the massive Church of St. Anthony of Padua, which was built 1886-88 in the Romanesque Revival style. St. Anthony's was the first American parish established to minister to Italian immigrants.

Cross over Houston and the atmosphere changes, for one block anyway. This is where you find the MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens Historical District, a row of Greek Revival-style row houses built in the late 1840s that shares a large, private garden with the houses behind it on MacDougal Street. They are reminiscent of London, which is only fitting as Anna Wintour lives at number 172. The street has managed to retain its 19th-century feel even with the addition of a modernistic glass structure next to the old school Legionnaire Club. 

Hit Bleecker Street and suddenly Sullivan Street changes again. This is NYU territory and there’s a definite downtrodden look to the next few blocks filled with bars and cheap eateries. One place of note is the Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company, which occupies the former Triangle Social Club, a notorious mob hangout for the Genovese crime family. Vincent "the Chin" Gigante, who lived across the street, was a well-known mafia figure who would wander around in a robe, acting disoriented in an attempt to avoid arrest. It didn’t work and he was sent way in 1997. The shop has retained the club's original mural, mosaic-tile floor, and old tin ceiling.

The last block of Sullivan is taken over by NYU buildings including its law school and dead ends at Washington Square Park, which is due its own post. So many houses, so many stories. I could have taken a photo of each one. 

Photos by Michele.

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