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Edward Hopper’s Drug Store

We’ll be the first to admit it: We have Edward Hopper fever. Those who were present at our recent lecture on the artist’s work know the extent of the research we have put into locating the subjects of Nighthawks at the Diner and Early Sunday Morning, two of Hopper’s most iconic Village paintings. But these are far from the only Hopper works that portray life in the neighborhood that the artist called home. Greenwich Village was a great muse of Hopper’s and is portrayed in a great number of his masterpieces, including his 1927 painting Drug Store.

Edwards Hopper's Drug Store, 1927

After the lecture I was approached by Bob Egan, a friend of GVSHP, who thought he might hold some clues as to the whereabouts of the storefront portrayed in this painting.

Bob speculates that Drug Store may have been based on the building at 184 Waverly Place (aka 154 West 10th Street). The building is currently home to the bookstore Three Lives & Company, which GVSHP honored with a Village Award in 1991. Not only does the address (No. 184) match the numbers shown in the painting, but the cast-iron corner column also survives to this day.

184 Waverly Place today

Two more views:

184 Waverly Place today, courtesy of Google

At Bob’s request we did a little research into this building, which we found was constructed prior to 1828 (note the paneled Federal style lintels and Flemish Bond brickwork). The storefront is clearly a Victorian-era addition that was altered in the early to mid-20th century. The ca. 1940 tax photo (a very poor photocopy of which is below), indicates that a delicatessen was present in the building at that time. But this would have been 13 years after Hopper finished the painting.

ca. 1940 tax photo, courtesy NYC Department of Records

Now, for a few reasons we’re hesitant to say with absolute certainly that Hopper based Drug Store on 184 Waverly Place. For one, the storefront in the painting is of a very typical late 19th-century style, and there were likely many similar storefronts existing in Greenwich Village in 1927 that have since been demolished. And certain elements of 184 Waverly Place – such as the doorway to the left of the storefront and the number of window bays on the second floor – do not match those in the painting. Then again, our research on Nighthawks at the Diner and Early Sunday Morning shows that Hopper was known to alter his subjects, sometimes a great deal, using elements from a number of different scenes in and around the Village.

That said, this does make us wonder. Could Drug Store have been based on 184 Waverly Place?

Hopper experts: Leave us your thoughts!

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    11 responses to “Edward Hopper’s Drug Store

    1. What about 270 Bleecker Street, New York, NY? There is a temporary door on the corner now but there may be an older column in place?

    2. Hi,
      I am a life long residIdent of the West Village (The real Greenwich Village) as were my Mother and Father, and their parents who came here from Ireland,The Book Store that is now at West 10th Street and Waverly Place was previously a Deli that was named Angelo’s. The store was staffed by Angelo and his Wife and was a spot where I ate many a meatball hero, I also wonder about scene depicted in Hoppers great painting of the drug store. I recall many Drug Stores in the Village and when I first looked at the painting the one that popped into my mind was one that closed in the late 60’s and was at West 11th Street and West 4th Street had a side window on 4th Street but I do not recall the column.There were a lot of stores back with corner entries that used columns I could make a long list.

      I agree that Hoppers inspiration might have come from many locations in the Village. I remember the good old days in the Village with tons of old stores it was only last week that I walked around and wished I had taken pictures of all that I now can only remember.
      Also I really wonder about the other Diner picture being on Greenwich Ave and 7th Ave. There was an Esso Station on the triangle / corner and a White Tower Hamburger Restaurant that had a counter that sat about 10 people it closed in the early 70’s and was staffed at night by a guy named Leo. There was a second White Tower at 8th Ave and Greenwich Ave. The BIG T burgers were great! Boy the good old days….
      Kevin Dougherty

    3. This kind of research is problematic because Hopper wasn’t a “plein air” painter. Meaning he didn’t go to various locations and set up his easel and document them. He famously worked from memory, so his subjects at any time are likely a composite of places he had seen that were rattling around his brain. Since it’s all fiction, we should perhaps spend our energy on thinking about what the paintings mean (for example, in the case of Drug Store, “spooky nocturnal laxative monger of unsurpassing loneliness”) rather than treating them as a historical photo exhibit.

    4. Thank you for your interesting perspectives. Katy, I haven’t seen a historic photo of 270 Bleecker Street but it could certainly be a possibility. We’ll look into that!

      Tom, I appreciate your comment. We agree that the meaning behind Hopper’s work is extremely important, even though it was not the focus of this post. We do not mean to imply that Hopper painted anything literally, but we do know that he took inspiration from a number of sites around the Village and it’s certainly fun to speculate which sites those may have been.

      Kevin, we have also found through our research that no diner existed on the corner of Greenwich Avenue and Seventh Avenue South, as many believe. This assumption may be based on Hopper’s claim that the painting was “based partly on a restaurant on Greenwich Avenue where two streets meet.” We know that Jefferson Diner was at the corner of Sixth & Greenwich Avenues, and another diner was constructed on the other side of Mulry Square (corner of Seventh Avenue South & Perry Street) just months before the painting was finished. Those are the only two diners we’ve been able to locate on (or just off of) Greenwich Avenue. It is likely that here as well the subject matter was based on a number of different restaurants in and around the Village.

    5. Came across this post looking for the location myself. Check out what the corner of 8th St. & MacDougal St. look like today.

      While the corner of the store is possibly squared-off like normal in old photos (It’s unclear in pictures from the 1960s I believe; it used to be Eighth Street Books), it has a resemblance to Hopper’s drug store today.

    6. This picture appeared on the cover of the Journal of the American Medical Association in September 2008.
      It immediately caught my eye because of its close resemblance to the pharmacy my late father had at the corner of Bank Street and Greenwich Ave in the 1940s — St. Vincent’s Chemists. He was well-regarded in the community, and we lived at 75 Bank St, corner of Bleeker. I return there whenever I’m in the City like a homing pigeon.
      Last I checked the building is still there, but the storefront has not been a restaurant for many years, and has been a series of restaurants since then.
      It is definitely not the store my father owned — there are differences between the painting and the few photos I have of his pharmacy……but there is an uncanny similarity and familiarity.

    7. Was there a Silber’s? That would be easy to find. And was Hopper having a little fun with the ex-lax (anyone remember ‘choclatey ex-lax’?) sign? If so wouldn’t that be rare for him? I see irony, sadness, depth in his work…but humor? I am no art expert, sue me if I’m wrong.

    8. PS I have a picture postcard of the Silber’s painting, marked on the back with ‘Edward Hopper, 1882- Drugstore, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’. He died in 1967. So my mother, who was responsible for much of my random postcard collection, must have picked up the card at the museum when she lived in Cambridge just before then.

    9. According to almost everything I’ve read its location was NW corner of W.15 th street and 7th ave. There are pic of the original location from 1914

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