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Many Layers of History on Second Avenue and Second Street

Our neighborhood has many wonderful intersections, where generations of history and culture intersect — too many, in fact, to easily do them all justice.

But on February 2nd, the second day of the second month, we thought we’d take a closer look at just one of those intersections, Second Avenue and Second Street.  It may not he the “nexus of the universe” like neighboring First Avenue and First Street, but it has more than its fair share of history wrapped around, and just below, its streets.

Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Ave., aka 43-45 E. 2nd St.)

Anthology Film Archives on the southeast corner of 2nd Ave & E 1st St

Part of the expanded East Village/Lower East Side Historic District, the building you may know as the Anthology Film Archives was originally built as the Third District Magistrates Court building, constructed in 1917-1919.  The building rises 46 feet high, consisting of a basement and two upper stories.  The facade is ornamented with various brick patterns. The main entrance and the tall arched second-story windows are heavily recessed and bordered by decorative terra cotta and masonry enframements with transoms. The small first-story windows have heavy brick casings, and the four leftmost arched bays on the second story have been partly infilled with brick. A corbelled brick and terra cotta beltcourse separates the two lower stories and the uppermost story is decorated with a brick and terra cotta detailed cornice. A battered brick watertable defines the base and there is also a hint of historic ironwork in the entrance transom.

The building was utilized for its original purpose from 1919 to 1946. After 1948, the building was known as the Lower Manhattan Magistrate’s Courthouse. Following a period of neglect, the Anthology Film Archives, one of the world’s largest collections of avant-garde and experimental cinema, purchased the building in 1979. Some alterations designed by Raimund Abraham and Kevin Bone were made to adaptively reuse the building.

LaSalle Academy Place

LaSalle Academy Place.

LaSalle Academy Place, located on 2nd Street between 2nd and 1st Avenues, bears the honorific of one of the oldest Lasallian Catholic education institutions in the city.  Founded in 1848 on Canal Street as St. Vincent’s School, the academy moved to 2nd Street in 1856 and changed its name to LaSalle Academy in 1887.  While the building on 2nd Street still bears the academy’s name, the school itself moved to St. George Ukrainian Catholic School on 6th Street in the late 00’s.  The 2nd Street space has been taken over by the World Class Learning Academy, a U.K. based independent school.

Two Cemeteries

Strikingly similar in name and just a few yards apart, the New York Marble Cemetery and the New York City Marble Cemetery are both located near this intersection; the former on 2nd Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets, the latter on 2nd Street between 2nd and 1st Avenues.

The New York Marble Cemetery

New York Marble Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Gresham Lang.

The New York Marble Cemetery saw the East Village turn from a fashionable, upscale residential neighborhood when it was first developed to a more densely populated immigrant neighborhood by the mid-to-late 19th century.  Many people of note were laid to rest here, including Uriah Scribner, father of the publisher; Aaron Clark, New York’s first Whig mayor; Congressman and NYU President James Tallmadge; and Benjamin Wright, father of American Civil Engineering. The night before he was buried in the nearby New York City Marble Cemetery (and later moved to his native Virginia), President James Monroe’s body was kept here overnight.  The cemetery grounds are open to the public during its regular Open Gate Days once a month in the spring and summer, and the cemetery has participated in Open House New York every year since its inception.   In 2014, GVSHP honored the cemetery with a Village Award.

The New York City Marble Cemetery

New York City Marble Cemetery

The New York City Marble Cemetery (an individual landmark and listed on the State and National Registers), was created shortly after the NY Marble Cemetery, just around the corner on Second Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. Like its 2nd Avenue counterpart, the NYC Marble Cemetery was a fashionable place to be interred, and contains the remains of many notable New Yorkers. Like the New York Marble Cemetery, it also has vaults made from Tuckahoe Marble, but did allow for the erection of markers and monuments. The designation report for the New York City Marble Cemetery, which is larger, says it “was begun in 1831 and was the second non-sectarian burial ground in the City opened to the public. …When opened, it was considered a fashionable burial place, and the use of monuments and markers was permitted there to signalize the locations of the family vaults. It was laid out with long parallel walks between which are narrow strips of ground punctuated by the square marble vault slabs.”

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