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History Lost to NYU

We all know that New York University has an enormous presence in Greenwich Village and the East Village — one that has grown tremendously in recent decades, and is continuing to grow with the construction of their “NYU 2031” expanded campus on the Washington Square Village and Silver Towers superblocks south of Washington Square.

GVSHP’s 2011 Halloween Contest Entry. We didn’t win.

The university’s growth has taken many forms — the gigantic Third Avenue North and Alumni Hall dorms on Third Avenue at 11th and 9th Streets were built on what were parking lots; Washington Square Village was built for a developer who defaulted on a project then taken over by NYU; and the university has occupied and reused countless loft buildings in the blocks east of Washington Square built decades earlier for different purposes, such as the former Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Building, now known as the NYU Brown Building.

But there’s no denying that NYU has also destroyed a lot of incredible and beloved historic buildings and institutions along the way. Today we thought we’d catalog just a few.

NYU’s post-war path of destruction began with the loss of Genius Row in 1948. This row of Greek Revival homes lined Washington Square Park South between West Broadway (now LaGuardia Place) and Thompson Street, and was named for the artists and writers who lived there in the first half of the 20th Century. Their demolition was one of the Village’s earliest preservation battles.

61 Washington Square Park South. Part of Genius Row.

Not far away, the historic St. Ann’s Church was demolished in 2005 to make way for NYU’s ‘Founder’s Hall’ dorm at 120 East 12th Street. Built in 1847 as a Protestant Church, it later became the first home of Temple Beth El synagogue, then serving as an Armenian National Shrine for the Roman Catholic Church.  The demolished rectory (blue brick building in these photos) dated to the 1840’s. Click here to read more.

The interior of St. Ann’s Church. Demolished to make way for an NYU dorm.

Just south of Washington Square on MacDougal Street, NYU demolished all but the entryway facade of the historic Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments. Despite vigorous efforts by GVSHP and others, NYU demolished nearly the entire building in 2008 in order to build office space for the University’s law school. While a theater remains in that place with the Provincetown name and facade, virtually nothing else of the original space remains.

Provincetown Playhouse 1955. Source: http://www.provincetownplayhouse.com/history.html

Two of our cultural institutions lost to NYU on 14th Street are Luchow’s and The Palladium (originally the Academy of Music). Luchow’s was a German restaurant/beer garden. It opened in 1882 at 110 East 14th Street at a time when the East Village was known as “Little Germany”, or Kleindeutschland. The restaurant would expand over the years in size and prominence, eventually occupying a space eight times as large as the original venue. In its heydey, Luchow’s was the place to see and be seen if you were a part of the music, theater, or literary crowd. It imported 70,000 half-barrels of beer a year, a daily consumption of 24,000 liters. Famous diners include Theodore Roosevelt, Diamond Jim Brady, Oscar Hammerstein, John Barrymore, Arturo Caruso, Sigmund Romberg, Lillian Russell, O. Henry, Theodore Dreiser, Thomas Wolfe, and Edgar Lee Masters. Luchow’s was the first restaurant in the city to get its liquor license following Prohibition’s repeal in 1933.

Luchow’s, 1975. Image Via MCNY

Union Square lost much of its luster and Luchow’s moved to midtown in the early 1980s. The Palace restaurant and disco opened in Luchow’s former space, followed by a gay bar. But a 1992 fire led to the building’s demolition in 1995, despite efforts to landmark the Victorian building. NYU bought the site and locals were hopeful when plans were announced to revive Luchow’s with a ground-floor “Gay 90’s”-themed restaurant with a (less warmly-received) 600-bed dorm atop it. In the end, the dorm was built, but the restaurant was never revived.

Just to its east stood The Palladium, a concert hall and performance space built in 1927 as the Academy of Music at 126 East 14th Street across the street from where the Con Edison building now stands. Originally a deluxe movie palace, the Academy operated as a movie theater through the early 1970s. By the mid-1960s it also served as 3,000 seat music venue. Demand for this space as a music venue rose following the 1971 closure of the Fillmore East. It was rechristened the Palladium on September 18, 1976, with a live radio broadcast performance by The Band.

Notable acts that played the venue include Blue Öyster Cult, Iggy Pop, Kiss, Genesis, the Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen  Frank Zappa, Patti Smith, The Ramones, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Ozzy Osbourne, Motörhead, The Clash, U2, Duran Duran, The Undertones, and Chuck Berry.

From 1985 to 1997 the Palladium operated as a nightclub. In 1997 the building was demolished to make way for a 12-story NYU dorm housing over 1,100 students. NYU appropriated the name Palladium for the dorm as what we can only assume to be an effort to honor the site’s history.

Palladium. Image via Warehouse Magazine

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