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Many Layers of History at 7th Avenue and 11th Street

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper (1942).

This post is part of a series about Village intersections that correspond to the date.  In July, we took a look at 7th Avenue and 12th Street and discussed the former St. Vincent’s Hospital.  Yet, just a block down on 11th Street more history can be seen that’s not connected to the demolished medical center.

In honor of today’s date, we are taking a look at a square, a flatiron, and the “Nighthawks” that might have congregated there.

Mulry Square

Mulry Square in the early 2000s.

Mulry Square is a triangular lot at the southwest corner of Greenwich Avenue and Seventh Avenue South (and adjacent to 11th Street).  The square is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and is named after Thomas M. Mulry, founder of the Emigrant Savings Bank.  While currently the site of an emergency ventilation plant, Mulry Square is no ordinary lot. Not only has it been for years falsely speculated that Edward Hopper based Nighthawks at the Diner on a restaurant at this location, but post-9/11 it also became the unlikely site of the impromptu Tiles For America exhibit, one of our city’s most poignant and recognized memorials of the tragic World Trade Center terrorist attacks.

MTA Emergency Vent at Mulry Square,, occupying the former MTA parking lot. Photo courtesy of the Villager.

70-74 Greenwich Avenue/160 West 11th Street

70-74 Greenwich Avenue/160 West 11th Street.

Just down Greenwich Avenue at the corner of 11th Street lies a red brick “mini-flatiron,” which is modest in scale but about thirty years senior to its more well-known neighbor to the north at 23rd and Broadway.  Originally constructed as three separate houses, it has often been conjectured and even assumed that this building was the inspiration for the iconic Edward Hopper painting “Nighthawks at the Diner.” However, GVSHP’s research on the subject would suggest this was probably not the case.  As with most of Hopper’s paintings, no single building was likely the direct subject of his portrait, and diners elsewhere on Greenwich Avenue and Seventh Avenue South were more likely the source of inspiration in this case.

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