Last week I rented The Night They Raided Minsky's, which just came out on DVD. I don't recommend it, unless you're interested (as I was) in seeing the interior of the Village East prior to its renovation from a live theater to a cinema. The red curtain is there, along with the stage and the balconies.
photo: tony marciante
The Village East did a stint as a burlesque theater around the 1950s and 60s (above and click for boobs here), but it was never a Minsky's. The original Minsky's, represented in the movie, was located farther south at 111-117 East Houston. That's where the Whole Foods/Avalon building stands today. Here it is in 1930:
My research in the NYPL's digital gallery took me away from Minsky's and in another direction, discovering this image of the Sunshine theater, also in 1930:
Zoom in to see Yonah Schimmel's knishery as it was in its early days:
Notice the major construction on Houston. They were digging it up to put in what later became the F train. In doing so, they also widened the street. Who knew that Houston used to be a narrow, two-lane road? Or that an entire world of buildings, homes, and businesses were wiped out in its widening.
Here's another shot of Houston in 1929, just a year prior to the demolition. There's the Sunshine on the left and on the right you can see an optometrist, a lamp store, and what looks like an umbrella shop. The low-rise buildings stretch all the way to Sixth:
5,000 residents were evicted and 1,795 apartments were demolished. Wrote the Times, ''Some workers have been living in the flats for a score or more of years and bow to the inevitable march of progress.''
New York has been changing since its inception. That's obvious. Blocks and buildings rise and fall. Seventy years ago, half of Houston Street vanished from the city--and the city survived. But today the rate of change has become excessive. Block after block after block, New York is devoured. We don't get one Avalon building, we get three. We don't get one Marc Jacobs store, we get half a dozen. Such is the inevitable march of progress today.