Tuesday, July 28, 2009

East Village Pears

At the northeast corner of 13th and 3rd once stood the Stuyvesant Pear Tree, planted in 1667 by Peter Stuyvesant and felled 200 years later by a winter storm and a wayward horse in 1867. Below is a rare photo of the tree in better days.


photo from NYPL

The plaque that marked the presence of the pear tree has a long and circuitous history, which you can read about here in the Villager. In short: In 1890, the Holland Society erected the plaque on the wall of the Pear Tree drugstore, later Kiehl's, at 13th and 3rd. When Kiehl's moved one step to the north, the plaque came down, went to St. Marks Church, then to Mr. Charles Schlesinger, who owned the Bendiner & Schlesinger lab building at 3rd and 10th.

Then Kiehl's expanded back into its original corner spot, which was re-dedicated Pear Tree Corner in 2003, after L'Oreal bought out the long-time local business. And the historic lab building was demolished in 2005 to build what is now an SVA dorm. The plaque, once green, was given a deep cleaning and placed back in its original spot.


photo by WallyG

Because 10th Street is rather elegant here, unlike 13th, and intersects with Stuyvesant, it has the sort of block association that does things like plant trees. Inspired by Stuyvesant's pear and the misplaced plaque, in about the 1970s the block association lined 10th St. with flowering pear trees. This trend was then repeated all over the East Village.

“We were one of the first streets to have them," the block association president told The Villager, "Now they are ubiquitous."

So, when in spring you are enjoying the papery flutter of the pear trees' white blossoms, and in autumn admiring their glossy red leaves--they are usually first to flower and last to fall--you can thank Mr. Schlesinger (Jr.) for keeping that plaque in its wrong place.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

So are you anti pear trees because of their "ubiquitous" presence in the east village?

Goggla said...

Cool bit of history, Jeremiah. I knew about the pears on St Marks, but never anything about the "Pear Corner". It's great to still have these connections to the original Stuyvesant farm, before any of what we see today existed.

Jeremiah Moss said...

do i really sound anti-pear tree?

NYC Rhymology said...

Love these bits of history... See some rhymology at my link... Note: there seems to be a discrepancy between the date of the photo, as given by the NYPL, and the lifespan of the tree--no? (Albeit math never was my forte.)

Jeremiah Moss said...

true--"circa 1900"--you'd think they could've done better with the dating.

btw: "Rob Reiner / Tom's Diner" is a good one.

Jennifer said...

Great story! Pear trees seem to do okay in NYC. I see a lot all over town. I love hearing about notable trees of NYC. There's a storied English Elm in the NW corner of Wash. Sq. Park called "The Hanging Tree"...

NYC Rhymology said...

So if the date of the pear tree's demise as mentioned in the article in The Villager is correct, those stereoscopic photos were taken no later than 1867--pretty darn old. FWIW, Wikipedia says such stereoscopic photography was invented in 1840.

Agent99 said...

are you anti pear tree because of their ever presence in the east village? or are you just a pear hater?

Jeremiah Moss said...

i have to ask again, in what possible way do i seem anti-pear tree?

Agent99 said...

For me, its the tone I read when you say "this was then repeated all over the East Village." Your coming off anti pear tree for me.

That disregarded, I think Im falling all over your blog. You've a lovely way with words.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks 99. i can see how, knowing the general tone of my blog, and reading that line could lead one to think i have negative feelings about pear trees. but i don't. i don't even think i have ambivalent feelings about pear trees.

but maybe you're tuning in to some unconscious ambivalence about affluent block associations making beautifications, in general.

or maybe what's leaking through is a bitter wish i have to LIVE on 10th and Stuyvesant, especially in that corner building with the bay window, which will never happen.

but that envy has nothing to do with my feelings about pear trees, which are lovely and especially because, as i said, they are the first to bloom in the spring and the last to lose their leaves in the fall.

Agent99 said...

Wait, so you want to live in the corner building with the bay window? That paragraph doesnt make a whole lot of sense to me.

Despite your tone toward the changes in New York, you like pear trees. Ten brownie points to you Jeremiah Moss.

And if you knew me, you'd know how hard my brownie points are to attain, 99.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i'll take those brownie points, 99, and thank you.

yes, it's true, i have real estate aspirations, too. i don't vilify wealth, as it may seem. my problems with the shifting city are more complicated. check out this post--which i keep in the right-hand margin--might clear some of it up:

http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com/2008/07/thrift.html