Thursday, April 21, 2011

791 Broadway

We visited the final home of poet Frank O'Hara back in 2009, just before it was completely demolished. It was a building once full of artists, where the ground-floor business sold orthopedic devices for amputees.



It is now debuting for "first move-ins" and computer-printed signs on the ground-floor windows ask you to please check out their website. Rents for apartments in the new building start at $3,750. A two-bedroom has gone for $5,000. (O'Hara paid $150 for a floor-through loft.)

Its developer's blog hypes the "modern kitchens with Carrera marble countertops and state-of-the-art appliances, Italian porcelain bathrooms, floor to ceiling windows and hardwood floors" and suggests the ground-floor space be used "for a boutique or coffee shop."

In case possible ground-floor renters get confused, here's a visual from the window:

A skinny lady drinks a latte. A couple of go-getters in tight sweaters show their teeth while carrying loads of shopping bags. Get it? Coffee shop or boutique. Boutique or coffee shop.

This type of marketing never says, "Ideal for a bookstore or clock repair shop." They never show pictures of people browsing records or bringing their shoes in to be resoled. And they certainly never say, "Terrific space for orthopedic appliances!" with a photo of a smiling guy and his prosthetic leg.

O'Hara moved to this address in 1963. That same year, this memorable quote appeared in the New York Times in farewell to Penn Station--I often think of it on these occasions: "Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves."


EV Grieve said...


And I wish real-estate marketing types would find some new stock art to use. I swear I've seen that go-getting, tight-sweater wearing, shopping-till-we-smile couple about 100 other times on equally soulless storefronts for lease.

Anonymous said...

Great post.

Amazing that photo of the apartment when "lived in.' So lifeless, void of personality.

It's so true re: the type stores realtors want - I guess they are recognizing who can afford it (coffee shop sounds so trendy!).

Jane Jacobs wrote about this - why those 'other' type shops, the bookstores, the antique dealer, the music shop, the local type store, were so important - and the need for diversity in cities, appreciating both the 'old' and the 'new', but none of the developers know about this I imagine.

Loved reading the history of it.


James Taylor said...

The name of the town in Italy from where the countertop marble is sourced is Carrara, not "Carrera". You'd think that at $3,750 a month they'd have had the resources to get that kind of information correct.

ShatteredMonocle said...

Maybe the countertop marble came from this "Carerra" where they talk on cell phones as they peruse the wine list:

And the couple shopping in that picture are assholes.

Marty Wombacher said...

Great post and the last quote really hammers it all home.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

I love the idea of seeing a sign that reads, "'Terrific space for orthopedic appliances!' with a photo of a smiling guy and his prosthetic leg." This could be a great street art and social commentary project - postering over existing ads.

onemorefoldedsunset said...

"How funny you are today New York
like Ginger Rogers in Swingtime
and St. Bridget's steeple leaning a little to the left

here I have just jumped out of a bed full of V-days
(I got tired of D-days)and blue you there
accepts me foolish and free
all I want is a room up there
and you in it
and even the traffic halt so thick is a way
for people to rub up against each other
and when their surgical appliances lock
they stay together for the rest of the day(what a day)..."

Frank O'Hara
from Steps (Lunch Poems)

Jeremiah Moss said...

Goggla, brilliant idea. please, somebody do this.

and that's one of my favorite poems, written (i think) when Frank lived on E. 9th and Ave. A., back when St. Brigid had steeples.

The All-Seeing Eye, Jr. said...

I was slackjawed when I saw that the building had been demolished. It was one of a kind. For a long time it was filled with curators. Frank O'Hara lived on the third, Kynaston MacShine of MoMA on the second, and on the third was Geroge Montgomery--O'Hara's Harvard roommate and the founding curator of both the American Folk Art Museum and the Asia Society Museum--and his partner, the dancer Dan Waggoner. Their loft was one of the most beautiful I ever saw, with an enormous vaulted ceiling that was half-barn, half-cathedral. On the ground floor was a wacky old-fashioned drugstore whose walls were covered with poster-size blowups of the owners' travel snapshots, all faded to sepia. There was a lot of speculation about whether Poe might have lived there (he didn't), because his "The Bells" was inspired by those of Grace Church, right across the street. I used to fantasize about living there someday...

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks, Mr. Eye, for that excellent look inside the vanished building. pains me to think of the bland lives that will inhabit the new one.