St. Mark's Place features a wide variety of retailers. Venerable institutions lining St. Mark’s Place include Gem Spa, Yaffa Café, the St. Mark's Hotel, St. Mark's Comics, and Trash & Vaudeville. There are several open front markets that sell sunglasses, clothing and jewelry. There are also a number of restaurants and bars, as well as several record stores.
Notable buildings and sites
The entrance to 295 East 8th Street, with "Talmud Torah Darch Moam" above the door
The stucco-faced apartment building at 4-26 East 8th Street between Fifth Avenue and University Place was built in 1834-36 and remodeled in 1916. It was designed by Harvey Wiley Corbett, and has been described as a "stage set, symbolic of the 'village' of a bohemian artist.'
The residential apartment building at One Fifth Avenue, on the southeast corner of East 8th Street, was built in 1929 and was designed by Helme, Corbett & Harrison and Sugarman & Berger. The brown brick building features numerous step-backs, battlements, buttresses and other suggestions of medieval architecture.
The full-block building on 8th Street bordered by Lafayette Street, 9th Street and Broadway, which carries the addresses 499 Lafayette Avenue and 770 Broadway, was built in 1902 to be the Annex for the giant John Wanamaker's Department Store located one block north between 9th and 10th Streets. The two buildings were connected by a skybridge over 9th Street which was dubbed the "Bridge of Progress". The main store was destroyed by fire in 1955, but the Annex building remains, and currently houses a Kmart and a GAP retail stores, as well as offices.
Across the street, also between Lafayette Street and Broadway, 8th Street runs behind Clinton Hall at 13 Astor Place, also known as 21 Astor Place. This was once the site of the Astor Opera House outside of which the Astor Place Riot occurred. The Opera House opened in 1847 and closed in 1890 to be replaced by the current building, designed by George E. Harney, which became the site of the New York Mercantile Library. The library left the 11-story building in 1932, and it has since been a union headquarters (District 65 of the Distributive Workers of America), the Astor Place Hotel, and, as of 1995, condominiums.
The three former 1838 row houses at 8-12 West 8th Street between Fifth Avenue and MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village were converted in 1931 by Auguste L. Noel of Noel & Miller into the first home of the Whitney Museum of American Art, which sculptor and heiress Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney had established in 1929, after the Metropolitan Museum of Art rejected the donation of her extensive collection of contemporary and avant-garde artworks. In 1914, Whitney had started the Whitney Studio at 8 West 8th Street, just behind her own studio on MacDougal Alley. The museum was located here until 1954, when it moved uptown. The building is currently, along with 14 West 8th Street (built in 1900), the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture.
Hamilton-Holly House (#4) was part of the same 1830's development as...
#4 – The Hamilton-Holly House was built in 1831 by Thomas E. Davis and sold to Colonel Alexander Hamilton, the son of Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury, in 1833. From 1843 to 1863 it was owned by Isaac C. Van Wyck, the candle and oil merchant. The building was owned from 1863 to 1903 by butter merchant John W. Miller, who added a two-story addition and a meeting hall on the first floor. From 1901 until 1952 the building was owned by the C. Meisel company, a manufacturer of musical instruments. Between 1955 and 1967 it housed the Tempo Playhouse, New Bowery Theatre, and Bridge Theatre, noted for experimental theater, music, dance, and independent film. In 1964 it housed the New Bowery Theatre, a showcase for the American Theatre of Poets. From 1967 it housed Limbo, which in 1975 became Trash and Vaudeville, a punk clothing store. The building was designated a New York City landmark in 2004.
#6 – The Modern School, founded in 1901 in Barcelona by Francesco Ferrer, opened a New York branch here in January 1911. It was led by anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, who founded the Francisco Ferrer Association in 1910, "to perpetuate the work and memory of Francisco Ferrer", who had been executed in October 1909 for plotting to kill Alfonso XIII, the King of Spain, and masterminding the events of Tragic Week, a mass riot in and around Barcelona. Beginning in 1913 the building housed the Saint Marks Russian and Turkish Baths. In 1979 the building was renovated and renamed the New Saint Marks Baths, a gay bath house. The New Saint Marks Baths was closed by the New York City Department of Health in 1985, due to concerns of HIV transmission. The building subsequently housed a Kim's Video and Music location, until early 2009.
#8 – The New York Cooking School, founded by Juliet Corson in 1876, was the country's first cooking school. It figured prominently in the city's first known Mafiahit in Manhattan, the 1888 killing of Antonio Flaccomio, when it was La Triniria Italian Restaurant. The killer dined there with his victim, then stabbed him a few blocks away.
#12 – Designed by William C. Frohne and built in 1885, as the clubhouse for the Deutsch-Amerikanische Schuetzen Gesellschaft ("German-American Shooting Society"). The facade says Einigkeit macht stark ("Unity is strength"). The building is a remnant of Kleindeutschland ("Little Germany"), the home of many German immigrants from the mid-19th Century until the General Slocum disaster of June 15, 1904. The building was designated as a landmark in 2001. This was the original location of the St Mark's Bookshop, before it moved across the street. In the late seventies it housed The New Cinema, featuring film and video by independent filmmakers, including Eric Mitchell, Anders Grafstrom, Scott and Beth B, Jim Jarmusch, Charles Ahearn and Amos Poe.
#13 – Home to Lenny Bruce in the mid-1960s.Sylvain Sylvain, guitarist for the New York Dolls, lived in the basement apartment in the mid 70s. The main floor and basement of the building were for many years St. Mark's Bookshop, now around the corner, at 31 3rd Avenue.
#28 – From 1967–1971, this storefront housed Underground Uplift Unlimited (UUU), which created and sold some of the most noteworthy protest buttons and posters of era, including "Make Love Not War."
#33 – Home to poet Anne Waldman in the late 1960s/mid-1970s; in 1977, the storefront had Manic Panic, the first U.S. boutique to sell punk rock attire, which developed its own line of make-up and vibrant hair dyes; Manic Panic was visited by numerous performers, including David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Harry, and Joey Ramone.
#96 – Once the home of the Anarchist Switchboard, a 1980s punk activist group.
#101 – From the mid-1970s to 1983, the poets Ted Berrigan and Alice Notley, who were married to each other, lived here. In Berrigan's "The Last Poem", he wrote: "101 St. Mark’s Place, apt. 12A, NYC 10009/ New York. Friends appeared & disappeared, or wigged out/ Or stayed; inspiring strangers sadly died; everyone/ I ever knew aged tremendously, except me."
#105 – Early 1860s home of Uriah P. Levy, the first Jewish commodore of the U.S. Navy and who was also known for purchasing Monticello to work toward its restoration and preservation.
#122 – This building used to be the location of Sin-é, a neighborhood café where Jeff Buckley performed a regular spot on Monday nights. Other musicians such as David Gray and Katell Keineg also performed there. Sin-é closed in the mid-1990s.
In popular culture
Gem Spa has been the "corner store" for locals for approximately 80 years
Cherries, an adult store on St. Mark's Place whose signage was part of Saturday Night Live's opening montage. The store closed in late 2011.
St. Mark's Place appears in a variety of works in popular culture:
On the southwest corner of St. Mark's Place and Second Avenue, at 131 Second Avenue, is Gem Spa, a newspaper, magazine and tobacco store, which is known for its fountain egg creams. On the back cover of the first, eponymous New York Dolls LP, the band is pictured standing in front of Gem Spa.
The narrator of Tom Paxton's "Talking Vietnam Potluck Blues", upon smelling marijuana on someone's breath during the Vietnam War remarks, "He smelled like midnight on St. Mark's Place."
The Holy Modal Rounders mentioned the street in their song "Bad Boy" in the lyric "he'll sell your heart on St. Mark's Place in glassine envelopes/he'll cut it with a pig's heart, and burn the chumps and dopes".
Earl Slick's 2003 solo album Zig-Zag features a song called "Saint Marks Place".
In Lou Reed's song "Sally Can't Dance", Sally walks down and lives on St. Mark's Place (in a rent controlled apartment).
In the King Missile song "Detachable Penis" the search for the missing member ends when the singer states, "Then, as I walked down Second Avenue towards St. Mark's Place / Where all those people sell used books and other junk on the street / I saw my penis lying on a blanket next to a broken toaster oven."
The album We Are Only Riders by The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project features a song called "Saint Marks Place", a duet with Lydia Lunch.
The music video for Billy Joel's 1986 song "A Matter of Trust" was shot in the Electric Circus building and features extensive footage of the block.
The Rank and File song "I Went Walking", on their 1982 album Sundown, presents a cynical look at the St. Mark's Place of that time, containing the lines: "Have you ever seen a sheep in a porkpie hat? Ever see a lemming dressed all in black? Well, you might have been there, but I'll tell you just in case: Just take a walk down St. Mark's Place."
The Sharp Things album, Foxes and Hounds, features a song called "95 Saint Marks Place".
In the double-episode season six premier of Mad Men, Betty Francis (née Hofstadt, formerly Draper) goes to St. Mark's Place to find a girl who has run away after losing her parents, and in season 6, episode 4 ("To Have and To Hold", set in early 1968), Joan Harris and her hometown friend Kate visit the Electric Circus nightclub, located at 19-25 St. Marks Place, during a night out on the town.
In the opening credits to Saturday Night Live (c. 2010), a shot of Cherries adult entertainment store's neon signage is featured in the opening credits.
In the season 3 Sex and the City episode "Hot Child In The City", Sarah Jessica Parker's character Carrie goes to get her shoe fixed on St. Mark's Place and ends up dating a man who works at a comic book store on the block. Part of the episode is filmed at the actual St. Mark's Comics.
^What to See in New York. John Wanamaker, New York. 1912. pp. 22, 31. Retrieved 27 April 2013. "The Wanamaker business occupies two buildings—the fine old structure erected by A. T. Stewart, with its eight floors, and the new Wanamaker Building, occupying the entire block south of the Stewart Building, with sixteen floors. Combined area of the two buildings, about 32 acres. Two large tunnels under and a double-deck bridge over Ninth Street connect the two buildings."
^Durniak, Drew. "East 9th Street Then and now". The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. Retrieved 27 April 2013. "By 1955, Wanamaker’s sold its northern store property between East 9th and 10th Streets. Before the planned demolition of the building, a fire broke out in 1956 and gutted the structure. In its place was built a huge white-brick-clad residential building called Stewart House in 1960."