A Walk Around the East Village ca. 1980 with Carole Teller
One of the facts of life that has always bummed me out is that I can’t visit history, to experience the past first-hand. Thankfully, though, GVSHP has just released Part 2 of our Historic Image Archive collection “Carole Teller’s Changing New York”. While the entire Carole Teller collection offers a wide-ranging view of New York from the early 1960s to the early 1990s, part 2 largely focuses on the East Village and Lower East Side in the 1970s and 80s. Now with the help of the internet and a little imagination, we can join Carole and her camera for a walk around the neighborhood!
Starting on 1st Avenue and 4th Street (image also above), we walk up past the New 1st Avenue Bakery (now the Downtown Bakery Cocina Mexicana) and the Village View Market (now a shoe & watch repair) at 69 & 71 1st Avenue. We also pass a very nicely dressed man carrying the JVC RC-550 “El Diablo” radio, patented in 1978 and sometimes regarded as the first true boombox designed for the street. Weighing about 17 pounds, with an eye-grabbing 10” woofer (look at the cassette deck for comparison), we can almost hear the hits this man was proudly blasting, “rocking our socks off” on our walk up the avenue.
From here we’ll go west on 4th Street, perhaps looking up again to this elegant window full of potted plants found in Part 1 of the Carole Teller collection, to arrive at the bronze, pilaster-flanked entrance of the Industrial National Bank Building at 72 2nd Avenue (image also left, close-up below). In front of this impressive Romanesque Revival building erected in 1928-29 (now a Bank of America), we find some telephone booths pasted with flyers which (blurrily) advertise the Senders, a “hard, tough rock ‘n roll” band formed in 1976 on the Lower East Side. The band enjoyed regular gigs at well-known nearby venues–CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, Irving Plaza, and the Continental Divide at 25 Third Avenue off St. Mark’s Place. As far as I can find, information about the Continental Divide mostly remains in a few newspaper clippings and hazy memories of those who spent time there, all of which paint a picture of a zany, energetic place with dinosaurs on the walls, on the shelves, and even one on the roof. Sadly, this beloved spot, which as the Continental offered great fun, music, and reasonably priced booze for the past 27+ years, will be replaced with a 7-story office building later in 2018.
But for our purposes it’s still 1980 (give or take a few years), so let’s continue on to one more stop. We’ll walk up to 10th Street and head back east, passing by our friends here at Abe Lebewohl Park, to see a shop called Pete’s Spice and Everything Nice at 174 1st Avenue (image left). Wondering if we should stop in for some healthy snacks, we remember this 1972 New York Magazine article that warns us about the not-so-stellar cleanliness of the place. The piece is titled “A Skeptic’s Guide to Health Food Stores” and contains detailed reviews of many of the then-2,600+ organic/natural stores throughout the city. Skimming over the other reviews, Pete’s Spice unfortunately seems to fall toward the bottom of the quality scale. Luckily Carole can show us to other options here and here.
Whether you remember the East Village of the 1970s/80s or, like me, can only imagine what it was like, photographs like Carole’s serve as valuable records of the neighborhood’s unique past. Not only do they document the changes in our built environment, they also allow us to study the nitty-gritty details that help round out our sense of history.
Come meet the woman behind the lens! Join us for Carole Teller’s Changing New York: A Close Up on the Photos and the Photographer on Thursday, January 25th. Sign up for the waiting list here.
If you have old photographs of our neighborhoods and you are interested in donating them to GVSHP so we can share them with the public, let us know! Email Sam Moskowitz to ask about adding your photos to GVSHP’s Historic Image Archive. Prints from the archive are also available for purchase.