On the very street where Andy Warhol once lived and other artists like Basquiat and Haring exchanged ideas with musicians and writers, a new legacy is born.
1 Great Jones Alley organically reflects its artistic roots—while granting residents a design-driven retreat of highly livable comfort.
Art historian and Paper Magazine editor Carlo McCormick on the art icons of the ’80s, ’90s and today who have made Great Jones a hive of creativity.
Donated to the city by the lawyer, assemblyman and quintessentially original New Yorker Samuel Jones, Great Jones Street has provided a direct link between West Third and East Third Streets since it was first paved in 1789. From its early days, it was a desirable address for mayors, the cultural elite, and anyone who wanted to be part of the action. As buildings came down and new ones arose in their place, the street evolved into an eclectic center of art and commerce: things just happened here.
It’s just two blocks long, but Great Jones Street has always been recognized as a connective yet separate zone between the potent cultural orbits of the West and East Village and Soho. To this day, the street remains at once oddly central yet all on its own, something of an aperture whose in-between geography has had an uncanny appeal to certain kinds of artists. Hosting a number of important galleries and art spaces, including Aicon, Eric Firestone, Great Jones Space, Karma and La MaMa Galleria to name but a few, and home to countless artists and creative professionals, Great Jones’s lively presence is itself a curious reflection of its complex past.
Among all those cultural firsts, in the middle of Great Jones stand buildings of great beauty. The Schermerhorn Building, on the corner of Lafayette and Great Jones Streets was designed by Henry Hardenbergh, whose other landmarks in the city include the Dakota and the Plaza Hotel. At the east end of Great Jones once stood the Bowery Hotel. In its time, it was one of the most luxurious of the great Gilded Age hotels; in this era, it has been reborn as a similarly urbane retreat to rest for the night and rub shoulders with members of the creative class.
Gangsters and greats, the famous and the forgotten, creative souls across the arts
While the constant forces of urban renewal have radically changed the character of Great Jones over the centuries, leaving behind a curious polyglot of buildings with tremendous architectural diversity and nonhomogenous purpose, one of the street’s most distinguishing features has miraculously survived: Great Jones Alley. Alleys are a rarity in this city, and to visit this nearly forgotten byway is to step back in time, traveling to that era when the city revealed itself in twists and turns, with an intimacy and closeness that has long since been banished by the planned urban grid and the rise of the skyscraper.
If Great Jones’s walls, cobblestones and alley could talk... there’s no telling what secrets they might reveal. Seemingly destined to be a place of the imagination more than of fact, there may be a dearth of plaques to commemorate the idiosyncratic nonconformist saga of Great Jones; but as a place of legends, the street unfolds its own miraculous tales of an “other” history. In 1960 the famous conceptual and earthwork artist Walter De Maria opened a gallery on Great Jones Street, putting together exhibits of his own quirky minimal sculptures, the films of Joseph Cornell and the works of his good friend Robert Whitman—who along with his wife, Simone Forti, pioneered the radical form of Happenings. The highly influential composer, bandleader and jazz bassist Charles Mingus lived for a number of years at 5 Great Jones Street, where he had planned to build a music school until he was evicted in 1966. In 1975 Great Jones Street became the inspiration for the writer Don DeLillo for his book of the same name, home to his messianic rock star character Bucky Wunderlick.
Perhaps most famously, Great Jones Street is known as the place where the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat lived. Basquiat didn’t just happen to land on Great Jones by chance; he was renting his place there from the friend and sometime collaborator who owned it, Andy Warhol. One can only imagine what historic events took place there when Warhol was in residence.
Gangsters and greats, the famous and the forgotten, creative souls across the arts — Great Jones Street has housed as many stories as it has people over the years. And the best part is that unlike some relic accidentally dug up centuries later, it is a living history, with many more stories yet to tell.
Carlo McCormick is an editor at Paper Magazine, the author of more than 100 titles and the curator of The Downtown Show: the New York Art Scene from 1974 to 1984, at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery.
Photos by Tseng Kwong Chi © Muna Tseng Dance Projects, Inc. www.tsengkwongchi.com Art by Keith Haring © The Keith Haring Foundation
Founded in 1985, BKSK Architects is a New York City–based firm specializing in design that is socially, contextually and ecologically engaged. The firm’s diverse range of work includes highly lauded cultural, civic, educational, liturgical and residential projects. Individual projects designed by the firm have received over 50 design awards, including an AIA National Housing Award for a new multifamily development; AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) Award for a LEED Platinum–certified visitor center; and three Palladio Awards for residential architecture. The firm’s work in historic districts is consistently praised by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission for being sensitive and boundary-pushing in equal measure.
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Following the successful launch of 78 Irving Place, 1 Great Jones Alley will become the preeminent new luxury condominium downtown.
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The complete offering terms are in an offering plan available from Sponsor File No. CD15-0086. Sponsor: Downtown RE Holdings LLC 825 Third Avenue, 37th Floor, New York, NY 10022. The artist representations and interior decorations, finishes, appliances and furnishings are provided for illustrative purposes only. Sponsor makes no representations or warranties except as may be set forth in the Offering Plan. Sponsor reserves the right to substitute materials, appliances, equipment, fixtures and other construction and design details specified herein with similar materials, appliances, equipment and/or fixtures of substantially equal or better quality. All dimensions are approximate and subject to normal construction variances and tolerances. Square footage exceeds the usable floor area. Sponsor reserves the right to make changes in accordance with the terms of the Offering Plan. Plans and dimensions may contain minor variations from floor to floor.
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