Wednesday, March 21, 2007

130 West Tenth Street

Manhattan > Greenwich Village > West 10th Street

Perhaps artist Birney Lettick [1919-1986] was seeking a run-down brownstone or any roof-line low enough to show a blue sky spiked by Jefferson Market's whimsical towers. When he selected this grouping (slightly west of Greenwich Avenue), Lettick was generous with his pen, widening a skinny 3-story townhouse and adding height to a one-story taxpayer.

• • The hilariously bohemian scene that tempted moviegoers to see Paul Mazursky's "Next Stop, Greenwich Village" [1976] featured a crowded Village Cafe, artists, beatniks, lovers, loners, dancers, and loafers. The character on the lowest step of the stoop - - closest to the fire hydrant - - would be played by a 33-year-old actor Christopher Walken. On the movie poster, the rowhouse is numbered 25 but it is, in fact, 130 West Tenth Street [3 stories] and its neighbor 128-A West Tenth [1 story]. Not shown is the solid firehouse next door, an 1892 structure that quarters Squad 18's firefighters.
• • Birney Lettick was similarly flattering instead of realistic when he painted the portraits of Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan for Time Magazine. His illustrations also appeared on the covers of National Geographic, Collier's, Reader's Digest, and many bestsellers.
• • The address attracted its share of notoriety in the 1880s when it was the location of various suicides and batterings. In 1885, Samuel H. Hoole walloped Mary E. Weston, who resided here, knocking out five of her teeth; Hoole was arraigned in Jefferson Market Police Court across the street for his brutishness.
• • For many years, investor Edward Swan owned 130 West Tenth Street and leased his skinny building to tenants who were either too deaf to mind sirens or who weren't fussy.
• • In 1943, former ice skater Alan E. Murray [1894-1976] leased the one-story hovel at 128 West Tenth, where he began to re-invent footwear.
• • On 7 February 1947, Murray bought the adjoining 3-story dwelling from Swan's estate. By then the inventor was knee-deep in patents for his Space Shoe, suspenders that fastened around the neck, ski boots, and what-not. Early on, celebrity clients were attracted by the curious customized and sculpted oxfords that Murray began pedalling in 1937. Danny Kaye bought several pairs and so did Lillian Gish, Arthur Godfrey, Steve McQueen, and the wife of the Soviet Ambassador to Washington.
• • By 1955, when Murray was minting millions, he was manufacturing his orthopedic "sole food" out of the old Helen Gould stable on 213 West 58th Street, where he also maintained a private ice rink. At some point, Murray painted his name around the Tenth Street doorway, a passage no longer afflicted with the odor of Neoprene and latex like Murray's uptown workshop.
• • In 1968 the Space Shoe went trendy, inspired maybe by the 74-year-old inventor's frisky blonde mistress Anna V. Schloegl, who pried Alan Murray away from his dependence on marital fidelity. Nevertheless, his wife Mrs. Lucille Marsh Murray, whose bloodline included two signers of the Declaration of Independence, refused to divorce him. Alan and Anna did not wed until 1976, when death dissolved Murray's previous marriage.
• • After 81-year-old Alan E. Murray passed on to the great shoe closet in the sky on 24 October 1978, the building acquired a basement full of fortunetellers. Though West Tenth Street's gypsy astrologer Pat Alvarez was arrested for fraud by police in 1999, as part of a crackdown on Tarot card readers and schemers in the Metro area, there is still a psychic in the cellar. Clearly, Murray left his sign and sole visible to seers and sight-seers.
• • Last year Michael and Isaac Namer anounced they would incorporate 130 West Tenth Street into their through-block condominium project, which also pulled in a brick stable designed by Charles Wright in 1874. Apartments will sell for $2,750,000 - $5,975,000. If you have longed to live next door to an active firehouse, where alarms are responded to 24/7, contact a mortgage broker immediately.
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• • Photo: 130 West 10th Street • circa 1975 and in 2004

Real Estate.

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