146 West Fourth StreetManhattan > Greenwich Village > 146 West Fourth Street
When the Corcoran Group unloaded a 2-bedroom co-op advertised during 2000 for $835,000.00 "in a pre-war loft building" at 146 West 4th (including 450 square feet of private roof space) - - which finally sold after being on the market for 26 weeks - - there were more than a few snickers in the West Village.
• • At house-warming parties, in between mouthfuls of wine, West Fourth Street residents can reminisce about the building's criminal past, bribes, money-laundering, raids by undercover agents, suicides, and other morsels.
• • In September 1871, a building permit was filed granting J.J. Lyons, the owner of this "brick first class dwelling" on a puny lot size [22' by 42'] to expand upwards. Lyons enlarged his "dwelling" from three stories and an attic to another "one and a half stories with a mansard roof."
• • Serenity ended a few decades later when villainy and police visits would become routine. The dwellers would be arrested for running an underground poolhall, a speakeasy, an illegal after-hours bar, and for quarterbacking money-laundering operations for the Carlo Gambino crime family. Yes, an address with a storied past is 146 W. 4th.
• • Carlyle and Viola Sherlock prospered at this address during Prohibition. Their illegal cabaret shows were so successful that on 17 February 1927 Carlyle expanded The Pepper Pot's operation to the adjoining building. Naming their (wink-wink) liquor-fueled establishment after the spicy national dish of Guyana, the married couple regularly had a rousing group of paying patrons partying well into the wee hours. Wisely, Sherlock generously paid off the local precinct. Even when his neighbors tried to sue him for "maintaining a public nuisance" [i.e., a speakeasy] and non-stop noise, Carlyle Sherlock invariably won the case because the complaining residents were afraid to show up at Jefferson Market Court.
• • Once in awhile, of course, the police handcuffed Viola Sherlock for violating the Volstead Act. Even Texas Guinan was arrested . . . then released. In January 1923, the cops locked up the athletic tennis-playing Viola [born in 1895] as well as a few out-of-towners from Chicago who were buying way too many drinks. But Carlyle and Viola's popularity was such that The Pepper Pot was made "the official and only stop in Greenwich Village of the Gray Line, Commodore Line, and others" - - or so stated their press materials.
• • By 1971, the undercover police and federal agents became even more interested in the mortgage holder of this townhouse. On the books, his name was Nicholas Di Martino, businessman. Nicky was the step-son of Mafia soldier Paul Di Bella who had his hand in many gay clubs and nightspots in the Village. By then the groundfloor premises were named The New Showplace. Godfather Carlo Gambino had wanted to preserve the legacy of the previous club, The Showplace, where Jerry Herman once put on his revues, and an unknown actress Phyllis Newman choreographed live entertainment.
• • No doubt the bullet holes were spackled over before the building went [ahem] co-op.
• • Photo: 146 West Fourth Street • circa 1927