I feel guilty every time I mine Manhattan before 1990 or NYC 1950 to Present on Facebook for content, but a user named Dana DeLoach posted the above image earlier this week on the latter, and it immediately grabbed me. I asked her if I could repurpose it here, and she graciously agreed.
This is, of course, the intersection of East 12th Street and Broadway, snapped from above by Ms. DeLoach in 1971.
There’s loads to love about this photo beyond its simply striking composition. Personally speaking, these four corners have special resonance. I moved just steps to the west of this photograph in 1996, and lived there until 2002 — arguably some of the happiest days of my life. This was “my corner.”
But even before I lived here, this patch had a special significance for me. Growing up on the Upper East Side, I’d come down to Union Square on the 6 train and come to this very intersection to hit the original site of Forbidden Planet, originally directly across from the Strand on the northwest corner of East 12th and Broadway (you can see shots of that corner through the ages by clicking right here.) Beyond that, I’d continue further down 12th Street until I got to Fifth Avenue, where my dad’s office was for a while (he worked at Forbes for a long spell — which, oddly, no longer holds court in that building anymore).
Funny thing about pictures like these -- we look at them from the filter of our own experience, often forgetting that these streets have existed for veritable LIFETIMES prior to that experience. I had absolutely ZERO idea that the southeast corner ever played host to a record store (and we all know how much I love those). When I first moved down there, it was an antique store. It later turned into a Quiznos sandwich shop and is now a coffee house called The Bean. The Strand, refreshingly, is still very much there — and looks pretty much the same in 2015 as it did in 1971, God bless it.
Last thought about this. The week I moved into my apartment on East 12th, I went out for beers with my friend Rob C. at one point in the evening, we passed across this very intersection again and discovered a small patch of wet cement right there in front of the Strand on the northeast corner. I forget what Rob carved, but I pulled out a pencil from my pocket and carved — I’m somewhat ashamed to admit — “KISS Rules” in the drying concrete.
Almost two decades later, you can still faintly make it out.