Wooster Street runs from Canal Street north to West Houston, just east of West Broadway. Its northern reaches from W. Houston to Washington Square were aken over by New York University in the 1960s, which built residential housing towers, but the old path of the street can be easily discerned. It was named for Revolutionary-era General David Wooster (1711-1777) who commanded Connecticut regiments at the Battle of Long Island and Battle of Harlem. He was killed in Danbury during the Battle of Ridgefield against Lord William Howe. According to Henry Moscow’s Street Book, Wooster’s troops were enamored of him, but George Washington thought him inept.
What Hath Crocs Wrought?
It’s arguable that 143 Spring Street, the 3-story Federal-style building at the corner of Wooster, is the oldest building in Soho, as records show it was built in 1818, a year in which James Monroe was president, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, the modern design of the US flag was established, Brooks Brothers opened its first store, the 49th parallel was established as the USA’s midwest northern boundary, the Christmas favorite “Silent Night ” was composed, and Karl Marx and Frederick Douglass were born.
I was familiar with it as the home of barbeque joint Tennessee Mountain, but as I passed it in May 2011, I see Crocs, which makes the ugliest shoes I have come across in my 5 decades, took over the building, slapped up a new brick front (the building is wood frame) new siding on teh wooster side, and gone off to glassy flights of the imagination in their replacement of a garage in the adjoining Wooster Street plot. Glad they preserved the building. But Crocs are still fever-inducingly awful to look at.
I had been unaware that Phaidon Books, which publishes weighty and expensive tomes on art and architecture, actually had a bookstore to sell its products but there has been one here at #83 Wooster between Spring and Broome since 2009. I was feeling the pinch of unemployment and didn’t purchase the wares, but inspected the white-on-white interior.
At 484 Broome, the corner of Wooster, is a massive early 1890s warehouse, of which little has been written. It is home to a chocolatier and The Kitchen, an arts center. A close inspection will reveal sculptures of Ouroboros, the tail-eating dragon, symbolic of the ‘ever-renewing cycle.’
43 Wooster, south of Broome, is the Wooster Street Social Club, which describes itself on Facebook as
a tattoo shop, art gallery, and event space that plays host to TLCs newest reality show NY Ink. But this is far from your typical St. Marks/West 4th walk in tattoo joint. Wooster Street Social Club is in the heart of NYCs SoHo district, which is arguably one of the most artistic, creative, and fashion forward communities in the world.
Tattoos: the new conformity? The ‘reality” TV show NY Ink is filmed here.
The 1910s-era wrought iron wall lamp is a vanishing breed — about two dozen examples remain in Manhattan, with virtually none remaining in the other 4 boroughs. This one, on Wooster between Broome and Grand, formerly carried an incandescent “gumball” luminaire, and this mercury bulb fixture that replaced it is also unique in town.
35 Wooster is one of those magnificent cast iron front buildings Soho is renowned for. With an 18x optical zoom lens, you can slso pick out details unseen by most, such as the word “Lyall” on the pediment. The original owner? The manufacturer? The management company has picked up on this feature and calls the buidling’s residences “The Lyall House Condominiums.”
The ground floor is home to The Drawing Center, which is, as you would expect, an art museum featuring line drawings.
Good old Soho: A parking lot at Grand and Wooster. Approaching this, I thought the mural featured the 3 Stooges for some reason, but getting closer, I recognized it as byShepard Fairey. (The “Obey” gives it away.) The Wooster Collective, which curates street art, is located at 11 Spring Street near the Bowery. (The name “Wooster Street” is unclear to me in this regard.)
First 3 floors of the building featuring the Fairey mural.
I was happy to see the Turon Travel’s Travelers’ Choice bookstore still there at #2 Wooster north of Canal. When I worked at macy’s (2000-2004) I would take the train to Soho on my lunch hour and would stop in here now and then.
Above right: 1887 cast iron front building; below left: 1872 cast iron at Canal and Wooster.
Page photographed May 2011, completed June 22