KIEHL’S, East Village

by Kevin Walsh

The northeast corner of 3rd Avenue and East 13th is historic in two ways: a pear tree planted by Peter Stuyvesant himself stood here in what was originally his farm from 1647 to 1867, a span of 220 years. It only perished when two horse-drawn wagons crashed into it. It’s a matter of serendipity that it wasn’t in the path of East 13th Street, which was cut through in the 1820s.

The plaque commemorating the long-lived tree was actually in the wrong place for 46 years, from 1959-2005!

The apothecary on the corner, Kiehl’s, has been there since 1851, so the tree and the drugstore shared the space for 16 years. Now renowned for beauty products, Kiehl’s was founded as a homeopathic drugstore by pharmacist John Kiehl.

In a unique setting that features the original crystal-drop chandeliers hanging from a 1930s acoustic-tile ceiling the sales staff, outfitted in white lab coats, dispense in-depth advice and generous samples of the many facial cleansers, scrubs, toners, moisturizers, masques, shaving, sunscreen, hair care and baby care products. A rather incongruous tradition is the display of vintage motorcycles inside the store.

Kiehl’s can be partially seen in this 1940 tax photo from the Municipal Archives.

Kiehl’s continues to offer essences, including Original Musk Oil, a sample of which was discovered in the store’s basement in the 1920s and, since its reintroduction in 1963, has become the most widely imitated fragrance in the world (by Kiehl’s rendering).

For the first 150 years of its existence this was the only Kiehl’s, but after its acquisition by L’Oreal, it has expanded to more than 30 locations.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.