Explore the History of St. Mark’s Place

Walking the three long blocks of St. Mark’s Place means bearing witness to eras when revolution simmered: first amongst poets, then punks. Novelty still reigns in speakeasies and inventive eateries, albeit in more buttoned-up attire. And for residents of EVGB, a stroll down St. Mark’s Place reveals an array of the avant-garde that endures over the decades.

Originating in the 17th century as farmland, St. Mark’s Place represents a microcosm of the socioeconomic currents shaping New York City’s urban space. The early 19th century saw the street emerge as an elegant residential enclave, anchored by (still intact) landmarks like the Daniel LeRoy House (20 St. Mark’s Place). In later years of the 19th century, New York’s “Little Germany” left its imprint on the neighborhood, with music and social clubs setting up shop along the byway. Meanwhile, the Prohibition era’s covert speakeasies served as a hotbed of creativity.

And in the second half of the 20th century, St. Mark’s Place fostered a rebel spirit through enduring institutions like Manic Panic, pioneering America’s first punk rock boutique in 1977, and helping to spark a tableau of cultural rebellion. Alternative record stores and comic shops nourished local artistry, while 80 St. Marks provided an Off-Broadway incubator. More conventional businesses also flourished, from 19th-century piano manufacturers to bespoke tailors, all catering to the street’s eccentrics and nonconformists.

St. Mark’s Place also incubated literary talent. James Fenimore Cooper resided on the street, while Allen Ginsberg cemented the area’s reputation as a bastion for radical poetry, reading regularly at St. Mark’s Church (131 E 10th St)—which now plays host to an annual 24-hour poetry reading on New Year’s Eve. W.H. Auden embedded himself as the area’s impromptu salon leader for nearly 20 years.

These days, St. Mark’s Place persists as an eclectic bazaar of music, food, and irreverence. Dining options span San Diego-style burritos and Uyghur Chinese fare to modernist tacos at Empellon Al Pastor (132 St. Mark’s Place), and late-night slices from old-school Stromboli Pizza (83 St. Mark’s Place). With genre-defying spaces alongside shops and eateries radiating their own brands of cool, St. Mark’s Place retains its talent for sustaining New York City’s iconoclasts and misfits.

Residents of EVGB’s East Village rentals enjoy present-day amenities, even as the echoes of the past reverberate in the neighborhood they call home. This is a corner of the city still celebrating creative exploits: yesterday’s Bohemians and firebrands having laid the groundwork for what is now one of New York City’s premier destinations for dining and diversion.

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