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11 Spring Street

Theme: Buildings. Notes/research by Tara Catalino.

For years, I have walked along Elizabeth St. (seeing as that is where my favorite watering hole is). On many occasions, as I walked past the building on the corner of Elizabeth and Spring (11 Spring St.) I have tried to figure out what the story was. In every window of the building, there was a white curtain, cinched in the middle, with a candle burning on the windowsill. But other than knowing that someone would have to light those candles - the building showed absolutely no sign of life.

Well, to some relief - the mystery has finally been solved. But unfortunately, my relief is bittersweet. The building is now for sale. Read on....


...11 Spring Street, has inspired conspiracy theories, fear, loathing and -- in the pages of the New York Times -- utter perplexion.

The reason for all the attention: in an area of Nolita where apartments trade hands for millions and shoestring retailers are forced out to make room for the C. Ronson's of the world, this building has no ground-level retail and, near as anyone can tell, no residents. Yet every evening the windows glow with candle-like light, reflecting an ethereal glow upon curtains hung just so in every window.

...We understand that the place has been owned by a gentleman for many decades who keeps the building in this netherworld of un-development for the simple fact that he likes it that way. But now something has changed (what, we do not yet know), and the entire building is up for sale. (www.LockhartSteele.com, May 22nd entry)


"I know the photographer who lives right next door to 11 Spring in the old Germania bank building at the corner of Bowery and Spring (190 Bowery) which is an equally intriguing spot. His name is Jay Maisel, he was a big advertising photographer back in the day and bought the 6-story building bank in the mid 60s. He's kept lots of the interior and old fixtures and doors intact, using the basement vault as an archive for all his negatives and prints. The entrance lobby is now a combination office and basketball court. The executive rooms upstairs are devoted to galleries of Maisel's work. [NYCJPG Editor's note: this is indeed an equally neat old building and we will get some photos of it to place here shortly.] Anyhow, I once asked him about the mysterious 11 Spring St. building and he told me that it was occupied by the set designer (or production designer) of Blue Man Group. Apparently he's an odd guy. And apparently, he's left. Maisel also once mentioned that Diesel was trying to force him out of his building so they could build a superstore there. It didn't go through." (www.gawker.com, May 28)


"One thing that can be added to the dialogue about the building is that 11 Spring Street is known in the arts community as one of the most famous locations in the world to see and post street art. Artists from all over the world know about 11 Spring and travel to New York specifically to post their art there. Most people remember 11 Spring for the massive poster of Mao that years ago was placed on the side of the building (the poster was done by the LA based artist, Shepard Fairey) and remarkably was never removed. 11 Spring is the home of some of the best street art in the world, and artists come from countries all over the world just to place their art on the building. If you walk by, you will see hundreds of individual pieces of art - from stickers to posters to graffiti." (www.gawker.com, May 29)


As mentioned in this space back in May, and then as discussed at length on Gawker, the building at 11 Spring Street in Nolita is intriguing. Like, mondo intriguing.

Why? Reasons include: (a) curtains in every window, with eerie candles every night; (b) owner seldom (never?) seen entering or leaving; (c) ramps for horses between floors instead of stairs (used to be a stable); (d) one of the most famous locations in the world to post street art; (e) nearby neighbor is famed photog Jay Maisel; (f) was known as an "ice house." So when it went on the market in May, questions swirled about whether the building would be maintained, or divvied up into yet another high rent downtown condo. After speaking with the seller's broker, Larry Michaels at Douglas Elliman today, we have some good news.

"The deal on the building has closed," Michaels whispered. (Actually, he spoke in a normal tone of voice, but we've always wanted to write that.) "It's been purchased by a buyer who plans to restore it to its original texture and develop it into a single residence." What about the future of the curtains and candles? Probably gone, but "at least it will be occupied by a single family that will restore it to its original status. I'm grateful it got into these kind of hands." ... The family plans to add a penthouse too, and architects (apparently really cool architects that designed a swimming pool surrounded by aquariums for a residence nearby in Nolitaanyone got the scoop?) are at drafting tables now so work can get underway within 90 days.

Hopefully I've told you something new here. Maybe you know all this already. If not, then consider it my NYCJPG contribution for the day!!!















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