Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The St. Denis Building

The St. Denis building south of Union Square is full of stories. For 165 years, it's been a place for the famous and the radical. Most recently, it's been full of shrinks.



But that's all coming to an end as the building is emptied--displacing hundreds of small business people (myself included)--and as Union Square changes under the pressures of hyper-gentrification and City Halls' "Tech Hub."



I talked to the people inside the St. Denis, and wrote up the story of the Death and Life of a Great American Building for the New York Review of Books Daily. Read it here.

10 comments:

Mitch Golden said...

Wait, are they knocking it down?

sarah in brooklyn said...

That was a beautiful, heartbreaking story.

Laurie Gwen Shapiro said...

Thank you for writing this.

translation workshop said...

absolutely beautiful piece--thank you for writing it. And screw this heartless city (and capitalism).

Ross Tappen said...

Thanks for this lovely tribute and careful history of the St. Denis. I have been appreciating your blog for some time, and recently recommended it to a friend who has been living in the East Village for over 40 years. But I also learned another new thing. I know Brian, whom you interviewed for the article. Jessica is my wife, and I did not know you knew each other until she brought this article to my attention. So -- nice to "meet" you.

Ross Tappen

Goggla said...

Magnificent article! Brought me to tears. This was like reading about the slow death of an entire family. It's a shame what is happening to this city.

Pat said...

Thank you for the interesting and informative article. I worked in that building 1979 - 1981 and did not know its rich history. Dr. Ira Progoff, a psychologist born in Brooklyn, now deceased, who had studied with Carl Jung in Switzerland had "Dialogue House" there where he facilitated the Intensive Journal Program, which was a method of journal writing he developed. I took some journal workshops and wound up working for him doing clerical work. He had a dog, which used to be his daughter's and that was the office mascot. His editor was Felix Morrow, an elderly Jewish man who was a former supporter of Leon Trotsky, used to write his speeches, I was told. Morrow wrote a book in 1938 about the Spanish Civil War, "Revolution and Counter Revolution in Spain". Later in life Morrow turned from politics to spiritual inquiry and published occult books. A Jesuit priest, Lewis Cox, worked there as well who was an associate of Daniel Berrigan. I met a lot of interesting people while working there. Once I answered the phone and it was Stewart Brand (Whole Earth Catalog) calling for Ira. Once a rabbi named Joseph Gelberman, aka "the hippie rabbi", came in to see Ira. Rabbi Gelberman was teaching Kabbalah years before the celebs took it up. Down the hall from us was an African American man who made clothes, he made a dress for me to wear to a wedding out of a sarong I brought back from Indonesia. There was also a woman with a tiny office where she produced a newsletter about rock bands called "Rock Read." On another floor was someone who was an editor for Interview magazine, he was friendly with people who worked at Dialogue House. Well it was quite a stew or gumbo of people, now that I look back on it I was lucky I saved my old journals. Maybe I will haul them out of the cupboard and give them a read and remember what I was sweating on to those pages in that great building that incubated so many tales.

Donnie Moder said...

Long time ago, I went to some psychiatrists who had office's in old luxury apt houses on Central Park West. I always felt that these old offices were the perfect setting. Same with one in Greenwich Village.

JQ LLC said...

Is this building landmarked??

Richard Signorelli said...

I am one of the last tenants at the St Denis having moved my law practice to the fifth floor with my two dachshund dogs, Pogo and Grady, in 2003. I moved there when Pogo suffered a severe and paralyzing back injury in the summer of 2003 and I needed an office close to my home so I could care for him. When he heard of this situation, Robbie, the long time manager, allowed me to rent an office sight unseen and ahead of others on the existing wait list. Shortly thereafter, Pogo learned to walk again but I never wanted to leave and the dogs were with me every single day at the St Denis. There are only a handful of tenants left now and almost all of us will be departing by the end of this week. Pogo is still with me as he approaches age 20 and we are trying to visit every day though my office is largely empty at this point in preparation for the relocation of my office downtown. This was a truly unique and special office building which I will miss forever. From its dog friendly policies (there were four dachshund dogs in my hallway for many years) to management always being fair with rent increases for the tenants (thank you Robbie for everything you did for us)to one of the former retail tenants being permitted to live happily in the back of his storefront for many years. Safe to say, there will never be another office building quite like it. Goodbye St. Denis.