Review: St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street

St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America's Hippest Street
St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street by Ada Calhoun
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Things to love about this book:

Like everyone she interviewed for this book, I only saw St. Marks in my era as its topic. I love that she started with pre-colonial lower Manhattan and spent so much ink on the Stuyvesant family. Just the simple fact that Bowery comes from bouwerie, which is Dutch for a self sufficient farm. Who among us who thrashed at CBGB ever even saw a self sufficient farm? Tear up the concrete and show me the roots of Pegleg Pete’s pear tree!

Peter Cooper’s vision of a more humane NYC through education:
“Cooper Union’s idealistic mission was to offer a free education in the arts and sciences to both men and women.” This was back in the 1850s. Yay, Peter Cooper!
Night classes for the working class, free public readings on Wednesdays favored women’s rights and opposed slavery. [p.15-17]

Don’t let the thickness of this book scare you – It’s a fast and very enjoyable read through the politics, landscape, and crazy characters of St. Mark’s Place. All throughout, I could easily picture the addresses and street corners of my teenage years, transformed by an earlier era. I wish I’d known this stuff while I lived there. Reading this makes me want to go back, book in hand, and look at all these places again.

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