Description & Building Alterations
This building is an altered version of a collection of row house buildings constructed in 1833 by Thomas E. Davis. Davis was a prolific real estate developer that purchased property on Eighth Street from Peter Stuyvesant to develop St. Mark’s Place. The spacious homes built on large lots were appealing to wealthy New Yorkers. Later in the century, as the neighborhood changed and a predominantly immigrant working-class emerged, 19 and 21 St. Marks were purchased by a German Music Club. In 1874, these two row houses were bought and combined to create a German singing club called the Arion Society. In 1887, the Arion Society moved uptown and Baden-born brewer and developer George Ehret purchased 19-23 St. Marks and turned the buildings into a large community hall and ballroom named Arlington Hall. This was a popular venue that hosted everything from weddings and dances to union conventions and political events, including a speech by Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt in 1895 in which he explained his view on the Excise Law. This event amassed a swarm of hundreds of people. In 1905, mayor candidate William Randolph Hearst held a political rally as well.
The Chinese Guild was founded in 1889 at 23 St. Mark’s Place. Though it was formed in partnership with St. Bartholomew’s Church at Madison Avenue and 44th Street, the Guild served primarily as a secular social welfare and legal advocacy organization for the city’s Chinese American community. Membership cost $2 to join and $1 for every additional year. Guy Maine, formerly a Chinese tea merchant, acted as the superintendent. The Guild included up to 600 members, many of whom worked as laundrymen and faced frequent interpersonal and institutional discrimination in their daily lives. In addition to organizing a choir and Sunday school lessons for its members, The Guild provided English lessons, assistance with rental negotiations and legal documentation, and support contacting doctors, lawyers, and police.
In 1920, the Polish National Home bought 19-25 St. Marks, and Arlington Hall was officially closed. The buildings were occupied by Polish businesses and organizations, and eventually a popular restaurant known as The Dom. By 1960, Stanley Tolkin ran the famous Stanley’s Bar downstairs and rented the upstairs for psychedelic light shows. In 1966, Andy Warhol and Paul Morrisey began renting the upstairs space and created The Dom nightclub, for which The Velvet Underground was the house band and who were forerunners of the punk music which took off in the neighborhood in the mid-1970s. The Fugs, a band formed in 1964 by Tuli Kupferberg and Ed Sanders, performed here. The upstairs was then leased to multimedia artists Rudi Stern and Jackie Cassen for their psychedelic light shows. In 1967, The Dom became The Electric Circus thanks to former William Morris agent Jerry Brandt and his partner Stanton Freeman. Acts who performed there include Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Blue Oyster Cult, The Doors, Sly and the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, Terry Riley and Morton Subotnick, and many more…
A bomb exploded on the Electric Circus dance floor in 1970, injuring 15 people. It was alleged that the bomb was placed by a member of the Black Panthers. Struggling to recover, in 1971 The Electric Circus was sold to Joyce Hartwell’s All-Craft Center, a non-alcoholic community meeting place which gave retail space to local artists, taught women carpentry skills, and acted as a rehab and half-way house for recovering addicts. The community center lasted until 2003. Today, four buildings have been combined to form a sprawling and consolidated mini-mall with newly designed condominiums on the upper floors.
Block : 464 / Lot : 48 / Building Date : 1833 / Original Owner : Thomas E. Davis / Original Use : Residential/ Original Architect : Unknown