The Allen Ginsberg Project recently had the chance to see Ginsberg's longtime home at 437 E. 12th St. — up on the fourth floor. As Jill reported at Blah Blog Blah back in June, Ginsberg's apartment — where he lived from 1975 to 1996 — is being renovated. (He had three apartments in the building: this one in which he lived; one in which he worked; and one that he sublet to friends and students. As NYC Songlines notes, he lived here longer than any other home in New York.)
Jill's friend, whose apartment looked into Ginsberg's kitchen, shared some memories in June about her neighbor here between First Avenue and Avenue A. "We didn't bother with each other much, but he'd take photos of my shirtless carpenter boyfriend when he'd use the fire escape for an impromptu workshop. You never knew who'd be gathered around his kitchen table: a PBS film crew, a minion of men with black garb and payis chanting Sabbath prayers, etc. I never took photos of him, but Allen with his robe open illuminated by refrigerator light is burned into my retina, for better or worse! After he left, I found myself missing him."
Peter Orlovsky, the poet and longtime partner of Ginsberg, stayed in the apartment up until about a year ago, I was told. (Orlovsky died this past May of lung cancer at a respite care center in Williston, Vermont.) The apartment sat empty for nearly a year before the renovations started late in the spring.
Here's a photo that The Allen Ginsberg Project took a few weeks ago... along with one of Ginsberg's own shots...
The Ginsberg caption reads: "View out my kitchen window August 18 1984, familiar Manhattan back-yard, wet brick-walled Atlantis sea garden's Alianthus (stinkweed Tree of Heaven) boughs waiving in rainy breeze, Stuyvesant Town's roof two blocks north on 14th Street - I focused on the raindrops on the clothesline." [Allen Ginsberg Estate]
I figured this apartment was probably ready to hit the market. I contacted Dmitry (Daniel) Kramp, Kramp Residential Team, City Connection Realty Inc., who has been renting some of the other renovated apartments in the building.
I asked him when the apartment might be available for rent and if the listing will include a mention of its former occupant. Kramp responded, saying he wasn't sure if Ginsberg's name would be referenced since he already had a suitor lined up for the apartment.
Later, though, Kramp sent along the listing, which includes a line about Ginsberg, as well as photos of the renovated space. The apartment is going for $1,750.
Harry Smith stayed here for nine months in 1985 while he recovered from an accident. The small spare room he used (dubbed "Harry's Room") has been converted into a bathroom.
Through the years, this building has been host to an array of poets, musicians and artists.... some of whom are in the photo below...
Via: Edith Ginsberg, Cliff Fyman, Bob Rosenthal, Allen Ginsberg, John Godfey, Steven Taylor, Peter Orlovsky, Greg Masters, Michael Scholnick, in front of 437 E. 12th St., where all except Edith lived. Nov. 14, 1982. photo: c. Stephen Shames.
Among the many other notables.... Arthur Russell lived here for many years... ditto for Richard Hell.
Despite all this history, I'm not sure what kind of spirit, if any, can still exist in such an extensively renovated apartment, a place where Ginsberg, Orlovsky and assorted guests such as Herbert Huncke and William Burroughs held forth around a crowded kitchen table.
As Jill's neighbor wrote back in June: "Soon I'll look out at yet another set of white mini-blinds behind cheap replacement windows, illuminated by halogen floor lamp, with soundtrack by yet another long-past-teenage idiot amping-up to "Baba O'Reilly" as irony sails over his head and out into the beer-soaked night."
For further reading:
Howl (Blah Blog Blah)
The Allen Ginsberg Project
Via: Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Louis Cartwright, Herbert Huncke, William Burroughs, Allen & Peter's new apartment, 437 E. 12th St., New York City, December 1975. Photographer unknown.