19 February 2007

Avalon's Suicide Hall

This shiny box fill you with wonder? Make you contemplate what might be going on within? Cause you to thrill at the hidden history of New York City?

Didn't think so. But the building that used to occupy this bit of Bowery land near Houston sure did the trick for me every time I saw its shiver-inducing outline. It was McGurk's Suicide Hall. Now, isn't that a name straight outa pulp fiction? But it actually existed, a dive so seedy and desperate that the prostitutes that inhabited its upper floors used to guzzle carbolic acid rather than spend another night within its filthy wall. It was open from only 1895 to 1902, but developed a sufficiently grisly reputation during those years to become a tourist attraction. Luc Sante's great history "Low Life" renewed interest in the stark, four-story, red-brick building that once housed McGurk's. Amazingly, it hung around for a long time, sticking out like a jagged tooth on an otherwise desolate block well into the 21st century.

McGurk's met its end in 2005, torn down for this charmless building block of glass and metal that goes by the name of Avalon Bowery Place. (Avalon built the mountain of crap across Houston as well, by the way.) Well, it's still got something in common with the McGurk building. It makes you want to kill yourself, just for different reasons.

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