Off Freeman Alley, the narrow little street off Rivington near Christie on the Lower East Side, just to the right as you approach Freemans, the unbearable and always busy hipster chow house and swilling den, is a hidden courtyard right out of Dickensian London. It's home to the gallery Mulherin and Pollard, and the entrance happened to be open when I passed one afternoon recently.
The courtyard's untouched oldness stunned me, its utter 19th-century-ness. What have these bricks seen? A lot of squalor, that's for sure. Desperation. The crime that alleys always suss out of the surrounding streets. Immigrant striving. Laundry hung out. Kids carting growlers from the local saloon. Turkeys delivered on Thanksgiving from Tammany Hall ward heelers.
This stairway is slowly losing its battle with balance, gravity and time. Takes a while for the years to slowly bend metal to its purpose.
How long, I wonder, has this tree choked out an existence among the city's smog and congestion? Yet, it's probably older than anyone who lives in the surrounding buildings. Hasn't got much a purchase there within its brick cage.
What purpose did this wooden and metal post once serve, embedded in an ancient brick wall now covered with vines? A lovely time capsule, this courtyard.