One of the most magical things about New York is that every street tells a story, from the action unfurling before your eyes to the dense history hidden behind colorful facades. St Marks Pl is one of the best strips of pavement in the city for storytelling, as almost every building on these hallowed blocks is rife with tales from a time when the East Village embodied creative bohemianism.
Technically, St Marks Pl is 8th St between Third Ave and Ave A; it earned its saintly moniker from the like-named church nearby on 10th St. Easily one of NYC’s most famous streets, St Marks Pl is also one of the city’s smallest, occupying only three blocks between Astor Pl and Tompkins Square Park. The road, however, is jam-packed with historical tidbits that would delight any trivia buff. Some of the most important addresses include numbers 2, 4, 6, 96 and 98, and 122 St Marks Pl.
Many years ago, 2 St Marks Pl was the famous Five-Spot, where jazz fiend Thelonious Monk got his start in the 1950s. A cast of colorful characters have left their mark at 4 St Marks Pl: Alexander Hamilton’s widow, Eliza, moved in with two of her children and their spouses in the 1830s; author James Fenimore Cooper (Last of the Mohicans) lived next door at No 6; and Yoko Ono’s Fluxus artists descended upon the building in the 1960s. The buildings at 96 and 98 St Marks Pl are immortalized on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti album. Though it closed in the 1990s, 122 St Marks Pl was the location of a popular cafe called Sin-é, where Jeff Buckley and David Gray often performed.
As you walk along St Marks (going east from Broadway) keep an eye out for the tile-encrusted street poles of the Mosaic Trail. In the late ’80s, a local Vietnam vet named Jim Powers began decorating lampposts with bits of tile, mirror, ceramics, beads and coins as a way to deal with his PTSD. Many of them spell out local East Village landmarks or people, such as 'CBGB,' 'Patti Smith' and 'Please Don't Tell'.