Jeez-- just what the Village needs-- another Duane Reade! Kim's Video used to live in the basement of this building on the corner of Bleecker and Laguardia-- it was a dank, fetid, dark little hole, but it was the only place within ten blocks where you could rent a video or DVD, and the clerks knew what they were talking about. The facade of the building was decorated with strange plexiglass sculptures-- it's too bad that we can't find a picture of them online.

It's not that Duane Reade is bad-- but there's a Rite Aid on the next corner, and a drugstore literally on the same block. There's also two other Duane Reade's about two blocks away on Broadway. At this rate, ten years from now every storefront below 14th Street will be occupied by big box drug stores, and you'll have to go to Williamsburg to buy a bagel or get a movie. Awesome!

Theodore Grunewald wrote in with a little more info on the building's history-- very interesting stuff:

This Gothamist post on the Bleecker St. Duane Reed --now housed in what used to be Kim’s Video made me a little nostalgic, and reminded me that this building --like an onion, --has a lot of layers that have different associations to multiple generations of New Yorkers.

Pre-Kim's --as the Bleecker St. Cinema, --it’s where I and a good many New Yorkers experienced our adolescent introduction to “art films” --just as Woody Allen’s character introduced them to his niece in his 1998 film "Crimes and Misdemeanors".

Here are some pictures of the old Bleecker St. Cinema from those days:

In jazz age New York, this was where the starving architect Raymond Hood lived (and struggled) while designing his winning entry in the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition that would make him world famous. In exchange for cheap rent and spaghetti dinners, he re-designed this building for his landlord, restaurateur Placido Mori.

Hood would later go on to design the American Standard, a.k.a. Radiator Building on 40th St. overlooking Bryant Park...

...and the 42nd St. Mc-Graw Hill and Daily News towers, together with Rockefeller Center --before dying prematurely at the age of 53.

The most brain-peelingly interesting layer of this building's hidden history though, is the mysterious Spanish Civil War era, anti-war frescos painted on the walls of the building’s interior by Spanish artist Luis Quintanilla in the 1940’s and hidden behind false walls. They were discovered by art historian Dr. Francis V. O'Connor, and were written up by the architectural historian and sleuth extraordinaire, Christopher Gray in his excellent, 1990 NYT article.


I wonder if the frescos are still there, disguised beyond all recognition behind their thick pancake makeup of fluorescent light and sheetrock.

I guess Duane Reed felt that the only "values" that New Yorkers want are in cosmetics –-not our hidden Greenwich Village history, or the cool work of a great, though forgotten Spanish wall muralist.