The outside of the building on the corner of Spring and Bowery has evolved into a museum of graffiti and street art over the last 40 years. One-by-one, artists from around the world would put up their wheatpaste, stencil, or poster. Using spray paint, writers would blast the facade with their tag or throw up. Because the exterior was never cleaned, the collection grew and diversified.
The building’s seat in the history of street art was memorialized in the Wooster Collective‘s groundbreaking 11 Spring Art Project. Running for three days in December 2006, the event showcased the work of artists such as Shepard Fairy, Swoon, Dan Witz, London Police, and Lady Pink. The 11 Spring Art Project is now viewed as a turning point where the public began to consider street art as a legitimate form of creative expression rather than just vandalism.
View of Rooftop of 190 Bowery
Also known as 190 Bowery, the building’s history goes much deeper. Built between 1898-99 by Robert Maynicke, it was originally the Germania Bank Building when the surrounding area was known as Little Germany. The neighborhood changed. For a period, the six-story, 72-room structure was unused. Then in the 1960s, photographer Jay Maisel bought it for $102,000. For the last 50 years, it has been his family residence.
The location, design, and history makes 190 Bowery a huge topic of interest. There has always been talk of real estate companies’ attempts to buy the property, but Mr. Maisel claimed to be staying put. That was until recently when Crain’s New York Business caught the building listed on RFR Realty. In 2008, experts estimated that the building could go for $50 million. RFR Realty and Mr. Maisel declined to comment.
A Graff Tours group stops for a photo at the building’s street art covered base.
Viewed from across the street, the structure looks vacant, mysterious, out-of-place from its surroundings. There is a noticeable contrast between its tagged, painted, and poster covered foundation and refined architectural style, Renaissance Revival, and beautiful patina rooftop. People who come on our Classics tour start asking about it when we are still blocks away. For the first time in years, the fate of 190 Bowery, one of the last great ghosts of historic NYC, is up in the air.