History of NYC Streets: Extra Place in the East Village

Untapped New York is happy to introduce our newest column, the History of Streets. You might remember our coverage of the lost Minetta Brook under Minetta Street in the West Village, the hidden history of Saint Mark’s Place in the East Village, and the new 6 ½  Avenue. Now, each week we’ll bring you a long-lost story or forgotten tidbit about one of the interesting streets in the City.

Unknown to most New Yorkers,  the little alley in the East Village called “Extra Place” is truly an “Untapped” part of Manhattan.

Extending north from First Street between Second Avenue and the Bowery, Extra Place looks like little more than a dead-end alleyway where late-night drinkers returning from a night out might make a wrong turn. Stretching only about thirty feet wide and 120 feet long, with no signs to indicate its existence, Extra Place is easy to miss. But those few lucky (or just lost) New Yorkers who stumble upon this tiny street might wonder at its origin.  Though these days, Extra Place has been undergoing an extensive makeover,  the little alley has had a long and rich history, which Forgotten NY blogger Kevin Walsh has chronicled in depth in his 2009 article for Huff Post. 

According to the an article by the  New York Times  on the same subject, possibly the earliest mention of the street accompanied the division of a 110-acre farm owned by a man named Philip Minthorne in 1802; after his four sons and five daughters split up the property, a narrow strip of land was left unclaimed. That strip of land became what is now Extra Place.

Throughout the next century and a half, Extra Place saw a somewhat less-than-active existence as the home of metalworking shops and garages, and in the Prohibition era, housed a few of the less-remarkable speakeasies. In the 1970s, the side street saw a spike in stardom (and in public urination) as the back door of famed punk-rock music hall, CBGB. But after the venue closed in 2006, the alley was largely used as a garbage dump, a place for aspiring graffiti artists to practice tagging, and a hangout for drunks and bums.

Now, the city has made efforts to clean up the once-grungy side street. In 2009, Extra Place was paved, and the graffiti on the walls was scrubbed clean. Though they’ve now closed shop, two retail establishments, Bespoke Chocolates and Montana Knox Apparel, took up residence in the same year. Then, in 2010, Oaxaca restaurant opened at the end of the block, and in July 2012, the joint restaurant ventures, Heidi and Extra Place, joined their latin neighbor on either side of the street. The latest member of the family is Gabe Thompson’s L’Apicio, which we checked out last week for a multi-course prosciutto extravaganza with Prosciutto de Parma and Plate Magazine. In November 2011,  FABnyc (also known as Fourth Arts Block NYC) even turned it into an artist’s block, bringing some subsidized color back to the alleyway.

So, the next time you’re living it up on the Bowery, do your best to stumble past this little gem. Or just go explore it while sober.

Get in touch with the author  @kellitrapnell.