2. 55 Morton Street, Greenwich Village: 1935-1944
While living in Brooklyn Heights, Jacobs says she went job hunting each morning. She’d walk over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan for interviews, get turned down, and “spend the rest of the day looking around where I had ended up.” Or, if she had already explored that area, she would “spend a nickel on the subway and go arbitrarily to some other stop and look around there.”
One day in 1935, a neighborhood really resonated with her. She got out a stop she liked the name of – Christopher Street – and said she was “enchanted.” She recounts in the same 2001 interview:
I rushed back to Brooklyn. And I said, “Betty I found out where we have to live.” And she said, “Where is it?” And I said, “I don’t know, but you get in the subway and you get out at a place called Christopher Street.” So we went to look for a place where you got out of the subway at Christopher Street.
She says she and her sister found an apartment on “Martin Street” but we believe this was “Morton Street” and mis-transcribed in the interview. In the Random House book Wrestling with Moses, Anthony Flint writes that the sisters lived on Morton Street where “their neighbors there ranged from truckers and railway workers to artists, painters, and poets, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and e. e. cummings. The White Horse Tavern, which for decades had been a gathering place for the bohemians of Greenwich Village, stood just around the corner on Hudson Street.”
According to Becoming Jane Jacobs, the landlord at 55 Morton Street was Robert H. Hemphill, who wrote for the New-York Journal American. Hemphill also gave Jacobs one of her first writing jobs.
Flint also notes that there was not much money left after paying rent and the sisters ate a mixture of Pablum “a nutritious but notably bland cereal for infants” and milk “or sustenance.” Jane worked as a secretary for a candy manufacturing company and submitted her writing as freelance in her off time, getting her first major commission from Vogue.