9. Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg
Widely accepted as a founding father of the Beatniks, On the Road author Jack Kerouac is credited by fellow beat writer John Clellon Holmes as the creator of the label “beat” itself. The term, which today conjures up images of free-love-preaching hippies and idealist anarchists, came about as the embodiment for the rock-bottom feeling and need for unhindered freedom of personal expression that Keoruac saw exuding from his mid 20th century New York City contemporaries.
On page 54 of On the Road, Kerouac wrote, “They were like the man with the dungeon stone and the gloom, rising from the underground, the sordid hipsters of America, a beat generation that I was slowly joining.” However, Kerouac didn’t spark this revolution on his own. The movement was the intellectual product of the deep friendship between Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs formed at Columbia College. Their collegiate journey together even took the trio through murder case charges as they helped mutual friend and fellow beat originator, Lucien Carr, dispose of the body of a love-smitten, stalker professor.
As explored by historian Jonah Raskin in his work American Scream, eventually the fresh landscape of San Francisco would also lead the friends to the famous beat hub, Six Gallery, but New York City was never very far. The Marlton Hotel at 5 West 8th Street is the 107-room property that was Kerouac’s home when he wrote The Subterraneans and Tristessa. Over the years, the Marlton has housed a number of creatives from poet Edna St. Vincent Millay to beloved actress Julie Andrews.
Other Noteable Beatnik writer locations include “Café Wah?” located at 115 MacDougal Street and Washington Square Park. “Cafe Wah?” was home of Beatnick open-mic nights for Beat musicians and authors alike, including Kerouac and Ginsberg as well as Bob Dylan. However, Washington Square Park is widely regarded as the epicenter of the Beatnik community. It became a Sunday tradition for Beatniks to meet at Washington Square Park to share their work and discuss ideas. The park was also the location of the famous Beatnik Riot of 1961, which was sparked when the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner denied the Beatnik’s permit to play their music and share their work without just cause.