Many people today revere members of the Beat Generation for their reckless decision-making, constant exploration, and hunger to disrupt societal rules and conventional writing styles. Other people — not so much. However, it is for these reasons that names such as Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti are immortalized in history.
As the Beat Generation writers took over the 1950s literary scene with works such as On The Road, Howl and Naked Lunch, they captured the rebels during a decade of conformity and traditional societal roles. Before the writers moved the center of the movement to San Francisco, they took over New York City with their adventures and cemented their feelings about the city in their writing. From a shared alma mater to the scene of a murder to oft-frequented bars, here are some New York City haunts and hangouts of the Beat Generation.
1. The Alma Mater: Columbia University
It was within the gates of Columbia University that Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr and William S. Burroughs met. These literary luminaries often spent time in each others’ dorm rooms and drank at The West End Bar that shuttered in 2006. Photos that remain of the young Beat Generation writers are often set at Columbia‘s Low Steps by the fountains.
Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac both lived Hartley Hall, a Columbia dorm also inhabited at one time by Langston Hughes and Timothée Chalamet. The university suspended Ginsburg after he wrote an inappropriate phrase on his window to upset the maid he suspected was Antisemitic. Although Ginsberg graduated in 1948, he would return to the University’s mental health facilities after pleading insanity to avoid jail time for a robbery he committed. Kerouac never graduated because he cracked his tibia, ending his football scholarship at the university.