A Weekend of Open Houses

It’s the time of year when some of New York City’s most intriguing architectural sites are offered up to the public complete with guided tours. To prepare you for the eighth annual Open House New York weekend this Saturday and Sunday, The Local got the insider scoop on where to head in the East Village.

New York Marble Cemetery
41 1/2 Second Avenue (at Second Street)

Hours: Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

DSC_0201Tania Barnes New York Marble Cemetery.

New York City’s oldest non-sectarian burial ground dates back to 1830 and sits on a half-acre of land, tucked behind a row of townhouses on Second Avenue. More garden than cemetery, the 156 underground vaults are indicated not by markers in the grass but by plaques on the walls.

Hellenophiles, rejoice: at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, the Natasa Trifan group will perform a 20-minute dance based on the Greek myth of the minotaur. “We’re Greek revival,” Caroline DuBois, president of the cemetery, says by way of explanation. Be sure to also check out the placards on how to bury someone and the main causes of death — from the ubiquitous consumption and still birth to the rarefied, such as scrofula (“King’s Evil” – number 137), Winneplegia (number 142), and Womb Complaint (number 143.)

DSC_0170Tania Barnes New York City Marble Cemetery.

New York City Marble Cemetery
52-74 East Second Street (at First Avenue)

Hours: Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
New York’s other non-sectarian burial ground, built in 1831, is just around the corner with 258 underground marble vaults. Volunteers will be around to answer questions. Ask about James Monroe, the first U.S. president to be buried in New York, whose body was later moved from this cemetery to Richmond, Va.

Also check out photo displays of vault interiors and before and after pictures of the cemetery’s restoration in 1998.

Performance Space 122
150 First Avenue (at East Ninth Street)

Hours: Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

DSC_0161Tania Barnes Performance Space 122.

“Fame” breathed new life into this abandoned public school, built back in 1867, when the film was shot here at the end of the 1970s. You won’t be able to get on stage this weekend, but staff and performers will share three decades of performance legend and lore while taking you on a tour of the two performance spaces (one was the school cafeteria), dressing rooms, and the “tunnel” – a narrow strip of space chock-a-block with technical equipment.

Don’t miss Spalding Grey’s desk, where the monologist and playwright performed with nothing but a glass of water and a microphone. You won’t see the inside of the “tree house,” the small loft accessible by a hatch that is Marketing Headquarters and also home to a large porcelain lion devouring a Barbie. But if you’re lucky, you might see the ghost of Ethel Eichelberger, one of the first transgendered performing artists. Fear not: “She’s very friendly,” says Derek Lloyd, the production director.

The Wild Project
195 East Third Street (at Avenue A)
Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (12 p.m. and 2 p.m. tours with the architect)

The Wild ProjectStephanie Butnick Solar panels on the roof of The Wild Project.

This former manufacturing building is now an entirely eco-friendly theater and art gallery. The one-story space, reopened by The Wild Project in 2007, features rotating art exhibits in the entrance and an 89-seat theater in the back.

Don’t miss the 1,500 square foot green roof, equipped with solar panels and skylights. Did we mention you can only get up there through a metal hatch that opens outward at the top of a green colored staircase? We haven’t seen anything that cool since “Lost” ended.

Relax in the chairs up on the grassy roof, but make sure you’re back in time for the performances at 7 p.m. both evenings.

East Fourth Street Cultural District
61 East Fourth Street
Hours: Saturday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. (The 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. tours are sold out, but we hear you might be able to snag a spot in the event of a no-show.)

4th Street Photo GalleryStephanie Butnick Alex Harsley stands in the Fourth Street Photo Gallery, which he founded almost 40 years ago.

A visitor’s center will be set up at the Fourth Arts Block (FAB!) headquarters with maps for individual walking tours of the arts and culture hub. You won’t want to miss the Coffeehouse Chronicles, which will take place Saturday at 3 p.m. at nearby La MaMa E.T.C.

FAB!’s Tamara Greenfield is leading the tours, which will highlight the history of the neighborhood and the development of the area from the 1800s all the way to 2006, when it became an official cultural district. Each tour will go inside a different building in the cultural district – a tour on the street is easy, Ms. Greenfield explains, but with so much going on in the theaters and studios she decided she would showcase something different each hour.

Look up at the scaffolding on the block and you’ll see even more art. Public art installations can be found all throughout the cultural district, Ms. Greenfield says. These also keep neighbors and visitors informed about what’s going on with the buildings under construction.

Take a detour over to the Sixth Street Garden, where longtime neighborhood photographer and Fourth Street Photo Gallery founder Alex Harsley will be screening his video “10 Years After 9/11.” Screenings are Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. and Mr. Harsley will host a discussion of the video 30 minutes before each screening.

Neighborhood Preservation Center
232 East 11th Street (at Second Avenue) 
St. Marks Historic Ernest Flagg Rectory
Hours: Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Neighborhood Preservation CenterStephanie Butnick The library at the Neighborhood Preservation Center.

The answer to pretty much everything you’ve ever wanted to know about New York City history can be found inside the library at the Neighborhood Preservation Center, which is located in what used to be the home of the Rector of St. Marks Church in-the-Bowery.

Search the computer databases in the library resource center, find landmark designations and learn about research referrals. Peruse photographs and documents that detail the history of the building and St. Marks Church. Don’t miss the short films about different New York City neighborhoods, which Program Administrator Alexis Stephens says will be screened throughout the day.

You won’t see the upstairs of the building, which includes the office of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation or the basement office spaces rented to non-profit groups Green Guerillas and the Manhattan Land Trust. But never fear, because information about these organizations – and all New York City non-profits for that matter – will be available to visitors in the library.

What If! Innovation Company
137 Second Avenue (at St. Marks Place)
Hours: Saturday and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Tours are both days at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.)

What if! officesStephanie Butnick Offices at the What If! Innovation Company feature some of the building’s original tile designs on the floor and walls.

If you’ve always wanted to know what’s inside the long-vacant old German clinic on Second Avenue, this is your chance. Step inside the former Stuyvesant Polyclinic Hospital and find yourself in the two-year-old offices of What if!, the consulting firm that renovated the building and turned it into what Lori Knowles, who will be leading the tours, calls a “cool, creative space.” You can take Ms. Knowles’ word for it – after all, she’s a licensed New York City tour guide – or you could go see the whimsical mix of modern and historical elements for yourself.

Look out for original intact tiling on the floor of the lobby and second floors. The tile detailing found on the walls of the lobby was cleaned in renovation, while the same tile remains untouched on the second floor walls. Also during renovation the lobby’s dropped ceilings were restored to higher heights, the previously painted-over lobby skylights were redone and the roof skylight, visible from the large staircase in the lobby, was installed.