Description & Building Alterations
No. 285 is the “sister” building to No. 287 next door. These buildings are two highly intact Greek Revival row houses dating from 1837, built on land originally owned by the prominent Fish family. The only houses ever to stand on their lots, both have miraculously survived years of neighborhood change and exist today in excellent physical condition. Nos. 285 and 287 accommodated multiple families by the mid-19th century. Unlike other houses, however, these two managed to escape being raised in height or extended in the rear, and therefore look much as they did when they were first built. The two buildings showcase pilasters rather than columns, as well as modest entryways. They retain original cap-molded lintels, transomed doorways, and iron stoop railings.
For many years, the building was the home of Steve Cannon and his organization, The Gathering Of The Tribes. Known as “the keeper of the multicultural flame and flavor of downtown Bohemia” since the early 1960’s, Cannon originally hailed from New Orleans and as the youngest of 8 children. Influenced by his family’s penchant for storytelling, recitation, and music, he pursued writing and cultural endeavors. When he arrived in New York City in the early 1960’s, his only interest was becoming part of the downtown scene where writers, artists, musicians, dancers, photographers and many others expressing their artistic visions could gather and exchange ideas. He has lived in the East Village ever since, over the years mixing with such legendary figures as Norman Mailer, Miles Davis, Cecil Taylor, Leonard Bernstein, Charlie Parker, LeRoi Jones, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, David Henderson, Henry Threadgill, and EL Doctorow. Cannon was instrumental in the founding of many of the Lower East Side’s and East Village’s cultural institutions such as the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, the Lower East Side Arts Festival, the Howl Festival (of which he is the is Poet Laureate), and the Nuyorican Poets Café. The Gathering of the Tribes ran out of his apartment here, and included a gallery and gathering space in this Greek Revival house built by the founder of The Nation magazine, Hamilton Fish. Their website states: Tribes was conceived as a venue for underexposed artists, as well as a networking center and locus for the development of new talent. The formation of Tribes was motivated by the thriving artistic community in and around the Lower East Side: poetry at The Nuyorican Poets Café; performances and plays at the Living Theater; activist art at Bullet Space; as well as hundreds of artists trying to find and develop a voice in their medium and a place in which their work might be appreciated (read more about Cannon and Tribes here).
GVSHP and the East Village Community Coalition submitted a Request for Evaluation (RFE) letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2010 in hopes that this building and its neighbor at no. 287 would be considered for landmark designation. This request was denied. To read the letter and learn much more about the history of both 285 and 287 East 3rd Street, please click on the link in the sidebar.
Block : 373 / Lot : 63 / Building Date : 1838 / Original Owner : Charles J. Dodge / Original Use : Residential / Original Architect : Unknown