every time I do a tour with the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, I learn things that have nothing to do with Judaism and/or the Lower East Side. I attribute this to the diverse range of guides they use, each of whom bring their own flavor to their tours. This bit of history might actually be Lower East Side related, depending on whose definition you use of the Lower East Side.
As we stood on the southern side of Houston St. headed from Congregation Chasam Sopher to Angel Orensanz, Marty pointed out a new building on the northern side of the street. On the surface, there wasn’t anything special about the building, aside from it being newer than some of its neighbors and decidedly not a tenement. However, Marty encouraged us to look up to the top where we saw a statue of Lenin and a clock whose numbers were backwards.
Welcome to Red Square, on Houston Street.
The rental apartments, on land that was a gas station for 25 years, were designed by Michael Rosen and the statue of Lenin, which points toward Wall Street, was added later following the fall of the Soviet Union when it was discovered in Moscow. The building’s clock is said to come from a design in MoMA’s store.
Some of the building’s neighbors are just as eccentric as Red Square itself and all add some flavor to a street that is adding too many chains and strip malls for my liking.