When I moved to Manhattan in the fall of 1976, just out of college, I was on a mission to be published by The New Yorker. Little did I know when I rented an apartment at 113 West 11th Street, that I had moved to a street that was home, at one time or another, to a stellar array of the magazine’s artists and writers.
A day after getting the keys to my apartment, I was standing in the small vestibule of my new address, when a tall man with an Amish-like beard came bounding down the stairs. He paused to ask me what I was doing there. After I introduced myself as the new tenant moving into 3R, he stuck out his right hand and introduced himself: “Donald Barthelme.” I didn’t know who he was — my initial thought was that he had an interesting name and beard – but it didn’t take long before I learned I had moved into an apartment right above one of the most acclaimed New Yorker writers of the day. In no time at all, I discovered that Grace Paley, a good friend of Donald’s, lived nearly just across the street, west of the public school. (I met Ms. Paley in Donald’s apartment at a holiday party when we ended up sitting side-by-side on hassocks near the fireplace).
In time, as I began to read up on New Yorker history, 11th Street continued to pop up:
The man who invented The New Yorker, Harold Ross, moved into 52 East 11th following his time overseas during World War 1.
Steinberg lived in the Adams Hotel on the corner of West 11th and 6th Ave in 1942 – his first residence in this country. (Donald introduced me to Steinberg in the garden behind 113 West 11th).
S.J. Perelman lived at 134 West 11th.
And I learned that my hero, James Thurber, the man responsible for my wanting to become a New Yorker cartoonist, once lived at 65 West 11th. The address was less than a minute walk east from my building, past Ray’s Pizza, across 6th Avenue, and just a few steps along 11th on the north side, right where the New School building now stands.