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West 8th Street


Lit Nerd Wednesday!


It’s strange to think of West Eighth Street as anything but a few blocks of tacky shoe stores but in the 1950s and 60s it was one of the main drags for artists and writers. Today where an upscale coffee shop serves slow-pour brew, existed a popular hangout from the Village’s prime — the Eighth Street Bookshop. Located on the corner of West 8th and Macdougal Streets, it was opened in 1947 by Eli and Ted Wilentz and quickly became a lifeline to many struggling writers who could count on the brothers to let them use the store as a mail drop or work as clerks to stretch out their scant income. It wasn’t just these fresh faces who were frequent customers as one could expect the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Marianne Moore or E.E. Cummings to be browsing in the next aisle — it was here that Ginsberg met Bob Dylan in 1964 at a party on the second floor .


The Bookshop in its heyday, 1965. Photo by Katherine Knowles

After a fire nearly destroyed the store in 1976, New York City’s literary stars rallied financially to reopen it but it was only a minor fix — it finally closed in 1979. Stumptown Coffee now occupies 32 West 8th selling overpriced but delicious coffee — stop by with a book to keep some that history alive.


The space today. Photo courtesy of Stumptown Coffee.


What: Eighth Street Bookshop

Where: 32 West 8th Street


2 Responses to “West 8th Street”
  1. Stickler says:

    For an archivist, it’s kinda sloppy to mention the fire and closing without noting that both of those happened in a different location than this one.

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