Traditionalists and localists—and many others besides—often mourn the disappearance of those things that add character to a place, the buildings and other locales that, stumbled upon or brought back warmly to mind, remind us what is distinctive about the places we’ve lived. But what if one of those well-remembered places never really existed in the first place?
That’s the conclusion to which Jeremiah Moss, proprietor of the blog Vanishing New York, has come about the diner pictured in Edward Hopper’s iconic painting Nighthawks. As he writes in The New York Times:
In 1941, Edward Hopper began what would become his most recognizable work, one that has become an emblem of New York City. “‘Nighthawks,’” Hopper said in an interview later, “was suggested by a restaurant on Greenwich Avenue where two streets meet.” The location was pinpointed by a Hopper expert, Gail Levin, as the “empty triangular lot” where Greenwich meets 11th Street and Seventh Avenue, otherwise known as Mulry Square. This has become accepted city folklore. Greenwich Village tour guides point to the lot, now owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and tell visitors that Hopper’s diner stood there. But did it?
No, Moss has decided. And despite a lengthy search in archival records and old photographs, he was unable to find any place it could possibly have been. The legwork of Moss the blogger seems to have trumped that of the Hopper expert quoted above.