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New York Daily Photo: Bomb Factory
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Monday, 15 October 2007

Bomb Factory

On March 6, 1970, a townhouse at 18 west 11th Street exploded, leaving the entire building destroyed and damaging the neighboring building at number 16, where Dustin Hoffman was resident. An accidental detonation had occurred in a subbasement bomb factory run by members of the Weathermen. Weatherman ( or the Weathermen and later the Weather Underground Organization) was a small group of radicals formerly from the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). This group was very extreme, calling for the revolutionary overthrow of the US Government using violent means. The bombs had been intended to be used at Columbia University. The explosion killed three members and sent Cathy Wilkerson and Kathy Boudin running into the street naked (Wilkerson's family owned the building and were away on vacation). An F.B.I. report said that ''had all the explosives detonated, the explosion would have leveled everything on both sides of the street.'' The building, built in the 1840's by Henry Brevoort Jr., was once owned by Charles Merrill, a founder of Merrill Lynch & Company. His son, the poet James Merrill, was born there. James wrote a poem after the incident entitled 18 West 11th Street. There are too many details in this amazing story to go into here - I highly recommend the article by Mel Gussow from the New York Times in 2000 - click here. The lot sat vacant for nearly a decade before a replacement house, designed by Hugh Hardy, was was built in 1978. As you can see from the photo, the modern design was quite a departure from the 19th century row houses around it. The new design, with its angular facade jutting out, was controversial and took some effort to finally pass the landmarks commission. Very radical ...

Note: There is a Paddington Bear which the current residents keep in the picture window. His attire is changed according to the weather. Click here for photo.


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