One of the largest inlets, and the last to be paved over, was Coenties Slip, now an unassuming courtyard in the Financial District, a few blocks from the modern coastline. The slip was named for Conraet Ten Eyck and his wife, Antje, a moneyed Dutch couple who lived in the area in the 1600s. (“Coenties,” most historians agree, is a contraction of Conraet and Antje.)
As commerce dried up and the shipping industry moved elsewhere, the saltwater-kissed warehouses fell into disrepair and abandonment. Yet in the 1950s and ’60s, as
gave way to
, a small group of artists moved in.
By many accounts, the first of the group was
, who moved to Coenties Slip in 1951. He passed his loft to
in 1956, the same year
moved to the neighborhood.
and his wife, Delphine Seyrig, leased a nearby building and rented rooms to several artists, including
. By 1960,
called the slip home as well.
The artists sought cheap housing, space, light, and, for many of them, an escape from the uptown art scene and the so-called 10th-Street style that was overtaking Greenwich Village. What they found were big, abandoned buildings strewn with rope, masts, planks, ships’ wheels, and sailcloth—the relics of a vanished industry.
Though their practices were often wildly different, the loose collective took comfort in the creative energy of their fledgling community, one that seems to have been notably relaxed. “My time there was, on the whole, a kind of solitary struggle with my own work,” Youngerman has said, “and not competition with other peoples.”