While visiting New York, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez made a pilgrimage to the birthplace of Jack Kirby at 147 Essex St. and the result is one of the most wonderful photos I’ve ever seen. There’s another one with tour guide Frank Santoro here.

This is as good a place as any to note that a few blocks away on Avenue B, there’s an official city plaque noting the building where jazz great Charlie Parker lived. On many days, I pass by a plaque noting that Herman Melville wrote Billy Budd in the marked building. Over the years, I’ve suggested to a few people that 147 Essex needs an official marker as the birthplace of the great cartoonist Jack Kirby. I’m not sure how one goes about that with the city, but the building is still standing, and I suspect achieving this goal would not be impossible.

So I’m throwing this out there to you guys. If it can be done, it would make a great event to tie in to a New York Comic-Con or Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Fest or a MoCCA. It would just be a great event, period.

Tossing it out to you, group mind.


  1. How to get a street named…
    It starts with the community board, which for this location seems to be Community 3.

    “Community Board 3, Manhattan covers the Lower East Side and part of Chinatown. The boundaries of the district are 14th Street on the north, the East River on the east and the south, and Fourth Avenue and the Bowery on the west, extending to Baxter and Pearl Streets and the Brooklyn Bridge south of Canal Street.”

    Their guidelines for street co-naming:

    Most important:
    “A minimum 75% of the total amount of potential signatures of residents and/or business people on the affected block including their addresses.”

    Neither corner of Essex (Rivington, Stanton) appear to have been co-named, according to Google Street View.

    Historical plaques?
    “Landmarks of New York” plaques are run by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission.
    But that’s generally architectural.

    There’s also “cultural medallions”:

    which tend to honor a person’s connection to a building.

    How to:

    The only one near the LES:

    Not as nice as a bronze plaque, but probably easier.
    There are also random plaques sponsored by various organizations (Eugene O’Neill).

    Of course, it helps to have the cooperation of the building owner.

    Me, I’d go with the co-naming first. Then wait for the street to gentrify a little before adding a plaque. (Since it was the neighborhood which influenced Kirby, this seems a bit more apropos.)

    The Community Board takes reviews applications twice a year, but doesn’t make the schedule known.

  2. Awesome photo! And kudos to Los Bros. Hernandez for making the pilgrimage. I didn’t know they were Kirby fans!

    As far as a plaque on the building goes, if one gets affixed, it had better be bolted in with case-hardened steel and covered with four inches of bullet-proof glass. Otherwise, it’ll disappear and have to be replaced on a regular basis.

  3. Just curious – can anyone verify the source of this info? Mark Evanier, maybe? I’ve got a lead on how to start the process of getting it landmarked, and I want to make sure it’s the correct address before contacting the city.

  4. After asking around, I hear that it has not officially been attempted before, so there’s that. And of course gazillions of comics people would love to see this happen. A good comparison that has hit some road blocks is the attempt to get the Marx Brothers’ childhood home landmarked, but in that case, they may have been unwise in trying to get the whole block preserved, rather than just the house—see below for more info:


  5. I’m sending in a letter and an official request to the NYC Landmarks Commission tomorrow. Maybe my status as a longtime local will help? Who knows, could be that simple (HAHA! I can dream…) It’ll kick the door open anyways, and I’ll keep Heidi updated on where it goes so we can form a committee if we need to.

  6. If my previous comment, with copious URLs, will be moderated, you will see the possibilities.

    The Landmarks Commission judges buildings, and rarely landmarks a building just because it is a birthplace. This is made more difficult given that owners are hesitant to accept the legal restrictions and constrictions landmark status places on a building.

    There is an organization, the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center, which has an active program of labeling significant sites.

    Also, as the Melville plaque shows, any organization can sponsor a plaque.

    But these usually require approval of the building owner.

    The easiest memorial would be to co-name the street. Community Board 3 is the local authority for this street, but does not regularly schedule application hearings.

    The most important criteria:
    “A minimum 75% of the total amount of potential signatures of residents and/or business people on the affected block including their addresses.”

  7. I am suggesting it to the Empire State Center For the Book, which puts up literary landmark plaques in the state. I’ve actually put up two, for Dorothy Parker. It is not that hard a process. The red oval plaques are called “cultural medallions” and they come from the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center. That’s who Torsten is referring to, because the HLPC works under the Landmarks Commission.

Comments are closed.