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Immediately after the December 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor Edward Hopper began painting Nighthawks, one of the most recognizable paintings in American art. After this event there was a widespread feeling of gloominess across the country, a feeling that is portrayed in the painting. The urban street is empty outside the diner, and inside none of the three patrons is apparently looking or talking to the others; all are lost in their own thoughts. Two are a couple, while the third is a man sitting alone, with his back to the viewer. The couple’s noses resemble beaks, perhaps a reference to the title. The diner’s sole attendant, looking up from his work, appears to be peering out the window past the customers. His age is indeterminate.
Every morning on my way to the gym, about 100 yards out my front door, I walk past the empty lot where Phillies once stood on the corner of 7th Avenue and Greenwich Avenue here in Manhattan and I think of Hopper’s painting. The site is now called Mulry Square. Not many people know this. Even people who live in the neighborhood are often unaware of the infamy of the corner – which in recent times has become famous again for the “Tiles For America”.
“Currently owned by the NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority, Mulry Square is a triangular parking lot at the southwest corner of Greenwich Avenue and Seventh Avenue South which was formerly the site of a wedge-shaped diner that was the inspiration for Edward Hopper’s famous painting Nighthawks. The diner’s tiling can still be seen on the one remaining wall. The parking lot’s fencing supports Tiles for America, a September 11 memorial consisting of some 6,000 tiles created across the country.”