Here’s the worst part of offering scavenger hunts that explore cool neighborhoods and museums across the United States: We constantly have to replace questions about things we love that disappear. Stores close. Sculptures vanish. Signs get uprooted. Murals get butchered. Even teddy bears and gorillas get ruthlessly yanked from windows. It’s enough to drive a history scavenger mad. Mad!
Well, we have a way to rescue the past and preserve some of our favorite old questions: Post them here in an occasional series, in a sort of Museum of Dead Hunt Questions. Step right this way, admission is free.
First up: One of our most popular and longest-running New York City tours is the Secrets of Greenwich Village Scavenger Hunt. It debuted in 1999, and corporate groups just eat it up as a team building activity, while New York University has hired us repeatedly to introduce new students to the Village. You can imagine the amount of change that neighborhood has seen in 17 years. (As people have been saying for years, “New York will be a great place if they ever finish it”.) Here are seven places or things that used to be on the Greenwich Village hunts that we miss, in no particular order.
Gorilla in Our Midst
We loved getting people to find him in a window on East 10th St. Why was he there? Where did he go? Who knows? Maybe the jungle called.
For years, a Paddington Bear appeared in the window of a modern house on West 11th St. He dressed for the occasion: If the Yankees were in the playoffs, the bear wore Yankee pinstripes. After his owner died in 2012, the bear soon went into hibernation and the house went up for sale. The angular jutting window hints at why the house stands out on the block: It was a brownstone like the rest in the row until it blew up in 1970. Turned out it was a secret bomb factory for the Weather Underground. Dustin Hoffman lived next door at the time and, unharmed, he helped the survivors to safety. (You see the kind of cool stuff you discover on our scavenger hunts?)
Whither the Wise Men of the Figaro?
Cafe Figaro had a heritage dating back to the heyday of artists living, drinking, debating, and brawling in the Village – before it gentrified and turned into a collection of locations for Sex and the City. Several cafes on the corners of Bleecker St. and MacDougal St. catered to the likes of Jackson Pollock, Allen Ginsberg, and assorted beatniks. They’re all gone now. Cafe Figaro was replaced by a Mexican restaurant, and the Wise Men were painted over. We feature this and a variety of hangouts for painters, musicians, poets, and the like on the Artists’ Greenwich Village Scavenger Hunt.
Meet the Fab Four—Minus Two
Another throwback, to the hippy-dippy era in the Village, was a sort of psychedelic mural on West Third Street near MacDougal Street, a tribute to a variety of musicians. The work of art is still there—just radically cut down. The restaurant behind decided it wanted more windows, so Ringo and George Harrison, among others, got the ax. See the original above.
Spelunking for Cheddar
On Bleecker St. it used to be you could spot a treat beneath your feet outside Murray’s Cheese. Glass in the pavement revealed a view down into the legendary cheese shop’s “cave,” where their many exotic cheeses are stored and aged. Don’t worry: Murray’s is still with us and featured on the Munch Around the Village Scavenger Hunt.
Peanut Butter in a Jam
Another location featured on the Munch Hunt wasn’t so lucky: Peanut Butter & Co. was a restaurant that featured food whose featured ingredient stuck to the roof of your mouth, but the concept didn’t stick to the Village. We miss the Elvis, featuring peanut butter and bananas. What happened to the restaurant? Our guess: ever-rising rents or too many kids with nut allergies.
What places do YOU miss?
Join the conversation on our Facebook page. What restaurants do you miss? What foods? What eccentric store that’s now a soulless ATM? Share your grief, you’ll feel better.
Find more fun!
Check out our public scavenger hunts for more info on our New York Hunts, also visit the Public Hunt schedule. To ask us about arranging a private scavenger hunt for your group or team, contact us online or at 877-946-4868, extension 11.