Leslie Johnson is a graduate student studying Tourism Management at the NYU School of Professional Studies Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism.
Guess where I am right now as I type up this blog post? (The title is a big hint.) I am very cozy in a plush teal chair surrounded by the whispers of other students working on projects. Sunlight is filtering in through the floor to ceiling glass windows and from my fifth floor perch I can see iconic Greenwich Village architecture and water towers atop the roofs proving that I am, in fact, in New York City.
If you are unfamiliar with 7 East 12th Street – formerly known as the Fairchild Building – it has been the official home for the School of Professional Studies for the past 5 years. In addition to the Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism, the building serves as a hub for many other programs including the Wasserman @ SPS, McGhee, Tisch Institute for Sports Management, Media, and Business, and of course the School’s Dean Dennis Di Lorenzo.
I love this building, and when I started classes at NYU it was the first of many buildings in this city’s diverse neighborhoods that surprised and delighted me. 7 East 12 looks and feels modern, with state-of-the-art functional classrooms, efficient new offices, conference rooms, and multi-use student lounges. However, despite its modernity, the building and its location share a historical significance you may not be aware of.
The building itself was originally headquarters of Fairchild Publications which published fashion journals, magazines and newspapers, including Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), sometimes called “the bible of fashion.” WWD became famous (or infamous depending on who you talk to) when John Fairchild became the editor and chief in 1960. Fairchild turned fashion into the social scene we have today. Fairchild ignored fashion designers who forbade the press to publish pictures of their clothing. Famous designers involved in Fairchild’s feuds include Yves Saint Laurent, Geoffrey Beene, Georgio Armani, Oscar de la Renta and many others.
Fairchild wasn’t the only unique character running around causing mischief in Greenwich Village. The NYC neighborhood was once the home to many offbeat individuals opposed to social conformity. In the 1950s poets, writers and artists flocked to Greenwich Village to escape “the man” and make the world a more beautiful place. Thought of by many as a landmark location of bohemian culture in America, this was the place to flaunt your funkiest clothes and wear all the scarves you owned at once. Today, the neighborhood is quite trendy and popular and still evokes the bohemian spirit of an earlier time.
As a third semester graduate student studying Tourism I am innately curious about these buildings and their important place in NYC history. As NYU students understanding the history of the buildings you work and study in will help you appreciate your place in NYC as well. Winston Churchill says it better than I can, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”