Tuesday, 9 December 2008


Standing on a three-sided plot, fronting Christopher Street and two sides on Waverley Place where it forks off to go in two directions, the Northern Dispensary seems to have been here forever. Built in 1831, it offered health care for Villagers who were too poor to afford visiting physicians. In 1937, it treated Edgar Allen Poe for a cold - male colds were very serious illnesses even then!

The clinic began to offer dental care in 1841, and in recent years limited its services to dentistry. However, the clinic violated the spirit of its charter in 1986 when it refused to provide dental care to AIDS patients, among them Village writer George Whitmore. The city's Human Rights Commission fined the dispensary $47,000 which proved too great a burden for the debt-ridden clinic. In May 1989, the 158 year old institution, the oldest in New York closed its doors forever.

The previous owner, William Gottlieb, drove a beat up station wagon with broken windows, yet after his death in 1999, his collection of properties was valued at $300 million. He was notorious for buying properties and doing nothing with them - his sister Mollie Bender continues the Gottlieb tradition with no apparent plans for the building.

A private deed placed on the property stated that it had to be used to provide medical care to the "worthy poor." However, since the deed is private, it is not clear whether it could be enforced. So its future seems very unclear and in the meanwhile, the building stands eerily empty......

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