This month, Our Town Downtown begins a new recurring feature called Keyholes, in which we investigate real, Downtown apartments. And who better to show that it doesn’t hurt than our own managing editor Marissa Maier, who currently lives in the former Soho apartment of Spalding Gray, her stepfather. According to family lore—Maier has her doubts—her Wooster Street building was originally a spice factory. It was built in 1896, according to the fire doors that still line the staircase to the units in the building. Maier has lived there off and on since the mid-1990s, when she and her mother moved in with Gray, whose theater company The Wooster Group, which he co-founded in 1975, was located a few blocks north.
Among other art, Maier’s walls are lined with Gray’s Obie Award and a photo of him in a Wooster production with co-star Willem Dafoe, alongside the requisite sagging bookshelves that any self-respecting editor’s apartment must feature.
Aside from awards and photos, Gray’s presence can also be found in the writing desk perched next to a window overlooking a deck, a set of Cambodian masks picked up during the filming of The Killing Fields, a Roland Joffé vehicle about the Khmer Rouge regime, and a threadbare armchair owned by Gray’s grandmother.
Still boasting its original wood floors, now worn smooth and polished by over a century of traffic, Maier’s living room is a brick-walled, tin-ceilinged throwback to the days when windows were heavy and space was a right, not a privilege. To prove that point, the room has not one but two couches.
Of course, living in an historical building does have its drawbacks. In addition to recalcitrant windows, there’s a distinct lack of lighting (a shaded bulb has been tied to a pipe to illuminate the small kitchen area) and all of the usual problems inherent in New York City buildings—from less-than-reliable plumbing to a Rear Window situation with Maier’s view; her neighbors keep their shades up and their lights on at all times.
Just blocks away from the hustle and bustle of Chinatown, Maier’s home is a surprisingly quiet respite from the noise of the city, the kind of apartment seen more on television sitcoms than in real estate hunts.
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