Freedonia On The Upper East Side

From about 1895 to 1909, five brothers (along with five relatives) lived in a fourth floor apartment in a building at 179 East 93rd Street in Manhattan; they would come to be known as Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, Gummo and Groucho: the Marx Brothers.

In 1977, realizing he didn’t have long to live and perhaps feeling rather nostalgic, Groucho visited his childhood home for a final look at the four story walk-up where he and his brothers began honing the comedic gifts that would make them stars. The apartment’s current residents were, needless to say, surprised when a visitor in the form of Groucho knocked on their door and asked if he could come in. “As the story goes, after the aging star looked around his former home, he left without saying a word.”

The Marx family, left to right: Groucho, Gummo, Minnie, Zeppo, Frenchy, Chico and Harpo in 1915.

Even though he didn’t say anything, Groucho must have felt extremely satisfied that the apartment was nicely kept and had barely changed since the time he had lived there. However, the floor was in a rather dismal state and needed to be replaced. A short time after his visit, the floor was indeed replaced with brand new Italian tiles. Even though no one took credit for the work, it was easy to assume who was responsible: the new tiles were quickly dubbed the “Groucho Tiles.”

Tiles (looking rather dingy these days) purchased by Groucho Marx for the interior common areas of the building

The block on which the apartment building stands is already called “Marx Brothers Place” by proponents who are pushing to preserve the building itself and include it within the Carnegie Hill Historical District. In 2008, after several brownstones were torn down and replaced with condos, the East 93rd Street Beautification Association began work on having the block officially landmarked. Among the supporters is Harpo’s son, Bill Marx:

“Marx Brothers Place shall at last become the historical site of monumental proportions it so justly deserves, and then nobody ever again will have to request that it should be anything but just that, and finally the good folks of both Manhattan and Freedonia can then get some sleep,” Marx said.

DNA Info (includes slideshow)

[However,] the Landmarks Preservation Commission announced on July 25, 2010 that they wrote a letter against making it into a landmark, and now fans and supporters are speaking out, specifically against NYC Council Member Dan Garodnick. {read more: Benjamin James Real Estate’s Blog}

Unfortunately, the Freedonia landmark issue still remains in a state of suspended duck soup among bureaucrats and supporters. We could only imagine what fun those uproarious brothers would’ve had poking fun at it all.

Marx Brothers Place