Landmark Institutions That Tell The Story Of 1970s New York

Coney Island
Coney Island | Marcell Viragh | Unsplash | Marcell Viragh | Unsplash
Dan M. Lee

A defining decade in New York City, the 1970s cultivated numerous iconic movies, bands, and cultural icons. While the 70s are long gone, they’re not forgotten – fans continue to pay pilgrimage to once-famous venues, many of which are largely unrecognizable today. Embark on a visual journey to these NYC locations that live on through film, music, and pop culture.

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Music Venue

CBGBs the day it closed

One of the most famous music venues in New York City if not the world, CBGBs closed its doors in 2006. Rewind to the 1970s, when CBGBs was huge on the American Punk and New Wave circuit; Blondie, Patti Smith, and The Ramones started their careers here, performing to small crowds that filled this down-trodden venue to see these rising stars. Even though CBGBs is no longer in operation, an online store still offers merchandise for sale.

Studio 54

Nightclub, Pub Grub

Studio 54 present-day

While CBGBs claimed punk and new wave music, Studio 54 had disco, soul, and funk to its name, with a star-studded clientèle from Mick Jagger to the late David Bowie, alongside big-name actors, designers, artists, and fashionistas. Originally a theater-turned-nightclub before the curtains dropped on this decade-defining institution, the venue has since been turned back into a theater and office building. The trademaked Studio 54 logo can be still seen on the doors outside.

86th Street and Bay 23rd Street, Brooklyn

It’s 1977, and a nineteen year-old Italian boy struts down Brooklyn’s 86th street to a Bee Gees soundtrack. In an instant, John Travolta became a star from his role in Saturday Night Fever, and that walk down a seemingly anonymous street was made into an iconic scene that lives on in cinematic history. Lenny’s Pizza is still there, so make sure you grab a slice.

Coney Island

Park, Building

Coney Island is the backdrop for many famous movies, including cult hits The Warriorsand The Lords of Flatbush – a film that featured Perry King, Henry ‘The Fonz Winkler and Sylvester Stallone.

Electric Lady Studios

Music Venue, Shop

People celebrating John Lennon at Strawberry Fields

Jimi Hendrix opened the doors to Electric Lady Studios on August 26th, 1970, where he recorded his last piece, ‘Slow Blues.’ Hendrix spent just four weeks at the studio while construction was completed, and made his final recording the same week as its grand opening. The studio is still open to this day, and has been used by most modern acts and rock bands from the last 40 years, including Adele, U2, Lana Del Ray, and David Bowie, who recorded ‘Young Americans’ here. While the studio does not offer tours, it’s worth passing by to see this historical venue in full swing.

The Dakota

Building, Park

No list profiling iconic 1970s institutions in NYC can be complete without mention of this famous Upper West Side landmark. John Lennon spent most of his final years residing in the The Dakota before he was shot to death in December 1980. Just across the street in Central Park is the Strawberry Fields Memorial, which is visited by millions of Lennon fans each year.

Bryant Park

The green space we know and love today wasn’t the zen garden visitors enjoy back in the 70s. There was no café, no performances, no checker boards, and no grill. Bryant Park has entries in history books going back to the early 1800s, when the British inspired the creation of this park based on The Crystal Palace in London. It was in the 1970s that Bryant Park went through a huge transformation; known as ‘Needle Park’ for quite some time, the area was littered with the underbelly of New York’s drug scene. In 1979, Bryant Park was redesigned as you see it today. With the dissipation of its original junkie culture, visitors were free to roam this Midtown mecca, now a prime spot for lunch dates, cultural activities, and peaceful relaxation.

The Gas Light Café

Music Venue

96 and 98 Saint Marks Place

The Gas Light Cafe was host to many famous acts until 1971 when it closed. Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan were regulars at this underground venue. Today, the location is home to a body piercing and tattoo studio.

98 Saint Marks Place


Hotel Chelsea under scaffolding

These buildings in the East Village were featured on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s 1975 album Physical Graffiti, six years later, Mick Jagger sat on the same steps in the Rolling Stones’ video for “Waiting on a Friend.” In the basement today, there is a tea room café called Physical Graffitea named, in part, after the Led Zeppelin LP.

Hotel Chelsea

Built in the 1800s, this grand building really got its name in the 1970s. It was home to many actors and musicians, plus the location was featured in many feature films during the 1980s and 1990s. During the 1970s, Leonard Cohen lived there, as did Patti Smith. Brit Sex Pistol Sid Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen were also tenants when she was stabbed to death in October 1978, adding to the location’s already colorful history.

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