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 Bob Dylan Chronicles: Volume One and "Bob Dylan's American Journey: 1956-1966" Exhibit and CD Cover Locations

The book cover of Chronicles: Volume One (paperback edition, 2005, Simon & Schuster, New York).

The original photo from 1963. (photographer unknown)

The cover for the exhibit and CD of: "Bob Dylan's American Journey: 1956 - 1966" (a touring exhibit by the Experience Music Project. (photographer unknown)

The original photo from 1963. (photographer unknown)

The spot where both photographs were taken: the roof of 901 Broadway at the southwest corner of 20th Street in New York City, looking south. (The photo is Photoshopped together from different sources, since I was was unable to get on the roof).

(made with Google Earth)

And here, from another angle, looking south again, with Union Square in the background.

(made with Google Earth)

This photo gives you a pretty good look at the roof, from a different angle.

901 Broadway is located three blocks north from Union Square and is about a half-mile north of Greenwich Village in the neighborhood known as The Flatiron District.

The Flatiron Building, the famous three-sided skyscraper, is three blocks north - where Broadway crosses Fifth Avenue across from Madison Square Park.


The search for the location of these photos was a real head scratcher. Nothing made sense untill suddenly it all made sense -- once a crazy Byzantine building top- that was hiding in plain sight - revealed itself. Here's how I tracked the photo locations down....

I had gone to the traveling Bob Dylan/Experience Music Exhibit in 2006 when it came to New York, specifically to the Morgan Library, and I had always wondered where the exhibit photo of Dylan, standing on top of a building, hands in his pocket resembling Peter Pan, was taken. I had also seen the photo on the cover and in the pages of the record-sized insert for the Biograph box album which I owned.

(pictured: the Biograph booklet from Columbia Records)

I started my search by looking for clues in the pictures: It seemed to me, because of the upwards angle of the photo and the buildings behind him, that Dylan was on the roof of a low, maybe 6-story building, somewhere in the East or West Village, where he lived during the early 60's.

The original photo from 1963. (photographer unknown)

To the right and left of one of Dylan's legs were church icons that I imagined to be from two churches near each other; a cross from a Protestant or Catholic church, and behind that - a rounded dome with the cross of an Eastern Orthodox church.

A close up of the "Americen Journey" photo. (photographer unknown)

In the background, in the left distance, was a tall building that looked like it had a slanted mansard roof. In front of it was a tall water tower.

In retrospect, the water tower should have told me that the building Dylan was on was to be found in an area of taller buildings, since most 6- story buildings in New York don't need water towers.

But, since the water tower seemed a few blocks away, it seemed like it could have been on a taller building in the backround.

So, based on these clues, I started the search by using Bing Maps/3D to scour the East and West Villages for church steeples that might be close together enough to make the crazy pattern of crosses and domes; and that were also near a tall building with a mansard rood.

I also figured that the photo was probably taken on Dylan's roof or that of someone he knew so at the same time I looked down (via Bing) at Dylan's roof on West 4th Street and the roofs of lots of his friends; Suze Rotolo old apartment , Suze's sister, Clara's apartment in the East Village, Dave Van Ronk's current and older apartments, Albert Grossman, his agent's apartment, the roof of the Gaslight Cafe on MacDougal Street where Dylan often played, etc. (It could also have been the photographer's roof, but since no one knows who the photographer was, this was out.)

But I could not find a roof that matched, nor could I find domes and crosses in that combination close together.

Here were some prospects:

In the East Village near Allen Ginsberg's apartment.

Along 14th Street in the East Village. (The 2 photos above are from Google Street maps.)

At the corner of Bleecker and Downing

I also searched for tall building with low-slanted mansard roofs, but only came up with this one on 19th Street and Park Avenue South, a little north of the VIllage, which didn't seem to fit the bill.

(photo: Bing Maps/Bird's Eye View)

Not getting anywhere, I went back to searching through Dylan picture archives on the Internet. It was then that I ran into the picture of Dylan that was used on the cover of the paperback of Chronicles: Volume One as well as some out-takes from that photo session. All were said to have been taken in 1963 based on Dylan's hair and looks. (It was a similar look to Dylan on the cover of The Times They Are a-Changin" which was released in January 1964.)

In the pictures Dylan was siting down on the short wall of a roof and he was wearing the same striped shirt that he was wearing in the picture that I was looking for: the picture with him standing, hands in his pockets, on a roof.

Could the photos have been taken on the same roof in the same photo session? Holy guacamole, Batman! - now that made for a good clue.

In the first picture, the one used on the cover of the paperback of Chronicles: Volume One, Dylan was sitting on a small wall with the windows of an apartment building behind him.

In the second picture, Dylan was also sitting on a small wall, with a building with a "step-like" roof in back of him, which was, most likely, an interior courtyard.

And in the third photo, Dylan is leaning against a steep roof covered with uniquely shaped hexagonal (6-sided) slate shingles.

(all three photos: photographer unknown)

So, using Photoshop, I put the photos together (with another outtake I found) in the way that I saw the roof laid out. And it seemed to match; that Dylan was on the same roof wall in all the photos. Specifically, notice how the windows behind Dylan matched up in the middle two pictures.

And thus - New Clues!

So I continued by search via Bing Maps 3D and by walking through parts of the Village; looking for the church steeples, the tall mansard roof, and now, a building with dual sets of windows up the side - and a mansard type roof Dylan could walk to from the roof on which he was photographed.

Again, I pictured it to be the top of a 6-story walk-up in the center of the West or East Village.

With all those clues together I thought the endgame of the search would be -- A PIECE OF CAKE!

But once again, after some more searching - no cake for me. :(

So I went back - again - to searching through Dylan photo archives.

And then - in another thing that had been looking at me straight in the face there was a series of four pictures of Dylan and Suze -- with Dylan WEARING THE SAME SHIRT AS HE WAS ON THE ROOF!

Here are the photos from an unknown photographer: they can also be found in the Biograph booklet.

(all photos: photgrapher unknown)

Now, having lived in the Village from 1977 to 1999, I know that fence would either be Stuyvesant Park, next to the hospital where my three kids were born, or the more upscale and private - Gramercy Park, which is direcly across the street from where the cover of Highway 61 Revisited was taken, on the front doorstep of Dylan's then manager, Albert Grossman, at 4 Gramercy Park West. Both sites are a few blocks north of 14th street, the north end of Greenwich Village.

To cut to the chase, it turned out Styvesant Park's cast iron fence had no concrete base - but Gramercey Park's did -- so I went down to Gramercy Park and prowled around. The result:

(background photo of Gramercy Park: photographer unknown)

The sequence of photos were taken at the corner of Gramercy Park West and 21st Street which is the northwest corner of the park.

And the reason I knew I had the corner correct, was because it was right next to this photo of Dylan with a police car, that was also in the Dylan photo archives, near the photos of Suze and Bob next to the fence.

Note how the Ionic columns of the townhouse in the background match up with those in the police car photo. The windows matched, too.

And while we're here, lets say hello to the townhouse where the cover of Highway 61 Revisited was taken -- a few towhnouses down and acrosss the street from where the police car photo was taken. For more on this see the PopSpots entry on Highway 61 Revisited.

Now, in thinking about all the pictures together; what it implied to me was, if all the photos were all taken the same day, then the rooftop pictures were probably also taken in the vicinity of Gramercy Park. I could taste sweet discovery.

So I went back to Bing's overhead Bird's Eye View maps and checked out the area.

Here's a map of the area, with Gramercy Park on the top right.

But note the Red Square that I've put near the center....

In "flying-through" the neighborhood with Bing Maps, I came across the top of a ten-story building whose tower was wild with crosses and domes. I know that building! I used to work 3 blocks away! That's the building? That's no church - that's a mattess store!" I said to myself (well I semi-shouted it, but no one was around).

Here it is in all it's weird neo-Gothic glory:

And in close up...(now that's rock and roll in building form!)

Thousands of New Yorkers see it every day from Union Square.

It turns out that the building, called the MacIntyre Building and located at 874 Broadway and 18th Street has nothing to do with any religion (but it does have a mattress store in the ground floor - as I remembered). It was built in 1892. The architect, Robert Henderson Robertson, just liked adorning his buildings with peaks, finials, 7domes, and sloping roofs, as well as decorative arched windows (on the building sides).

Whatever they were, they were definitely the "group of crosses and domes" that I was looking for.

Ok, so now where was the tall building with the short mansard roof?

So, at lunch the next day, I poked around Union Square but could not spot the right sized mansard roof...

But, then, later that night, while Google Street-Viewing the block of 17th Street west of Union Square, I noticed this tall building (the photo on the left) -- which is at the north end of Union Square to the right of Barnes and Noble.

From the front, it's not a mansard roof, but from the side, a small diagonal wall at the top, makes it look like the mansard in the Dylan picture. Here's a match up:

And here's a front view...

So now that I had two of the clues, using Google Maps I followed an imaginary sky-path back to a rooftop from where the pictures must have been taken...

...and there was the roof! It even had the small mansard roof pavilion that Dylan is leaning against in one of the photos.

So, to refresh your memory: Here's again is the view past Dylan's feet, past the crazy top of the MacIntyre Building, past the Water Tower to the fake Mansard Roof high above Union Square.

The rooftop photo from 1963. (photographer unknown)

And as we will soon see, next to this view, we will find the site of the picture of Dylan from Chronicles: Volume One, siting on a small wall in front of a tall brick building side lined with windows.

Here's a picture of 901 Broadway, a beautiful late-19th-century building (built in 1869-1870) and a former Lord & Taylor store, from when this was part of the prime shopping district of Manhattan known as "Ladies' Mile."

Here's what the New York Times had to say about the building. (A Wikipedia article also suggests that it was designed to be reminiscent of the Renaissance architecture of Prague, though others might call it Second-Empire.)

And also; here's a photo of the original store, before the left half was turned into an office building.

So on the night I traced the photo to this building online, I wanted to to see it in real life; so I took the subway down and walked around the area, specifically to the parking lot next to 901 Broadway, on 20th Street.

There, looking up, I could see the wall of windows in back of the photo of Dylan from Chronicles....

...and to its right - I could see the windows from the "step-like" building that's in the back of Dylan in the other roof outtake. In that photo, there's a tiny window above Dylan's head at the top of the picture. I've circled it in both photos.

Here's that outtake again, in "daylight," with the background of the scene as digitally depicted by Google Earth.

(Note: I hope to be able to duplicate the photos from the roof some day, but until then I will substitute actual shots with those I made from playing around with Google Earth -- which is an amazing program for getting into out-of-the-way spaces and imagining them in 3-D.)(The following 4 pictures were made using Google Earth.)

Now that we are "on the roof," here is a Google Earth version of the wall behind Dylan from the Chronicles cover...

...and here it is with Dr. Bob himself!

And to his left (see below) , the one and only Bob Dylan again, with the domes and towers, as well as the mansard roof, matched-up in the distance.

(Note: Dylan looks like he's floating because I wasn't able to use Google Earth to get right to the roof of the building, and then take the photograph looking up -- but you get the idea.)

And here, back where we started our "New York Journey" is a picture showing where both photos were taken on the 5th-floor roof of 901 Broadway @ 20th street, New york City in 1963 by a photographer (at this time) lost to history. But not lost to Rock 'n Roll.

And that's all for now, folks! Time for these boot heels....well, you know...


One final note about the striped short Dylan is wearing in both pictures:

In Suze Rotolo's book, "A Freewheelin' Time," she writes on page 191 that while in Perugia, Italy in 1963, she sent Dylan a shirt she bought from "a local market." She adds that "he is wearing it in some of those publicity stills taken some time later."

She also includes, on page 194 of the book, one of the pictures of Dylan and her taken at Gramercy Park along with the caption, "Bob wearing the Italian shirt." (The picture is one of the set of four, above in this site, in which she is holding a cigarette while he seems to be singing to her.)