Jack Kerouac & Paradise Alley

Art & Culture | History

A Beat Generation Hangout and Inspiration for The Subterraneans

Jack Kerouac East Village history

About Jack Kerouac & Paradise Alley

 & why it made the Carpe City list

  • The building you see here on Avenue A and 11th is new construction, replacing tenements dating from the 1860’s.
  • The old tenements had a shared a courtyard and were home to a number of artists, poets and writers. The famous Beatnik hangout was called “Paradise Alley.”
  • Alene Lee was one of the Beat poets who lived at Paradise Alley; she was in a relationship with Jack Kerouac at the time.
  • Kerouac’s book The Subterraneans was set in San Francisco but the scenes described were mostly based in New York. For example, the garden was named Paradise Alley, The Mask bar was based on the San Remo in Greenwich Village, the main character, Leo Percepied, is an alter ego of Kerouac, and the love interest, Mardou Fox, was inspired by Kerouac’s girlfriend Alene Lee.

Carpe City Trivia

Fun facts about Jack Kerouac

  • Kerouac put the Beat in Beatnik.  He introduced the phrase the “Beat Generation” and thus became its poster boy, but he claimed the media, and companies trying to cash in on the craze, distorted the meaning.  To him “Beat” had a spiritual meaning as in “beatitudes” and the Beat Generation was a group of illuminated hipsters who were ragged yet beautiful and full of intense conviction. Unfortunately, the meaning became associated with non-conformist youth, rebels and delinquents.
  • His novel, On the Road, was considered the “Beatnik Bible.” It was typed on one long continuous roll of paper.  “The Scroll,” as he called it, reached a length of 120 feet.
  • French was his first language.  He did not become adept at the English language until he was a teenager, after which he gave up French completely.
  • Although he briefly dabbled in Buddhism, Kerouac remained a life-long Catholic – hence the whole Beat/Beatitudes definition.
  • Kerouac went to Columbia University on a football scholarship
  • His writing inspired many musicians in the 60’s including The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Doors, Patti Smith, The Grateful Dead and Tom Waits.

Some Link Love to Amazon if you are so Inclined to Read:

Jack Kerouac’s Original Unedited Scroll Version of On the Road on Amazon


Jack Kerouac’s The Subterraneanson Amazon

By: Kelly McDermott & Christi Scofield
Photography by:

Kelly McDermott

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