The Dom and Andy Warhol

Art & Culture | History

Warhol, The Velvet Underground, The Electric Circus and More in this Historical Space on St Marks

19 23 St marks Place Warhol Dom

About The Dom and Andy Warhol

 & why it made the Carpe City list

  • Once a center of little Germany and little Poland, The Dom and its Electric Circus defined the New York arts scene and changed St. Mark’s Place forever
  • Before becoming The Dom, this storied building housed German immigrants, the famed Arlington Hall (which hosted Teddy Roosevelt, among others), and the Polish National Home, with a restaurant, music hall, and offices.
  • In 1966, Andy Warhol and filmmaker Paul Morrissey transformed the place into a bar and discotheque, called The Dom, and the legendary Electric Circus.
  • The Dom means “home” in Polish, hearkening to the building’s history. The club continued to serve Polish dishes for 95 cents, and beers for 50 cents.
  • The Velvet Underground got their start here as the nightly house band. The venue also hosted early gigs by Sly and the Family Stone, the Allman Brothers, and more.
  • Visitors to the Electric Circus experienced Warhol’s wild mind through his series of multimedia events called the “Exploding Plastic Inevitable,” which included light shows, mimes, and trapeze artists.
  • In 1970, a bomb went off on the dance floor. Rumors abound about who set it, but no one was ever caught, and it was enough to keep people away, and so The Dom literally went out with a bang.
  • Today, the building – home to everything from Chinese takeout to Chipotle – has lost the cultural prominence it had in its prime. But if you cue up some Velvet Underground and listen closely, you just might get a flash of its psychedelic past.
Arlington Hall East Village history
Before it was The Dom Nightclub, It was Arlington Hall

Carpe City Trivia

Wasn't Warhol a kind of big deal around NYC?

Andy Warhol was born into the East Village’s “Little Ukraine” neighborhood, which probably explains why he kept The Dom’s Polish food menu. After working as an illustrator, Warhol catapulted himself into the art world with truly revolutionary ideas about what art was and what it could be. In this way, Warhol and 60s New York City go hand-in-hand like lava and a lamp. In fact, he helped found the New York Academy of Art in 1979. Warhol’s Union Square studio, The Factory, became the center of the scene, and was frequented by the likes of David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Madonna, Liza Minnelli, John Lennon, and Yoko Ono. The Factory and his art became a prominent and progressive spot for NYC drag culture. Warhol gained power and notoriety in the art scene to the point where no one could *not* have an opinion about him. He had the power to make and break careers so much so that radical feminist writer Valerie Solanas shot Warhol as a statement against the patriarchal art world. He was so influential that people would watch eight hours and five minutes of slow-motion single-shot footage of the Empire State Building because he made the film. Now, that’s some crazy influence right there.

What was the Electric Circus like?

It may come as no surprise that the Electric Circus and Exploding Plastic Inevitable were groovy spots to drop acid, experiment, and smoke grass. Designed to look like a surreal Moroccan tent, complete with large tubes and nooks to crawl through and hang out, the venue invited visitors to “play games, dress as you like, dance, sit, think, tune in and turn on.” In one bizarre show, an actor wearing a helium gas mask recited the Gettysburg Address with a helium-induced super-high-pitched voice. It was a place to be seen, a place to be outrageous, a place to network (even amidst the debauchery), and a place to find experimental and artistic inspiration. Far-out, man. It was even rendered for a wild, sceney bit in the classic show Mad Men.

The Velvet Underground

By: Kim Bielak & Ariel Kates

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