For the longest time, I’ve wondered about that odd little building at the corner of Commerce Street and Seventh Avenue South.
Shaped like a triangle, it occupies one of the weirdest plots of land in New York…
…and even has one of the few white picket fences in the city!
46 Seventh Ave South was a dry cleaning place until recently – now it’s up for lease, and being used as a storage space. But if you look in through the glass, you’ll see all these strange little details that suggest it has some sort of history. I’ve always wondered…
Then, out of the blue, the answer came last week when I received an e-mail from a West Village resident who had been wondering the same thing. He happened to ask his barber, a long-time Village proprietor, who gave him a DVD copy of what has to be one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen: Forced Entry.
Forced Entry is an unbelievably bad porno flick made in 1973 about a Vietnam vet who works at a West Village gas station. Seriously disturbed after his stint in the war, he tricks female customers into revealing their addresses, then hunts them down, rapes them, and kills them. In the end, his own psychological trauma proves too unbearable, and he kills himself.
This movie is bad.
I don’t mean so bad it’s good, I mean so bad you may lose all faith in humanity after watching the first 20 minutes. It looks like it was shot through an ashtray, the sex scenes contain nothing remotely sexy or appealing on any level, and the only highlight comes at the end when our hero kills himself.
As it turns out, Forced Entry has ONE minor redeeming aspect: one of the locations in the film happens to be the weird triangle building on Seventh Avenue South!
See the rear wall of the West Village gas station?
Yep! Long before it became a strange one-story glass triangle, this plot of land was a gas station! And amazingly, much of it still remains today.
The former gas station is located just a few blocks down from the key-covered Greenwich Locksmith shop I wrote about recently, and I asked owner and long time Village resident Phil Mortillaro if he had any info on the place. He dug through his files and turned up this amazing picture of “Joe’s Friendly Service Mobil Station” in its heyday! Hopefully, some of you car buffs can determine the year…
Below, the same shot taken today. Note that the street lamp is in virtually the same location:
Amazingly, the little attendant’s booth still exists, though now surrounded by glass. In fact, it juts out above the roof line…
Originally, the Mobil Pegasus emblem was mounted here, along with a different style roof:
Below, how the facade originally looked in 1973…
And today, inside the glass walls:
Another look at the exterior from Forced Entry…
And in a picture taken a year later in 1974 by photographer Julie Rinaldini:
Meanwhile, as for the rear wall…
…It’s basically exactly as it was in 1973, save for a new paint job!
Ah, it was a different age when you could film a porno at a Mobil gas station AND clearly identify its logo on camera! More importantly, note the Cherry Lane Theatre sign behind our hero, also visible in the black and white picture above:
The Cherry Lane Theatre is still in existence around the corner on Commerce Street, one of Manhattan’s rare L-turn streets. The theater is located in a building dating back to 1817, when it was used as a farm silo, and debuted its first play in 1924.
Finally, one last clue that 46 Seventh Ave South was once a gas station remains. If you pay attention to the sidewalks around it, you’ll notice two significantly wide ramps at either end…
…which once allowed cars in to gas up:
Amazingly, the Mobil station was just one of three gas stations that used to be located at this intersection. Half a block down the street, Forced Entry reveals there was a Gulf Station…
Long gone, of course:
And across the street, a Texaco:
Now a parking garage:
And what’s inside the little attendant’s booth?
One of the smallest apartments in New York City! What would you pay in rent?
Coming up with information on any of these gas stations is next to impossible. I was told they all opened up around the 1930′s to service commuters leaving for Jersey via the newly constructed Holland Tunnel, and that they all closed around the same time in the early 80′s.
But if anyone has any further information on any of the Seventh Ave South gas stations, please leave a comment! Special thanks to my anonymous reader for recommending Forced Entry (don’t worry, I’d want to stay anonymous too!), and to Phil Mortillaro for providing this amazing photograph and additional info about the space.
Click on the below photo to see it in enormous full detail:
In addition to the car years being narrowed down in the comments to sometime between 1958-62, reader Matthew E. wrote in with some helpful information:
- Joe, of Joe’s Friendly Service Station, was a neighborhood fixture for many years. He lived across Seventh Avenue, and even after the gas station shut down would look after Commerce Street, sweep leaves, etc. He had a thick Austrian accent, was a concentration camp survivor, and I think he once told me he had been a circus performer in Europe.
- After the gas station closed down there was a fire in the small building and it was boarded up for many years before being renovated and becoming a series of mostly unsuccessful businesses.
- In 1983, Pee-wee Herman filmed a sketch here!