New interior photos of 169 Clinton Street, at the edge of the former slum of Red Hook, New York City. Sold recently for an amazingly cheap $3m (cheap by London standards, and given the size of the place). The interior is now changed, although Lovecraft might have actually found the ersatz-historical rooms (shown in the sale photos) to his 18th century taste. More interesting to Lovecraftians might be the complete floor-plan.

225x300169 Clinton St., 2014. Judging by the elevation this could even be Lovecraft’s first-floor room. If so, it looks like the owners tried to ‘exorcise’ Lovecraft by reaching back to the earlier history of the house.

169floorplanPlan: 169 Clinton St.

From 31st Dec 1924 H.P. Lovecraft had a $40-a-month (later $10 a week) first-floor apartment there in the north-west corner, with “two alcoves—one for dressing and the other for washing” (S.T. Joshi, A Dreamer and a Visionary, p.211). This room is the 15′ x 16′ front room on what is marked as the “Third Floor” on the above plan (it seems the lowest ‘Garden’ floor on the plan is what was formerly the sculleries/basement area?). He did not have the modern left-hand cupboard-bedroom (added later?), but had access to the small alcove and its walk-in-closet at the rear of the room. His own sketch plan of his room’s layout can be found near the front of I Am Providence.

He made the “shabby-genteel” place as homely as he could, following the lead of Everett McNeil who was his mentor in living-with-poverty in New York. The room hosted some of the meetings of the Kalem Club. But it appears that the whole place was basically fraying into being a slum, and what he thought was “shabby-genteel” was really a “dismal hovel”. It was under-heated and under-repaired, infested with bedbugs and mice, and (according to L. Sprague de Camp) “he found to his horror that he had Orientals as housemates”. Presumably he also had the daytime noise from the street as he tried to sleep (he was often out much of the night with the boys), since his room was directly over the street: there would have been less traffic in the mid 1920s, but probably noisier when it appeared, and there was also much more street life and children playing-out. Lovecraft was one night burgled by youths who had rented the adjacent room, and they stole his best suits and overcoat and Loveman’s $100 radio.

In that room he wrote “The Horror at Red Hook” and “Cool Air”, the complete plot of “The Call of Cthulhu”, the 1925 Diary, typed “He”, and wrote many letters…

“Something unwholesome—something furtive—something vast lying subterrenely in obnoxious slumber—that was the soul of 169 Clinton St. at the edge of Red Hook, and in my great northwest corner room.” (Lovecraft, Lord of a Visible World, p.167)

1925-169Picture: Lovecraft in front of 169 Clinton Street.