The New York Earth Room – An NYC Apartment Filled With 140 Tons of Dirt

The New York Earth Room at 141 Wooster Street is a unique NYC attraction created in 1977 by local artist Walter De Maria by filling an apartment with 140 tons of dirt.

Consisting of 250 cubic yards of fertile dirt covering the floor of an apartment located on the second floor of a building on Wooster Street, The New York Earth Room is one of NYC’s most unusual artsy attractions. The Dia Art Foundation commissioned local artist Walter De Maria to create it in 1977, and it was opened to the general public in 1980. De Maria had previously created two other earth rooms in Germany, but the one in New York is the only one in existence today. Art lovers can visit the unusual attraction, gaze upon the mass of dirt and take in its earthy fragrance, but they are forbidden from stepping on the dirt or even touching it.


Photo: Avinash Kumar/Unsplash

Believe it or not, maintaining 140 tons of dirt in pristine condition for over 40ur decades is a lot harder than it sounds, which makes the artwork’s curators invaluable. They water the soil from time to time, rake it periodically, and make sure to remove any mushrooms that occasionally sprout out of the dirt.

Bill Dilworth, the room’s caretaker, has been answering visitors’ questions since 1989. He spends his days sitting at a desk, counting visitors, answering queries, and looking mysterious. Just don’t ask him what the message Walter De Maria wanted to convey is.


“People always wonder what it means, but the artist never attached any meaning to it,” Dilworth, an artist himself, told Gothamist. “So I think what I really want people to know is that they don’t have to know anything about the work.”

Atlas Obscura claims that the New York Earth Room is estimated to be worth at least a million dollars, which sounds like a lot, but is actually modest compared to the price of the space it takes up. Luckily, the Dia Art Foundation was able to get the room at a good price in the 1970s, as Soho prices have almost doubled since the 1980s.


You might be tempted to think that few people would willingly go see a large loft filled with dirt, but you would be wrong. Up to 100 people visit the unique artwork every day when the room is open (it is closed every summer). Just keep in mind that taking photos of the dirt-filled room is not permitted, as per the artist’s wishes.