Greenwich Village ( ), often
simply called "the Village", is a largely
residential neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan in New York City.
A large majority of the district is home to
upper middle class
Greenwich Village, however, was known in the late 19th – earlier to
mid 20th centuries as the bohemian
capital and the birthplace of the Beat
. What provided the initial attractive character of the
community eventually contributed to its gentrification
of the village is Anglicized from the Dutch name Groenwijck, meaning
"Pine District", into its near heterograph Greenwich, a borough of London, England.
neighborhood is bounded by Broadway on the east, the Hudson
River on the west, Houston Street on the South, and 14th
Street on the North. The neighborhoods
surrounding it are the East Village to the east, SoHo to the
south, and Chelsea to the north. The East
Village was formerly considered part of the Lower East Side and never associated with Greenwich Village.
Village is the part of Greenwich Village west of 7th
Avenue, though Realtors say the dividing line is 6th Avenue.
Street in Greenwich Village
The neighborhood is located in New York's 8th
, New York's 25th State Senate district,
New York's 66th State Assembly district, and New York City
Council's 3rd district.
Village was better known as Washington Square based on the major
Square Park or Empire Ward in the 19th century.
Encyclopedia Britannica's 1956 article on "New York (City)"
(subheading "Greenwich Village") states that the southern border of
the Village is Spring Street, reflecting an earlier understanding.
district of SoHo has since
encroached on the Village's historic border.
The intersection of West 4th and West
As Greenwich Village was once a rural hamlet
, to the
North of the earliest European settlement on Manhattan Island, its
street layout is more haphazard than the grid pattern of the
19th-century grid plan
(based on the
Commissioners' Plan of
). Greenwich Village was allowed to keep its street pattern
in areas west of Greenwich Lane (now Greenwich Avenue) and Sixth
Avenue that were already built up when the plan was implemented,
which has resulted in a neighborhood whose streets are dramatically
different, in layout, from the ordered structure of newer parts of
town. Many of the neighborhood's streets are narrow and some curve
at odd angles. Additionally, unlike most of Manhattan above Houston
Street, streets in the Village typically are named rather than
numbered. While some of the formerly named streets (including
Factory, Herring and Amity Streets) are now numbered, even they do
not always conform to the usual grid pattern when they enter the
neighborhood. For example, West 4th Street
runs east-west outside of the Village, turns and runs north,
crossing West 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th Streets.
A large section of Greenwich Village, made up of more than 50
northern and western blocks in the area up to 14th Street, is
considered part of a Historic District by the New York City
Landmarks Preservation Commission
. The District's convoluted
borders run no farther south than 4th Street or St. Luke's Place,
and no farther east than Washington Square East or University
Place. Redevelopment in that area is severely restricted, and
developers must preserve the main facade and aesthetics of the
buildings even during renovation.
Most parts of Greenwich Village comprise mid-rise apartments,
19th-century row houses and the occasional one-family walk-up, a
sharp contrast to the hi-rise landscape in Mid-
and Downtown Manhattan
, due to the lack of
Greenwich Village is located on what was once marshland. In the
16th century Native Americans referred to it as Sapokanikan
("tobacco field"). The land was cleared and turned into pasture by
Dutch and freed African
settlers in the
1630s, who named their settlement Noortwyck. The English conquered
the Dutch settlement of New
in 1664 and Greenwich Village developed as a hamlet
separate from the larger (and fast-growing) New York City to the
south. It officially became a village in 1712 and is first referred
to as Grin'wich in 1713 Common Council records. In 1822, a yellow fever
epidemic in New York encouraged
residents to flee to the healthier air of Greenwich Village, and
afterwards many stayed.
Greenwich Village is generally known as an important landmark on
the map of bohemian
neighborhood is known for its colorful, artistic residents and the
alternative culture they propagate. Due in part to the progressive
attitudes of many of its residents, the Village has traditionally
been a focal point of new movements and ideas, whether political,
artistic, or cultural. This tradition as an enclave of avant-garde
and alternative culture
was established by
the beginning of the 20th century when small presses, art
galleries, and experimental theater thrived.
in one of the many Manhattan properties Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and
her husband owned, Gertrude Whitney established the Whitney
Studio Club at 8 West 8th Street in Greenwich Village as a
facility where young artists could exhibit their works.
would evolve to become her greatest legacy, the Whitney
Museum of American Art, on the site of today's New
York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture.
Whitney was founded in 1931, as an answer to the then newly founded
(1928) Museum of
Modern Art's collection of mostly European modernism and its neglect of American Art. Gertrude Whitney decided to put the time and
money into the museum after the New York Metropolitan
Museum of Art turned down her offer to contribute her
twenty-five-year collection of modern art
the Cherry Lane
Theatre was established.
Cherry Lane Theatre is also located in
Located at 38 Commerce
Street it is New York City's oldest continuously running off-Broadway
theater. A landmark in Greenwich
Village’s cultural landscape, it was built as a farm silo in 1817,
and also served as a tobacco warehouse and box factory before
Edna St. Vincent Millay
other members of the Provincetown
converted the structure into a theatre they christened
the Cherry Lane Playhouse, which opened on March 24
, with the play
The Man Who Ate the Popomack
. During the 1940s The Living Theatre
, Theatre of the Absurd
, and the
Downtown Theater movement all took root there, and it developed a
reputation as a place where aspiring playwrights
and emerging voices could showcase
In 1936, the renowned Abstract
artist and teacher Hans
moved his art school
57th Street to 52 West 9th Street. In 1938, Hofmann moved again to
a more permanent home at 52 West 8th Street. The school remained
active until 1958 when Hofmann retired from teaching.
During the golden age of bohemianism, Greenwich Village became
famous for such eccentrics as Joe
(profiled at length by Joseph
) and Maxwell
, dancer Isadora Duncan
writer William Faulkner
playwright Eugene O'Neill
rebellion also made its home here, whether serious (John Reed
) or frivolous (Marcel Duchamp
and friends set off balloons
from atop Washington Square arch, proclaiming the founding of "The
Independent Republic of Greenwich Village"). In Christmas 1949,
played at the Village Vanguard
The Village again became important to the bohemian scene during the
1950s, when the Beat Generation
focused their energies there. Fleeing from what they saw as oppressive
social conformity, a loose collection of writers, poets, artists,
and students (later known as the Beats) and the Beatniks, moved to Greenwich Village, and to
Francisco; in many
ways creating the east coast-west coast predecessor to the Haight-Ashbury-East Village hippie scene of the next
The Village (and surrounding New York City) would
later play central roles in the writings of, among others, Jack Kerouac
, William S.
Burroughs, James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Marianne Moore, Maya
Angelou, Rod McKuen, and Dylan Thomas who collapsed while drinking at
the White Horse Tavern on November 5, 1953.
began in Greenwich
Village in 1958 as a reaction to Off-Broadway
, and a "complete rejection of
commercial theatre". Among the first venues for what would soon be
called "Off-Off-Broadway" (a term supposedly coined by critic
Jerry Tallmer of the Village Voice
) were coffeehouses in
Greenwich Village, particularly the Caffe
at 31 Cornelia Street, operated by the eccentric Joe Cino
, who early on took a liking to actors and
playwrights and agreed to let them stage plays there without
bothering to read the plays first, or to even find out much about
the content. Also integral to the rise of Off-Off-Broadway were
at La MaMa
, originally located at 321 E.
Street and Al Carmines at the Judson
Poets' Theater, located at Judson Memorial Church on the south side of Washington
Greenwich Village played a major role in the development of the
scene of the 1960s. Three of
the four members of The Mamas
& the Papas
met there. Guitarist and folk singer Dave Van Ronk
lived there for many years.
resident Bob Dylan was one of the foremost
popular songwriters in the country, and often developments in New
York City would influence the simultaneously occurring folk rock movement in San Francisco, and vice versa.
Dozens of other cultural
and popular icons got their start in the Village's nightclub,
theater, and coffeehouse scene during the 1950s, 1960s, and early
1970s, notably Barbra Streisand
Peter, Paul, and Mary
Simon & Garfunkel
, James Taylor
, Joan Baez
, The Velvet Underground
, The Kingston Trio
, Richie Havens
, Tom Paxton
, Phil Ochs
, Laura Nyro
, Jimi Hendrix
. The Greenwich Village of the 1950s and 1960s was at the
center of Jane Jacobs
Death and Life of Great American Cities
, which defended it
and similar communities, while critiquing common urban renewal
policies of the time.
Founded by New York based artist Mercedes Matter
and her students the
New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture
art school formed in the mid 1960s. The school officially opened
September 23 1964, it is still currently active and it is housed at
8 W. 8th
Street, the site of the original Whitney
Museum of American Art.
Greenwich Village was also home to one of the many safe houses used
by the radical anti-war movement
known as the Weather
. On March 6, 1970, however, their safehouse was
destroyed when an explosive they were constructing was accidentally
detonated, costing three Weathermen (Ted
, Terry Robbins
, and Diana Oughton
) their lives.
In recent days, the Village has maintained its role as a center for
movements which have challenged the wider American culture: for
example, its role in the gay
movement. It contains Christopher Street and the Stonewall Inn, important landmarks, as well as the world's oldest
gay and lesbian bookstore, Oscar
Wilde Bookshop, founded in 1967.
The Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual & Transgender Community Center - best known as simply
"The Center" - has occupied the former Food & Maritime Trades
High School at 208 West 13th Street since 1984. In 2006, the
Village was the scene of an assault involving seven
lesbians and a straight man
that sparked appreciable media
attention, with strong statements both defending and attacking the
Since the 1960s
Currently, artists and local historians bemoan the fact that the
days of Greenwich Village are
long gone, because of the extraordinarily high housing costs in the
neighborhood. The artists have fled to first to SoHo then to
TriBeCa and finally Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn, Long Island City,
residents of Greenwich Village still possess a strong community
identity and are proud of their neighborhood's unique history and
fame, and its well-known liberal live-and-let-live attitudes.
Greenwich Village is now home to many celebrities, including
actresses/actors Julianne Moore
, Philip Seymour
, Leontyne Price
, Amy Sedaris
, and Barbara Pierce Bush
, the daughter of
former U.S. President George W. Bush
Thurman and Bush both live on West Ninth Street. Alt-country/folk
musician Steve Earle
moved to the
neighborhood in 2005, and his album Washington Square Serenade
is primarily about his experiences in the Village. The Village also
serves as home to Anna Wintour
editor-in-chief of Vogue Magazine
well as Calvin Trillin
, a feature
writer for The New Yorker
Village includes the primary campus for New York
University (NYU), The New
School, and Yeshiva University's Benjamin N.
Cardozo School of
. Parsons The New School for
Design, a division of The New
School, is located at 66 Fifth Avenue on 13th Street in the
newly renovated, award winning design of the Sheila C.
Johnson Design Center. The Cooper Union is also located in Greenwich Village, at Astor Place, near St. Mark's
Place on the border of the East Village. Pratt Institute established its latest Manhattan campus in an
adaptively reused Brunner & Tryon designed loft building on 14th Street just east of
historic Washington Square Park is the center and heart of the neighborhood, but
the Village has several other, smaller parks: Father Fagan, Minetta
Triangle, Petrosino Square, Little Red Square, and Time
There are also city playgrounds, including
Desalvio, Minetta, Thompson Street, Bleecker Street, Downing
Street, Mercer Street, and William Passannante Ballfield. Perhaps
the most famous, though, is "The Cage", officially known as the
West 4th Street Courts
on top of the West Fourth Street–Washington
Square subway station at Sixth Avenue, the courts are
easily accessible to basketball and
American handball players from all
over New York.
The Cage has become one of the most important
tournament sites for the city-wide "Streetball
" amateur basketball tournament.
The Village also has a bustling performing arts scene. It is still
home to many Off-Broadway
theaters; for instance,
Blue Man Group
has taken up
residence in the Astor Place Theater. The Village
Gate, the Village
Vanguard and The Blue
Note hosted some of the biggest names in jazz on a regular basis. Other music clubs
included The Bitter
End, Cafe Au Go Go, Cafe Wha? The
Gaslight Cafe, and Lion's Den.
The village also has its own orchestra
aptly named the Greenwich Village
. Comedy clubs dot the Village as well,
including The Boston and Comedy Cellar, where many American stand-up comedians got their
Each year on October 31, it is home to New York's Village Halloween
, the largest Halloween event in the country, drawing an
audience of two million from throughout the region.
Several publications have offices in the Village, most notably the
citywide newsweekly The Village
, and the monthly magazines Fortune
and American Heritage
Audobon Society, having relocated its national headquarters from a
mansion in Carnegie
Hill to a restored and very green, former industrial building in NoHo, relocated to smaller but even greener LEED certified
digs at 225 Varick Street, a short ways down Houston Street
from the Film Forum.
Historically, local residents and preservation groups, including
Village Society for Historic Preservation
(GVSHP), have been
concerned about development in the Village and have fought to
preserve the architectural and historic integrity of the
neighborhood. In the 1960s, Margot
Gayle led a group of citizens to preserve the Jefferson
Market Courthouse (later reused as Jefferson Market Library) while
other citizen groups fought to keep traffic out of Washington
Square Park and Jane Jacobs, using
the Village as an example of a vibrant urban community, advocated
to keep it that way.
Since then, preservation has been a part of the Village ethos.
Preservation success stories abound in the neighborhood, which was
landmarked in 1969 by the New York City
Landmarks Preservation Commission
. Victories for
preservationists, oftentimes spearheaded by GVSHP,
include the preservation of the Greenwich Village waterfront and
District; the inclusion of the Far West Village in the Greenwich Village Historic District; the
creation of the Weehawken Street Historic District; and the
downzoning of the Far West Village.
City Landmarks Preservation Commission
began the process of
landmarking the South Village
recent and on-going preservation issues in the Village include:
NYU’s expansion into the neighborhood; St. Vincent’s
Hospital’s rebuilding plans; overdevelopment in the Far West
Village; and threats to local theaters, including the Provincetown Playhouse, the Yiddish
Art Theater, and the Variety Theater.
90 Bedford Street, Winter
- From 1948-1950, Village
Barn, the first country music
show on network television (NBC) originated from
a nightclub of the same name in the basement of 52 West 8th Street.
- In the movie Rear Window (1954) James Stewart's character lives
in an apartment, in Greenwich Village.
- The 1970s ABC
sitcom Barney Miller was set at a fictional
police station in Greenwich Village.
- The cover of Bob Dylan's hit album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
with his then-girlfriend Suze Rotolo is
taken on Jones Street in Greenwich Village.
1994–2004 NBC sitcom Friends is set in the Village (Central Perk was
apparently on Mercer or Houston Street, down the block from the
Angelika Film Center, and
Phoebe lived at 5 Morton Street),
though it was filmed and produced in Burbank, California. The exterior shot of Chandler, Joey,
Rachel, and Monica's apartment building is actually
located at the corner of Grove
Street and Bedford Street in the
Village. One of the working titles of
Friends was Once Upon a Time in the West
- In the 1967 Audrey Hepburn movie
Wait Until Dark, the
main character, Susy Hendrix, lives in an apartment located at 4
St. Luke's Place in Greenwich Village.
- The short story The Last
Leaf by O. Henry is entirely set in Greenwich Village.
- In the Marvel Comics universe, Master of the Mystic Arts
and Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange, lives in a brownstone mansion
in Greenwich Village. Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum is located at 177A
the musical comedy, Wonderful
Town, the main characters, Ruth and Eileen Sherwood, move
Ohio to Greenwich Village to pursue their dreams.
The apartment that they move into is located on Christopher
- The building used for exterior shots of Carrie Bradshaw's apartment in Sex and the City is located at 66
Perry St (even though her address in the series is the fictional
address of 245 East 73rd Street on the Upper East Side).
- The 1984 Mickey Rourke film
The Pope of Greenwich
Village centers on a restaurant maître d' in the Italian
section of the Village.
- The Real World:
Back to New York, the 2001 season of the MTV reality television
series The Real World, was
filmed in the Village.
- The Greenwich Village KFC/Taco Bell infested with rats appeared
on many TV networks worldwide.
- Greenwich Village is a playable multiplayer map in the 2003
video game Freedom Fighters.
Greenwich Village residents are zoned to schools in the New York City Department
Residents are jointly zoned to two elementary schools: PS3 Melser
Charrette School and PS41 Greenwich Village School. Residents are
zoned to Baruch Middle School 104.
Residents must apply to New York City high schools.
Village also houses two major universities - The New School and New York
University, as well as Cooper Union, which is one of the most selective art schools in
Sullivan St. was home to Genovese
boss Vincent "The Chin"
. Born and raised in the Village he would spend most of
his adult life there during the day. According to F.B.I.
surveillance reports, after midnight, he would be driven to a
townhouse at East 77th Street near Park Avenue where he actually
lived. Popularly known as the "Oddfather," Gigante allegedly
feigned senility by walking around the area in a bathrobe, in the
hopes of eventually entering an insanity plea.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor
judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New
York, later a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second
Circuit, and current member of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Notes and references