In the past, New York’s Greenwich Village and East Village neighborhoods were havens for freethinkers, artists, poets, writers, rebels and bohemians. At present, they are attractive not only to tourists, but also to ordinary New Yorkers who admire the variety of living options here.
Greenwich Village (sometimes also West Village, or just Village for short) is one of the most famous neighborhoods of New York, which extends around Washington Square Park to the Hudson River. This large residential neighborhood is one of the oldest in Manhattan and borders the East Village, SoHo and Chelsea neighborhoods. Its name is said to come from the naming of the London district of Greenwich. However, it is not entirely certain, because the Dutch founders called this area Noortwijck or Greenwijck, so it may also be a corruption of the older name.
In the past, Greenwich Village was the center of bohemia and the cradle of the beat movement. Wealthy Americans began moving here in the 1820s to escape yellow fever and cholera epidemics. At the end of the 19th century, the first intellectuals, writers and artists began to come here. After some time, however, this area became very expensive for them and therefore the vast majority of them moved to the neighboring SoHo. Today, there are residential villas and buildings whose rents climb to astronomical heights, so only the richest can live here. Despite this, the district still appeals to a large number of people and is one of the most sought-after addresses in the city. Even today, it is not unusual to come across a celebrity, artist or writer here. For example, actress Nicole Kidman and actor Willem DaFoe live here.
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The architecture of this part of the city is rather eccentric with typical low buildings. The streets are lined with single-story houses and green yards from earlier times. This architecture fits perfectly with the bohemian lifestyle that prevails here. Italian food, historic cafes, antiques and street art performances draw people here. In addition to poets and artists, you can also meet young skateboarders, students and mothers with prams on the streets today. Unfortunately, drug dealers, who are an unpleasant part of city life, also began to gather here. It is now and the omnipresent city police are trying to keep an eye on potential squatters.
One of the best places to meet and relax is Washington Square Park, which was closed to automobile traffic in the 1960s. Its focal point is the 26-meter-high Washington Arch by Stanford White. It was opened to the public in 1895. Until 1826, this area was used as a public gallows, a place for parades and also a source of potter’s clay. The creation of the square was also connected with the construction of elegant townhouses and 12 brick buildings in the neo-Greek style, which today is called “Row”. Another interesting building that you will come across in the park is the neo-Gothic Church of the Ascension from 1841, built by Richard Upjohn. Inside you can see the altarpiece and stained glass windows, which are the work of John La Farge. Since 1846, the First Presbyterian Church has also stood here.
Another interesting secular building is the 1892 Judson Memorial Church, which became famous for its political activism as it tried to bring together northern aristocrats with immigrants living in the South. This neo-Romanesque basilica is decorated with stained glass windows by John La Farge and a marble relief by Auguste Saint-Gauden. Mrs. Blanchard’s inn is also located in Washington Square Park, which became famous rather as the “House of Geniuses.” From the 1890s it was home to writers Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser and Frank Norris. Not far from it, the Provincetown Playhouse was established in 1917, where plays by Eugene O’Neill were regularly performed. Radical writer John Reed also lived at 42 Washington Square South in the past. Washington Square is home to New York University’s library, law school, and administrative buildings,
In the historic district of Greenwich Village, there are several charming corners and attractive buildings that you will only come across with a more thorough exploration or a guided walk. Otherwise, you might miss, for example, the Gothic structure of the Jefferson Market Courthouse Library, which was built in 1877 of red brick by architect Calvert Vaux. The library is named after President Thomas Jefferson. During your walk, you’ll also come across Patchin Place, a cul-de-sac with ten typical brick houses dating back to 1848, originally built as lodgings for waiters from the nearby Brevoort Hotel. After them, well-known and lesser-known writers began to inhabit the houses.
The street layout in the Village deviates from the street grid established in the rest of the city. A beautiful example of an irregular street layout is the short, curved Gay Street. It was here that the famous book “My sister Eileen” by Ruth McKenney was written in 1938. The book was about life in this crazy neighborhood of Greenwich Village. On Waverly Place stands the interesting triangular building of the Northern Dispensary from 1827, where even the master of horror, Edgar Allan Poe, who lived nearby, used to go for medicine. The Stonewall Inn is located on Stonewall Place, where the gay emancipation movement was launched on June 27, 1969. In the nearby Christopher Park, a sculpture by George Segal representing a homosexual couple can be seen.
The center of all the action in the Village is Sheridan Square. There is, for example, the Duplex cabaret, the Village Vanguard jazz club and the famous Marie’s Crisis karaoke bar. On Hudson Street stands the church of St. Luke in the Fields. In this part of the city, don’t miss a tour of the Cherry Lake Theater – one of the first non-commercial theaters or the Chumley’s building of 1873. While walking along Badford Street, you will come across the house with the descriptive number 75, which is the narrowest house in New York at 2.9 meters. The Church of Our Lady of Pompeii stands on Father Demo Square, named after the local priest, and is decorated with beautiful wall paintings.
The city’s East Village used to be considered part of the Lower East Side and was never connected to Greenwich Village. Beginning in the 1960s, the East Village also began to attract artists, musicians, writers, and political activists who mingled with immigrants from various corners of the world. That’s why you can have a Polish coffee here, stop at a Jewish delicatessen or visit one of the Indian restaurants. In the center of the East Village lies Tompkins Square Park, named after New York Governor Daniel Tompkins. The area is dominated by the church of St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowery, which is the center of the arts and regularly hosts dance performances and regular readings. Directly across from the church stands the Stuyvesant Fish House, built in 1830 in the Federal style. In 1861, town houses built according to the design of James Renwick began to be built here. A real masterpiece is the Neo-Gothic Episcopal Church of Grace Church from 1846, the interior of which is decorated with beautiful stained glass windows and a mosaic floor. The Merchant’s House Museum dates back to 1832 and offers an authentic view of life in the 19th century. In 2005, a new building of the Ukrainian Museum was opened here. Today, on an area of 2,322 m2, it presents visitors with extensive collections and permanent exhibitions of Ukrainian artefacts.