I recently spent my vacation visiting the European cities of Barcelona, Rome, and Trieste. During my time there, dutifully and happily playing the role of tourist, I was reminded of the depth of European history versus American history. Here our history is preserved and reflected in buildings that are at most a few hundred years old, whereas in Europe there are not only buildings that are several hundred years old, some are over two thousand years old!
Catedral de Barcelona, begun in May 1298
Not that we need to feel inferior, just because we’re not as old, mind you. Our built environment may not date back to the time of our European counterparts, but our history is just as important to us as theirs is to them.
The Coliseum in Rome
I remember standing in the Coliseum in Rome, thinking, “What would Rome be like without the Coliseum? What if someone had come along and thought that it was time to demolish this old structure that had seen better days? What if no one thought that someplace this special was worth saving for future generations?” I didn’t want to think about it…
Grove Street Federal houses, source: rowhouser.com
But what I did think about was the work we do here at GVSHP. I transported those same thoughts as I pictured this neighborhood’s historic buildings. “What would Greenwich Village and the East Village be like without landmarked historic districts? What if the wrecking ball could take out those beautiful Federal era homes on Commerce Street, Grove Street and Bedford Street? Or those stately Italianate townhouses on Charles Street and Perry Street? Or the tenements that tell the story of immigration to the East Village?”
Italianate townhouses on Charles Street, source: www.mns.com
Luckily, we don’t have to worry about what the neighborhood might be like without these. They are protected. But there are other places in the neighborhood that are still vulnerable, and we continue to lead the efforts to preserve and protect the architectural heritage and cultural history of Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo.
If you would like to read more about what we have accomplished, and see informative maps and photos, please see this publication.
East Village tenements
People come from all over this country and the world to visit Greenwich Village. Many tell me that the cities they come from have very little left of their architectural history, and that is a shame. We are so lucky to have Greenwich Village, aren’t we?