Today marks the 11th year and anniversary of the Art in Odd Places (AiOP) festival. AiOP is a visual and performing arts festival that strives to present works outside the confines of traditional public space and stretch the boundaries of communication in the public realm. The festival itself runs along 14th Street, all the way from Avenue C to the Hudson River. 14th Street is in many ways a major thoroughfare in Manhattan, marking the terminus of the Manhattan grid system, as well as serving as the most identifiable northern border of the village.
The 2015 festival, AiOP: RECALL, is an anniversary festival, looking back at projects and performances that have taken place over the last 10 years. Many of these projects themselves touch on history along 14th Street: history of the architecture, the communities, and even the topography. As the festival itself will touch on projects related to their past, we here at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation are taking a look at some of the projects that have examined the history of this northern border for our neighborhood.
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There are hundreds of individual landmarks in Manhattan alone – many in Greenwich Village, NoHo, the East Village and surrounding areas. In celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Landmarks Law, enacted in 1965, we’re taking a look at some of these important sites, one of which is the Andrew Norwood House at 241 West 14th Street.
The Norwood House could easily get lost in the jumble and hub-bub of West 14th Street, but if your eyes do focus on it, it is certainly an impressive sight. Built between 1845 and 1847, the Norwood House is not only one of our neighborhood’s individually designated New York City landmarks, but is also listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places (read more about the distinction between and meaning of these designations here).
New York City is known as one of the art capitals of the world. Art is all around us – from the Museum Mile on the Upper East Side to the galleries of Chelsea and beyond. We are often told to look up as to not miss any of the magnificent architecture above our heads. But there is also art beneath us, in dozens of subway stations throughout the five boroughs, including right here in Greenwich Village. Throughout this blog series, “Downtown Underground” we will uncover the lovely murals, mosaics and installations that line the subway stations of our neighborhoods.
What is it about James Baldwin?
This writer, long recognized as an important voice in American literature, has been gone for over a quarter-century, yet seems to be speaking incessantly in the country’s ear. He was born in Harlem in 1924, and died in the south of France in 1987, and achieved the kind of fame and impact within his lifetime that most writers only dream of.
And this gay black man – outspoken, honest and poetic about race and sensuality in a way that was rare in the 1950s, 60s and 70s – indeed, that still is – seems to be cited more than ever today. Because we are still mixed up about race and sex, because we still seek justice, because we still need his eloquence and courage. The year that would have been his 90th was recently celebrated with a variety of events held citywide under the banner The Year of James Baldwin.
There are so many different things to note and praise about Baldwin, and we will try to say many of them, not to mention read from his work, on Wednesday, October 7, when a special group of people will gather to unveil a commemorative plaque on a West Village row house where Baldwin lived in his mid-30s. We are thrilled to have the winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Gregory Pardlo, join us; writer and Villager Fran Lebowitz, a great Baldwin admirer; Trevor Baldwin, a nephew of James Baldwin; and Max Rudin, publisher of the Library of America, which has just released a third volume of Baldwin’s collected works.
Everyone is invited to attend; see details and register here.
Our latest examination of honorific street names takes us further into the East Village to 1st Avenue. From 14th Street all the way to Houston, 3 honorifics exist along this avenue:
Jodie Lane Place- Located on 11th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A, there is an unfortunately tragic story behind this honorific. Jodie Shonah Lane (1973-2004) was a Ph.D. student in clinical psychology who died from being electrocuted on January 16, 2004. She was walking her two dogs in the East Village when she stepped onto an electrified manhole on 11th Street. Her death prompted efforts to eliminate dangerous, substandard equipment installed in city streets. Read more about her tragic story here.
The writer we know as Truman Capote was born Truman Streckfus Persons on September 30, 1924 in New Orleans. Although he grew up in the South, he and his family moved to New York in 1933, where he lived until moving to Connecticut in 1939. In 1942 the family returned to New York, and soon he began working at The New Yorker.
In the 1940s Capote wrote mainly short stories, but is most remembered for his later works, 1958’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and 1959’s In Cold Blood. He had complex relationships with fellow Greenwich Village residents and habitués like Norman Mailer, Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal and Andy Warhol.
There are hundreds of individual landmarks in Manhattan alone – many in Greenwich Village, NoHo, the East Village and surrounding areas. In celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Landmarks Law, enacted in 1965, we’re taking a look at some of these important sites, one of which is the 203 Prince Street House.
When we think of Art Deco architecture in New York City, what often comes to mind are Midtown icons such as the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, or Rockefeller Center.
However Greenwich Village and the East Village boast some of their own Art Deco gems, also worth examining.
The smallest piece of property to ever be privately owned in New York City dates back to 1910, when nearly 300 buildings along Seventh Avenue in the West Village were condemned and slated to be torn down to widen the street to build the Seventh Avenue subway line. In 1913 the NY Times reported that, “property owners and residents within the line of Seventh Avenue extension from Greenwich Avenue to Varick Street are preparing for the demolition of the buildings within the condemned area.” The buildings along an eleven block stretch were to be “ ruthlessly cut through, destroying many curious old residences and businesses.”