Today is the 200th anniversary of the official adoption of the Manhattan street grid, an event of enormous importance to New York as a whole, and in a slightly different way, to neighborhoods like the Village, East Village, and NoHo, which have remained in large part defiantly “off the grid.”
Perhaps one of the most charmingly off-the-grid locations in our neighborhood are Minetta Street and Minetta Lane, which actually intersect between MacDougal Streets and Sixth Avenue, Bleecker and West 3rd Street. It would take a great series of blog posts to do these two tiny but incredible thoroughfares justice (and one may be forthcoming…), covering everything from their history as the center of “Little Africa” to the story of Minetta Creek which runs underneath, to their redevelopment in the 1910s by visionary realtor Vincent Pepe.
But for now, I will focus on the one simple element of the faded sign which still appears at 11-13 Minetta Street, just north of the bend in the street, which says “the Fat Black Pussycat Theater.” The Fat Black Pussycat was one of many notable cafes and music venues which dotted this area and which played vital roles in the story of the beat and folk music revolutions of the 1950s and 60s.
By many accounts, it was here at the Fat Black Pussycat that a young Bob Dylan wrote ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in April, 1962, which appeared a year later on “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.”
You can see more about Minetta Street and Minetta Lane on GVSHP’s Virtual Tour of the South Village HERE. Remarkably (and frustratingly), none of the South Village east of Sixth Avenue, including Minetta Street and Minetta Lane, are landmarked, though GVSHP has proposed them for historic district designation. The city had promised to act upon this area (they landmarked the South Village west of Sixth Avenue in 2010), but has not yet.
If you would like to help get the South Village landmarked, click HERE.