Villager’s often point to the neighborhood’s low scale buildings and meandering, off-the-grid street pattern as one of the many factors that make the Village so special. I have to admit, I have a love/hate relationship with the Village’s off-kilter streets. But then again, I get lost with a map. Prior to 2005 (the year I joined the staff of GVSHP), I was lost anytime I visited Greenwich Village. I particularly remember one frantic morning en route to a conference at the New York AIA on LaGuardia Place. I found myself at the corner of West 4th and West 10th. I looked up at the street sign and wondered how I would ever find my way in a neighborhood where two numbered streets which should be six blocks apart suddenly intersected.
Then, in 2008, when I was working with an archivist to catalogue GVSHP’s image collection, I ran across this image of West 4th and West 10th Streets from the Nat Kaufman collection. Kaufman was a Villager and avid amateur photographer, whose portfolio covered many of the distinctive sites of Greenwich Village in the 1950s: Washington Square Park, the Women’s House of Detention, and 75 ½ Bedford Street, to name a few — places that I have come to know and love.
Now, when I see slightly bemused tourists (and even New Yorkers) looking rather lost, I think of the intersection of West 4th and 10th Streets and lend a hand. While the Village’s off the grid street pattern hasn’t always had a positive association, it certainly does now. In fact, it is one of my favorite Village things. Greenwich Avenue and Greenwich Street … well, that’s another story.