This coming Sunday will mark the ninth anniversary of the designation of the Gansevoort Market Historic District. The first new district to be enacted in the Village since the first Greenwich Village Historic District in 1969, Gansevoort Market was designated as a mercantile district consisting of industrial, commercial and residential buildings historically linked to the city’s working waterfront. Known by many today as MePa, or the Meatpacking District for its history as a center for slaughterhouses and meatpacking industries, the neighborhood is now home to designers, architects, creative industry corporate headquarters, and the restored High Line, which share space alongside meatpacking plants.
In 1963, the pioneering urban activist Jane Jacobs urged that the then-under-consideration Greenwich Village Historic Landmark District be extended west to West Street, at the edge of the Hudson River. Addressing the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Jacobs argued:
As you know, the West Village was the old river-landing settlement. From its beginnings, the settlement combined work, residence and transportation. With truly remarkable integrity and fidelity, this historic land use persists today. Visually, too, the Village waterfront shows unique evidences of its unbroken historic continuity. Enough of the early buildings remain so that the historic scale of the old town can be understood and felt.
The neighborhood’s unique street pattern was shaped by the transition between the irregular pattern of northwestern Greenwich Village and he regularized grid of the 1811 Commissioner’s Plan. This unusual juncture of streets led to large and open intersections where Ninth Avenue meets West 14th Street and Gansevoort Street. Residential and commercial development in the historic district was particularly spurred in the 1880s by the creation of two nearby municipal markets: the open-air Farmers’ Market (later Gansevoort Market) in 1879 for regional produce and the West Washington Market in 1889 for meat, poultry, and dairy products. The area’s picturesque nature is strengthened by the Belgian blocks street pavers still visible today on Ninth Avenue and Gansevoort, Little West 12th, West 13th, and West 14th Streets. If you want a street by street guide to the area, you can download GVSHP’s Gansevoort Market walking tour.
GVSHP, along with neighborhood meatpackers, community activists, and local business leaders, reinstated the push for landmarking the neighborhood in early 2000, through its Save Gansevoort Market project. You can check out the landmark proposal, the city’s designation report, as well as learn more about ongoing development pressures in the neighborhood on the GVSHP website.