In 2016, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation held approximately 15 book-related programs.
Each author related their insights, perspectives, and tales of Village history and beyond, showing the multifaceted depth that you can only find on our streets and in our buildings. What better way to celebrate these wonderful literary works than by giving them as gifts for the holidays! We have compiled a list of the books from the programs and their descriptions to help you determine which one to pick up for friends, family, or anyone else who is fascinated by the Village. We have also included our own Greenwich Village Stories (available for purchase here, with proceeds supporting GVSHP), as well as Tony Vivolo’s Growing up in New York’s Italian South Village, in preparation for Tuesday’s South Village landmarking vote.
To read up on these programs from the past year, click here.
Ada Calhoun- St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street
A vibrant narrative history of three hallowed Manhattan blocks―the epicenter of American cool.
St. Marks Place in New York City has spawned countless artistic and political movements. Here Frank O’Hara caroused, Emma Goldman plotted, and the Velvet Underground wailed. But every generation of miscreant denizens believes that their era, and no other, marked the street’s apex. This idiosyncratic work of reportage tells the many layered history of the street―from its beginnings as Colonial Dutch Director-General Peter Stuyvesant’s pear orchard to today’s hipster playground―organized around those pivotal moments when critics declared “St. Marks is dead.”
In a narrative enriched by hundreds of interviews and dozens of rare images, St. Marks native Ada Calhoun profiles iconic characters from W. H. Auden to Abbie Hoffman, from Keith Haring to the Beastie Boys, among many others. She argues that St. Marks has variously been an elite address, an immigrants’ haven, a mafia warzone, a hippie paradise, and a backdrop to the film Kids―but it has always been a place that outsiders call home. This idiosyncratic work offers a bold new perspective on gentrification, urban nostalgia, and the evolution of a community.
Ed Hamilton- The Chintz Age: Tales of Love and Loss for a new New York
Fiction. Just as Soylent Green is people, so THE CHINTZ AGE is now. Everything is cheaper and chintzier than in the past, from consumer products to culture itself. Our great cities, and, in particular, New York, are being transformed as we speak, as rising rents squeeze out the artists and bohemians who honed and burnished the city’s glittering cutting edge. So should we look backward in teary-eyed nostalgia for the glorious past, or grit our teeth and move forward, accepting the inevitability of change in order to carve out a place for ourselves in this Brave New New York? This book of gritty urban fairy tales represents a heartfelt prayer for the future of the arts in New York, as well as a blueprint for a moral and spiritual resistance to the forces of cultural philistinism.
In seven stories and a novella, Ed Hamilton takes on this clash of cultures between the old and the new, as his characters are forced to confront their own obsolescence in the face of this rapidly surging capitalist juggernaut. Ranging over the whole panorama of New York neighborhoods—from the East Village to Hell’s Kitchen, and from the Bowery to Washington Heights—Hamilton weaves a spellbinding web of urban mythology. Punks, hippies, beatniks, squatters, junkies, derelicts, and anarchists—the entire pantheon of urban demigods—gambol through a grungy subterranean Elysium of dive bars, cheap diners, flophouses, and shooting galleries, searching for meaning and a place to make their stand.
Don Papson & Tom Calarco- Secret Lives of the Underground Railroad in New York City: Sydney Howard Gay, Louis Napoleon and the Record of Fugitives
During the fourteen years Sydney Howard Gay edited the American Anti-Slavery Society’s National Anti-Slavery Standard in New York City, he worked with some of the most important Underground agents in the eastern United States, including Thomas Garrett, William Still and James Miller McKim. Gay’s closest associate was Louis Napoleon, a free black man who played a major role in the James Kirk and Lemmon cases. For more than two years, Gay kept a record of the fugitives he and Napoleon aided. These never before published records are annotated in this book. Revealing how Gay was drawn into the bitter division between Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, the work exposes the private opinions that divided abolitionists. It describes the network of black and white men and women who were vital links in the extensive Underground Railroad, conclusively confirming a daily reality.
Sarah Schulman- The Cosmopolitans
A modern retelling of Balzac’s classic Cousin Bette by one of America’s most prolific and significant writers. Earl, a black, gay actor working in a meatpacking plant, and Bette, a white secretary, have lived next door to each other in the same Greenwich Village apartment building for thirty years. Shamed and disowned by their families, both found refuge in New York and in their domestic routine. Everything changes when Hortense, a wealthy young actress from Ohio, comes to the city to “make it.” Textured with the grit and gloss of midcentury Manhattan, The Cosmopolitans is a lush, inviting read. The truths it frames about the human need for love and recognition remain long after the book is closed.
Benjamin Feldman- Butchery on Bond Street – Sexual Politics and The Burdell-Cunningham Case in Ante-bellum New York
On the morning of January 31, 1857, Harvey Burdell’s lifeless corpse was found in a pool of gore on the floor of his dentistry office in his home at 31 Bond Street in New York City. His ex-lover and landlady of the house was immediately accused of his murder in a case that filled the headlines for months on end. Emma Cunningham’s desperate attempts to force the playboy bachelor to marry her and provide a home for the widow and her five children captured the attention of New Yorkers and people across America, just as OJ Simpson has in our times. The murder of an upper-middle class professional in the sanctity of his own home, coupled with the accused murderess’ unceasing efforts to wreak vengeance and gain recompense for her rape and an involuntary abortion suffered at the hands of the murder victim form an unbelievable tale, infamous in its day and for decades thereafter, but now long forgotten.
James & Karla Murray- Storefront II- A History Preserved: The Disappearing Faces of New York
James and Karla Murray have been capturing impeccable photographs from the streets of New York City since the 1990s; Store Front II chronicles their continued efforts to document a little-known but vitally important cross-section of New York’s Mom and Pop economy. The Murrays’ penetrating photographs are only half the story, though. In the course of their travels throughout the city’s boroughs the Murrays have taken great care to document the stories behind the scenery. Their copious background texts, gleaned largely from interviews with the stores’ owners and employees, bring wonderful color and nuance to the importance of these unique one-off establishments. The Murrays have rendered the out of the way bodegas, candy shops and record stores just as faithfully as the historically important institutions and well known restaurants, bars and cafes. From the Stonewall Inn to the Brownsville Bike Shop and The Pink Pussycat to Smith and Wolensky, the Murrays reveal how New York’s long-standing mom & pop businesses stand in sharp contrast to the city’s rapidly evolving corporate facade.
Marilyn Appleberg & the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative (LESPI)- East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side
East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side is a photographic essay that explores through text a brief history of Manhattan’s vibrant East Village neighborhood, and through contemporary photographs the modern vitality of this historic community. The book highlights the area’s energetic, often rowdy history that includes being a national center for immigration into our country, and a longtime magnet for innovative artists, musicians, writers and political activists. The book’s sponsor, Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the East Village / Lower East Side’s historic streetscapes, and was instrumental in the 2012 landmarking of two East Village New York City Historic Districts.
Edward T. O’Donnell- Ship Ablaze: The Tragedy of the Steamboat General Slocum
There were few experienced swimmers among over 1,300 Lower East Side residents who boarded the General Slocum on June 15, 1904. It shouldn’t have mattered, since the steamship was chartered only for a languid excursion from Manhattan to Long Island Sound. But a fire erupted minutes into the trip, forcing hundreds of terrified passengers into the water. By the time the captain found a safe shore for landing, 1,021 had perished. Ship Ablaze draws on firsthand accounts to examine why the death toll was so high and how the city responded. Masterfully capturing both the horror of the event and the heroism of men, women, and children who faced crumbling life jackets and inaccessible lifeboats as the inferno quickly spread, historian Edward T. O’Donnell brings to life a bygone community while honoring the victims of that forgotten day.
Margaret Lynch-Brennan- The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America, 1840-1930
Many of the socially marginalized Irish immigrant women of this era made their living in domestic service. In contrast to immigrant men, who might have lived in a community with their fellow Irish, these women lived and worked in close contact with American families. Lynch-Brennan reveals the essential role this unique relationship played in shaping the place of the Irish in America today. Such women were instrumental in making the Irish presence more acceptable to earlier established American groups. At the same time, it was through the experience of domestic service that many Irish were acculturated, as these women absorbed the middle-class values of their patrons and passed them on to their own children. Drawing on personal correspondence and other primary sources, Lynch-Brennan gives voice to these young Irish women and celebrates their untold contribution to the ethnic history of the United States. In addition, recognizing the interest of scholars in contemporary domestic services, she devotes one chapter to comparing “Bridget’s” experience to that of other ethnic women over time in domestic service in America.
Stephen Petrus & Ronald D. Cohen- Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival
From Washington Square Park and the Gaslight Café to WNYC Radio and Folkways Records, New York City’s cultural, artistic, and commercial assets helped to shape a distinctively urban breeding ground for the folk music revival of the 1950s and 60s. Folk City explores New York’s central role in fueling the nationwide craze for folk music in postwar America. It involves the efforts of record company producers and executives, club owners, concert promoters, festival organizers, musicologists, agents and managers, editors and writers – and, of course, musicians and audiences.
In Folk City, authors Stephen Petrus and Ron Cohen capture the exuberance of the times and introduce readers to a host of characters who brought a new style to the biggest audience in the history of popular music. Among the savvy New York entrepreneurs committed to promoting folk music were Izzy Young of the Folklore Center, Mike Porco of Gerde’s Folk City, and John Hammond of Columbia Records. While these and other businessmen developed commercial networks for musicians, the performance venues provided the artists space to test their mettle. The authors portray Village coffee houses not simply as lively venues but as incubators of a burgeoning counterculture, where artists from diverse backgrounds honed their performance techniques and challenged social conventions. Accessible and engaging, fresh and provocative, rich in anecdotes and primary sources, Folk City is lavishly illustrated with images collected for the accompanying major exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York in 2015.
Gerard Koeppel- City on a Grid: How New York became New York
You either love it or hate it, but nothing says New York like the street grid of Manhattan. Created in 1811 by a three-man commission featuring headstrong Founding Father Gouverneur Morris, the plan called for a dozen parallel avenues crossing at right angles with many dozens of parallel streets in an unbroken grid. Hills and valleys, streams and ponds, forests and swamps were invisible to the grid; so too were country villages, roads, farms, and estates and generations of property lines. All would disappear as the crosshatch fabric of the grid overspread the island: a heavy greatcoat on the land, the dense undergarment of the future city.
No other grid in Western civilization was so large and uniform as the one ordained in 1811. Not without reason. When the grid plan was announced, New York was just under two hundred years old, an overgrown town at the southern tip of Manhattan, a notorious jumble of streets laid at the whim of landowners. To bring order beyond the chaos—and good real estate to market—the street planning commission came up with a monolithic grid for the rest of the island. Mannahatta—the native “island of hills”—became a place of rectangles, in thousands of blocks on the flattened landscape, and many more thousands of right-angled buildings rising in vertical mimicry.
The Manhattan grid has been called “a disaster” of urban planning and “the most courageous act of prediction in Western civilization.” However one feels about it, the most famous urban design of a living city defines its daily life. This is its story.
Patricia Palermo- The Message of the City: Dawn Powell’s New York Novels, 1925–1962
Dawn Powell was a gifted satirist who moved in the same circles as Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway, renowned editor Maxwell Perkins, and other midcentury New York luminaries. Her many novels are typically divided into two groups: those dealing with her native Ohio and those set in New York. “From the moment she left behind her harsh upbringing in Mount Gilead, Ohio, and arrived in Manhattan, in 1918, she dove into city life with an outlander’s anthropological zeal,” reads a recent New Yorker piece about Powell, and it is those New York novels that built her reputation for scouring wit and social observation.
In this critical biography and study of the New York novels, Patricia Palermo reminds us how Powell earned a place in the national literary establishment and East Coast social scene. Though Powell’s prolific output has been out of print for most of the past few decades, a revival is under way: the Library of America, touting her as a “rediscovered American comic genius,” released her collected novels, and in 2015 she was posthumously inducted into the New York State Writer’s Hall of Fame.
Engaging and erudite, The Message of the City fills a major gap in in the story of a long-overlooked literary great. Palermo places Powell in cultural and historical context and, drawing on her diaries, reveals the real-life inspirations for some of her most delicious satire.
Seth Tobocman- War in the Neighborhood
New York City’s Lower East Side was a well-known landing strip for recent arrivals in the United States. For more than a century it was home to thriving communities of artists, radicals and working class families. In a gripping series of fictionalized accounts, political artist Seth Tobocman illustrates the L.E.S. of the late 80san era of homelessness and gentrification, ACT UP and the AIDS epidemic, tent cities and squatted apartment buildings, street brawls between punks and skinheads and, above all, an emerging gulf between rich and poor.
Esther Crain- The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910
The drama, expansion, mansions and wealth of New York City’s transformative Gilded Age era, from 1870 to 1910, captured in a magnificently illustrated hardcover.
In forty short years, New York City suddenly became a city of skyscrapers, subways, streetlights, and Central Park, as well as sprawling bridges that connected the once-distant boroughs. In Manhattan, more than a million poor immigrants crammed into tenements, while the half of the millionaires in the entire country lined Fifth Avenue with their opulent mansions.
The Gilded Age in New York captures what is was like to live in Gotham then, to be a daily witness to the city’s rapid evolution.
- Newspapers, autobiographies, and personal diaries offer fascinating glimpses into daily life among the rich, the poor, and the surprisingly large middle class.
- The use of photography and illustrated periodicals provides astonishing images that document the bigness of New York: the construction of the Statue of Liberty; the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge; the shimmering lights of Luna Park in Coney Island; the mansions of Millionaire’s Row.
- Sidebars detail smaller, fleeting moments: Alice Vanderbilt posing proudly in her “Electric Light” ball gown at a society-changing masquerade ball; immigrants stepping off the boat at Ellis Island; a young Theodore Roosevelt witnessing Abraham Lincoln’s funeral.
The Gilded Age in New York is a rare illustrated look at this amazing time in both the city and the country as a whole. Author Esther Crain, the go-to authority on the era, weaves first-hand accounts and fascinating details into a vivid tapestry of American society at the turn of the century.
John Strausbaugh- City of Sedition: New York and the Civil War
No city was more of a help to Abraham Lincoln and the Union war effort, or more of a hindrance. No city raised more men, money, and materiel for the war, and no city raised more hell against it. It was a city of patriots, war heroes, and abolitionists, but simultaneously a city of antiwar protest, draft resistance, and sedition.
Without his New York supporters, it’s highly unlikely Lincoln would have made it to the White House. Yet, because of the city’s vital and intimate business ties to the Cotton South, the majority of New Yorkers never voted for him and were openly hostile to him and his politics. Throughout the war New York City was a nest of antiwar “Copperheads” and a haven for deserters and draft dodgers. New Yorkers would react to Lincoln’s wartime policies with the deadliest rioting in American history. The city’s political leaders would create a bureaucracy solely devoted to helping New Yorkers evade service in Lincoln’s army. Rampant war profiteering would create an entirely new class of New York millionaires, the “shoddy aristocracy.” New York newspapers would be among the most vilely racist and vehemently antiwar in the country. Some editors would call on their readers to revolt and commit treason; a few New Yorkers would answer that call. They would assist Confederate terrorists in an attempt to burn their own city down, and collude with Lincoln’s assassin.
Here in CITY OF SEDITION, a gallery of fascinating New Yorkers comes to life, the likes of Horace Greeley, Walt Whitman, Julia Ward Howe, Boss Tweed, Thomas Nast, Matthew Brady, and Herman Melville. This book follows the fortunes of these figures and chronicles how many New Yorkers seized the opportunities the conflict presented to amass capital, create new industries, and expand their markets, laying the foundation for the city’s-and the nation’s-growth.
Greenwich Village Stories: A Collection of Memories (available for purchase here, with proceeds supporting GVSHP)
A love letter to Greenwich Village, written by artists, writers, musicians, restaurateurs, and other neighborhood habitues who each share a favorite memory of this beloved place. The sixty stories in this collection of Village memories are exuberant, poignant, original, and vivid-perfectly capturing the essence of the Village.
Every corner of the Village is represented in the book: recollections of jazz clubs and existentialism on Bleecker Street, rock music at St. Mark’s Place, folk singers in Washington Square Park. There are stories of Hans Hofmann teaching modern art on 8th Street and Lotte Lenya performing in The Threepenny Opera on Christopher Street. Decades later, Brooke Shields muses on renovating a brownstone and finding history behind its walls; and Mario Batali lyrically describes a Sunday morning walk through the food markets of Bleecker Street. The stories are complemented by a wide range of photographs by iconic figures such as Allen Ginsberg, Rudy Burckhardt, Berenice Abbott, Saul Leiter, Ruth Orkin, and Weegee. Paintings depict elegant red-brick facades and raffish Hudson River piers, now restored; theater posters spotlight Karen Finley and John Leguizamo. This is a book for those who are already beguiled by the Village as well as those just discovering this fabled place.
Tony Vivolo- Growing up in New York’s Italian South Village
With animation in his words and a wave of his magic wand, Tony Vivolo brings alive the world of his boyhood. Cured meats and ripened cheeses in the shops assault your senses and let you know exactly where you’ve landed. Boisterous nonstop chatter of family and friends fills the cramped apartment and reminds you where you’ll always find welcome. And embracing arms, soft words, and yes even scolding remarks wrap you in the blanket of ever-present love. Growing up in the confines of the city, Vivolo and his companions had their challenges in satisfying even the simplest desires. With the few nearby parks in high demand, the boys played ball with makeshift equipment on city pavement between parked cars, using their wits to make do with limited resources – and sometimes their speedy feet to escape the results of errant balls. they made the streets their playground, the tenement stairwells their social networks and the apartment rooftops their escape-in more ways than one. Creativity abounded. Vivolo touches a chord with us all as he opens his heart and reveals the deep connection among those who formed his neighborhood, Surrounded by relatives and friends whose bonds would remain for life, he experienced what we all yearn for, both for ourselves and our children- unconditional love, support through good times and bad, opportunities to stretch in a simple life with limited means, Vivolo shows what we too often forget in our rush to do it all – that what matters most, what we remember always, what truly enriches our lives happens in the moments shared with those we love. Step into Vivolo’s Italian South Village and recapture the joy in simple pleasures