Happy Birthday, Angela Davis

Angela Davis. Photo courtesy of blog.phillyweekly.com.

Angela Davis. Photo courtesy of blog.phillyweekly.com.

Activist, leftist, and radical feminist — these are just some of the words used to describe Angela Davis, a scholar and civil rights leader and fighter who came to prominence in the countercultural era of the 1960’s.  Davis was born on January 26, 1944. Greenwich Village has always been a breeding ground for movers and shakers, whether they be artists or activists, or anything in between.  Today, on Davis’ birthday, we look back at her life and her connections to the neighborhood. Read the rest of this entry »

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Weehawken Street Historic District, Part III

4 Weehawken Street, 1929.  Source: NYLP

4 Weehawken Street, 1929. Source: NYLP

This is the third part of a three part series on the Weehawken Street Historic District.  This small historic district is comprised of only fourteen buildings but represents a wonderful cross section of the development of Greenwich Village’s Hudson River waterfront. 

Just prior to World War I, real estate in Greenwich Village became more and more desired not just by artists and writers but by young professionals attracted to the community’s picturesque qualities, affordable housing, diverse population and social and political ideas.  Many row houses and former tenements were converted to middle class flats.  In 1920, Weehawken Street was dubbed by the New York Evening Post as “a Street of Hotels,” but by the late 1920’s this far western section of the Village also yielded to the same patterns in realty as seen in the sections to the east.

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99 Years Ago: The Washington Square Arch Conspiracy, January 23, 1917

Washington Square Arch in Washington Square Park

Washington Square Arch in Washington Square Park

The Washington Square Arch in Washington Square Park is in some ways the heart of the Village. The white marble structure was designed by renowned architect Stanford White and built in 1890-1892. It replaced an earlier, temporary privately-funded arch, made of plaster and wood, that was erected in 1889 to commemorate the centenary of George Washington’s inauguration. This original arch was located just north of the park, and spanned 5th Avenue.

The park itself was once a marsh fed by the Minetta Brook, and located near an Indian village known as Sapokanikan. In 1797 the City’s Common Council acquired the land – which was then very much the countryside and not part of what was New York City – for use as a “Potter’s Field” and for public executions. It became Washington Military Parade Ground in 1826, and then a public park in 1827.

Gentrification soon followed, and one of the grandest examples of Greek Revival architecture – the rowhouses located along Washington Square North – were constructed mostly in the 1830s as fashionable residences for New York’s elite. Novelists Henry James and Edith Wharton; and artists Edward Hopper, William Glackens, and Thomas Eakins all lived here at one time or another.
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Weehawken Street Historic District, Part II

wee 1904 image

1904 Sanborn Map Source: NYPL

This is the second part of a three part series on the Weehawken Street Historic District.  This small historic district is comprised of only fourteen buildings but represents a wonderful cross section of the development of Greenwich Village’s Hudson River waterfront.  The designation of this District was due in large part to the efforts of GVSHP.

The Hudson River Railroad was constructed along West Street in the 1850’s, with a depot in what is now the Weehawken Street Historic District.  By the early nineteenth century New York City had developed as the largest port in the United States, and South Street along the East River was  the primary artery for maritime commerce.  However, West Street became a competitor in the 1870’s and by the 1890’s surpassed its eastern neighbor.  Weehawken Street and environs during this time was an eclectic mix of manufacturing and commercial structures as well as tenements. Read the rest of this entry »

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Business of the Month: Matt Umanov Guitars

Your input is needed! Today we feature our latest Business of the Month — and we need your help selecting the next. Tell us which independent store you love in Greenwich Village, the East Village or NoHo: just click here to vote for your favorite.  Want to help support small businesses?  Share this post with friends.

Matt Umanov.

Matt Umanov.

Greenwich Village and music are a pairing that seems to have existed for as long as the neighborhood has been around, yet where does one here go about finding an instrument? If you’re looking to follow in the footsteps of Bob Dylan or Lou Reed, then look no further than Matt Umanov Guitars.  Matt Umanov has been in the guitar business since 1965, starting out performing independent repairs and restorations before opening his repair and sale shop on Bleecker Street in 1969.  Matt’s shop has since remained a defining presence of the village, and his reputation and the reputation of the shop has only grown.  Matt is considered one of the best if not the best guitar repairer and restorer in the city, and he is known to carry only the finest guitars, banjos, and other quality American bred instruments.  Read the rest of this entry »

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NYS Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Preservation in First Avenue Estate Hardship Case

savedAs reported by our allies the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, the New York State Supreme Court recently upheld the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s denial of the hardship application by a developer on the Upper Eats Side seeking to demolish two historic buildings which are part of the landmarked City and Suburban Homes First Avenue Estate. This ruling affirms the City’s right to regulate landmark-designated properties. Click here for full press coverage of the case. GVSHP was part of a coalition which filed amicus briefs in support of denying the bogus hardship case.

We fully recognize that when there is a legitimate financial or other hardship, a property owner must be relieved of the obligations of landmark designation under the law, or some other accommodations must be made. But that does not mean one can claim ‘hardship’ without being able to prove it, and this developer certainly did not, claiming he was unable to rent apartments in this Upper East Side property in a prime location at rents which would support it maintenance and operation.

In fact, this developer has tried every tactic imaginable over the years to try to avoid or get around landmark designation of these historic buildings and demolish them, including stripping them of their architectural ornament.But the historic significance of these buildings is nevertheless self-evident.
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Happy Birthday East 10th Street Historic District

A 1934 Image of East 10th Street looking east from Avenue A with the Chrisadora in the background. (Image via NYPL)

A 1934 Image of East 10th Street looking east from Avenue A with the Chrisadora in the background. (Image via NYPL)

On January 17th, 2012, the LPC designated the East 10th Street Historic District. The district includes 26 row houses mostly built in the 1840’s and 1850’s, extending from Avenue A to Avenue B. Very few modifications to the buildings have occurred on this block since 1860. Only four of the buildings were built since 1860, with two being built in the late 1890’s and the latest dating to 1906. Modifications that have occurred mainly include the removal of cornices to increase the height of the original building.
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Happy 47th Birthday, St. Mark’s Historic District

Forty-seven years ago, on January 14th 1969, the Landmarks Preservation Commission concluded that,

“On the basis of a careful consideration of the history, the architecture and other features of this area, the Landmarks Preservation Commission finds that the St. Mark’s Historic District contains buildings and other improvements which have a special character and special historical and aesthetic interest and value and which represent one or more periods or styles of architecture typical of one or more eras in the history of New York City and which cause this area, by reason of these factors, to constitute a distinct section of the City.”

The LPC added an extension to the district in 1984.

This part of Manhattan was once part of the farm of Peter Stuyvesant, who was Director-General of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, before it became the English colony New York in 1664. One of my favorite streets, Stuyvesant Street, runs on a true east-west course, and was first surveyed and laid out in 1787, for Stuyvesant’s great-grandson, who often used the Latin form of his name, Petrus.

St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery

St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery

The most significant structure in the district is the historic St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery. The church was designated an individual landmark earlier, in 1966. At the time, the LPC wrote:

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Downtown Underground: Tom Otterness’ Life Underground

Photo by Richard Panse (2004)

Photo by Richard Panse (2004)

In 1985 the MTA founded what was then called Arts for Transit and Urban Design (now called Arts & Design) as part of an ambitious capital improvement program meant to reverse years of subway system decline. At that time, MTA leadership determined that original and engaging art was a vital part of the rebuilding effort, one that would lead to a more pleasurable experience for subway riders. The Arts & Design program occurred as both the historic preservation and public art movements began to influence public policy and as cities nationwide began their own rebuilding programs. Arts & Design’s work continues to flourish today.

Last time we looked Lee Brozgol’s The Greenwich Village Murals at the Christopher Street-Sheridan Square station. The next stop on our tour of subway art in the Village brings us to the 14th Street station at 8th Avenue where one of the most popular pieces of subway art lies.

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GVSHP East Village Oral History: Lorcan Otway

Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation is excited to share our oral history collection with the public, and hope they will shed more light on what makes Greenwich Village and the East Village such unique and vibrant areas.  Each of these histories highlights the experiences and insights of long-time residents, usually active in the arts, culture, preservation, business, or civic life of the neighborhood.  Recently we launched new collections focusing on the East and South Villages, and have been highlighting some of the featured individuals on Off the Grid; these posts can be read here.

Lorcan Otway outside of Theatre 80, 80 Saint Marks Place, New York, NY. Photograph by Liza Zapol.

Lorcan Otway outside of Theatre 80, 80 Saint Marks Place, New York, NY. Photograph by Liza Zapol.

On Monday, January 25th, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation will hear from Ada Calhoun how St. Mark’s is dead, exploring the topic of her book of a similar name.  This event will take place at Theater 80 St. Marks, a location with history reflective of the kind of life that once embodied the area.  Lorcan Otway is the current owner of the theater, which had been started by his father, as well as the adjoining Museum of the American Gangster.  Son of novelist, playwright, producer, and owner of Theater 80 Howard Otway, Lorcan grew up around St. Mark’s and the off-off-Broadway theater scene that congregated around there in the 1960’s.  Recently, he gave an oral history as part of the GVSHP Oral History Collection focused on the East Village.  In it, he discusses the very lively character of the neighborhood he knew growing up, the theater, and the strong mafia connections that are a part of Theater 80’s history, the founding of the museum, and the character of NYC. Read the rest of this entry »

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