Great Writers and the Greenwich Village Historic District

This is one in a series of posts marking the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District.  Check out our year-long activities and celebrations at gvshp.org/GVHD50

The Greenwich Village Historic District has been home, over the years, to countless writers, authors, poets and other literati. Known as an area for artists, the writers who worked in the Greenwich Village Historic District held salons and other gatherings of their peers in the neighborhood, making the area famous no only for the writers who lived there, but for their communities which produced whole literary movements beyond the individual works each writer produced. Hop in for a west-to-east tour of sites of the GVHD literati, from Mark Twain to Lorraine Hansberry.

Village Preservation’s celebratory map of the Greenwich Village Historic District, created especially for our celebration by the artist Barbara Macfarlane, represented by the Rebecca Hossack Gallery

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Exploring East Village Music Meccas with Building Blocks

This is part of a series of curated tours to help the public explore the buildings and history shared on our recently-launched East Village Building Blocks site — see it here.

From 19th-century concert halls to punk palaces of the 1970s, many influential music scenes got their start or found a home among the East Village’s legendary music venues. The East Village attracted countless creatives – performers, writers, artists, and thinkers – intermingling and inspiring radical new ideas. Today we’re looking at a few spots from our East Village Music Venues Tour on Building Blocks, reminding us how many unforgettable musicians made their mark on these humble streets.

East Village Music Venues Tour on Building Blocks.

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Remembering a Big Day for East Village Landmarking

On March 18, 2008, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approved the designation of four East Village landmarks, and they were as varied as the East Village itself. They were the Webster Hall and Annex at 119-125 East 11th Street, the Children’s Aid Society Elizabeth Home For Girls at 307 East 12th Street, the (Former) Congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Anshe Ungarn at 242 East 7th Street, and the Free Public Baths of the City of New York at 538 East 11th Street. In addition to being landmarked on the same day, all these buildings were built between 1886 and  1908 to serve primarily poor and immigrant populations, and were all built on land that was once a part of Peter Stuyvesant’s farm,

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The Ides of March

Every month has an “Ides,” but only the month of March is known for it.  The Romans did not number days of a month from the first to the last day. Instead, they counted back from three fixed points of the month: the Nones (5th or 7th, depending on the length of the month), the Ides (13th or 15th), and the Kalends (1st of the following month). The Ides occurred near the midpoint, on the 13th for most months, but on the 15th for March, May, July, and October. The Ides were supposed to be determined by the full moon, reflecting the lunar origin of the Roman calendar.

Coin issued by Brutus in 42 B.C. A cap of freedom in the middle flanked by two daggers

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Chaim Gross on LaGuardia Place, and “The Family” on Bleecker

When the days are finally seeming longer than they used to be, the beautiful details of the Village begin to reveal themselves in new ways. Today, I’m thinking about public art, and a special spot in the Greenwich Village Historic District. Bleecker Street Park is a place to chat on the phone, eat a cupcake from Magnolia, or listen to children playing, all under the watchful eyes of Chaim Gross’s lyrical sculpture “The Family.” Chaim Gross was born on March 17, 1904 in Ukraine, and landed in New York as an art student and a Jewish refugee of WWI in 1921. Through his art and his foundation – the wonderful Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation – he remains here with us.

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Architect George Frederick Pelham and the Greenwich Village Historic District

One of New York City’s most prolific architects before and after the turn of the 20th century was George Frederick Pelham. He designed a variety of types of buildings, including institutional, commercial and especially residential buildings all around the city, employing numerous architectural styles. Many of his buildings are located in various New York City historic districts, including the Greenwich Village Historic District, which boasts 22 of his buildings within its borders. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District this year, we’re looking at some of the buildings by Pelham.

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Peter Stuyvesant’s Bouweries and their Legacy Today

On March 12, 1651, Peter Stuyvesant, Director General of the Dutch West India Company, purchased Bouwerie (Dutch for ‘farm’) #1 and part of Bouwerie #2 in what is today’s East Village and surrounding neighborhoods. While it only remained farmland for a fraction of its existence, the land between present-day 5th and 20th Streets, from Fourth Avenue to the East River, would nevertheless remain in the Stuyvesant family for many generations. Though the land eventually traded hands to new owners, the Stuyvesant family imprint can still be seen on the area today in a number of ways.

Stuyvesant Fish House at 21 Stuyvesant Street

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A Building Blocks Tour of the Squats of the East Village

This is part of a series of curated tours to help the public explore the buildings and history shared on our recently-launched East Village Building Blocks site — see it here.

During the 1970s and 80s, many century-old buildings in Alphabet City were severely neglected or even abandoned by landlord or city government.  Squatters, some of whom were also artists by trade, moved into these vacant tenements and started to repair, maintain, and live in them.  These reoccupied buildings took on names like Bullet Space or Umbrella House or C squat or Serenity House.
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Jack Reed and Mabel Dodge — Their Lasting Legacy

John (Jack) Reed

Today is the anniversary of the start of the Russian Revolution, and so we celebrate the rise of John Reed who chronicled the Revolution from a first hand perspective.

It could be said that the rise of iconic Villager John (Jack) Reed was born in the legendary salons (and arms) of Mabel Dodge.  Dodge’s Salons were, in her own words, created “To dynamite New York!”  Sometimes hundreds of guests would gather at 23 Fifth Avenue to debate radical politics, free love, psychoanalysis, the single tax, birth control, Wobblies, cubism, and women’s suffrage, just to name a few of the topics.  Enlightened individuals of all stripes would convene within the walls of Dodge’s Greenwich Village apartment; writers, artists, journalists, socialists, anarchists, feminists, labor leaders, clergymen, psychiatrists, poets, playwrights…  they were there to “upset America with fatal, irrevocable disaster to the old order!” Read the rest of this entry »

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Charlie Brown Makes His Stage Debut at Theatre 80, March 7, 1967

On March 7th, 1967, the delightful musical comedy, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, made its debut at Theatre 80 at 80 St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. With music written by Clark Gesner (and the book written by, “’John Gordon’…a collective pseudonym that covers Gesner, the cast members, and the production staff, all of whom worked together to assemble the script”), a 1971 New York Times review described the play as a “surprise hit.” Of course, looking back, its success perhaps comes as no surprise at all.

Poster for “John Gordon’s” production at Theatre 80. Courtesy of Pinterest.

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