Second & Third Cemeteries of Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue Shearith Israel

Today is a rare day on Off the Grid:  we are combining two of our ongoing blog series: Many Layers of History and Beyond the Village and Back.

Second Cemetery of Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue. Photo courtesy of

In our Many Layers of History series, we look at the history around intersections in our neighborhood which correspond to that day’s date.  Well, 11/21 does not correspond to any intersection in the Village (and barely to an intersection in Chelsea before 11th Avenue turns to the West Side Highway), but there is a strong connection between 11th Street and 21st Street which lies buried underneath.  These streets are the sites of the Second & Third Cemeteries of the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue Shearith Israel, which we discussed in a previous post on burial sites in the Village.  In honor of today’s date, we are taking a closer look at the cemeteries and the unique history they bring to the Village and Manhattan. Read the rest of this entry »

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Remembering the Ramrod Massacre

For all of us who were worried that the conservative backlash in this country would bring about unnamed terrible things, the future is now.”

One might assume these words were written in light of recent events. In fact, they date to November 1980, and were written by activist and journalist Andy Humm following the mass shooting at the Ramrod bar on West Street in Greenwich Village on November 19, 1980. Two men were killed and six were wounded in this hate- and cocaine-fueled rampage that targeted and shocked the gay community.

Happier times in front of the Ramrod, from the Village People’s “YMCA” video. Image via NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. The Ramrod was one of New York’s most popular leather bars from 1973 (or 1976 depending on source) to when it closed in 1980 following the shooting.

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Buy a Book Locally on Small Business Saturday

“Small Business Saturday” is this coming Saturday, a day to promote the independent retailers and other businesses that enrich our neighborhoods.

Image result for small business saturdays nov 24

To help you help our local small businesses, we’ve compiled a list of books that we have featured this year at our free public programs, along with local bookstores where you can buy them — this coming Saturday November 24th, or any day!

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New York City’s 1940 Tax Photos — Now Online!

New York history buffs have been waiting a long time for this — the New York City Municipal Archives has digitized all 720,000 of its tax photos of every building in New York City, taken 1939-1941, and placed them all on their website.  The city agency had already posted digitized versions of its ca. 1980 tax photos, but until now, ca. 1940 photos remained tantalizingly out of reach, at least via the internet. This collection is a dream come true for researchers, historians, and all New York lovers, as it provides a thorough visual documentation of the city at a critical moment in time, allowing us to see what has changed, and what has stayed the same.

The Rectory of St. Mark’s Church (now the home of the Neighborhood Preservation Center and the offices of GVSHP) at 232 East 11th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Photo via Municipal Archives. Click here for present-day image.

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GVSHP’s Historic Image Archive: Interior Motives

With the colder air, the shorter days, and the mania of holiday planning that come with late November, it seems right to start spending more time in the warm, comfortable indoors. And looking through our Historic Image Archive, while our neighborhood’s building facades and street life take center stage, it’s also nice to note the fascinating interiors that these photographers chose to document. Let’s wander through some of them.

Carole Teller spotted this dreamy fireplace, found inside Colonnade Row.

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The Birth of Mass Transit in NYC

Mass transit emerged in New York City in 1827 with the omnibus, a large stagecoach pulled by horses that could accommodate about a dozen riders at a time. While horse-drawn carriages had always existed in NYC, the omnibus was different because it ran along a designated route and was a more affordable option. “Omni” meant the bus carried everyone and anyone. The ride was cushioned with steel springs, but wheels were solid metal and wood. One could imagine the rough ride its passengers experienced and the amount of effort needed by the draft animals to pull the oversize coaches along NYC’s cobblestone, unfinished, and refuse-strewn streets. On November 14, 1832, the development of mass transit took a huge leap forward when the world’s first streetcar line starting running on the Bowery.

NYC Omnibus, undated.

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One Street, Many Great Local Businesses: Bleecker Street

Sarah Jessica Parker holding up a #ShopBleecker postcard last year. This is now an annual initiative.

Four years ago today, GVSHP launched our Business of the Month program, in which each month a local independent business is featured on GVSHP’s website and blog Off the Grid, and shared with thousands of followers via our e-bulletins and social media, showcasing one of the great retail treasures of the Village, East Village, or NoHo.  It’s also #ShopBleecker month.  To mark this anniversary and important event, today we’re looking back at some of our Business of the Month awardees and Village Award winners located on Bleecker Street.

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Ernest Flagg Roundup!

On November 12th, 1968, Firehouse Engine Co. 33 at 44 Great Jones Street was designated a New York City landmark.  The design of the firehouse, a “distinguished example of French Beaux Arts architecture,” is attributed to architect Ernest Flagg.  Flagg has designed quite a few significant buildings around the neighborhood and today we are rounding up our posts on his Village buildings. Read the rest of this entry »

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James Renwick, Jr., 19th Century Architect Extraordinaire!

James Renwick, Jr. was born on November 11, 1818, in New York City.  He would become one of the most successful American architects of the 19th century, designing such high profile buildings as New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Smithsonian “Castle” in Washington D.C., and Grace Church, right here in our neighborhood on Broadway between East 11th and East 10th Streets.

James Renwick, Jr. Image from

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World War I Centennial and the Village

November 11, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which ended World War I, a war that engulfed most of Europe since 1914. United States troops tipped the balance toward Allied victory, placing the United States on the world stage in a new way. The war came at a great cost, though. WWI claimed over 17 million lives, with more than 116,000 were killed and 200,000 wounded from the United States. No state would sacrifice more than New York. Over 500,000 New Yorkers served, and of those, 13,956 lost their lives. The Village also lost many to the war, and today in Abingdon Square Park in the West Village, the Abingdon Square Doughboy statue remembers those lost in WWI.

Armistice Reported in the New York Times

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