South Village Highlights – see for yourself
On Tuesday we celebrated the Landmarks Preservation Commission vote to designate the South Village as an Historic District. I hope you will see for yourself why we fought so hard for 10 years to accomplish this. Circle a day on your calendar now, and set aside some time to stroll the streets between Washington Square Park and Houston Street, and feel the history, and enjoy the sights and sounds – and the food and the drinks, too!
Start at the southwest corner of West 3rd Street and MacDougal Streets. A few doors down on the right you’ll find Café Reggio, 119 MacDougal Street — This popular coffeehouse was noted for attracting artists and musicians beginning in 1927, including Bob Dylan. It’s where cappuccino was introduced in America. If you see the Coen Brothers’ new film Inside Llewyn Davis, you’ll recognize one scene in particular that was filmed here.
A few doors down from that you’ll find Café Wha? and Minetta Tavern on opposite corners of MacDougal Street and Minetta Lane, two of the storied gathering spaces in this neighborhood from its bohemian heyday. Bob Dylan’s first performance after arriving in New York was at Cafe Wha? Peter, Paul, and Mary also performed there and Jimi Hendrix was “discovered” there in 1966. Minetta Tavern was a popular literary haunt in the 1920s, attracting the likes of E. E. Cummings, Joe Gould, Ernest Hemingway, Eugene O’Neill, and Ezra Pound.
Across the street on your left you’ll find 130-132 MacDougal Street, a pair of Greek Revival row houses likely built in 1845. These beautiful homes are notable for their cast-iron veranda, an extraordinarily rare survivor of this feature in New York City. These are relatively late examples of single-family row house construction in the designated area. Author Louisa May Alcott’s father, Bronson Alcott, lived in no. 130, and Louisa May Alcott is said to have written parts of Little Women while staying there.
Continue down MacDougal Street to Bleeker Street and turn right. Little Red Schoolhouse, located at 200-202 Bleecker Street was founded in 1921. This was the first “progressive” school in New York. The red houses from which the school gets its name date from 1826.
Now go back the other way on Bleecker Street and stop between Sullivan and Thompson Streets. There you will find the former Mills House No. 1, 160 Bleecker Street, an early and influential experiment in reform housing built in 1896 to the designs of renowned architect Ernest Flagg. This building originally provided lodging for 1,500 single men along with communal space and social services in what were considered generous and humane conditions for the time.
For many years the Village Gate theater was located in this building at 158 Bleecker Street. Located in the first floor and basement of Mills House No. 1, the Village Gate was one of the premier jazz, rock, and folk music venues of the mid-20th century. Bob Dylan wrote “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall” here. Today Le Poisson Rouge offers a variety of music performances in the cellar portion of the former space.
Turn left on Thompson Street, walk up to West 3rd Street and turn left. Next door to legendary Italian restaurant Il Mulino, you’ll find the former Fire Patrol No. 2 at 84 West 3rd Street. Built in 1906, the Fire Patrol was a private fire insurance service which pre-dated the New York City Fire Department, with roots connected to Benjamin Franklin. You can read more about the rich history of this building – and see some great photos too – HERE. The house has been renovated and converted to a private residence by Anderson Cooper.
I hope you had a good time wandering around the newly designated South Village Historic District. And I’m sure you found someplace to sit down for a nice meal, so you won’t leave hungry!