Weehawken Street Historic District, Part III
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.
In 1928, Nos. 3 and 5 Weehawken Street, former tenements, were combined and altered, removing the cornice and storefront and the first floor facade was redesigned in the Colonial Revival style. An advertisement for the building in 1929 stated: “A few apartments, 1-2-3 rooms, kitchenette and bath; $50 to $75; lease; all modern improvements; roof garden with Hudson River Panorama.” In 1934, The Villager referred to Weehawken Street as “an almost forgotten thoroughfare” and 3-5 Weehawken Street as “the last outpost of the Greenwich Village artists…homes of the literary and artistic folk who choose to live somewhat off the beaten path.” Other middle class apartments were found at 304 West 10th street, 391 West Street, and 392-393 West street.
Following the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 there was a resurgence of bars, grills and restaurants within the Weehawken Street Historic District. Some were the Weehawken Bar & Grill (c. 1930-60) at 304 West 10th Street, Raymond Thompson’s West Shore Grill (c. 1935-45) at 398 West Street, and Charlie Chabal’s bar & grill (c.1950-60) at 394-395 West Street. After 1960, with the introduction of containerized shipping and the accompanying need for larger facilities, the Manhattan waterfront rapidly declined as the center of New York’s maritime commerce.
By the early 1970’s, the western end of Christopher Street and adjacent blocks along West Street, long established with waterfront taverns, had become a nucleus for bars catering to a gay clientele. Following the rebellion at Stonewall, Christopher Street became the social and cultural center of New York’ gay and lesbian community. Six of the fourteen buildings in the district housed gay bars from the early 1970’s to the present. To name a few, there were Sneakers at 392-393 West Street, Badlands at 388-390 West Street and Dugout at 185 Christopher Street.
In 1963 Jane Jacobs, on behalf of the West Village Committee, wrote to the newly formed New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1963 (prior to the passage of the Landmarks Law in 1965 which enabled designations). In this letter she urged the Commission that any consideration of a Greenwich Village historic district include the far western section of the Village to West Street, particularly the area in and around Weekhawken Street. Although not part of the original Greenwich Village District, the Weehawken Street Historic District was finally granted designation in 2006, in large part to the efforts of GVSHP.