The Origins of Greenwich Village Historic District Street Names: Part II

The Origins of Greenwich Village Historic District Street Names: Part II

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 streets, parks, and squares of the Greenwich Village Historic District are named for a unique collection of historical figures. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Greenwich Village Historic District, we have developed a guide to how these locations got their names. Click here to read other posts about the origins of GVHD Street names.

Bedford Street

Mapped prior to 1799, Bedford Street was named for Bedford Street in London. London’s Bedford Street was named for Francis Russell, the Fourth Earl of Bedford. The Earl of Bedford title first originated in 1138. London’s Bedford Street was named in the mid-17th century as the Fourth Earl of Bedford developed the area.

Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford. Painted by Henry Bone R.A. 1836

Click here to read more about Bedford Street.

Charles Street, Christopher Street, and Christopher Park

Charles Street, Christopher Street, and Christopher Park were all named for Charles Christopher Amos.

Local Favorite 121 Charles Street

The land under much of Greenwich Village was developed as a tobacco farm by Wouter Van Twiller, who served as the fifth of seven Director-Generals of New Netherland from 1633 to 1638. Following Van Twiller’s death in 1654, his land was divided into three farms. The Trinity Church and Elbert Herring farms to the south and Admiral Sir Peter Warren’s farm to the north were divided by Skinner Road. Skinner Road was named for one of Warren’s sons in law, British Colonel William Skinner.

In 1799, Warren’s land was acquired by a trustee of Warren’s estate, Richard Amos, eventually passing to relative Charles Christopher Amos. He renamed Skinner Road Christopher Street, which makes Christopher Street one of the oldest streets if not the oldest street in the Village. He also named Charles Street after himself. Some believe he also named Amos Street after himself, while others believe it was named for Richard Amos. Charles Street remains, but Amos Street was renamed West 10th Street in 1857.

The northeast corner of Bleecker Street and Christopher Street, 1925. Image via NYPL.

Amos also named Charles Lane after himself, but this is just outside the borders of the Greenwich Village Historic District. Along with Horatio Street, it is unique that these were named for first names, not surnames.

Christopher Park was created in 1835. Following a fire, local residents petitioned the City to condemn the triangular area and provide open space on the block bordered by Christopher, Grove, and West 4th Streets. On April 5, 1837 the City created Christopher Park.

  • Interesting fact: The flagpole in Christopher Park, erected in 1936, commemorates the 1861 Fire Zouaves, the 11th New York Infantry that wore uniforms styled after North African tribesmen in the Civil War.

These statues by George Segal are titled Gay Liberation in honor of gay rights and the Village’s rich history in this area. Unveiled in 1992, these statues reside at Christopher Park, across the street from the Stonewall Inn.

Click here to read more about Charles Street. Click here to read more about Christopher Street. Click here to read more about Christopher Park.

Waverly Place

Waverly Place was named after Sir Walter Scott’s 26-novel series known as Waverley published between 1814 and 1831. Waverley was the name of the first title, published in 1814, but Scott did not claim authorship until 1827 so all following books simply noted “by the author of Waverley”.  When Scott died in 1832, Villagers honored him by naming a street after the novel. Prior to 1833, it was known as Art Street.

  • Interesting fact: Waverly Place is the film/TV location for: Don Draper’s bachelor pad on Mad Men; Will Smith’s character’s townhouse in I am Legend; and the setting of the Disney Channel’s hit series, Wizards of Waverly Place, in which Selena Gomez competed with her wizard siblings to win custody of the family powers with their magical abilities.

This rowhouse at 114 Waverly Place was originally constructed around 1828 in the style of its neighbors. In 1920, the owner, painter Murray Bewley, hired architect William Sanger to rebuild the facade in the Jugendstil-style, which draws from Art Nouveau and Japanese prints.

Click here to read more about Waverly Place.

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One comment on “The Origins of Greenwich Village Historic District Street Names: Part II
  1. Sam Moskowitz Martin Van Buren says:

    Hello,

    I’m a descendant of Richard Amos and family researcher and I’m looking either for some documentation or to correct long held urban legends about this family.

    Let me begin here… I have never found any historical evidence of a Charles Christopher Amos and am extremely skeptical that either Charles or Christopher Streets were named for an Amos family relative.

    Richard Amos did have a son named Charles (1804 – 1828) but it’s highly unlikely that Charles Street was named in his honor since he was born after the street appears to have been named. It’s more probable that it was the other way around. Charles’ funeral was held at his father’s home on Christopher Street, which is the only collocation of the two names that I’ve ever found.

    The assertion that “some believe” that Amos Street was named for Charles while other believe it was Richard is true, however, it is my assertion based upon a lack of evidence for a Christopher Amos that said Charles Christopher is an urban legend borne from three streets in close proximity to each other, which seem to make out a name if you want to put them together as such.

    The fact is that, according to Minutes of the Common Council of the city of New York, 1784-1831, Richard Amos donated the land that is now under West 10th Street between Washington and westward stretching almost (but not quite) to Hudson Street. It is probable that the naming came at the prompting of Richard’s son-in-law, George B. Thorpe, the former warden of Newgate Prison and New York City Council member at the time the street was donated and named. Richard also donated portions of land along the western and northern edges of his land to create Washington and Charles Streets, but Christopher Street existed as Skinner Street – the southern border of the Warren Estate – before Richard came to own any land there.

    The official British government’s page for the Earls of Abingdon is fairly clear regarding the order of events: he sold his portion of the Warren Estate *AND THEN* he died in 1799.

    http://abingdon.gov.uk/history/people/willoughby-bertie-4th-earl-abingdon

    I do not have a copy of the recording as yet, but all indications point to the sale taking place in the mid-to-late 1780’s (mostly resolving around 1788).

    Again, Charles Lane’s naming after Charles Amos lacks evidentiary support. It is plausible that Richard (or, more likely, George B. Thorpe) got the street named for Charles Amos, however, Charles himself almost certainly didn’t do it since the political power in the family was vested in George and the land was owned by Richard.

    Interesting side-note: According to an early 1830’s lawsuit, Richard was a lifelong friend to the Culper Spy Ring’s George Higday, and the two of them were involved in another lawsuit which involved suspected-Culper Elizabeth Burgin. Circumstantial evidence points to Richard being involved in at least one Culper-related activity: The Great Raid; a prison break of American POW’s from British prison ships at anchor in New York Harbor and on the Hudson, which landed a price on Burgin’s head.

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