E.B. White and his Greenwich Village

When people hear the name E.B. White, most immediately think of the much-adored children’s’ classics, Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and Trumpet of the Swan. However, his work extended far beyond that genre, and his literary “hats” included essayist, novelist, humorist, and poet (although he described himself as a “non-poet who occasionally breaks into song”).  Like so many literary giants, White made Greenwich Village his home, in his case during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, when the Village was brimming with young artists, poets, novelists, and critics.

E.B. White looks at his pet dachshund Minnie while typing in his office at the New Yorker magazine, New York City.
New York Times Co.

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Oral History: Maria Kenny of Kenny’s Castaway

In 1977, Pat Kenny opened Kenny’s Castaways at 157 Bleecker Street, a “dusty and dim New York music club” which for 36 years welcomed some of the most iconic performers in music. The legendary venue closed its doors in 2012, with so many heartfelt stories and condolences from longtime friends. But its legacy will not be lost, thanks to Pat’s daughter, Maria Kenny, who ran Kenny’s Castaways with her brother for over a decade and generously shared an oral history with us in 2015. Maria’s oral history, conducted on June 10, 2015, reflects such respect and admiration for her father’s hard work, making his way as an immigrant from humble beginnings to create a quintessential Village spot.

Inside Kenny’s Castaways, with the very accurate “Through these portals walk the famous!!” neon sign. Image via Trivok.

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Cole Porter: A Prolific Musical Career Launched in Greenwich Village

Cole Porter was a paradox; a musical genius who truly defined a time in musical history, he was at once a privileged sybarite and a bohemian provocateur all at the same time. Porter also lived a contradictory lifestyle. He was gay, and yet he remained devoted to his wife until her death in 1954. It seems most fitting that Greenwich Village would be the launching pad for his prolific and genre-bending career.

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Business of the Month: Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, 125 East 7th Street & 61 Grove Street

Your input is needed! Today we feature our latest Business of the Month — help us to select the next.  Tell us which independent store you love in Greenwich Village, the East Village, or NoHo: click here to nominate your favorite.  Want to help support small businesses?  Share this post with friends.

Who doesn’t love a good success story?  Our June 2019 Business of the Month is now an internationally recognized name that started ten years ago as a fresh and daring idea for a food business run out of a single truck in our neighborhood!  Now they have both an East and West Village location, and some others too.  Since June is LGBT Pride Month, and summer is the time for ice cream, we couldn’t help but pick Big Gay Ice Cream Shop as our latest Business of the Month.

61 Grove Street location.

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East Village Building Blocks Tour: the LGBTQ East Village

While the neighboring West Village may have the more well-known sites, the East Village contains a rich assortment of places connected to LGBTQ history, including the homes of noted artists, writers, musicians, and activists. It also holds a vast array of performance venues and gathering spaces that attracted and helped launch the careers of many prominent LGBTQ performers and provided supportive social and political environments for LGBTQ people. The neighborhood was the scene of some of the earliest gay rights demonstrations, the birth of Wigstock and politically-conscious drag performance art, and the home base of prominent figures like Allen Ginsberg, Miguel Pinero, Emma Goldman, and the Lesbian Avengers. We’ve just posted a new tour of East Village LGBTQ Sites on our East Village Building Blocks website — view the full tour here, or check out some selections from the tour below, which includes 30+ significant stories, figures, and spaces, as abundant and gritty as the East Village itself.

Lady Bunny, Larry T, RuPaul, and Lahoma Van Zandt celebrate in the East Village

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Dr. Simon Baruch and the Bathhouse Movement

The buildings we pass in our neighborhoods can offer windows into some rather specific aspects of New York history, and the interesting figures involved in the city’s development. One prominent example is what we can learn from some buildings in our neighborhood about public bathing habits and hygiene during the 19th century.

The City of New York opened fourteen public bathing facilities between 1901 and 1914. Allowing New York’s poor communities to wash and care for themselves, these free bathhouses came about with the help of Dr. Simon Baruch, a physician who fiercely advocated for access to bathing and wellness facilities in the United State’s most populated cities.

Simon Baruch himself. Image via alchetron.com.

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The Landmarked New School Auditorium — Home of Village Preservation’s 2019 Annual Meeting and Village Awards

The Village Awards recognize the people, places, and organizations which make a significant contribution to the quality of life in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo. The 2019 Awards and Annual Meeting will be held at The New School Auditorium at 66 West 12th Street. The striking 500-seat auditorium,  designed in 1931, was designated an interior New York City landmark on June 3, 1997 — one of the very few in New York City, and one of the only ones in Greenwich Village. Click here to read about the 2019 awardees and here toRSVP to the awards ceremony.

The New School for Social Research was founded in 1919 by a group of college professors and intellectuals including historians, philosophers, and economists. Several had resigned from Columbia University in protest when it (like many other colleges), banned anti-war demonstrations on the eve of World War I. These founders sought to develop an institution of advanced adult learning
based on their own liberal principles.

For its first ten years, the New School operated out of several converted townhouses on West 23rd Street. When these buildings were slated for demolition to make way for the London
Terrace Apartments in 1928, the school had to find new quarters. Supporter and benefactor Daniel Crawford Smith donated three houses on West 12th Street under the condition that
the new building would include a penthouse apartment for himself and his wife. The school purchased one additional adjoining lot.

The New School for Social Research Auditorium. Image via LPC designation report, Carl Forster

The New School desired a building whose architecture would reflect the institution’s progressive philosophies. University president Alvin Johnson considered two prominent architects for the job. Frank Lloyd Wright and Joseph Urban. While Johnson considered Wright to be America’s greatest architect, he believed Urban would do a better job reflecting the ideas he wanted to express in the building. Urban was a well-known architect and theater designer who an early follower of the Vienna Secessionist Movement.  The building at 66 West 12th Street was the first building constructed by the New School and the first appearance of the International Style in New York.

The New School for Social Research Auditorium. Image via LPC designation report, Carl Forster

Much of the first floor of The New School for Social Research was designated a landmark including the auditorium lobby, the stairway on the east side end of the lobby leading to the second floor, as far as the landing; the auditorium, including the sloping floor, the auditorium balconies, the upper portion of the auditorium at the balcony level, the proscenium arch, the stage/platform, and the side stage extensions; and the fixtures and components of these spaces, including, but not limited to, wall and ceiling surfaces including the ceiling rings (in the auditorium) and ceiling cove (in the lobby), floor surfaces in the lobby, auditorium seats, doors, lighting (not including the stage lighting or other production-related fixtures), railings, and metal wall grilles in the lobby. Urban overcame the acoustical challenges of a rounded ceiling by hanging perforated plaster rings from a concealed truss system. This technique served as a precedent for Radio City Music Hall, which opened in December, 1932.

The New School for Social Research Auditorium Lobby. Image via LPC designation report, Carl Forster

Read additional history and see more picture of the space here, and click here toRSVP to attend the awards ceremony which will take place in the New School’s landmarked auditorium.

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East Village Building Blocks Tour: Theaters!

The East Village has been fertile ground for theatrical innovation since the beginning of the 20th century. Off-Off Broadway productions began in the East Village as an anti-commercial and experimental or avant-garde movement of drama and theater. To celebrate the iconoclasts and innovative creators in our neighborhoods, we’ve created a tour of current and former theaters. To explore some of these sites, we’re sharing this East Village Theater Tour on our East Village Building Blocks website — see it here, and read on for a selection of theaters throughout the East Village, both current and former.

Theatre Genesis

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Emery Roth (& Sons) in 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, and see other tours of the Greenwich Village Historic District on our interactive map here.

Credited with building some of the most elegant New York buildings of the interwar years, Emery Roth (1871-1948) was one of New York City’s most prolific architects during the first half of the 20th century, contributing to the dramatic change in the skyline and cityscape that took place during that time. Known for his residential architecture  (though he also designed houses of worship, theaters, and especially in later years, office buildings), Roth was known to combine the classicism of Beaux Arts design with the more contemporary Art Deco style to create some of the most iconic New York buildings of the era.  He was closely associated with the development firm of Bing & Bing, and each became synonymous with a certain type of classic New York interwar apartment building — high-rise with graceful setbacks, and elegantly simple designs with both classic and modern elements.

Emery Roth

When his sons Julian and Richard joined the firm in the 1930s, Roth changed the name to Emery Roth & Sons.  Even after Emery’s passing in 1948, the Roth legacy of shaping New York City would continue.  While many of his most high-profile commissions were outside of our neighborhood, such as the El Dorado, San Remo, and Beresford on Central Park West, the Ritz Hotel on East 57th Street, and the St. George Hotel in Brooklyn Heights, the Greenwich Village Historic District has several notable buildings designed by Roth, and one by his sons.

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Estate of Fred W. McDarrah, 2019 Village Awardee

On June 12th, 2019 we will be celebrating seven outstanding awardees at our Annual Village Awards — RSVP here. Read blog posts about each of our 2019 Village Awardees here.

Each year, Village Preservation presents one special Village Awardee with the Regina Kellerman Award. Regina Kellerman was Village Preservation’s first Executive Director, and a passionate advocate for historic preservation. The 2019 Regina Kellerman Award will be presented to the Estate of Fred W. McDarrah – wife Gloria and sons Tim and Patrick – for sharing the work of the incredible photographic chronicler of late 20th century downtown life, and using that legacy to support worthy causes including historic preservation and civil rights.

The iconic Fred W. McDarrah image of the 1966 “Sip In” at Julius’. Image copyright Estate of Fred W. McDarrah.

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