Elizabeth Jennings Graham — New York’s Rosa Parks, A Century Earlier

Continuing our celebration of Black History month, today we look at Elizabeth Jennings Graham, a woman who, in her simple quest to get to her church on East 6th Street sparked one of earliest challenges to institutionalized racial discrimination in public accommodations.  In 1854  Graham challenged the segregation of New York City’s trasportation system, about 100 years before Rosa Parks’ historic refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

Elizabeth Jennings Graham, ca. 1895

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Dylan Thomas in New York: The Rock Star Poet at his Zenith

1950 was a seminal year in the life of the “last rock star poet,” Dylan Thomas. On February 20th of that year the much-celebrated Welsh poet arrived in New York to begin what would be the most exhilarating yet grueling period of his career. The period between 1950 and 1953 was dominated by four trips to America. The Swansea writer traveled to New York  after being invited by fellow poet John Malcolm Brinnin, who subsequently acted as his promoter.  He worked extremely hard through an exhausting schedule across the United States of poetry readings and lectures that were punctuated by countless lunches, dinners, parties, and receptions, where he was expected to behave as “the great poet” and to entertain the masses.  Much of that time was, of course, spent in Greenwich Village.

Dylan Thomas in the recording studio

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President’s Day Roundup!

Happy President’s Day! Though the Village is only one neighborhood in our great, big country (though ask any resident and they will say the Village should be its own country!), it has some distinct connections to several few of our nation’s past presidents.  To celebrate the day, we are doing a roundup of our presidential posts, highlighting the interesting history and anecdotes joining our neighborhood and the Executive branch. Read the rest of this entry »

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North America’s First Freed Black Settlement Right in our Neighborhood

In continuing our celebration of black history month, we have a new and exciting entry to our Civil Rights and Social Justice Map: North America’s First Freed Black Settlement.  According to historian Christopher Moore, the first legally emancipated community of people of African descent in North America was found in Lower Manhattan, comprising much of present-day Greenwich Village and the South Village, and parts of the Lower East Side and East Village.

Image of New Amsterdam. NYPL

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“Shampoo” and Other Inspirations Found on St. Mark’s Place

Shampoo, the iconic movie satire, is set on Election Day 1968, the day Richard Nixon was first elected President of the United States, and was released in 1975, soon after the Watergate scandal had reached its conclusion. The political atmosphere provides a source of dramatic irony, since the audience, but not the characters, are aware of the direction the Nixon presidency would eventually take. However, the main theme of the film is not presidential politics, but sexual politics; it is renowned for its sharp satire of late-1960s sexual and social mores.

15 St. Marks Place. Photo by Carole Teller from GVSHP archives “Carole Teller’s Changing New York”

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The Village is our Valentine!

Happy Valentine’s Day! For us at GVSHP, the Village, East Village, and NoHo are our Valentine, and we find new reasons to fall in love with them each and every day. In honor of the holiday, we are listing a few of the reasons why we love our neighborhoods, and ways you can get involved to help preserve and protect them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Business of the Month – Russian & Turkish Baths, 268 East 10th 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.

There is only one place in New York City to go and be part of an ancient yet modern rite of wellness, purification, and community dating back millennia.  Located in the East Village and open for one hundred twenty-six years, it’s a place where you can steam, sweat, jump in a freezing pool and eat borscht in the same building.  The spot?  The Russian and Turkish Baths at 268 East 10th Street, just east of 1st Avenue, our February Business of the Month.

Open since 1892; the entrance way, with some of the friendly staff.

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Saluting Peter Cooper

Peter Cooper, date unknown, from GVSHP’s Historic Image Archive, www.archive.gvshp.org.

Born on February 12, 1791, Peter Cooper left his mark on the world as a pioneering industrialist and inventor, and his mark on the Village as a great philanthropist.  Cooper began his career as a coachmaker’s apprentice, although he had only one year of formal schooling. He also worked as a cabinet maker, hatmaker, brewer, and grocer. From these humble beginnings he became one of the great American businessmen, innovators, educators, and humanitarians of the 19th century, leaving an enduring legacy which lives on to this day. 

In 1824, Cooper purchased a glue factory on Sunfish Pond in Kips Bay in Manhattan, successfully developing new ways to produce glues, cements, gelatin, and other products. In 1828 he used profits from the factory to purchase 3,000 acres in Maryland, which he believed would skyrocket in value due to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. As he drained the swamps and flattened the hills, he discovered iron ore on his property and founded the Canton Iron Works in Baltimore. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Landmark From the Heyday of Yiddish Theater That Still Stands Today

Many New Yorkers are still reeling from the closure and impending demolition of the Landmark Sunshine Theater on East Houston Street.  Just outside of GVSHP’s catchment area, the Landmarks Sunshine was a beloved institution which had served up independent cinema for two decades, and in a past life was a Yiddish theater. In spite of its name, however, it was not an official landmark, and thus there is nothing to stop its planned replacement with an office tower.

Jaffe Yiddish Art Theater, ca. 1940

Fortunately, however, we do still have a number of great neighborhood theaters which do still survive, including the Louis N. Jaffee Art Theatre on Second Avenue and 12th Street.  Unlike the Landmark Sunshine, this former Yiddish Theater actually is an official New York City landmark, designated on February 9th, 1993, and therefore isn’t going anywhere.  It is one of the few interior and exterior landmarks in the entire city.  We gave the building a Village Award in 2016 to honor the owners of the property, Reading International, and CTA Architects for undertaking a meticulous restoration.  Today it is the home of the Village East Cinemas.

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It Happened Here: Taxi Driver

The innocuous-looking apartment building at 226 East 13th Street, between Second and Third Avenues, may raise few eyebrows now.  But on February 8, 1976, the building became synonymous in the popular imagination with drugs, prostitution, runaways, murder and mayhem,  steeped in the urban decay which many saw as defining New York City in the 1970’s.

226 East 13th Street

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