Greenwich Village, often referred to by locals as simply “the Village”, is a neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan, New York City. Greenwich Village has been known as an artists’ haven, the Bohemian capital, the cradle of the modern LGBT movement, and the East Coast birthplace of both the Beat and ’60s counterculture movements. Groenwijck, one of the Dutch names for the village (meaning “Green District”), was Anglicized to Greenwich. New York University (NYU) is located in Greenwich Village.
Greenwich Village has undergone extensive gentrification and commercialization; the four zip codes that constitute the Village – 10011, 10012, 10013, and 10014 – were all ranked among the ten most expensive in the United States by median housing price in 2014, according to Forbes, with residential property sale prices in the West Village neighborhood typically exceeding US$2,000 per square foot ($22,000/m2) in 2015.
The neighborhood is bordered by Broadway to the east, the North River (part of the Hudson River) to the west, Houston Street to the south, and 14th Street to the north, and roughly centered on Washington Square Park and New York University. The neighborhoods surrounding it are the East Village and NoHo to the east, SoHo to the south, and Chelsea to the north. The East Village was formerly considered part of the Lower East Side and never associated with Greenwich Village. The western part of Greenwich Village is known as West Village; the dividing line is debated – narrowly speaking it is the area west of 7th Avenue, which is heavily residential, but broadly speaking it is the area west of 6th Avenue – the grid changes at 6th Avenue, commonly assumed to be the dividing line. The Far West Village is a sub-neighborhood from the Hudson River to Hudson Street. The neighborhood is located in New York’s 8th congressional district, New York’s 25th State Senate district, New York’s 66th State Assembly district, and New York City Council’s 3rd district.
Into the early 20th century, Greenwich Village was distinguished from the upper-class neighborhood of Washington Square – based on the major landmark Washington Square Park or Empire Ward in the 19th century.
Encyclopaedia Britannica’s 1956 article on “New York (City)” (subheading “Greenwich Village”) states that the southern border of the Village is Spring Street, reflecting an earlier understanding (today, Spring Street might be considered the southern boundary of the neighborhood sometimes called the South Village, though some cite Canal Street as the furthest extent of the South Village). The newer district of SoHo has since encroached on the Village’s historic border.
As Greenwich Village was once a rural, isolated hamlet to the north of the 17th century European settlement on Manhattan Island, its street layout is more organic than the planned grid pattern of the 19th-century grid plan (based on the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811). Greenwich Village was allowed to keep the 18th century street pattern of what is now called the West Village: areas that were already built up when the plan was implemented, west of what is now Greenwich Avenue and Sixth Avenue, resulted in a neighborhood whose streets are dramatically different, in layout, from the ordered structure of the newer parts of Manhattan.
Many of the neighborhood’s streets are narrow and some curve at odd angles. This is generally regarded as adding to both the historic character and charm of the neighborhood. In addition, as the meandering Greenwich Street used to be on the Hudson River shoreline, much of the neighborhood west of Greenwich Street is on landfill, but still follows the older street grid. When Sixth and Seventh Avenues were built in the early 20th century, they were built diagonally to the existing street plan, and many older, smaller streets had to be demolished.
Unlike the streets of most of Manhattan above Houston Street, streets in the Village typically are named rather than numbered. While some of the formerly named streets (including Factory, Herring and Amity Streets) are now numbered, they still do not always conform to the usual grid pattern when they enter the neighborhood. For example, West 4th Street runs east-west across most of Manhattan, but runs north-south in Greenwich Village, causing it to intersect with West 10th, 11th, and 12th Streets before ending at West 13th Street.
A large section of Greenwich Village, made up of more than 50 northern and western blocks in the area up to 14th Street, is part of a Historic District established by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The District’s convoluted borders run no farther south than 4th Street or St. Luke’s Place, and no farther east than Washington Square East or University Place. Redevelopment in that area is severely restricted, and developers must preserve the main facade and aesthetics of the buildings even during renovation.
Most of the buildings of Greenwich Village are mid-rise apartments, 19th-century row houses, and the occasional one-family walk-up, a sharp contrast to the high-rise landscape in Mid- and Downtown Manhattan.
Greenwich Village is generally known as an important landmark on the map of American bohemian culture. The neighborhood is known for its colorful, artistic residents and the alternative culture they propagate. Due in part to the progressive attitudes of many of its residents, the Village has traditionally been a focal point of new movements and ideas, whether political, artistic, or cultural. This tradition as an enclave of avant-garde and alternative culture was established during the 19th century and into the 20th century, when small presses, art galleries, and experimental theater thrived.
The Tenth Street Studio Building was situated at 51 West 10th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, the building was commissioned by James Boorman Johnston and designed by Richard Morris Hunt. Its innovative design soon represented a national architectural prototype, and featured a domed central gallery, from which interconnected rooms radiated. Hunt’s studio within the building housed the first architectural school in the United States. Soon after its completion in 1857, the building helped to make Greenwich Village central to the arts in New York City, drawing artists from all over the country to work, exhibit, and sell their art. In its initial years Winslow Homer took a studio there, as did Edward Lamson Henry, and many of the artists of the Hudson River School, including Frederic Church and Albert Bierstadt.
From the late 19th century through the 21st century, the Hotel Albert has served as a cultural icon of Greenwich Village. Opened during the 1880s and originally located at 11th Street and University Place, called the Hotel St. Stephan and then after 1902, called the Hotel Albert while under the ownership of William Ryder it served as a meeting place, restaurant and dwelling for several important artists and writers from the late 19th century well into the 20th century. After 1902, the owner’s brother Albert Pinkham Ryder lived and painted there. Some of the other famous guests who lived there include: Augustus St. Gaudens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, Hart Crane, Walt Whitman, Anaïs Nin, Thomas Wolfe, Robert Lowell, Horton Foote, Salvador Dalí, Philip Guston, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and many others. During the golden age of bohemianism, Greenwich Village became famous for such eccentrics as Joe Gould (profiled at length by Joseph Mitchell) and Maxwell Bodenheim, dancer Isadora Duncan, writer William Faulkner, and playwright Eugene O’Neill. Political rebellion also made its home here, whether serious (John Reed) or frivolous (Marcel Duchamp and friends set off balloons from atop Washington Square Arch, proclaiming the founding of “The Independent Republic of Greenwich Village”).
In 1924, the Cherry Lane Theatre was established. Located at 38 Commerce Street, it is New York City’s oldest continuously running Off-Broadway theater. A landmark in Greenwich Village’s cultural landscape, it was built as a farm silo in 1817, and also served as a tobacco warehouse and box factory before Edna St. Vincent Millay and other members of the Provincetown Players converted the structure into a theatre they christened the Cherry Lane Playhouse, which opened on March 24, 1924, with the play The Man Who Ate the Popomack. During the 1940s The Living Theatre, Theatre of the Absurd, and the Downtown Theater movement all took root there, and it developed a reputation as a place where aspiring playwrights and emerging voices could showcase their work.
In one of the many Manhattan properties that Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and her husband owned, Gertrude Whitney established the Whitney Studio Club at 8 West 8th Street as a facility where young artists could exhibit their works in 1914. By the 1930s the place would evolve to become her greatest legacy, the Whitney Museum of American Art, on the site of today’s New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture. The Whitney was founded in 1931, as an answer to the Museum of Modern Art, founded 1928, and its collection of mostly European modernism and its neglect of American Art. Gertrude Whitney decided to put the time and money into the museum after the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art turned down her offer to contribute her twenty-five-year collection of modern art works. In 1936, the renowned Abstract Expressionist artist and teacher Hans Hofmann moved his art school from E. 57th Street to 52 West 9th Street. In 1938, Hofmann moved again to a more permanent home at 52 West 8th Street. The school remained active until 1958 when Hofmann retired from teaching.
On January 8, 1947, stevedore Andy Hintz was shot to death by hitmen John M. Dunn, Andrew Sheridan and Danny Gentile in front of his apartment. Before he died on January 29, he told his wife that “Johnny Dunn shot me.” The three gunmen were immediately arrested. Sheridan and Dunn were executed.
The Village hosted the first racially integrated night club in the United States, when the nightclub Café Society was opened in 1938 at 1 Sheridan Square by Barney Josephson. Café Society showcased African American talent and was intended to be an American version of the political cabarets Josephson had seen in Europe before World War II. Notable performers there included among others: Pearl Bailey, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Burl Ives, Lead Belly, Anita O’Day, Charlie Parker, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Paul Robeson, Kay Starr, Art Tatum, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Josh White, Teddy Wilson, Lester Young, and The Weavers, who also in Christmas 1949, played at the Village Vanguard.
The annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, initiated in 1974 by Greenwich Village puppeteer and mask maker Ralph Lee, is the world’s largest Halloween parade and America’s only major nighttime parade, attracting more than 60,000 costumed participants, 2 million in-person spectators, and a worldwide television audience of over 100 million.
Greenwich Village includes several collegiate institutions. Since the 1830s, New York University (NYU) has had a campus there. In 1973 NYU moved its campus in the University Heights section of the West Bronx to Greenwich Village. In 1976 Yeshiva University established the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in the northern part of Greenwich Village. In the 1980s Hebrew Union College was built in Greenwich Village. The New School, with its Parsons The New School for Design, a division of The New School, and the School’s Graduate School expanded in the 2000s, with the newly renovated, award winning design of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at 66 Fifth Avenue on 13th Street. The Cooper Union is also located in Greenwich Village, at Astor Place, near St. Mark’s Place on the border of the East Village. Pratt Institute established its latest Manhattan campus in an adaptively reused Brunner & Tryon designed a loft building on 14th Street, just east of Seventh Avenue. The university campus building expansion was followed by a gentrification process in the 1980s.
The historic Washington Square Park is the center and heart of the neighborhood. The Village has several other, smaller parks: Father Fagan, Minetta Triangle, Petrosino Square, Little Red Square, and Time Landscape. There are also city playgrounds, including DeSalvio Playground, Minetta, Thompson Street, Bleecker Street, Downing Street, Mercer Street, Cpl. John A. Seravelli, and William Passannante Ballfield. Perhaps the most famous, though, is “The Cage”, officially known as the West Fourth Street Courts. Sitting on top of the West Fourth Street – Washington Square subway station (A B C D E F M trains) at Sixth Avenue, the courts are easily accessible to basketball and American handball players from all over New York. The Cage has become one of the most important tournament sites for the city-wide “Streetball” amateur basketball tournament. Since 1975, New York University’s art collection has been housed at the Grey Art Gallery bordering Washington Square Park, at 100 Washington Square East. The Grey Art Gallery is notable for its museum quality exhibitions of contemporary art.
The Village also has a bustling performing arts scene. It is still home to many Off Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theaters; for instance, Blue Man Group has taken up residence in the Astor Place Theater. The Village Gate (until 1992), the Village Vanguard and The Blue Note are still presenting some of the biggest names in jazz on a regular basis. Other music clubs include The Bitter End, and Lion’s Den. The village also has its own orchestra aptly named the Greenwich Village Orchestra. Comedy clubs dot the Village as well, including The Boston and Comedy Cellar, where many American stand-up comedians got their start.
Several publications have offices in the Village, most notably the citywide newsweekly The Village Voice, and the monthly magazines Fortune and American Heritage. The National Audubon Society, having relocated its national headquarters from a mansion in Carnegie Hill to a restored and very green, former industrial building in NoHo, relocated to smaller but even greener LEED certified digs at 225 Varick Street, a short way down Houston Street from the Film Forum.
Greenwich Village is served by the 8th Avenue A C E trains, the 6th Avenue B D F M trains, the 14th Street L trains, and the 7th Avenue 1 2 3 trains of the New York City Subway; the 14th Street / Sixth Avenue, 14th Street – Eighth Avenue, West Fourth Street – Washington Square, and Christopher Street – Sheridan Square stations are in the neighborhood. Local New York City Bus routes are the M5, M7, M11, M14, and M20 buses. On the PATH, the Christopher Street, Ninth Street, and 14th Street stations are in Greenwich Village.
Greenwich Village residents are zoned to two elementary schools: PS 3, Melser Charrette School, and PS 41, Greenwich Village School. Residents are zoned to Baruch Middle School 104. Residents apply to various New York City high schools. Greenwich Village High School was a private high school formerly located in the area, but later moved to SoHo.
Greenwich Village is home to New York University, which owns large sections of the area and most of the buildings around Washington Square Park. To the north is the campus of The New School, which is housed in several buildings that are considered historical landmarks because of their innovative architecture. New School’s Sheila Johnson Design Center also doubles as a public art gallery. Cooper Union, one of the most selective engineering, art, and architecture schools in the U.S., is located in the East Village, and has been located there since it was established in 1859.