Birthplace of beatniks, Greenwich Village has always been a neighborhood bursting with creativity, home to artists, poets, musicians and writers. There is a lot of foot traffic in the neighborhood, as it gives convenient access to many other neighborhoods. There are a lot of popular eateries on MacDougal Street and bars on Bleecker Street. The neighborhood has a bit of a college-town feel, due to the presence of NYU. There aren’t large chain stores here, so it isn’t really a mecca for shopaholics, but you can find interesting vintage stores and specialty boutiques.
Available housing is centered on pre-war walk-ups. You can find good deals on the quieter, tree-lined side streets, as opposed to the bustling avenues. There are pockets of brownstones and townhouses, some dating back to the early 19th century, throughout the neighborhood, as well. You will find more luxurious housing in the newer high-rise buildings on Park and Fifth Avenues.
Washington Square Park is the heart of the neighborhood. If you sit near the Arch and close your eyes, you might catch an echo of the music and social history of the Park, floating through the air. Greats like Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon started their storied careers right here in Greenwich Village. Today, the Village is a celebration of diversity, where everyone is welcome.
Whitney Museum of American Art. Founded in 1930 by art patron and prominent socialite Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the museum is dedicated to the display of 20th- and 21st-century living American artists. It has an impressive permanent collection of over 21,000 works of art. You can see the works of artists such as Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns and Louise Bourgeois in the permanent collections. The rotating exhibitions are often controversial, being based on social and political issues. Located at 99 Gansevoort Street.
The Merchant's House Museum (also known as the Old Merchant's House or the Seabury Tredwell House). This unique museum is housed in the only 19th century family home in New York City that has its interior and exterior preserved entirely intact. The exterior of the house is in the Federal style, while the interior is Greek Revival. One or more of the Tredwell family lived in the 4th Street house from 1832 until 1933. Over 3,000 objects are on display in the museum, all of which were the personal possessions of the Tredwell family, everything from furniture to clothing. The museum was opened in 1936. There are lectures, artistic performances, and concerts held at the museum, as well. Located at 29 E 4th Street.
The White Horse Tavern. Long beloved of poets, artists, and writers, the White Horse has been in operation since it was built in 1880, making it one of the oldest taverns in New York. It was the favorite watering hole of Dylan Thomas. Located at 567 Hudson Street.
Washington Square Park. This 9.8 acre park is renowned for the Washington Square Arch, which was dedicated in 1895. The park itself was named in honor of President George Washington, whose inauguration as America’s First President was held in NYC. It is a great spot for that ever-popular NYC sport: people-watching. There is always something going on here, and you might be treated to an impromptu free concert. Located at Waverly Place and 5th Avenue.
The Jefferson Market Library. This stunning Victorian Gothic building was built between 1874 and 1877. Its main feature is a 100-foot tower that has a firewatcher’s balcony. From this vantage point, you can see all of Greenwich Village. The bell that was rung to summon firefighters is still in the tower. This is one of the few historic buildings in NYC where you are still allowed to climb to the top. The Library building has a storied past. At one time, it was a courthouse where only cases involving women were adjudicated. Then it was a women’s prison. When Mae West’s 1927 Broadway play, Sex, was deemed obscene, she spent one night in the prison and was fined $500. It was turned into a library in 1967. At one time, it was considered one of the most beautiful buildings in America. Located at 425 6th Avenue and W 10th Street.
What You Might See
Washington Square Park has long been a site where people express themselves, both individually and in groups. On any given day, you might see someone reciting their poetry, holding forth on causes related to social injustices, or participating in a mass protest or public demonstration for, or against, some relevant issue of the day.
What’s In The Future
The major trend in residential real estate in the Village will be the repurposing of existing properties, together with development of properties on vacant lots, as they become available.
What You Might Not Know
A dispute over real estate created the smallest piece of private property in NYC. Located on the corner of 7th Avenue and Christopher Street is a tiny triangle-shaped mosaic tile, bearing these words: “Property of the Hess Estate Which Has Never Been Dedicated for Public Purposes.” The property has a total of 500 square inches. In the 1900s, David Hess owned a building that was razed under eminent domain when the IRT subway was expanded and 7th avenue was extended. This tiny plot of land was all that was left. The city asked Hess to donate this land so they could put in a sidewalk, but Hess refused and took the city to court. He won and the sidewalk was built around it. Hess sold the tiny triangle in 1938 to Village Cigars for $1,000.
The very first prison complex in New York State was in Greenwich Village, situated between Charles and Christopher Streets. It was dubbed Newgate Prison in homage to Newgate Prison in London. The prison existed on this site from 1796 to 1829, when it was relocated to Ossining, NY and became known as Sing Sing prison.
The Village boasts the narrowest of Manhattan’s houses, located at 75½ Bedford Street. The house is only 9½ feet wide, with a total of 999 square feet. It was the former home of Edna St. Vincent Millay, the writer
Washington Square Park was used for Public executions, starting in 1797. It was also used as a “potter’s field”cemetery where indigent people were buried. It is estimated that there are still at least 20,000 people buried under the park.
What We Love
Greenwich Village has long been the home of those who can look at life from different perspectives. Artists, poets, musicians and social revolutionaries have always been drawn to the Village. Maybe it is the off-kilter streets on the western perimeter, where the strict grid system of Manhattan streets has been abandoned. Maybe it is the abundance of hole-in-the-wall bars with a speakeasy vibe. It could be the large number of pocket-sized green spaces, where you can sit back and take a deep breath of fresh air and block out the people and chaos of the city around you.
If you enjoy having access to late-night food options, listening to music, or playing a quiet game of chess under a shade tree, Greenwich Village is a place you can appreciate. You can walk the streets and visit some of the haunts of the likes of the dour author Edgar Allan Poe, musician Bob Dylan, and artist Jackson Pollock.
The pre-war and 19th century historic residential buildings give this eclectic neighborhood a warmer, hometown feel. You will find great examples of Second Empire brownstones, Greek and Georgian Revival, Italianate and Federal styles of architecture throughout the streets of Greenwich Village. Trekking up the stairs to get to your third floor walk-up, you are likely to stop and talk to your neighbors. Transportation is convenient, with multiple subway lines. You will quickly settle in to your little corner of the neighborhood, and you will be recognized as a “regular” at the cafes, bars, and coffee shops you visit frequently. If you are looking for an historic neighborhood where you will feel like you live in a real community, while having a full spectrum of things to do, Greenwich Village may be right for you.