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Thread: Greenwich Village

  1. #1

    Default Greenwich Village

    Less homogeneous than the West Village. Therefore more varied.

    Jefferson Market, then Courthouse, now Library. Iconic symbol, like Greenwich Village’s Eiffel Tower. The other major symbol, as in Paris, is an arch.

    Positively Fourth Street. Power broker with earring, or Mr. Clean.

    Greenwich Village ideal. If you are a successful music producer or you own an advertising agency, you can afford it. Otherwise, it might inspire you to such success.

    Street grid pre-dates Commissioners’ Plan (1811), yields medieval townscape.

    Gated community: MacDougal Alley.

    George Segal

    Washington Mews and Fifth Avenue.

    Cabs of two cities.

    A little grit just east of Broadway


    Central Greenwich Village bounded by Broadway, Houston, Seventh Avenue and 14th Street:

    In the center, Washington Square, part plaza and part park:

    Rome and Ravenna, two by Stanford White: Washington Arch and Judson Memorial Church.

    The other square is completely different in character, more like Times Square:

    Sheridan Square

    Big buildings came in Twenties, after avenues were rammed through Village. Sometimes only single-story buildings make sense on resultant tiny and irregular lots. Large apartment building at far right is recent.

    The result is sometimes ragtag townscape that seems diminutive on the wide avenues; here a tenement finds itself suddenly backed up to an avenue of single-story storefronts, plus a big Colonial-revival pile from the Twenties.

    Cantilevered corner with eclectic detail and rainbow flag.

    Getting ready for the gay parade

    Miraculous survivor, left: a Federal-period hospital.

    Two Federal-era town houses. The one on the right has cross-dressed in Second Empire clothing, including a mansard and filigree.

    Both squares are named for generals.


    Civil War Hero

    Doughboy with puffed chest, Abingdon Square.

    Garibaldi in Washington Square Park. The father of Italy.

    The Father of his Country.


    Washington Square

    A noble work.

    Henry James’ Washington Square. Greek Revival, 1836-39. In this serene English-style terrace lived at various times Richard Morris Hunt, John Dos Passos, Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent, the mayor, and Henry James himself.

    NYU Ionic. The nearest house’s portal now a window.

    An unusually large town house in a rusticated Federal style: Ledoux with a mincing touch. The folks match the house

    Why people hate modern architecture. The comically misplaced Ionic portal was thrown in to placate the NIMBYs, as were those “decorative” balcony rails. How about that relationship to the street?

    Two eras, two approaches to residential. Hard to believe they got away with this. Today they wouldn’t; NIMBYs are good for something.


    Garibaldi again; kids in the playground.

    Flora and Fauna of Washington Square

    A half-dozen things are eating this tree. Arthur Rackham would be gratified.

    Boss pigeon.

    Santo Domingo.


    Herd of tourists. All the way from Salt Lake City?

    Chic chick.

    Ruler of the roost.

    End of Fifth Avenue.

    Between the Squares


    Federal doorway: elegant and ancient.

    Eighth at MacDougal

    West Village Edge

    New Deal

    More on West Village:


    1. mews (used with a sing. or pl. verb) a. A group of buildings originally containing private stables, often converted into residential apartments. b. A small street, alley, or courtyard on which such buildings stand.
    2. A secret place; a hideaway.

    My friend William has a good position and lives in the Drawing Room of a fine five-story Victorian row house in London’s Knightsbridge. This room is about 18 by 30 feet and has a thirteen foot ceiling. He sleeps, cooks, studies and lives in this one room among genteel antique furnishings chosen to harmonize with the architectural features of the room. Only the bathroom is tucked into a little closet.

    Since William is single and intends to remain so, the lack of floor space doesn’t bother him, and he loves the aristocratic pretensions of his great room with its ornate plaster work and moldings, its brobdignagian windows and its fine hardwood floor. The room is full of light on the gloomiest London day.

    The house still belongs to the family that built it, but the owners long ago subdivided the house into one-room units like William’s, and moved into the stables.

    The house enjoys a garden in back, and beyond that is the carriage house, which fronts on a little street lined on both sides with carriage houses. Here, where their forebears’ ostlers dwelt among the horses, today the trust-fund crowd disports among the Lamborghinis.

    London abounds with these quaint, tiny lanes, tucked away as you would expect of servants quarters and stables. They are among the most desirable of living places among the well-heeled, for they provide exclusivity and privacy with outdoor living in the city’s heart.

    MacDougal Alley and Washington Mews are two examples in Greenwich Village, and there are several in Brooklyn Heights.

    When the fine houses of Washington Square’s north front were built in the first quarter of the Nineteenth Century, the owners were able to afford carriages and horses. These they kept in the mews, whose little gardens backed up to the plots of the great houses themselves.

    MacDougal Alley

    The gate was installed less than a quarter-century ago. Only the auto part is locked, with keys issued to the residents. The pedestrian gate is never locked. The Alley used to go through to Fifth Avenue until the vast bulk of a Fifth Avenue apartment building turned MacDougal Alley into a cul-de-sac in the 1950’s. (The map shows it wrong). The great photographer, Andre Kertesz, lived in this leviathan structure. He often photographed both Mac Dougal Alley and Washington Square from the high-up windows of his apartment.

    The view back towards MacDougal Street is dominated by the severe brick mass of a church building by the ascetic architect and mystic, Victor Christ-Janer. This building was the subject of much NIMBY agitation. Christ-Janer maintained that the building respected its context by reproducing the proportions and plainness of the mews buildings, if not their actual size.

    The Alley’s rough terrain doubtless necessitates the four-wheel drive SUVs that call it home. Some carriage houses preserve their original openings, but most have been worked and reworked over the ages, leaving a richly-textured legacy of diverse bricks, jack arches and lintels.

    The blank brick block near the alley’s end is the back of commercial buildings on Eighth Street.

    Rooftop living. This house has lost its back yard to retail expansion on 8th Street.

    More desirable houses are on the south side; they back up to Washington Square North gardens.

    Neat, trim and understated: obviously an architect’s house.

    A lot less neat, trim and understated. More is less. Nevertheless amusing.

    A house with a side yard.

    Wisteria bower.


    The green doors are a sculptor’s workshop (left) and the back of an oriental restaurant (right). The proprietors park in the alley; they have keys to the gate.

    Footprint of vanished carriage house is now the entrance garden of two adjacent units.

    It may loom, but it’s not so bad. Who needs eternal sunshine? NIMBYs take note.

    Church at other end also looms, also OK.

    Washington Mews

    This one goes all the way through from Fifth Avenue to University Place. On south side, most buildings are NYU academic departments and foundations.

    Better paving. Has a sidewalk (hardly required).

    Beam for winch still in place from workshop days. Bales of hay?

    A deli much patronized by NYU students. You should see the salad bar. Bigger selection than Dean & Deluca at lower prices. Just the place to pick up a picnic lunch for Washington Square Park.


    Miniature Skyscraper. Built on a house lot, this eleven story building refutes the misconception that tall buildings are inherently out of scale.

    With miniature skyscrapers, the increment of development remains small. When developers assemble large lots for sprawling, large-footprint blockbusters: that’s out of scale. Or imagine those four buildings, there at the end of the street, replaced by a one-story supermarket: that would be out of scale. NIMBYs, the enemy is not height.

    Ironically, zoning ordinances such as Boston’s often reward developers for assembling large parcels by allowing them a larger F.A.R. The contrary should be the case: development of small parcels such as this should be rewarded with extra height. This would partially offset the inefficiency of small-footprint tall buildings, with their elevators and two stairs.

    Vancouver has realized this and encourages small-footprint high-rises as a way to preserve views. A short, sprawling building blocks more views and casts more shadow than a tall thin one.


    How did they find two guys who know how to do James Dean expressions? The one on the left even looks like him.

    They ain’t kidding.

    Sullivan: Bayard Building


    Cast iron.

    Philip Johnson at NYU.

    Le Corbusier at NYU! Just kidding; the architect, Paul Weiner, did work for Corbu. This is clearly a Unite d’Habitation, complete with roof sculpture. What is it doing in Greenwich Village (1956-58)? Actually, it’s not so bad and a truly startling change of pace.

    Buildings in a park: that’s how Corbu imagined the city. What he was talking about was really a high-density suburb. Here the garden is built on top of the underground parking. Most people who live here don’t use cars.

    The exact opposite idea three blocks away:

    Washington Mews

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Far West Village, NYC


    Wow. That is an impressive photo-essay. Many thanks.

  3. #3
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Garden City, LI


    Fantastic job. Not sure which I like better...your GV or your WV. Excellent.

  4. #4
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003



    BTW, is Gildas place considered in the Village, or SoHo?

    (I was also looking for my office at Hudson/Houston, but it is blocked by one of the buildings in the foreground when you were tooling on 6th......)

  5. #5
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    West Harlem


    Thank you so much, such a huge installment of such great quality.

  6. #6
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Quote Originally Posted by Ninjahedge View Post

    BTW, is Gildas place considered in the Village, or SoHo?

    (I was also looking for my office at Hudson/Houston, but it is blocked by one of the buildings in the foreground when you were tooling on 6th......)
    Hudson Square ...

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Mieres, Asturias, Spain


    Thanks for the post.

  8. #8
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002


    Wow, what a fantastic thread, Ablarc.

    Thank you for the enlightenment and visual feast.

  9. #9


    A link to Ablarc's companion essay, "Jane Jacobs' Neighborhood," for those who may have overlooked it:

  10. #10


    ablarc: THIS is what I was talking about. I´m rushing and am pretty much not around for a while, but I´m looking forward to reading through it and soaking in the pics.



  11. #11 Front_Porch's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Manhattan 90210

    Default This rocks!

    ablarc, what a neat piece. Thanks!

  12. #12

    Thumbs up

    thank you for this superb ballade in the village.

    There exists in the village a superb shop of coockies (unfortunately I rapelle more address, but veiled the photograph).
    They are so good Hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  13. #13


    That superb shop of cookies needs a sign, Comelade.

    Then I would be a customer.

    Perhaps ManhattanKnight knows its name; he lives in the Village.

  14. #14


    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    That superb shop of cookies needs a sign, Comelade.

    Then I would be a customer.

    Perhaps ManhattanKnight knows its name; he lives in the Village.
    Glad to oblige: Milk and Cookies Bakery, 19 Commerce Street (West Village) (

    It does have a couple of signs, actually:

  15. #15


    Thank you, ManhattanKnight; knew you could be counted on.

    Just off the beaten path. A second demure sign seems to have appeared since Comelade's photo. Truly a neighborhood clientele, I bet. Is that a specialized business, or what? There's no place like the Village.

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