Greenwich Village Overview
Greenwich Village brings together many of the best parts of living in a big city: constant buzz, great bars and restaurants, easy to get around, while still retaining a small neighborhood feel. Although today's Village is very different from the neighborhood previously frequented by Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, it retains much of its long-time cool.
In the the sections below, you'll get a glimpse into life in Greenwich Village. But before you go anywhere, make sure you scroll through the photos in the gallery below. Nothing can tell the story of a neighborhood as well as a few good photos.
GREENWICH VILLAGE History
Greenwich Village has long been known as a slice of New York bohemia. An epicenter of progressive thought - be it applied to art, music, literature, sexuality, or politics - the Village boasts an international reputation as a cultural hotspot. Indicative of its history is the once-famous saying, "Everything started in Greenwich Village except Prohibition."
In the 1630s, Dutch settlers began to inhabit the land now known as Greenwich Village. By 1712, the area had been conquered by the British and officially named the Village of Grin'wich. Throughout the 1700s, Grin'wich functioned as a quiet alternative to the already-bustling New York City. In the first two decades of the following century, due to widespread disease in the downtown area of the city, many residents headed north for the clean air of the Village. Thanks to this rise in population, Greenwich Village quickly turned into a developed New York City neighborhood.
At the end of the 19th century, due to an influx of new immigrants in the Village, many wealthy residents moved elsewhere. This major development in Greenwich Village's history solidified the area as a low-cost section of the city. Before long, young artists and writers began to move in at an increasingly rapid rate, and by World War I, the Village had become known for its alternative culture. During the 1920s and 1930s, the neighborhood hosted huge numbers of concerts, plays, and art shows, and many resident writers, including William Faulkner and Maxwell Bodenheim, produced books, magazines, and poetry at an unprecedented level for a United States neighborhood.
By the early 1950s, the Village was quickly moving into an even more active era. The Beat Generation, a group of writers and poets who developed a distinct alternative culture, centered their movement in the neighborhood. Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs are only a few Beat literary figures that could regularly be seen in the Village. In the 1960s, the music scene exploded, and folk, jazz, and rock musicians such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Jimi Hendrix performed regularly at Greenwich Village's vast array of clubs. The Village, in its mid-century prime, was an artistic capital of the world.
As the popularity of the Village continued to increase, rent prices did as well. By the 1980s, young artists could no longer afford to live in the area, and Greenwich Village evolved into something it still is today: a charming and safe area to live, a lively spot to go out in, and a neighborhood slightly more subdued than it once was. In the simple words of actress Lucille Ball, "The Village is the greatest place in the world."
GREENWICH VILLAGE Vibe
Greenwich Village's vibe is defined by its history. A long-time haven for free thinkers and free spirits, the neighborhood still exudes a cool that even decades of gentrification can't quite cover. Today, the Village is a melting pot of students, professionals, and lifers, all of which are attracted to the neighborhood's tree-lined streets, bars, and (expensive) brownstones.
After several decades of gentrification, Greenwich Village has long since smoothed its rougher edges. It is no longer the city's primary home to artists and poets, but still seems to attract those looking to unwind. During the day, Greenwich Village buzzes with tourists checking out Washington Square Park on their way down into SoHo, and remains just as crowded at night as younger New Yorkers converge on the neighborhood's bars and restaurants. Even today, Café Wha and the Bitter End are destinations for up-and-coming musicians hoping to travel the same path as previous regulars like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen.
Apart from the crowds, there isn't a lot about Greenwich Village that reminds you that you're in Manhattan. During the summer, the sidewalks spill over with outdoor seating for bars and cafes and the streets are more likely to be shaded by trees than high-rises.
As the home of a large number of young professionals and several of New York University's campus buildings and dormitories, Greenwich Village certainly skews young. The neighborhoods cafes, restaurants, and shops typically cater to this younger target. But, on any given street you are also just as likely to find an older person out for a stroll, and if you asked them, they would likely tell you that they had lived in the Village for decades.
Living in Greenwich Village typically means trading space and new construction for charm and a spot in the heart of Manhattan. Most Greenwich Village apartments are walk-ups, and nearly all of them are much smaller than would be available in other parts of the City. There are very few luxury buildings and only a small number of buildings with doormen. Given the small apartments and many flights of stairs, Greenwich Village typically isn't a destination for families.
GREENWICH VILLAGE Transportation
Greenwich Village is centrally located in Manhattan making it a breeze to get just about anywhere you want to go in the City. Depending on which side of the Village you live on, going uptown into the office would be just a 1-2 block walk and a short subway ride.
Greenwich Village SUBWAY & WALKING TIMES
Greenwich Village also offers easy access to the PATH train at 9th Street. The PATH connects Manhattan and New Jersey via a tunnel under the Hudson River and provides service to Jersey City, Hoboken, Harrison, and Newark.
GREENWICH VILLAGE Guidebook Landmarks
Edgar Allen Poe Residence
The macabre writer lived at 85 West 3rd Street from 1844 to 1846, while he revised and published The Raven, and wrote The Cask of Amontillado. But it's only a reconstruction of the façade that remains: in an act that preservationists found truly horrifying, NYU destroyed the original Poe residence to make way for Furman Hall in 2001, and put its replica together down the street. The current front is made with newer bricks, but some of the original bricks are preserved on a panel inside.
Mark Twain House
Samuel Clemens is such an outsized figure in American history that it doesn't take him long to make a mark on an area. Clemens, more popularly known as Mark Twain, lived at 14 West 10th Street for just one year between 1900 and 1901, but his stay has been memorialized with a bronze plaque that reads "In this house once lived Mark Twain." In fact, some people think that the deceased author still takes up residence in the home, with even the New York Times reporting rumors of his lingering presence.
The Washington Arch is modeled after Paris's Arc de Triomphe, which is itself modeled after Ancient Rome's Arch of Titus. But the one in Washington Square Park is distinctly American, celebrating the centennial of George Washington's presidential inauguration. It was originally erected in 1889 as a temporary plaster and wood arch, and in 1892 the permanent white marble version was built. The arch is adorned with images of war and peace; two sculptures on the north side depict Washington as Commander-in-Chief and Washington as President.
GREENWICH VILLAGE Insider LANDMARKS
It might not have the scale of Madison Square Garden, but when it comes to history, few venues can match up to the cozy Greenwich Village bar. A long-time magnet for talent of all types, Cafe Wha? was a starting place for everyone from Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix to Bruce Springsteen, and even Bill Cosby. In 2012, when Van Halen decided to give it one more go... of course they went to Cafe Wha?.
Technically known as the West 4th Street Courts, "The Cage" is one of the most infamous basketball courts in the country. The court is smaller than regulation, with a tall fence right at the edge of the court, which favors strong (read physical) inside games. The games always draw a big crowd, particularly in the summer, when spectators can be lined up several people deep. Some of The Cage's more well-known alumni are NBA players "Fly" Williams, Anthony Mason, and Smush Parker.
GREENWICH VILLAGE Parks & Recreation
Jackson Square Park (0.2 acres)
In a city filled with landmarks honoring its past denizens, Jackson Park is a bit of an anomaly because no one really knows for sure which Jackson the Park is named after. The popular guess is Andrew Jackson, who was a national hero when the small triangular Park began to take shape. Like so many green spaces in New York, Jackson Park is a small plot of land primarily designed for sitting down and enjoying a bit of greenery. The Park underwent a significant overhaul in 1990, during which is central cast-iron fountain was installed.
Washington Square Park (9.8 acres)
Walking around the lush, vibrant Washington Square Park, you would never know that the space once served as a common burial ground and public execution site. Today, the space is known for its magnificent marble arch built to commemorate the centennial of George Washington's inauguration and the central fountain, which was actually transferred into the Park from 59th Street. The Park has undergone several renovations, including a 1964 renovation that cut off Fifth Avenue from running underneath the Washington Arch and a $13M 2009 renovation that refreshed the entire Park with a focus on restoring green space. The Park is always filled in the summer, with a mix of sun-bathers, musicians, tourists, and street performers all taking advantage of the Park's many benches and green spaces.