Taking a walk down the Village’s Charles Lane

Charles Lane, a narrow alley from Washington to West Street in the West Village, is all that remains of the northern boundary of Newgate State Prison, which stood at the foot of the Hudson here from 1797 until the 1820s. Also known as Pig Alley, Charles Lane was later paved with unique stones not seen elsewhere in the city, according to the Greenwich Village Society of Historical Preservation.

Here’s Charles Lane in the 1930s, photographed by Berenice Abbott. Is that the old Ninth Avenue El that ran along Greenwich Street, or is it a remnant of the High Line?

Charles Lane today is surrounded by pricey West Village real estate, but it doesn’t look all that different, and the paving stones remain the same. Amazing it wasn’t bulldozed and turned into the Charles Lane Condos:

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11 Responses to “Taking a walk down the Village’s Charles Lane”

  1. stache Says:

    Judging from the metalwork, that looks like the High Line.

  2. marcusny Says:

    Charles lane has actually changed dramatically in the last few years. The Meier buildings totally changed the feel of the end of the street and there is also another modern building on it now. I lived in the west village in the late 80s and it really had a feel of an old lane. The old warehouses and small homes on the street gave it that feel. That feeling is almost gone.

  3. Changes on Charles - Projectbackslash Says:

    […] Is glass no longer safe in Meier Haven–now that Charles Lane may be turning back into some semblance of Pig Alley? […]

  4. 4MRNYR Says:

    I lived on Charles lane for 11 years, 1982-1993
    I no longer live in the city, but return often, and I always make a trip to the Lane when I’m there.

    When I lived there, Charles Lane was much more precarious than I believe it is now–It was often used as a haven for West Side Highway drug dealers, hookers and the like. Many times I would come out my front door in the morning to go to work and literally step over or around people engaged in all variations of sexual activity and drug use.
    What was ironic, is that it was also a quiet, sleepy, cobblestoned dream-alley with a close-knit collection of quirks that really loved the tucked-away life we were living–We had many barbecues in the street, and took immense care and pride in the small gardens we were able to plant in front of our houses. I buried a beloved pet in mine, and he rests there today.

    Sorry to say, but the gardens are untended now, and the whole place looks terribly run down. Yes, the Meier buildings completely changed the dynamic of the Lane, but I’d also say that the current residents are doing nothing to keep the spirit intact-There are many places in NY where there are unlikely architectural juxtapositions, but it seems ( to me) that the residents of the Lane have forfeited to the shadow of the new, instead of preserving the internal spirit of this one-of- a-kind place to live……..

  5. Alexandrea Says:

    I think that it’s the High Line because if the slatted Ironwork…

  6. A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it alley in the Village « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Sharp-eyed New Yorkers know about the many courtyards and mews of Greenwich Village, such as Patchin Place, MacDougal Alley, and Charles Lane. […]

  7. Jeff Hoffmann Says:

    August 30 2013

    I rehearsed at Charles Lane SWtudio in 1982-1993. My band was “Ice 9” (from Kurt Vonnugats “Cat’s Cradle”) . I played Bass through Flelx Pappalardi’s amp! He was shot one day when we were rehearsing – it must have been a weekend. The owner – a young guy – probably 35 at the time – had has scar across his nose from being hit with an acoustic guitar. I was about 23. We listened to original “Mountain” tapes until 2 am. It was really fun to listen to the band rehearse Mississippi Queen and others.

    Seems like yesterday – seems so long ago. Playing at Kenny’s Castaways, The Back Fence (sans drummer), The Bitter End, and Mills Pub, Falafels on Macdougal St……

    Jeff Hoffmann

    • Tom W Says:

      Hi Jeff. My uncle Mike was the owner of Charles Lane Studios. Cliff, the man you describe, was his partner. I have many wonderful memories of his studio and how he built it from nothing over many years. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  8. Daily What?! The Pez House in NYC’s Greenwich Village | Untapped Cities Says:

    […] the 1800s, the Charles Lane Mews was given the name Pig Alley due to the large number of pigs in and around the slaughterhouses […]

  9. G Says:

    The photo is facing Washington St.

  10. Ian Lacovara Says:

    Hello my name is Ian Lacovara. My Dad was Michael Lacovara and Helped Cliff and Mike Lynch run the studio. I basically Grew up in that Studio putting my head in speakers, using computer, and lip syncing to my favorite songs. I remember the B-52’s were there 1 night. I also remember the barricades and BBQ outside. Was amazed to find this page.

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