Posts Tagged ‘Abingdon Square’

Before a playground came to Bleecker Street

August 26, 2016

Our local parks and playgrounds become such neighborhood fixtures, it’s difficult to imagine that they weren’t always part of the cityscape.

Bleeckerstreetplayground1959parksdeptarchive

That’s why it’s so jarring to see this 1959 photo of the junction of Bank, Bleecker, and Hudson Streets—but no Bleecker Playground, the cheery place of swings and sand always crowded with happy kids and captive parents.

Anchoring that corner in the early 20th century was the formidable Henry I. Stetler brick warehouse. (Beside it is a bandstand-turned-comfort station.) It fits right into the far West Village of the time, an area of warehouses and light industry.

Bleeckerstreetplayground2910jonathankuhn

In 1927, a spectacular fire raged through the Stetler warehouse, injuring dozens of firefighters and causing the city to condemn the building. A changing West Village came up with a reason to raze it in the 1950s.

Bleeckerplaygroundsignwallygobetzflickr“In 1959, demand for a safe play space for neighborhood children prodded the city to acquire the Stetler Warehouse south of historic Abingdon Square to make way for a playground, the first in the area,” states nycgovparks.org.

Seven years later, Bleecker Playground opened (above, in 2010, and at right). It feels like it’s been in the neighborhood far longer.

[Top photo: New York City Parks Photo Archive; second photo: Jonathan Kuhn via New York City Parks Photo Archive; third photo: Wally Gobetz/Flickr]

The grand country mansion on Bleecker Street

June 13, 2013

PeterwarrenheadshotBy the 1740s, Irish-born royal British navy officer Peter Warren (left) had amassed enough wealth to build himself an impressive estate in rural Greenwich Village.

So he bought 300 acres and commissioned a palatial home called The Manse—”a fine home to which he and his family could escape during the heat and stink of summer in the crowded city,” wrote John Strausbaugh in his wonderful new book, The Village.

“The house stood about 300 yards back from the river, on ground which fell away on a gentle slope towards the waterside,” wrote Thomas Janvier, by way of Anna Alice Chapin’s book Greenwich Village.

Peterwarrenhouse1“The main entrance was from the east; and at the rear—on the level of the drawing-room and a dozen feet or so above the sloping hillside—was a broad veranda commanding the view westward toward the Jersey Highlands and southward down the bay to the Staten Island Hills.”

The actual location of the Manse was between today’s Bleecker, West Fourth, Charles and Perry Streets. This was prime real estate then and now.

The Warrens didn’t stay in the house for long. After they left New York, it changed hands and was purchased in 1819 by a New Yorker named Abraham Van Nest.

Incredibly, the Manse stood until 1865—after which the land it occupied was finally developed, the last piece of Greenwich Village to be urbanized.

Peterwarrenhouse

Peter Warren’s home is gone. But his presence lives on in the names of his sons-in-law, who inherited his property. One was the earl of Abingdon, the namesake of Abingdon Square.

[Second and third illustrations: NYPL Digital Collection]

Hudson Street’s home for “working girls”

November 20, 2008

It’s 1906. You’re a young woman who has just arrived in New York City. Somehow you find yourself near Abingdon Square, and you need a place to stay. Your best bet: the new Trowmart Inn, a six-story “handsome hostelry” on Hudson and West 12th Streets.

For $4 a week, a girl could have a single room containing a bed, washstand, and table, plus breakfast and dinner. The ideal resident is the young lady who “is of the class who labors for a small wage, and whose parents have no home within the city,” according to a New York Times article about the Trowmart’s opening.

Here’s the Trowmart today, looking pretty much as it did in 1906, sans the young ladies. It’s been a nursing home for several decades and is reportedly slated to become a co-op.

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So what set the Trowmart apart from other women’s hotels of the era? Well, it was built by a man named William Martin, who was convinced that girls of marrying age didn’t have a respectable place to be courted by “desirable young men,” and without such a place, they would never get married.

“[Mr. Martin] does not care for any return upon the capital he has invested,” the Times reports. “He will be satisfied if the girls have a happy home, and if a number of marriages accrue each year from the Trowmart Inn.

“Girls of gentleness and refinement do not care to be courted upon the open highway, nor in public parks, and thus the world is filling with spinsters who, according to Mr. Martin, had they a proper place in which to entertain their admirers, would develop into happy, excellent wives and still happier mothers.”

It’s easy to poke fun at a place like this now. But the Trowmart was actually forward-thinking for its time in one way: It imposed no restrictions on the girls who lived there. As long as they worked and paid the bill, they could come and go as they pleased, with no curfew.

Two ways of looking at Abingdon Square

November 7, 2008

Originally part of the estate of Peter Warren in the 1700s, the West Village’s Abingdon Square—really a triangle—was named after the Fourth Duke of Abingdon, who married Warren’s daughter. The land was kind of a wedding present to the couple; it was made into a public park in 1831.

At the time, mansions lined the park. According to a 1921 New York Times article, one of those old mansions was still standing on the corner of Bleecker and Bank Streets.

This photo depicts Abingdon Square around 1900:

abingdonsquare1900

The park doesn’t look much different in this 2008 photo. Some of the buildings surrounding it have changed; there’s a Bing and Bing pre-war apartment house facing the park on West 12th Street, plus another big pre-war building looming nearby on Jane Street.

abingdonsquare2008

What hasn’t changed is the structure at the left on Hudson Street. Today it’s the Village Nursing Home.