Posts Tagged ‘East Village street’

A secret house behind an East Village tenement

December 10, 2012

AvenuebbackhousesideThe city’s oldest neighborhoods are dotted with backhouses, some easily seen from the street through a crack in a fence or tiny alley.

But most are out of sight, sealed from street view and reachable only through surrounding buildings—like this two-story little home behind 206 Avenue B between 12th and 13th Streets.

A 30-year resident of 206, an old-school tenement constructed in 1900, describes the back house as a former carriage house.

That’s certainly possible; as the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation explains in their excellent Off the Grid blog post, some backhouses started out as stables.

“In these cases, a single family house was built, typically in the early 19th century, with a stable for the family’s horses located behind, accessible through either a side passageway or a tunnel or ‘horsewalk‘ through the house.”


Other times, backhouses were simply cheap buildings put up in courtyards so landlords could pack in more families and score more rent.

“Thus sometimes these backhouses had windows with little light or air, as they were often mere feet from the walls or windows of the front house or tenement or neighboring buildings,” states Off the Grid.

AvenuebbackhousedistantI’m not sure how the ivy-covered back house at 206 Avenue B came to be.

Considering the East Village’s history as a rough, crowded enclave of wave after wave of poor immigrants, it’s likely an example of the latter.

Off the Grid has more photos and history of these charming, sometimes rough-around-the-edges buildings.

And like its counterpart at 206 Avenue B, this backhouse in the West Village, unfortunately, has been cordoned off from street view forever.

When Avenue C was renamed Loisaida

March 16, 2012

Back in the 1970s, the Spanglish bastardization of “Lower East Side” entered the local lexicon.

The new neighborhood name came from a poem by a community activist named Bimbo Rivas. He also pioneered the Nuyorican movement—a collection of artists of Puerto Rican descent centered on the East Village.

As the neighborhood’s Hispanic population grew, Loisaida was increasingly tossed around in mainstream publications, on storefronts, and in maps. An official street sign even went up in 1987 on Avenue C between 14th and Houston Streets.

But you hear it much less these days—a casualty of gentrification. The 2010 census found that for the first time since the 1980s, Hispanics make up less than half of the population East of Avenue B.

I wonder how many of the new residents know what Loisaida means?

[Loisaida Drugs & Surgicals (Avenue C and East Third Street) photo: from the Bridge and Tunnel Club]