Posts Tagged ‘West Village’

Whatever happened to Verrazano Street?

January 28, 2009

Giovanni da Verrazzano (he spelled it with two z’s) already has a bridge named after him. But a West Village street also was set to take his name in the 1940s—except the city never got around to building it.

verrazanopicture Verrazano Street (with one z, for some reason) would have run from Seventh Avenue South to Sixth Avenue and Houston Street, slicing through bits of Downing, Bedford, and Carmine Streets.

It was supposed to be an entryway to the Lower Manhattan Expressway, a Robert Moses–proposed superhighway that would have connected the Holland Tunnel to The Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges. 

The city was all set to build it; Verrazano Street even made it on to city maps in the ensuing years. But when the Lower Manhattan Expressway met fierce community opposition in the 1960s, the city abandoned the idea . . . and Verrazano Street as well, officially de-mapping it in 1969.

A hand-painted sign in the West Village

November 18, 2008

This old-school sign is attached to the basement level of a Charles Street brownstone. With WA-9-3781 for a phone number, it might as well still be the 1960s.

WA-9 stood for Watkins, according to an Ephemeral New York reader. Now, what was Watkins?


Three ways of looking at 329 Bleecker Street

September 2, 2008

Decades before Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, and Magnolia colonized Bleecker Street in the West Village, it was a small-scale main street running through the Village’s thriving Italian neighborhood, packed with groceries, fish stores, and bakeries.

This little building, on Bleecker and Christopher Streets, looks like a grocery; see the crates getting some shade (no AC back then) behind the canopy. It was constructed between 1802 and 1810, predating the city’s grid system. The photo is from 1925.

Over the years the little house and storefront continued to be used as a grocery store or deli. Here it is in 1975. Looks like it was painted white.

Today, the house—and remarkably, the other houses around it—still stands. The clapboard siding, shutters, and old-style lamppost are gone, but the little quarter-round windows remain.

Please do not urinate on Weehawken Street

August 20, 2008

The residents of this quaint West Village lane, which unfortunately provides a quick cut-through for drunks and hookers going from Christopher Street to West 10th, couldn’t be nicer about it. First they make the historical case, pointing out that the block is the smallest in the borough:

Then they hope to appeal to your desire to be a good neighbor:

Finally, the gloves are off. They’re mad, and who can blame them? Weehawken Street really does smell like pee.

For a little history on this itty-bitty block, check out this earlier post.

Summertime theater in Patchin Place

July 30, 2008

Little Patchin Place, off West 10th Street in the Village, is one of those slightly scruffy 19th-century mews that thrill tourists and New Yorkers alike. I lived there for five years, and every day people would stand outside the front gate, peering in and soaking up the charm.

The apartments were kind of falling apart, but for the chance to live where e.e. cummings once resided? It was all okay. Below, Berenice Abbott’s 1930s Patchin Place photo.

Built around 1850 as living quarters for the Basque waiters working at the nearby Brevoort Hotel, the 3-story houses didn’t have electricity or running water until the teens, about the time the waiters moved out and artists, actors, and writers moved in.

Considering the artistic bent, it actually isn’t surprising that in 1918, residents of Patchin Place put on a play in the communal backyard behind one row of houses. According to a New York Times story, Patchinites performed Yeats’ “The King’s Threshold,” at midnight on July 1. About 300 people came to watch:

The masks near the Meatpacking District

June 30, 2008

I’ve always wondered about this 5-story apartment house on far West 13th Street. Though you can’t exactly tell from this rainy-day photo, the building, constructed in 1925, is painted blue on an otherwise drab block, and the facade features these two symbols of the theater. Why the masks are there is a mystery. Perhaps an actor or director was the original owner.

Sleeping off a bender, 1970s-style

June 20, 2008

New York never got rid of its old-school winos; these guys just found more clever places to booze it up and bide the time. This one camouflaged himself nicely in Minetta Park, a tiny patch of green off Sixth Avenue, on a recent warm sunny afternoon.

Minetta Brook beneath the Village

June 18, 2008

Minetta Brook, “once a placid stream dividing Manhattan Island from the North [Hudson] to the East River,” as described in a 1901 New York Times article, used to be flush with trout and surrounded by dense forest.

Native Americans named it “Manette,” or Devil’s Water. The Dutch called it “Bestevaer’s Killetje” which the British turned into “Bestavers Rivulet,” as it’s referred to in the upper right corner of this 1783 map, from The Historical Atlas of New York City. (Too bad the brook is cut off by the end of the map, so it’s tough to get a sense of where it flowed in to the East River, as the Times article states.)

As development pushed northward the brook was diverted beneath Washington Square, where it gurgled its way under the West Village. Minetta Street (below), a tiny lane intersecting little Minetta Place, bends slightly the way its namesake brook supposedly wound across the land.

In the lobby of the apartment building at 2 Fifth Avenue is a clear tube through which Minetta brook used to bubble up out of the ground. Unfortunately, the doorman told me he hasn’t seen any water in it in six years. Could the Minetta have run dry? 

A Village kid’s library card

June 11, 2008

Completed in 1877, Jefferson Market served as a courthouse with an adjacent jail. (The infamous Women’s House of Detention, a separate structure, was next door.) By 1927, “Old Jeff” was no longer used for law enforcement. In the 1950s it was slated for demolition; in 1967 it was made over into a New York Public Library branch still heavily used today.

If it had been torn down, a white brick apartment building called the “Jefferson” would likely be standing in its place. But that didn’t happen, and in fact, renovations to preserve the Victorian Gothic gem are set for 2009. See an earlier post with a 1940 photo of Jefferson Market here.

The three-year-old owner of this temporary kid’s card, issued in 1974 (no barcodes back then!), did not know that the children’s room on the first floor had once been a police court.

The shady trees of West 13th Street

June 6, 2008

This 1940 photo shows 13th Street looking toward Eighth Avenue. It’s a lovely yet unremarkable Village block, dominated by a tenement building surrounded by townhouses. The structure that sits second from left with the stepped gables was the Jackson Square Public Library, designed in 1887.

Now look at this 2008 photo. The buildings have not changed one bit, except that there are trees—lots of shady, pretty trees—obscuring them. In the 1940 photo, even Jackson Square Park is bereft of trees! The street looks naked without them. I think we have the beautify-your-block movement, plus the city’s commitment to greenery back in the 1960s and 1970s, to thank.

The park has trees now, and this morning, a couple of trucks came by to unload more for planting today.