At the beginning of the 19th century New York still occupied only the southern tip of the island and this area was a rural suburb. Around that time several yellow fever epidemics hit the City, so people fled north to the more rural areas. Many decided to stay and by the 1820s Greenwich Village had become a prosperous middle class suburb. By the early 20th century the Village had become a bit of a backwater and low rents coupled with a tolerant attitudes began to attract artists. The atmosphere created by the artistic community still lingers, although the era of low rents is long over. The modern Greenwich Village is fashionable and bohemian as well as being home to a sizeable gay community.
Old Merchants House, East 4th Street
Standing forlornly now on its own in the East Village is the Old Merchants House. Built in 1832 , this elegant red-brick and white-marble building was originally a row house that was home to prosperous merchant Seabury Tredwell and his family. Tredwell was an importer of hardware with his business premises in downtown Pearl Street. The house remained in the family until the death of daughter Gertrude Tredwell in 1933. Gertrude had kept the house much as it had been in her parents days. In 1936 it opened as the Merchant's House Museum.
Gay Street, Greenwich Village
An active Historical Preservation Society has helped to ensure that many of the old buildings in the village have been preserved. Gay Street was originally stables and was probably named after the landowner. Here we find a very well preserved block of the Federal style row houses built in the 1830s for middle-class merchants and tradesmen. Gay Street became home to the black servants of many wealthy families living around Washington Square and later on many black musicians lived in this area.
'Friends' building, Bedford & Grove Streets
For ‘Friends’ addicts this apartment building should be very familiar. Situated on the corner of Bedford and Grove Streets it is the building used for the exterior shots, but if you are a real ‘Friends’ addict you will know that although set in New York it was all filmed in Los Angeles. When this picture was taken in 2003 the establishment on the corner that masquerades as ‘Central Perk’ in ‘Friends’ was actually a restaurant. When we visited in early 2006 the restaurant had gone and the premises were unoccupied.
Washington Square, Greenwich Village
Washington Square is the hub of Greenwich Village. Originally a cemetery and then a site for public gallows, it has been a public park since 1823. A temporary arch was built to celebrate the centenary of George Washington’s inauguration as President and in 1892 it was replaced by the current arch designed in marble by Stanford White. This photograph was taken during a period of many years when the arch was cordoned off, but we were pleased to find in late 2005 that it had reopened. Through the arch is the southern end of 5th Avenue, although it is a very long walk before you get to the posh shops.
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McSorley's Old Ale House, East 4th Street
We were a little reluctant to include McSorley’s in 50 plus DC because this bar is already pretty crowded and spreading the word can only make that worse. This classic Irish bar was founded by John McSorley 1854, and was then called the Old House at Home. The McSorley family owned the bar right up to 1936. Women were not allowed in until 1970. The bar has remained largely unchanged for decades although we guess that they do change the sawdust on the floor from time to time. This is, first and foremost, an ale house. Don’t think of asking for a cocktail and you will find that the choice of food is limited. McSorleys serves its own beers in light and dark varieties, served in a pair of mugs. Click on Tab 2 to see the interior during a rare quiet moment.
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