All posts by Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

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Features, Greenwich Village, GVSHP, History, Union Square

From Mark Twain and the Lovin’ Spoonful to Tech Hub: The overlooked history of Union Square South

By Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Fri, December 7, 2018

Photo of the former St. Denis Hotel courtesy of MCNY

Straddling Greenwich Village and the East Village, the neighborhood south of Union Square between Fifth and Third Avenues was once a center of groundbreaking commercial innovations, radical leftist politics, and the artistic avant-garde. With the city’s recent decision to allow an upzoning for a “Tech Hub” on the neighborhood’s doorstep on 14th Street, there are concerns that the resilient and architecturally intact neighborhood may face irreversible change. While they’re still here, take a tour of some of the many sites of remarkable cultural history, nestled in this compact neighborhood just south of one of our city’s busiest hubs.

See the full list

Featured Story

Features, GVSHP, History

The backstory on backhouses: How NYC’s hidden rear residences came to be

By Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Wed, November 21, 2018

340A West 11th Street, original details, tiny apartments, private outdoor garden

Previous listing photo of 340A West 11th Street, a backhouse in Greenwich Village. Via CORE Real Estate

New York City is full of hidden surprises that even the most dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker may not know about. One such example is the elusive “backhouse” or rear house. There are literally scores of these hidden structures throughout the older neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan like Greenwich Village and the East Village. But because they are generally invisible from the street, they’re typically virtually unknown to anyone other than their residents and immediate neighbors. But these oft-romanticized structures have a complicated and surprising history, one which belies their almost mythical place in the psyche of New Yorkers.

Get the scoop

Featured Story

Features, GVSHP, History, Soho

Remembering Soho’s Tunnel Garage: An automobile age marvel

By Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Thu, October 25, 2018

The Tunnel Garage in 1923, via MCNY

As the old saying goes, you win some, you lose some.  That’s particularly true in preservation, where sometimes in spite of the most heroic of efforts and compelling of cases, historic treasures succumb to the wrecking ball. GVSHP is frequently asked, “Which fight do you most regret losing; which building do you mourn the loss of most?” It often comes as a surprise that the answer, inevitably, is a parking garage — one which seemed to almost eerily peer into the future.

But the Tunnel Garage, at Broome and Thompson Streets, where the South Village meets Soho, was no ordinary parking garage. Built in 1922, it was a thing of extraordinary beauty, a sublime ode to the dawn of the automobile age and to the engineering marvel of its time which was the Holland Tunnel.

So, what happened?

Featured Story

Events, Features, Greenwich Village, GVSHP, History

Open House New York in Greenwich Village: The history of three unique sites

By Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Thu, October 11, 2018

Among the many delights included in this weekend’s Open House New York will be three iconic Greenwich Village buildings–a Gothic Revival church with many architectural firsts, a library that was originally a courthouse which heard the “Trial of the Century,” and a groundbreaking artists’ housing complex that was formerly home to Bell Telephone Labs and the site where color television was invented. These extraordinary landmarks span three centuries of American history, reflecting the evolution of our city’s spiritual, artistic, industrial, scientific, and civic life.

Learn more about their unique histories

Featured Story

Features, GVSHP, History, West Village 

What’s in a name? Gay Street

By Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Thu, September 27, 2018

Southward view of Gay Street via Wiki Commons

Gay Street is one of the most charming and picturesque streets in Greenwich Village, an icon of the historic neighborhood’s anachronistic character. But the origins of its name are hotly debated, with the LGBT rights movement and abolitionism often cited as the source of its unusual nomenclature. And while the street certainly has strong connections to gay liberation and the African-American struggle for freedom, the history behind the name is a little murkier, and a little more complicated to unravel, than one might expect.

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Featured Story

Features, Greenwich Village, GVSHP, History

The oldest house in the Village? It’s not what you think

By Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Thu, September 13, 2018

The Village is known as one of the oldest parts of New York City, where historic architecture can be found everywhere, and charming houses from a bygone era still stand. Here at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, a perennial question we’re asked is “which is the oldest house in the Village?” It’s a great question, with a complicated answer. Is it one of the two charming wooden houses? The “brick” house with connections to Paul Revere? The Merchant’s House Museum, Manhattan’s first individual landmark? The handsome Stuyvesant Street house built by Peter Stuyvesant’s great-grandson?

The answer might surprise you

Featured Story

Features, GVSHP, History, Hudson Square

From George Washington to Hudson Square: The history of the Charlton-King-VanDam neighborhood

By Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Thu, August 16, 2018

Google Street View of Federal-style rowhouses on VanDam Street

It’s an often-overlooked enclave with the largest concentration of Federal and Greek Revival style houses in New York City. Its origins can be traced back to historical figures as esteemed as George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jacob Astor, but it’s just as deeply connected to Italian immigrants and radical 20th-century innovators. The most dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker will have trouble telling you if it’s in Greenwich Village, SoHo, or Hudson Square.

The tiny Charlton-King-VanDam neighborhood is, as its name would imply, located along charming Charlton, King, and VanDam Streets between Sixth Avenue and Varick Streets, with a little arm extending up the southernmost block of MacDougal Street just below Houston Street. It was only the fourth designated historic district in New York City when it was landmarked on August 16th, 1966, and for good reason.

Find out the full history

Featured Story

Features, Greenwich Village, GVSHP, History

When NYC collapsed: The rise and fall of America’s largest and grandest hotel

By Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Thu, August 2, 2018

The Grand Central Hotel in the late 1800s, via Wiki Commons

In the mid-1970s, New York City was falling apart. Its finances, infrastructure, and social cohesion were, figuratively speaking, crumbling. But in one very tragic case, they were literally crumbling, too. And it all came tumbling down on August 3, 1973, when what was once one of the world’s grandest hotels (which had more recently become known for mayhem of both a musical and criminal sort) collapsed onto Broadway at Bond Street in Greenwich Village. From serving as the scene of one of the time’s most notorious murders to a connection to the National Baseball League, the Grand Central Hotel certainly had a grand history.

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East Village, GVSHP, History

Development dispute over P.S. 64 in the East Village continues, two decades later

By Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Fri, July 20, 2018

PS 64, C.B.J. Snyder, CHARAS, Gregg Singer

P.S. 64  in 2013, courtesy of GVSHP

Twenty years ago, on July 20, 1998, Mayor Rudy Giuliani sold former Public School 64 on the Lower East Side, then home to the Charas-El Bohio Community and Cultural Center, to a developer, despite opposition from the building’s occupants and the surrounding community. The decision and the building remain mired in controversy to this day. Community groups and elected officials will hold a rally in front of the building at 605 East 9th Street on Friday at 6 pm to mark the 20th anniversary of the sale and to call on Mayor Bill de Blasio to return the building to a community use.

More here

Featured Story

East Village, Features, GVSHP, History, immigration

Remembering the worst disaster in NYC maritime history: The sinking of the General Slocum ferry

By Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Fri, June 15, 2018

PS General Slocum; photo via Wikimedia

On June 15, 1904, a disaster of unprecedented proportions took place in New York City, resulting in the loss of over 1,000 lives, mostly women and children. This largely forgotten event was the greatest peacetime loss of life in New York City history prior to the September 11th attacks, forever changing our city and the ethnic composition of today’s East Village.

It was on that day that the ferry General Slocum headed out from the East 3rd Street pier for an excursion on Long Island, filled with residents of what was then called Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany. This German-American enclave in today’s East Village was then the largest German-speaking community in the world outside of Berlin and Vienna.

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