Washington Square Arch wrapped by artist Francis Hines, 1980 © Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation/Carole Teller
Change in New York is an expected norm, sometimes so constant it almost goes unnoticed. It’s such an ingrained part of the New Yorker’s experience, we often forget just how much our city has transformed, and what we have left behind. To help us remember, we have Carole Teller. A Brooklyn-born artist who’s lived in the East Village for over 50 years, Carole’s also a photographer with a keen eye for capturing defining elements of New York’s cityscape, especially those on the verge of change or extinction.
Fortunately for us, Carole kept the hundreds of pictures she took scouring the streets of NYC between the early 1960s and early 1990s. She recently unearthed them and shared them with the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation for inclusion in its online Historic Image Archive. What follows are just a few photos from what we call “Carole Teller’s Changing New York.”
See some of the most captivating photos
Greenwich Village is well known as the home to libertines in the 1920s and feminists in the 1960s and ’70s. But going back to at least the 19th century, the neighborhoods now known as Greenwich Village, the East Village, and Noho were home to pioneering women who defied convention and changed the course of history, from the first female candidate for President, to America’s first woman doctor, to the “mother of birth control.” This Women’s History Month, here are just a few of those trailblazing women, and the sites associated with them.
Learn all about these amazing women
Image via Wikimedia
Greenwich Village has been known throughout its existence for breaking new ground and embracing outsiders. One often-forgotten but important element of that trailblazing narrative is the extraordinary role the Village played in relation to African American history. The neighborhood was home to North America’s earliest free Black settlement in the 17th century, to some of America’s first black churches in the 19th century, and many pioneering African-American artists, civil rights leaders, and organizations in the 20th century. This Black History Month, here are just a few of the exceptional Greenwich Village sites connected to African-American history.
Learn about all 15 sites here
Google Street View of 19-25 St. Mark’s Place today
Fifty years ago this week, the Velvet Underground released their second album, “White Light/White Heat.” Their darkest record, it was also arguably the Velvet’s most influential, inspiring a generation of alternative musicians with the noisy, distorted sound with which the band came to be so closely identified.
Perhaps the place with which the Velvets have come to be most closely identified is the Electric Circus, the Andy Warhol-run East Village discotheque where they performed as the house band as part of a multi-media experience known as the “Exploding Plastic Inevitable.” Many New Yorkers would be surprised to discover that the space the club once occupied at 19-25 St. Mark’s Place has since been home to a Chipotle and a Supercuts. But the history of the building that launched the career of the godfathers of punk is full of more twists, turns, and ups and downs than one the Velvet’s extended distorted jams that once reverberated within its walls.
The whole history right here
The disembodied church steeple sitting in front of a 26-story NYU dorm on East 12th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues makes for one of the more head-scratching sights in New York. This jarring juxtaposition results from a confluence of powerful New York forces, including religion, immigration, real estate, and the expanding appetite of one large institution, New York University, and the shrinking resources of another, the United States Postal Service.
The whole story right here
The Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church in 1902, courtesy of the New-York Historical Society, Robert L. Bracklow Photograph Collection
The stately church building at 141-145 West 13th Street in the West Village is the picture of serene elegance. Built in 1846-47 in the Greek Revival style, the classical balance and symmetry of the façade mask a history full of controversy, including the birth of a notorious slur in American politics, which arguably changed the outcome of a pivotal presidential election.
Find out about the scandalous story
Fire Patrol #2 in 2009, via Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation Image Archive
The former firehouse located at 84 West 3rd Street in Greenwich Village is often noted for being the renovated and restored home of TV personality and journalist Anderson Cooper. But it’s just as noteworthy for an unusual history connected to Benjamin Franklin and insurance underwriters, and for not being the kind of firehouse you think it is at all.
The whole history and current use
Zoom of the 1852 Dripps map of Manhattan, showing the proximity of downtown cemeteries, via David Rumsey Map Collection
Most New Yorkers spend some time underground every day as part of their daily commute, but some spend eternity beneath our streets, and in a few cases occupy some pretty surprising real estate.
Manhattan cemeteries are tougher to get into than Minetta Tavern without a reservation on a Saturday night because as far back as 1823, New York forbade new burials south of Canal Street. In 1851 that prohibition was extended to new burials south of 86th Street, and the creation of new cemeteries anywhere on the island was banned. But thousands of people were buried in Manhattan before those restrictions went into effect. And while some gravesites remain carefully maintained and hallowed ground, such as the those at St. Mark’s in the Bowery Church on Stuyvesant Street, Trinity Church on Wall Street, and St Paul’s Church at Fulton and Broadway, others have been forgotten and overlaid with some pretty surprising new uses, including playgrounds, swimming pools, luxury condos, and even a hotel named for the current occupant of the White House.
The Ninth Avenue El near 14th Street c. 1914. Via Bain Collection, Library of Congress.
Greenwich Village is known as the birthplace of many things – the modern gay rights movement, Off-Broadway theater, the New York School of artists and poets, the “new urbanism” pioneered by Jane Jacobs, among many other trailblazing firsts. Less closely associated with the Village, however, are radical and transformative innovations in transportation technology. But while little known, the Village was in fact home to the first elevated rail line, and the first streetcar.
The whole history right this way
© Estate of Fred W. McDarrah
Perhaps no single photographer could be said to have captured the energy, the cultural ferment, the reverberating social change emanating from New York City in the second half of the 20th century as vividly as Fred W. McDarrah. McDarrah got his start covering the downtown beat of the Village Voice in the 1950s and ’60s, as that publication was defining a newly-emerged breed of independent journalism. McDarrah penetrated the lofts and coffeehouses of Lower Manhattan to shed light upon a new movement known as “The Beats” and went on to capture on film the New York artists, activists, politicians, and poets who changed the way everyone else thought and lived.
Through the generosity of the Estate of Fred W. McDarrah and the McDarrah family, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation was fortunate enough to add to its digital archive a dozen of the most epochal of Fred McDarrah’s images of downtown icons, including Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, Jane Jacobs, and Allen Ginsberg. And just in time for the holidays, you can purchase your own copy (with all proceeds benefitting GVSHP!).
Learn the story behind all the photos