Greenwich Village home of urbanist Jane Jacobs gets historic plaque

October 30, 2020

Courtesy of Village Preservation

The former New York City home of author and organizer Jane Jacobs was honored this week with a historic plaque. The Village Preservation on Thursday unveiled the plaque at 555 Hudson Street in Greenwich Village during a virtual event. The 1842-constructed row house is where Jacobs, who died in 2006, wrote “Death and Life of Great American Cities,” a critique of urban planning of the 1950s and a call for more safe, walkable city streets and mixed-use development.

Street view 555 Hudson Street, © Google 2020

From the window of her home at 555 Hudson Street, Jacobs observed what she called “the sidewalk ballet,” where the community gathered and connected with one another through active, dense space. In her book, Jacobs theorized the idea of “eyes on the street,” a form of surveillance that keeps the community safe by making the streets diverse and dense with people.

“People who know well such animated city streets will know how it is,” Jacobs wrote in “Death and Life,” as the New York Times reported. “I am afraid people who do not will always have it a little wrong in their heads, like the old prints of rhinoceroses made from travelers descriptions of rhinoceroses.”

With a mix of buildings, people, and activities, local stores will do business, streets will be safe, and neighbors will stay connected, according to Jacobs.

The plaque at 555 Hudson reads: “The author and urbanist bought this 1842 rowhouse in 1947 and remained until 1968. While here, Jacobs helped lead successful campaigns to ban cars from Washington Square, to defeat Robert Moses’ planned Lower Manhattan Expressway, and to stop his plans for “urban renewal” demolition in the West Village. She wrote The Death and Life of American Cities while living here.”

Jane Jacobs, chairman of the Comm. to save the West Village holds up documentary evidence at press conference at Lions Head Restaurant at Hudson & Charles Sts, via Library of Congress

As Village Preservation’s Andrew Berman wrote in a 2018 article on 6sqft: “Jacobs and her book led to a fundamental rethinking of what cities needed and what people wanted in their built environment, and her observations proved remarkably spot-on. Jacobs’ writings and principles informed everything from land-use approval processes in cities throughout the world to the shape of new developments, big and small, around the globe.”

This plaque marks the 16th dedicated by Village Preservation, which has honored the former homes of icons like Jean-Michel Basquiat, James Baldwin, Frank O’Hara, and others. Explore the group’s map of historic plaques here.


Get Insider Updates with Our Newsletter!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *