This year marks the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District. One of the city’s oldest and largest landmark districts, it’s a treasure trove of history, culture, and architecture. Village Preservation is spending 2019 marking this anniversary with events, lectures, and new interactive online resources. This is part of a series of posts about the Greenwich Village Historic District marking its golden anniversary.
Each year, immigrant history week is celebrated in late April, commemorating the day in 1907 when more immigrants came through Ellis Island than any other day in history. More than a few of those immigrants came through Greenwich Village, which has a long and storied history of welcoming newcomers from across the city, country, and globe. Here are just a few of the sites within the Greenwich Village Historic District where landmarks of our nation’s rich and varied immigrant history can be found, from the oldest surviving Jewish cemetery in the country to a hub of “Little Spain.”
L’Ecole Libre des Hautes Etudes at the New School in 1942, via France-Amerique
In 1937, the great German writer Thomas Mann suggested “To the Living Spirit” as a motto for the New School’s University in Exile. Since the Nazis had removed the same motto from the great lecture hall at the University of Heidelberg, the phrase would “indicate that the living spirit, driven from Germany, has found a home in this country,” and that home was on West 12th Street.
Between 1933 and 1945, The New School’s University in Exile offered asylum to more than 180 refugee scholars from fascist Europe. The exiled academics became the Graduate Faculty of The New School for Social Research and represented the largest contingent of refugee intellectuals in the United States. In the classroom, they made pioneering advances in the social sciences; in the war room, they advised the Roosevelt Administration on economic policy, war information, and espionage. Educating future Nobel Prize winners as well as future Oscar winners, they influenced American scholastic and cultural life to such a degree that even Marlon Brando remembered his émigré professors at the New School, “enriching the city’s intellectual life with an intensity that has probably never been equaled anywhere during a comparable period of time.”
More living and learning this way!
Image courtesy of SOM by James Ewing
Historically, college dorms have been characterized by anything but great architecture. While many older institutions rent out rooms (“cells” may be a more apt description) in neo-gothic structures, newer institutions tend to house students in some of the world’s least inspiring modernist buildings (for an example, head over to the I.M. Pei towers that dominate NYU’s University Village). More recently, however, at least some colleges and universities have begun to acknowledge that where students live may have an impact on their performance. Financially savvy institutions have also started to link student housing options to student retention rates.
As a result, on many campuses, drab gray concrete structures with prison-size windows are finally giving way to light, glass and wood and to an entirely new range of built-in amenities. This means that whether or not all students know it, a growing number of them are now living in buildings on the cutting edge of contemporary design.
Ahead, we highlight some of the best and most innovative in the new york area