Jane Jacobs’ birthday on May 4 is marked throughout the world as an occasion to celebrate one’s own city — its history, diversity, and continued vitality. “Jane’s Walks” are conducted across the country to encourage average citizens to appreciate and engage the complex and dazzling ecosystems which make up our cityscapes (Here in NYC, MAS is hosting 200+ free walks throughout the city from today through Sunday). But there’s no place better to appreciate all things Jane Jacobs than Greenwich Village, the neighborhood in which she lived and which so informed and inspired her writings and activism, in turn helping to save it from destruction.
Washington Square Park
Photo from an event test run last night, courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photo Office
Today, April 3rd, marks the 50th anniversary of when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” in Memphis, Tennessee. In response to the Memphis Sanitation Strike, he called for unity, economic action, and nonviolent protests. He also, eerily, alluded to an untimely death. The following day, April 4, 1968, he was assassinated. To commemorate this final speech, the city will tonight replay it in its entirety throughout Washington Square Park while Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray light the arch in MLK’s honor.
On this day in 1645, a freed slave became the first non-Native settler to own land in Greenwich Village, Fri, July 14, 2017
Plan of New York map courtesy of Curriculum Concepts International
In 1626, the Dutch West India Company imported 11 African slaves to New Amsterdam, beginning New York’s 200 year-period of slavery. One man in this group, Paolo d’Angola, would become the city’s first non-Native settler of Greenwich Village. As the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) discovered, and added to their Civil Rights and Social Justice Map, as a recently freed slave, d’Angola was granted land around today’s Washington Square Park for a farm. While this seems like a generous gesture from a slave owner, d’Angola’s land actually served as an intermediary spot between the European colonists and the American Indians, who sometimes raided settlements. This area, in addition to Chinatown, Little Italy, and SoHo, was known as the “Land of the Blacks.”
Egg Rolls, Egg Creams and Empanadas Festival; Photo via Kate Milford for the Museum at Eldridge Street
If you’re feeling low this week, head to Times Square for a round of artful applause, or to the Rubin for some pick me ups thanks to the world of sound. Step back in time (and flex your history knowledge) for a Jazz Age Drink and Draw, then test your modern New York history knowledge at the New York Now Scavenger Hunt. If you’re itching to learn, join a free history tour of Washington Square Park, take in an artist talk by Martha Rosler, then celebrate the diverse history of the Lower East Side at the Egg Rolls, Egg Creams, and Empanadas Festival. Finally, cozy up with a date for Bryant Park’s first screening under the stars with King Kong.
This beautiful Greek revival building, located at the Northwest corner of Washington Square Park, dates all the way back to the 1850s and previously functioned as a multiple family house. However, with new ownership often comes new ideas, and the current owners recently transformed the apartment building into a single-family residence. The renovation was led by the design team at Matiz Architecture & Design (MAD) and included a complete rebuild of the rear exterior, as well the addition of an central elevator providing easy access to all six floors. MAD’s focus during the renovation was to conserve the existing details and restore the building’s exterior while also giving the home an modern update. In addition to the architectural components, MAD was also responsible for all of the interior furnishings.
Image via NYU Local
It’s true: Washington Square Park was, in part, Washington Square parking lot. In the 1960s, at the peak of the nation’s car culture fixation, the Greenwich Village park was put into use as a parking lot, until cars were finally banished altogether in the 1970s, when the large circular plaza around the fountain was added. Some say the parking lot was an effort to keep hippies from gathering in the beloved public space.
Employees of the Department of Design and Construction are definitely being kept on their toes this week. After uncovering a hidden vault containing the skeletal remains of at least a dozen people believed to be approximately 200 years old, workers have uncovered a second burial vault, this one filled with wood coffins. Workers tasked with upgrading 19th-century water mains under the park stumbled upon the latest burial ground Wednesday night, a day after their first finding at the corner of Waverly Place and Washington Square Park East.
It’s pretty well known that Washington Square Park started out as a potters field, a burial ground for the poor, and later as a resting place for those who died from yellow fever. But this has always been something out of the history books. Until now.
Recently, a group of city workers in the process of upgrading water mains under the park came upon a hidden vault containing the skeletal remains of at least a dozen people believed to be approximately 200 years old. According to officials from the Department of Design and Construction, the vault is eight feet deep, 15 feet wide, and 20 feet long. While the exact details are unknown right now, a team of anthropologists and and archaeologists will be requested to evaluate and determine the age of both the remains and the vault.
Central Park is usually hailed as the best New York park to live right off of. It definitely is one of the best, but that shouldn’t override another great NYC park–Washington Square Park. Downtown in Greenwich Village, you’ll get a whole different atmosphere consisting of performers, musicians, students, chess players and everyone else coming to hang around the park’s iconic fountain. Yes, it’s livelier and louder than Central Park, but if you’re looking for a co-op with a little more excitement and fun right outside, this apartment at 39 Washington Square South might fit the bill. It’s an impressive classic six unit that’s just hit the market for $2.75 million.
Here’s a really cool ground-floor pied-à-terre at 175 Bleecker Street with a private garden, available for $849,000. The fully-renovated loft has a crisp, clean feel with tall casement windows, white floors, and whitewashed exposed brick. And the landscaped garden is easy to maintain so it looks beautiful all year long—plus imagine stepping out into your own verdant space with a cup of coffee in hand.