New York City - Around Washington Square
( Originally Published 1940 )
From Union Square a short walk down University Place, or, if you prefer, down Fifth Avenue, one block to the west, will bring you to WASHINGTON SQUARE. This marks the end of Fifth Avenue. The chief architectural feature of the Square is the WASHINGTON ARCH, not too large as triumphal and memorial arches go, particularly in foreign cities, but of really great beauty. It was completed in 1893 from designs by Stanford White. The material is marble.
On the south the Square is dominated. by the tower of the Judson Memorial Church, on the east by the great buildings of New York University, and on the west by apartment buildings and hotels. Fortunately the old colonial fronts of the residences on the Square along the north side have been carefully pre-served, although many of the interiors have been converted into new small apartments.
Washington Square, and near by Greenwich Village, have for years been the haunt of people in the literary world. Both Washington Irving and Mark Twain lived for a time in the fine old mansion at Fifth Avenue and 9th Street. This neighborhood is by no stretch of the imagination Greenwich Village, and both these writers must have been established successes to have lived there.
Probably no single house has ever sheltered so many famous names of American literature and art as No. 61 Washington Square South. Run for. years as a rooming house by a Madame Branchard, it has housed at various times Stephen Crane, John Dos Passos, Willy Pogany, Art Young, John Reed, Eugene O'Neill, Pierre Matisse, Alan Seeger, and among stage folk, Adelina Patti and Alessandro Salvini. These are only a few of the dozens who could be listed. 'When Madame Bran-chard died in 1937 she was mourned by half the artists in America.
Just south of Washington Square is a predominantly Italian section, and a short walk to the west will bring you into the heart of GREENWICH VILLAGE. This is the site of the second oldest community founded on Manhattan Island, the oldest, of course, having been Fort Amsterdam, further south. Greenwich Village was the fashionable residential district of New York from about 'Soo until about 1850. During a yellow-fever epidemic in the city in 1822, it is said that some 20,000 people moved to the healthier air of Greenwich Village, which in those days was a fashionable suburb.
When the rectangular plan was adopted for the general layout of New York, Greenwich Village, being already well established, could. not possibly be made to conform. The best the planners could do was to. extend the street-numbering system insofar as possible, with. the result that 4th Street crosses 10th Street, an impossible thing elsewhere.
Greenwich. Village is a curious jumble: Long famous as a Bohemian section, it is today for the most part too expensive for any struggling artist, who, would probably find that he would have to pay at least $40.00 per month. in advance to get even the smallest attic to starve in. There are streets which are almost slums, and then in the middle of the block will be an exquisite old colonial residence, still occupied by the family of the original owner, and with a polished-brass door knob glistening in the sun, or perhaps. a tall, ultramodern apartment house, complete with doormen. and potted palms in the lobby.
To get an idea of how people lived in the days when Greenwich Village was at its best, walk east on 4th Street, from Washington Square. Here, at No. 29, is the house once belonging to. Seabury Treadwell, a wealthy merchant of the period. It has been carefully restored, particularly on the interior, and is now a museum. It is open daily on weekdays from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. and on Sundays from I P.M. to 5 P.M. The admission is 50 cents.
Again to the east of Washington Square, at the corner of Broadway and 10th Street, is. the beautiful Gothic Grace Church, with its adjoining buildings in harmonious design. Further east, at Second Avenue and 10th Street, is sr. MARK'S-IN-THE-BOUVVERIE. This old church, built in 1795, is the second oldest church building in New York. It stands where Petrus Stuyvesant, the last Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam, had his Bouwerie Farm far out of town, and marks the site of his chapel. He is still buried in St. Mark's Church, a tablet on the east wall marking the vault.
Near St. Mark's, where Third and Fourth Avenues join to make the Bowery, is COOPER UNION. This somewhat forbid-ding brownstone building was erected by Peter Cooper, the inventor, in 1857. Its activity, of inestimable value in training young men and women in technical subjects, is largely carried on in its evening sessions. There is a splendid technical library. A statue of Peter Cooper by St. Gaudens is to the south of the building.
The BOWERY was once the pleasant Bouwerie Lane leading north from the city to Petrus Stuyvesant's Bouwerie Farm. Today it is not even famous for its wickedness. This gloomy thoroughfare, shaded by the tracks of the noisy elevated structure, is a long line of pawnshops, saloons, small and dingy stores, and "flop houses."
But however dingy the Bowery may be, it leads the visitor past one of the most interesting sections of New York, the slum district of the Lower East Side, to another of the most interesting sections of the city, Chinatown.
The LOWER EAST SIDE is packed with humanity, mostly of the Jewish faith. Here are the great pushcart markets, so picturesque at night; here Yiddish is the language most commonly heard on. the streets; and here are shops selling Russian and Roumanian wares. On hot nights in the summer the whole population seems to move outdoors, and the streets become combined markets, playgrounds, and clubs.
Not only Jews live on the East Side. There are Italian districts as well, particularly near Mulberry Street. Some of the least habitable sections of the district are being torn down, and hopeful signs of the regeneration of the neighborhood can be seen in developments like Knickerbocker Village. It is notice-able that since this great low-cost housing development was erected, many of the older buildings around it have been modernized, and some of the surrounding blocks are definitely on the up grade.
CHINATOWN, just off the Bowery to the west at Chatham Square, is not a large neighborhood, but one of the most fascinating in the city, unless the visitor has seen the infinitely more interesting Chinatown of San Francisco. Here are many Chinese stores, several temples or joss houses, the one at 20 Mott Street being considered the most interesting, and many Chinese restaurants. Chinatown, once the scene of so many "Tong Wars," is now one of the most generally orderly districts in New York.
Visitors are often interested in a visit to the Chinese Theater, open only in the winter, and to the small Chinese Museum of Art and Science.