Greenwich Village, or as it is locally referred to simply as “The Village” has a rich and vibrant history that sets it apart as one of the most eclectic neighborhoods in Manhattan.
Bordering Union Square, Soho, and Chelsea, Greenwich Village embraces the energy and individuality of the creative, rebellious, and Bohemian culture. Originally the best tobacco plantation site to early Dutch settlers, the village was then transformed to luxurious estates for the upper class British by the end of the 1600s. A yellow fever and cholera epidemic in the early 1800s caused the village to become isolated from the rest of the city, emphasizing its present-day confusing street pattern. The mansions behind Washington Square North housed former stables built for horses, carriages, and coachmen to serve the wealthy families living close by. Once automobiles transformed the city in the 1830s, artists soon then followed to occupy the former stables, setting up their studios. The arrival of the prohibition era instigated bars in disguising themselves as florist and butcher shops, requiring patrons to use a secret entrance, code, or handshake to enter the bar. By the 1960s, galleries, small shops, experimental theaters, and dive bars began flourishing throughout the village.
An iconic bohemian culture soon followed: Abstract Expressionist artists Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns lived and worked here; musicians Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Sonic Youth and comedians such as Bette Milder, Richard Pryor, and Bill Cosby were all heard at the CBGBs, Café Wha?, The Village Vanguard, and many other early folk music clubs; Bob Dylan lived on 161 West 4th Street and played his first paying gig at Gerde’s Folk City, where he also debuted “Blowin’ in the Wind”; Dylan Thomas purportedly drank himself to death at the White Horse Tavern, setting a record with 18 straight whiskies; Reader’s Digest was established here in a basement in 1922; John Barrymore lived on the top floor at 132 West 4th Street, where the apartment is rumored to be haunted by the famous actor; Marcel Duchamp set off balloons from atop Washington Square Arch, declaring the founding of “The Independent Republic of Greenwich Village.”