Small Green Spaces

A few months ago when the country appeared to be moving away from pandemic life (or, at least, could realistically hope for such a transition in the foreseeable future), I began to re-introduce myself to New York City. Losing myself in a bookstore. Relaxing outside a cafe. Even braving a sparsely attended movie. After living in cities all my adult life, I found myself needing to learn how to be an urbanite again — the expected aftershock following a year and many months of effective hibernation.

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Greenwich Village with H.P. Lovecraft

Greenwich Village was the New York City epicenter of modern art, experimental literature, and radical politics in the 1920s. During his brief New York sojourn (1924-1926), author H.P. Lovecraft loved visiting this neighborhood for its architecture and urban design. He wandered its streets — often at dusk or deep in the night — and swooned at the simple sight of a vintage lamppost, a curving alleyway, or a door knocker.

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An Afternoon in Greenwich Village: Fading Bohemia

Several weeks ago, I spent a Friday afternoon in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. Any casual devotee of the arts and literature understands the prominent position of Greenwich Village in the constellation of American bohemian. Authors, poets, playwrights, actors, and musicians began gravitating to the neighborhood before the Civil War with the opening of the Tenth Street Studio Building in 1857, the first structure designed for practicing artists in America. This pilgrimage lasted well into the 1960s.

Today, struggling artists, brooding writers, and ragtag songsters no longer look to Greenwich Village as their mecca (I’m unsure if they even look to New York anymore). Only the artists fortunate enough to have locked down a rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartment decades ago now call the neighborhood home. The only visible “artists” seen walking the streets are television and movie actors, models, and music moguls. Greenwich Village is the home of the creative-class’s one-percent. This population’s lasting impact on culture might prove to be negligible. The world is too much with them.

Greenwich Village Map
Map of Greenwich Village from the Greenwich Village Quill, 1925 (Courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin).

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