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Posts Tagged ‘Greenwich Village’

There is no escaping it.

If you are going to do an exhibit on costume designer and Greenwich Village retailer Patricia Field, you are going to have to talk about Carrie Bradshaw, the character brought to life by Sarah Jessica Parker in HBO’s Sex and the City. No matter what level of research you may conduct on Ms. Field, from a light Google search to a deep dive into the archives of The New York Times, SATC and Carrie Bradshaw are never far behind, and understandably so. One of the most important reasons Carrie, and her friends, were so inspirational to viewers of the show was due in part to their unique style of dress—envisioned and realized by lead stylist Patricia Field from 2000 (the series’ third season) to the end of the show in 2004. While my exhibit will share in-depth thoughts on the “Carrie Effect” and the influence of Field’s lens on early twenty-first century fashion, this blog entry is about another important (and slightly more interesting) character on Sex and the City —New York City itself.

Dubbed by the city’s landmarks Preservation Commission as “delightful and interesting,” Perry Street, in New York’s West Village, is a tree-lined preserve for many historical buildings. All are residential, each more beautiful than the next. One of the most iconic homes on the block between Bleecker Street and West Fourth is No. 66.

Built in 1866 by architect Robert Mook, this Italianate style townhouse is not famous for being the home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt or some other gilded name in Village history. Instead, it is known as the fictional home of Carrie Bradshaw. In the mid-2000’s, it was also home to busloads of tourists who crowded the stoop trying to relive their favorite SATC moments, cosmopolitans and all. While Carrie was supposed to live in a rent-controlled apartment on the Upper East Side (245 East 73rd Street to be exact), the 4000 square foot brownstone was the actual façade and location used in the show. Originally, the show was shot in front of 64 Perry Street, but the grander stoop of neighbor 66 won out as the favorite spot after three seasons. The setting for many memorable scenes in the show’s eight year run, the house is now listed as the 92nd place to visit in New York City on the blog 1000 Things To See In NYC. It beats out Magnolia Bakery (100 on the list), another Village location immortalized by a visit from Carrie and her friends.

PerryStreet

In 2008, community residents won a campaign to stop Sex and the City tour buses from looping the neighborhood. If you Google the address, the house is actually blurred out on the map, rumored to be part of the $9.85 million sale by an anonymous buyer in 2012. The house was sold again in 2013 for $13.5 million and current estimates list it at $35 million.

The buses may have stopped years ago and the throngs of fans have dwindled, but the house still sits quietly behind a “no trespassing” sign hung over the front steps —a reminder of its famous past. Occasionally, especially on the weekends, you will still see a group of outrageously dressed, selfie-loving tourists stop to relive a Carrie moment. They come from all over the world, some wearing heels and tutus, to pay homage to their anti-hero, and unbeknownst to most, the influences of Patricia Field.

Sources:

Shanahan, Gerry. The New York Times, September 9, 2007.

1000 Things To Do In NYC Blog

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The Hulk passes through Washington Square Park in The Amazing Spider-Man, issue 381, 1993

The Hulk passes through Washington Square Park in The Amazing Spider-Man, issue 381, 1993

Ta-Nehisi Coates hit the nail on the head when he said, “Comics are so often seen as the province of white geeky nerds. But, more broadly, comics are  the literature of outcasts, of pariahs, of Jews, of gays, of blacks. It’s really no mistake that we saw ourselves in Doom, Magneto or Rogue.” Since their inception, comic books have been a place for fantasy, wish fulfillment and political commentary. Much like science fiction, a genre decades old by the time comic books became popular in the United States, comic books often reflected the fringes of American society. They told the stories of outcasts and aliens, people who didn’t step in time with the rest of humanity. It’s unsurprising that someone like William Moulton Marston, psychologist and creator of Wonder Woman, would find himself so drawn to the medium.

This phenomenal development of a national comics addiction puzzles professional educators and leaves the literary critics gasping. Comics scorn finesse, thereby incurring the wrath of linguistic adepts. They defy the limits of accepted fact and convention, thus amortizing to apoplexy the ossified arteries of routine thought. But by these very tokens the picture-story fantasy cuts loose the hampering debris of art and artifice and touches the tender spots of universal human desires and aspirations, hidden customarily beneath long accumulated protective coverings of indirection and disguise. Comics speak, without qualm or sophistication, to the innermost ears of the wishful self.”

Front page to The Sound of Her Wings from Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes, Issue 8, 1991.

Front page to The Sound of Her Wings from Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes, Issue 8, 1991.

Marston wrote this for a 1943 issue of The American Scholar, a year after Wonder Woman debuted in her first solo book, Sensation Comics. He was a blacklisted psychologist who lived in a polyamorous relationship with two women, Olive Byrne and Elizabeth Holloway. All three worked, wrote and helped raise their four children. A self-identified feminist, Marston infused Wonder Woman with his politics, hoping to create a new feminine ideal. Perhaps, then, it is even less surprising that Marston’s inspiration was found largely in the radical communities of Greenwich Village.
Wonder Woman was not the only superhero to have passed through the Village. Comic book writers and artists have been sending their characters to the quintessential home of radical counterculture for decades. Wonder Woman herself lived in the Village in the sixties and seventies. Madame Xanadu, a sorceress based on the Arthurian legend of Nimue, had her salon on Chrystie Street. Peter Parker, that most relatable of high school geeks and New York native, swung through the Village regularly. Kyle Radnor, one of the iterations of the Green Lantern, was an artist whose studio was in a Greenwich Village loft. It made sense to place these characters here. Like the folk music that permeated the Village in the 1950’s and 60’s, comic books told stories  that were always meant for the common person, but also for those who didn’t quite feel like they were in sync with the rest of the world. People found shelter in the Village, and it was no different on the pages of Spider-Man or Wonder Woman.

A shadowy figure approaches the Sanctum Sanctorum, home of Doctor Stephen Strange, which first appeared in Strange Tales, issue 116, 1951. The Sanctum existed in multiple dimensions, but the front door was on Bleecker Street.

A shadowy figure approaches the Sanctum Sanctorum, home of Doctor Stephen Strange, which first appeared in Strange Tales, issue 116, 1951. The Sanctum existed in multiple dimensions, but the front door was on Bleecker Street.

Outside comic books, Greenwich Village was home to people like socialist writer Max Eastman, who published Child of the Amazons and Other Poems in 1913. Charlotte Perkins Gilman published Herland, a utopian novel about an egalitarian world without men, in her magazine Forerunner in 1915. Clearly Amazonian society had been on the minds of many Village feminists, not just Martson’s.
Because of their format, and their intended audiences, comic book creators had room to do the daring, to challenge social mores. Sometimes they didn’t succeed, and often they ended up just reproducing the same prejudices they were attempting to subvert. Despite the efforts of people like Marston, the comic book industry has been dominated by white men, its path dictated by what they think their audience of white teenage males want to see. But comic books still have their roots in counterculture, and are so identified with bohemian Greenwich Village that author Michael Chabon set much of his novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Claythere. His characters, Joe, Sammy and Rosa, called the Village home, often finding refuge there through a storm of homophobia, sexism and anti-semitism.
Supergirl is sent to the Village to speak to Madame Xanadu in Wonder Woman, issue 292, 1982

Supergirl is sent to the Village to speak to Madame Xanadu in Wonder Woman, issue 292, 1982

Comic books have certainly changed over the years, and so has the Village, but their shared history continues to draw people for similar reasons. They have the ability to show us our fantasies and desires, reflecting them back to us for better or worse. Idealists, radicals, outcasts and sometimes just lonely kids looking for companionship – those are the people who still hold comic books closest, and comic book creators owe much of that to the influence of the Village.

Related Reading:

Gaiman, Neil. Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes. New York: DC Comics, 1991.

Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. New York: Random House Publishing, 2000.

Daniels, Les. Wonder Woman: The Life and Times of the Amazon Princess: The Complete Story. San Francisco: Titan Books, 2000.

Schwartz, Judith. Radical Feminists of Heterodoxy: Greenwich Village 1912-1940. Norwich, Vermont: New Victoria Publishers, 1986.

 

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Google is a breeze for the “digital natives” among us. Type tabby cat in the search box and a wealth of media and information appears in around .42 seconds, ready for immediate digital consumption.

Finding aids aren’t so easy. Yet they are an essential tool for any and all researchers interested in Greenwich Village history: Google is not enough.

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Anyone well-versed in New York City history knows about the Colored Orphan Asylum. At least, they have heard what transpired during the infamous New York Draft Riots of 1863, when an armed and enraged white mob attacked the black children’s orphanage at 44th Street and 5th Avenue. The building and its extensive grounds were looted and destroyed by fire. Thankfully, all 233 children were saved.

Depiction of the New York Draft Riots, from Harper’s Weekly.

Yet the events of 1863 comprise just a single piece of the story of the Colored Orphan Asylum. From its beginnings on West 12th Street in Greenwich Village, the Association for the Benefit of Colored Orphans is an intriguing example of unexpected agency: not just from its white female founders, but also from its black defenders.

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Evernote is a great note taking software that really helped me both organize my research and prepare a narrative for the GVHDA web exhibit. Its flexibility – which allowed me to make “notes” of my own creation or capture full webpages, excerpts of websites, and images on websites – enabled me to keep a constantly-updating archive of materials necessary for constructing a well-researched final project.

I had never used a digital service or software for note taking before enrolling in this class. I usually rely on my Gmail account for organizing web links and drafts of my writing. Using it as a storage space ensured that my work would never be lost and that I could continually revisit resources and my own research from my cell phone, tablet, laptop, and any computer with an Internet connection.

There are, however, some problems with organizing research in my inbox. Beyond labeling each email with the name or kind of information I stored within it – “draft introduction,” for example, or “New York Times article on Second Avenue” – there is no function for sorting the information that I was keeping and creating. Websites in particular posed a problem because each email simply contained a link with no preview of the actual content. I also had trouble distinguishing between classes when using my email account, making it difficult to keep track of multiple research projects each semester.

Image

A screenshot of my Evernote homepage.

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The tags I used in my Greenwich Village Digital History Notebook.

As a result, Evernote is a welcome change in the way I conduct research and it solved all of the issues that I had with storing my work online. I can easily access it using the application that I downloaded to all of my devices or through the Evernote website on any computer. I can also sort my resources using tags of my own creation, and I have made different notebooks for the various projects that I’m working on this semester.

The most helpful aspect of Evernote is its tagging capability. As an Internet user familiar and comfortable with tagging, it is great to be able to impose a frame on and implement tags relevant to my research. After making a notebook for our Greenwich Village History class, I classified my notes into various categories. I tagged my comments on our readings and work done in class as “Class Notes.” Materials that I wanted to upload as items for the digital archive were either tagged as “Digital archive” (if I had permission to use them or they were in the public domain) or as “Digital archive?” (if I was in the process of gathering permissions and their status was still uncertain). I created my own notes containing proposals for the exhibit’s layout and drafts of exhibit pages, tagging them all as “Exhibit Planning.” Any resources that I planned to use more broadly for exhibit content were simply tagged “Research,” while more specific clippings I organized using unique tags – “CUANDO” or “Cooper” – relevant to my project. 

I also really enjoyed using the Evernote clipper. It made the research process a lot easier and more efficient, allowing me to quickly save webpages, articles, and images directly to my notebook of choice. I most appreciated the tool when I was working within NYU’s subscription-based databases. A good amount of my primary source research for the exhibit was conducted in ProQuest’s historical archives, which I cannot access unless I am logged into my NYU account. Clipping the entire article webpage with Evernote, however, allowed me to view PDFs of the material, even when I was on a device or computer that was not logged into NYU.

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A blank clipped page from a Google Books search.

The clipper was less helpful when I clipped Google Books resources. I usually began such searches in Google Scholar with targeted search terms that led to specific pages in books and journals. The clipper, however, is unable to “clip” the webpage so the note for any Google resource is therefore an empty page. I also had some issues immediately tagging resources while clipping. The software ran slowly when I did so and often assigned my most-used tag to the resource instead of allowing me to select the appropriate tag myself. I then needed to open the application, manually remove the incorrect tag, and reassign the material the tag I originally intended to give it. As a “free” service user, I’m limited to 60 MB of files every month. This is not an issue now – I still have 59.6 MB of space remaining before my allowance is updated – but can become problematic if I begin to rely on the service for all of my research and work-related projects.

I really appreciate Evernote as a research tool. It replaced the previous way that I assembled materials online, enhancing the process by allowing me to better sort and save my research. Gathering digital information relevant to my work is much simpler with Evernote because of its tagging capabilities and clipper tool. Being able to plan and draft my writing in the same place that I store my class notes also assisted me in better organizing the assignments that I needed to complete. Overall, Evernote made a potentially overwhelming research process both more feasible and enjoyable.

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Throughout my research about the Irish in Greenwich Village, authors and researchers have emphasized the importance of religion to the Irish immigrants and Irish-American community who lived in the neighborhood during the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. St. Joseph’s Church served the Roman Catholic Irish community, standing at the center of both the religion and culture of these Village residents. What I was surprised to learn was the influence St. Joseph’s had not only over its congregation but over the Archdiocese of New York. And more interestingly, how the side of St. Joseph’s growing congregation led to the creation of five other Roman Catholic churches in the Village to serve the neighborhoods Catholic residents. St. Alphonsus, St. Ann’s, St. Francis Xavier’s, St. Bernard’s, and St. Veronica’s were all founded within the original boundaries of St. Joseph’s to accommodate the growing Catholic population of the Village.

St. Joseph's Church

St. Joseph’s Church

St. Joseph’s was founded in 1829 and was referred to as the “Mother Church of the Catholics in Greenwich Village.” When the church was dedicated in 1834 the parish boundaries included the West Side of Manhattan from Canal Street to 34th Street. St. Alphonsus was the first of the new parishes, located on Thompson Street, about a mile south of St. Joseph’s. It was founded in 1847 to serve a growing German Catholic community in the neighborhood but soon attracted Irish Catholic parishioners who lived nearby creating tensions between the two immigrant groups. But by the beginning of the 20th century the parish was predominantly Irish and tensions had dwindled.

St. Francis Xavier’s and St. Ann’s were both founded in the 1850s, St. Ann’s in 1852 on the eastern boundary of St. Joseph’s, and St. Francis Xavier’s in 1850 in the northern part of St. Joseph’s parish. St. Ann’s, located on E. 12th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues, served the wealthy Catholics of the Village and surrounding areas. But in the 1890s the parish was nearly $93,000 in debt and much of its attraction ebbed. St. Francis Xavier’s, however, became the first real threat for the pastors of St. Joseph’s. It was the first permanent Jesuit parish in the Archdiocese of New York. From St. Francis Xavier’s inception, Archbishop John Hughes received complaints from St. Joseph’s and other churches that the Jesuits were stealing their parishioners. St. Joseph’s pastors continued to complain to the Archdiocese for over 40 years about the number of their parishioners who were regularly attending mass at St. Francis Xavier’s.

St. Bernard’s, the fourth of the parishes carved from St. Joseph’s original boundaries, was the least threatening. Located on W. 14th Street near 9th Ave., this new parish founded in 1868 was far enough away that it didn’t steal enough of St. Joseph’s parishioner’s to raise alarm. However, that wasn’t the case with St. Veronica’s.

Church of St. Veronica

Church of St. Veronica

The last of the parishes carved from St. Joseph’s boundaries, St. Veronica’s was officially dedicated in 1903 after thirteen years of construction. When Father John Salter of St. Joseph’s first heard the Archdiocese planned to create a new parish in its western boundary, encompassing nearly 30 blocks, he launched a complaint with the Archbishop claiming there weren’t enough Catholics along the waterfront to support another church. The Archdiocese, however, knew that the proposed parish was more than capable of supporting a large congregation. They answered Salter’s complaint by proposing the boundaries of St. Veronica’s be broaden, which promptly stopped the pastor’s objections. St. Veronica’s served a poor waterfront neighborhood in the West Village, worshipping from a warehouse and stable until the basement of the present church on Christopher Street was completed in 1890. The church wouldn’t be dedicated until June 1903 was St. Veronica’s was completed.

While St. Joseph’s Church remained the “Mother Church of the Catholics in Greenwich Village” and continued to serve a predominantly Irish congregation, the five daughter parishes that were born within St. Joseph’s boundaries helped shape the culture and history of not only the Irish but all Catholics in the Village.

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The Greenwich Village Theatre only existed for thirteen years, but within that time frame the institution established a lasting legacy within the theater world and in Greenwich Village. Originally designed and built by New York architect Herman Lee Meader, the 500-seat theatre was a landmark of Greenwich Village from 1917 to 1930.

Herman Lee Meader's Sketch of the Greenwich Village Theatre

Herman Lee Meader’s Sketch of the Greenwich Village Theatre, 1917

 

Located on the west side of Seventh Avenue South between Christopher and West 4th Streets overlooking Sheridan Square, the Greenwich Village Theatre was originally built for the Greenwich Village Players, an acting troupe founded by Frank Conroy and featuring a young Clare Eames. The Greenwich Village Players reflected the prevalence of “little theatres” during the teens, in which theatre enthusiasts transformed into amateur actors and playwrights and eventually theater professionals.

 

Despite being known as a locale of bohemia and radicalism, Greenwich Village was also a popular tourist destination during the 1910s and 1920s. The area of Sheridan Square was particularly popular among tourists, due to the development of the west side subway line in 1918. Originally published in the Saturday Evening Post, Sinclair Lewis satirized the influx of tourists in “Hobohemia,” a short story that he adapted into a play that ran at the Greenwich Village Theatre in 1919. The play features the characters of Mr. Brown and Mrs. Saffron. Mr. Brown “decides the only problem with bohemia is that the bohemians don’t know how to make a profit from it,” and encounters Mrs. Saffron, a parody of Mabel Dodge, in Greenwich Village. Lewis’s play satirized prominent Greenwich Village figures, who he clearly thought were taking themselves too seriously. This transition from the serious bohemian theatre troupe of the Greenwich Village Players to an increased willingness to parody themselves set the stage for the Greenwich Village Follies.

 

New York Time's Review of Sinclair Lewis's Hobohemia

New York Time’s Review of Sinclair Lewis’s Hobohemia

The Greenwich Village Follies premiered on July 15, 1919 at the Greenwich Village Theatre. Though initially titled “Greenwich Village Nights,” this was quickly changed to the Follies; facing off against the popular Ziegfeld’s Follies. Created by John Murray Anderson alongside lyricist Philip Bartholomae and composer A. Baldwin Sloane, the musical revue more than held its own against Ziegfeld’s Follies. Praised by the New York Times, particularly for its “melody and beauty,” the 1919 Follies emerged as a hit.

 

New York Times review of the Greenwich Village Follies, 1919

New York Times review of the Greenwich Village Follies, 1919

Much of the scenes and songs of the Follies parodied Greenwich Village life and current events. Bessie McCoy, the Broadway veteran, sang, “I’m a Hostess of a Bum Cabaret,” satirizing Prohibition, while other songs like “I’ll Sell You a Girl,” poked fun at bohemian concepts such as free love.

 

Following the success of the 1919 Follies, Anderson produced another series of shows in 1920 that played at the Greenwich Village Theatre. However, the 1920 Follies greatly resembled a Broadway musical revue, and the show moved to the Schubert Theatre on Broadway a month after it opened. The Greenwich Village Follies played for six seasons on Broadway and became less associated with the Village after its second season.

 

Despite only running for less than two seasons in Greenwich Village, the legacy of the show has lasted. In 2011, a musical revue detailing Greenwich Village history billed itself as “The Greenwich Village Follies.” The show, performed at Manhattan Theater Source on Macdougal St., covered local history from the 1700s to the Stonewall rebellion in 1969.

 

After the departure of the Greenwich Village Follies, the Greenwich Village Theatre remained a landmark of Sheridan Square and the Village until 1930 when it was demolished.

Sources

Bordman, Gerald. American Musical Theater: A Chronicle. Oxford University Press: 2001.

Gates, Anita. “From George Washington to Beatniks and Beyond.” NY Times, Jul. 3, 2011.

Hischak, Thomas S. Off-Broadway Musicals since 1919: From Greenwich Village Follies to the Toxic Avenger. Scarecrow Press: 2011.

Strausbaugh, John. The Village: 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues, a History of Greenwich Village. Harper Collins: 2013.

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