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Posts Tagged ‘West 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.

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The 1940 census sits at an interesting point in American History- the US was still recovering from the Great Depression, yet had not yet entered the European conflict that would later become a World War. The snapshot view of W. 9th Street, in New York’s Greenwich Village, shows just how much America had changed compared to similar records for the prior fifty years.

Of the 500 records that we looked at on West 9th street, only seven of the heads of household owned their houses or apartments. This is especially notable because the street is made up almost entirely of town houses, but these houses must have been subdivided into apartments during this period. Of the owners, the highest value was the home of Louise Brooks, a widow who lived with her domestic servant, whose house was valued at $47,000.

The rents on West 9th Street in 1940 were stratified clearly by building but did not reflect a particularly large spread of values. The lowest rent on the census was listed as $20 a month, paid by Frank Dent, the superintendent in building number 43, who lived with his wife and adult son. Roger Williams, a banker, paid $347 a month for an apartment in number 35 that he shared with his wife Frances and 21-year old son Samuel, a college student. This rent is an outlier, as most of the other high rents fell between $120 and $180 per month. The overall highest rents appear to be in building 61, with many renters paying over $100 a month, and the lowest are in building 66, where everyone paid less than $50 a month. These buildings are across the street from one another, emphasizing the building to building differences in the value of the homes in this census.

While the rents on this street show some socio-economic differences, it is important to place this in the national context. According to the national archives census infographics that they produced when this census was released the average urban monthly rent was $30.83. So nearly everyone on West 9th street was paying average to above average rents, while many people in New York city were likely paying much less.

The rents of the tenants on West 9th street in 1940 reflect their generally middle to upper-middle class professions and salaries. 1940 was the first year where the census asked questions related to employment and salary information, which was intended to identify the activities of the  public works administration and effectiveness of those programs. Very few of the people on West 9th street were working in public works, and most had been employed for the entire period included on the census. While there is some variety in the type of employment, nearly all of these workers would be classified as white-collar, even those that lived in boarding houses or paid very low rents relative to some of their neighbors.

This employment stability is also reflected in the stability of the tenants in this building. It is quite likely that most of the tenants we see in 1940 also lived in this building in 1930, as nearly all of them were listed as living in the same place in 1935.

Children account for between a quarter and a third of the total population of the US, based on records compiled by the Census Bureau. In the nearly 500 individual entries charted for the 1940 census of W. 9th St, children accounted for less than 10% of the total population. Furthermore, the children listed lived predominantly in the buildings of families with the highest socio-economic status, nos. 35 and 61. For this analysis, we considered children as any person under the age of 18. The ages of children were spread quite evenly- from infants to teenagers- but it is surprising to see how few children there actually are. While there were proportionately few children, there were still a significant number of married couples of childbearing age, or of an age to still be raising children, who were childless. These two person families were typically supported by a male head of house, with the wife remaining at home regardless of her educational background.

According to national data compiled by the Census Bureau, about 5% of the total population had any college education in 1940. This number was further reduced for women; only 3.8% of women had a college degree. This is an area where W. 9th St. was very different from national averages; we noticed that more than half of the adults listed in these records had a college education. An equally high proportion had graduate degrees, including doctors, lawyers, engineers and university professors. Even more surprising was a comparison of education by gender: an equal number of women to men had attended college, although these women were still unlikely to be in the workforce if they were married.

Resources:

Census Bureau, “Taking You Back to the 1940s.” http://www.census.gov/1940census/ 

National Archives, “1940-1910: How Has America Changed?” http://www.census.gov/1940census/then_and_now/index.html

Forum on Child and Family Statistics,”America’s Children in Brief.” http://www.childstats.gov/

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