lower east side

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001-Edward Mooney House 002-Church of the Transfiguration 003-254-260 Canal St. 004-Chatham Green 005-Confucious Plaza
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006-51 Market St. 007-Sung Tak Buddhist Temple 008-Mariner’s Temple. 009-HSBC Bank. 010-Congregation K’Hal Adath Jeshurun
218 East Broadway House - Photo credit Carl Forster 012-Bialystoker.jpg (105026 bytes) LES013-01.jpg (46250 bytes) 014-Norfolk_Synagogue.jpg (85789 bytes) ??
011-Isaac Ludlum House 012-Bialystoker Synagogue 013-Ritual Bathhouse 014-Congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagodol 015-Henry St. Settlement
Ottendorfer Libary PICT0020.jpg (63230 bytes)
016-Jacob Riis Houses 017-Merchant's House Museum 018-St. George’s Ukrainian Catholic Church 019-Ottendorfer Branch, NY Public Library

020-Stuyvesant Polyclinic Hospital

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Cooper Union Foundation Building
021-St. Mark’s in the Bowery Church 022-Renwick Triangle 023-Stuyvesant-Fish House
024-Joseph Papp Public Theater
025-Cooper Union Foundation Building
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026-LaGrange Terrace (Colonnade Row) 027-First Houses

028-Bouwerie Lane Theater

029-McSorley’s Old Ale House 030-30-38 East 3rd St.
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035-Erste_Warshawer_Synagogue.jpg (69209 bytes)

031-Engine Company No. 33.

032-DeVinne Press
033-Loft Building
034-Appleton Century Croft Building 035-Former First Warsaw Congregation
LES036-01.jpg (51711 bytes) Yiddish Art Theatre, 189 Second Avenue (at 12th Street)
036-Congregation Shaarai Shomoyim 037- Yiddish Art Theatre 038- BLUE Condominium


click here for walking tours of the jewish lower east side

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This is New York's landmark historic Jewish neighborhood, which was once the world's largest Jewish community. It was here that the New York garment industry began. Today it is one of New York's favorite bargain beats, where serious shoppers find fantastic bargains (especially along Orchard Street on a Sunday afternoon), cutting-edge new designers, and hot bars and music venues - and possibly the best place to get a great pastrami sandwich, pickles out of a barrel, and the world's best bialys. Try Katz's Delicatessen (205 East Houston St.), the oldest and largest real NY deli, founded in 1888.

Bounded by Houston Street, Canal Street, and the FDR Drive, the neighborhood's center is Orchard Street. Once a Jewish wholesale enclave, this street is a true multicultural blend, with trendy boutiques, French cafés, and velvet-roped nightspots sprinkled among dry-goods discounters, Spanish bodegas, and mom-and-pop shops selling everything from T-shirts to designer fashions to menorahs. Orchard is lined with small shops purveying clothing and shoes at great prices. Grand, Orchard, and Delancey Streets are treasure troves for linens, towels, and other housewares, and the traditional Sunday street vendors (Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, is observed by many shopkeepers as a day of rest) offer great opportunities to hone your bargaining skills! At Shapiro's Winery visitors can taste one of their 32 flavors of wine, and at Streit's bakery, matzoh mavens can sample the freshly baked unleavened bread as it rolls off the conveyor belts behind the counter.

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum
interprets the area's immigrant and migrant experiences through tours of a landmark 19th century tenement, living history programs, neighborhood walking tours, plays, and special programs. The first synagogue built by Eastern European Jews in America (1887) is the Eldridge Street Project, now a cultural center and gift shop. 
View an interactive map of the Lower East Side.

More information about the Lower East Side:
The Lower East Side Business Improvement District
has a visitor center at 261 Broome Street and can provide visitors with a shopping directory and information on dining discounts, free parking, and walking tours.

The Lower East Side Conservancy
is a preservation organization that specializes in tours of this fascinating neighborhood, visiting beautiful and historic synagogues.

October 20, 2002

Fading Into History


"Lower East Side" (1900), collection of Lisa Ades, Jewish Museum

LINDA Macfarlane, née Feuer, stood on East Houston Street and looked stunned as she peered south at the sleek bistros and boutiques lining Orchard Street. "It's all gone," she whispered to her husband as she clutched his arm. "What happened?"

Ms. Macfarlane, 59, left New York more than 25 years ago. Now, on a recent visit to the city, she wanted to show her husband the children's clothing store where she had worked "selling shmattes" as a teenager. But the store, whose name she cannot remember, is gone, as are most of the landmarks and talismans in the neighborhood that was for generations the traditional symbol of the American Jewish experience: the fabric merchants, the ethnic food sellers, the children's furniture stores.

"I wanted to smell it, follow my nose, the food, the places," Ms. Macfarlane said wistfully, brushing her blond hair back from her eyes. "But nothing smells the same anymore. The people, everything's gone. The whole ghetto is gone."

Last month, Ratner's Delicatessen on Delancey Street sold its last onion roll and closed after 97 years. Two years ago, the owners of Schapiro's Kosher Winery on Rivington Street rolled their barrels out of the basement and called it quits, selling the building for $2.3 million. Two weeks ago, H&M Skullcap moved from its home on Hester Street, where it had been for half a century, to 13th Avenue in Borough Park, Brooklyn, a thriving Jewish business thoroughfare. "The Chinese don't want to buy yarmulkes," said Mendel Fefer, a salesman. Some of the remaining small synagogues have so few members that they must import teenagers from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to help make the minyan of 10 required for daily prayers.

The long-contracting Jewish Lower East Side, the primal homeland for American immigrant Jews, has lost so much of its cultural texture and so many of its living touchstones that it may be time finally to pronounce it dead. Yet paradoxically, even as the traditional neighborhood vanishes, interest in its place in Jewish heritage is exploding, evidenced by the packs of competing walking tours, a spate of new books about its history and increased attendance at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

At its peak, around 1910, the square-mile area bounded by East Third Street, the Bowery, Catherine Street and the East River was home to 373,057 people, a great majority of whom were Eastern European Jews. In the 2000 census, the entire population was only 91,704, nearly half of whom were of Asian descent. Only 17,200 were whites of non-Hispanic descent.

Despite its changing ethnic and religious makeup, the Lower East Side is hardly suffering economically. Shiny new shops, selling everything from rubber miniskirts to $10 margaritas, have taken over storefronts and brightened blocks that had been abandoned for decades. Clinton Street has become a gourmet destination and Orchard Street a high-fashion strand. The long-shuttered Sunshine Theater on East Houston Street, once a Yiddish vaudeville house, is now a cinema. Moviegoers can fortify themselves with refreshments from the venerable Yonah Schimmel Knishes next door.

Grand Street between Allen and Chrystie Streets bustles with Chinese shops selling vegetables and seafood. Last month, Vanity Fair magazine published a map showing local outposts of trendiness.

Despite such shifts, for countless American Jews like Ms. Macfarlane, the area has remained almost a holy land in memory, an old country to return to. The real old country — the cities, towns and shtetls of Europe — has long since disappeared in clouds of war and genocide. But even as recently as a few years ago, a person walking the streets of the Lower East Side could sense the collective memory of a tangible past, helped along by the few Jewish businesses that survived.

Two years ago, the area was designated a state and national historic district. But such a designation does not freeze a neighborhood's appearance and retard change the way landmark designation does.

As a result, what is being lost now are the last images that make it possible to conjure the fantasy of the old days. And a few tenements where Jews once lived, a couple of silver candlestick sellers, Russ & Daughters smoked-fish emporium and Streit's matzo factory are not enough to do the trick for people like Ms. Macfarlane or any of the other mystified visitors seen daily on Orchard Street. To make the dream live, they seem to need the taste of kosher corned beef (Katz's Delicatessen is not kosher), the reek of pickles in brine and the Yiddish-inflected voices of haggling merchants.

They crave the specters of a vanished culture, said Joyce Mendelsohn, who teaches New York City history at the New School and leads walking tours based on her guidebook, "The Lower East Side Remembered and Revisited" (Lower East Side Press, 2001). "People got upset when Ratner's closed," she said. "They feel an emotional, nostalgic tie to the neighborhood, which is expressed in food in a large way. They are running for the bialys, for the pickles. It's like the heart of the Jewish experience they're hoping to go back to in some way."

Jewish or Not Jewish?

Some people say it is premature to announce the death of the Lower East Side as a Jewish enclave. They point to the recent restoration of a century-old mikvah (ritual bath) on East Broadway, the 270 children who attend local yeshivas and the small synagogues that still dot the streets. Kosher food is still available; Kossar's Bialys on Grand Street sells 500 dozen bialys a day, 30 percent of them to retail customers and the rest to stores like Zabar's.

William Rapfogel, executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, says his organization's statistics show that the number of Lower East Side Jews has not changed much over the past decade.

"It may not be as religious, but it's still Jewish," said Debra Engelmeyer, 32, whose family bought Kossar's from the company's founding family four years ago.

But the district is feeling the effects of both an aging population and real estate shifts that have transformed much of the city. Cooperative Village, for example, a 4,500-apartment complex south of the Williamsburg Bridge built as housing for union members, was for decades heavily Orthodox Jewish. Starting in 1997, when restrictions on the selling price of apartments were lifted, many residents began taking generous profits and leaving. A fourth of the units have been sold. The management of the complex says young Orthodox families are moving in, drawn by the opportunity to knock down walls and create large apartments to house large families. But real estate brokers who have handled sales at Cooperative Village say the new buyers represent many different ethnicities.

Almost every night, Rabbi Schmuel Spiegel struggles to gather a minyan at the First Roumanian-American Congregation on Rivington Street. One recent evening, just before services were to start, Rabbi Spiegel had only five men in his sanctuary. Hurrying out the door, he went to Orchard Street.

"You coming to shul?" he asked Sam Weiss, who sat outside his men's shop.

"There's no one else to watch the store," Mr. Weiss replied.

The rabbi bounded into Altman's Luggage. "You're on your minyan roundup?" asked Dan Bettinger, the shopkeeper. But he couldn't make it, either.

Rabbi Spiegel tried Dolce Vita Shoes, and even stuck his head into a car parked on Rivington Street because the driver was wearing a yarmulke. Ten minutes later, he only had eight men, including a tourist from San Diego named Al Krinick who had shown up because he had heard "they were still davening" in the synagogue where his grandfather had prayed more than half a century before. A phone call to Katz Furniture on Essex Street yielded a father-and-son pair. Mission accomplished.

"Twenty years ago, you would have said there will never be a minyan there in 20 years," Rabbi Spiegel said later. "But we're still here. Ten years from now, I can't say."

Mythmaking and the Museum

While the Lower East Side may not be what it was, in fact, the neighborhood as remembered, idealized and enshrined in popular culture probably never existed.

The story of life in those precincts is achingly familiar: immigrants jammed into hellish tenements, entire families laboring long hours for meager wages in equally hellish sweatshops, rampant and devastating disease. Most Jewish immigrants wanted nothing more than to get out.

"If it were still a poor neighborhood of Jews selling cheap clothes and other things and struggling to survive, it wouldn't be iconic, it would be a problem," said Hasia R. Diner, a professor of American Jewish history at New York University and the author of "Lower East Side Memories: A Jewish Place in America" (Princeton University Press, 2000), a work exploring why the neighborhood has been remembered fondly over the years. "It's only with the moving on, with the passage of time, that that sort of stuff can be viewed as sweet and lovely."

After World War II, and gaining urgency in the 1960's and 1970's with books like Irving Howe's epic "World of Our Fathers," the Lower East Side became an ever more powerful symbol of the bygone life of the shtetl, where, as Ms. Diner put it, "families got along, neighbors took care of each other and all the food tasted better."

That impulse is turning the Jewish Lower East Side into a museum piece. Walking-tour guides point to where things used to be, not where they are. The Forward building, home until 1974 of the Yiddish-language newspaper that in the 1920's sold 250,000 copies a day, was converted into expensive loft apartments. The Forsyth Street Synagogue is a Spanish-language Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Garden Cafeteria, where Isaac Bashevis Singer set his short story "The Cabalist of East Broadway," is a Chinese restaurant.

"There is more of a future for tourism than there is for Judaism," said Philip Schoenberg, who has led Jewish Lower East Side Talk and Walk tours since 1992. "I have people who go on my tours, and all I'm saying is: `This was once a kosher butcher shop. This was this. This was once that.' "

In addition to the tours conducted by Mr. Schoenberg and Ms. Mendelsohn of the New School, there are others led by the Tenement Museum (every weekend) and Big Onion Walking Tours (which runs a Jewish Lower East Side tour monthly). Ms. Mendelsohn, who books some of her tours through the 92nd Street Y, has been hired by the Lower East Side Conservancy to train docents for tours of historic Lower East Side synagogues. In the last year, more than 12,000 people have taken these tours.

As flesh-and-blood Jews leave, mythmaking becomes ever more powerful.

In 2000, the patch of Orchard Street in front of the Tenement Museum was torn up and replaced by perfectly even rows of unchipped black cobblestone, to give a period feel. The museum, which opened in 1988, takes visitors from around the world into tiny, historically restored apartments at 97 Orchard Street, where 7,000 people lived between 1863 and the 1930's. Annual attendance has soared, from 18,000 in 1992 to 82,000 in the fiscal year ending June 30.

Since 1986, a $10 million restoration has been under way at the Eldridge Street Synagogue. These days, the spectacular stained-glass window on the facade is clear enough for sunlight to flow into the 115-year-old sanctuary. But this space, where 1,000 people once worshiped on the High Holy Days, still needs work. Saturday morning services are held in a small basement room.

Changes, Even in Little Shtetl

If a Jewish equivalent to Little Italy remains in Manhattan — Little Shtetl, say — it is probably the two-block stretch of Essex Street between East Broadway and Grand Street, where half a dozen stores carry signs with Hebrew lettering. Yet even here, tides of change are apparent.

At No. 7, an 11-story luxury condominium is rising over neighboring tenements. The sign promises "yards, roof terraces, fireplaces, skyline views — 1,584 to 3,650 square feet from $825,000." At No. 11 Essex sits the building that until a year ago housed A1, a store that sold Judaica.

Past a Chinese-run store selling cellphones and car parts, at No. 13, is Motty Blumenthal's Judaica shop, named Z & A Kol Torah by his parents, Zelig and Aliza, who opened it 50 years ago. "As long as people come here, I'll stay," Mr. Blumenthal said. "It'll last at least another 5 or 10 years."

At No. 17, next door to Chinese North Dumpling, is Essex Electronics. For many of the store's 35 years, the area was a major destination for Israeli tourists seeking discounted stereo equipment. "There used to be 20 shops here," said Chaim Loeb, the manager. "Now there are three or four, but some people still come."

Above another storefront at No. 17 is a friendly ghost: the sign Ha-attikos Judaica. The shop closed years ago, neighbors say, and the space is now an apartment.

At No. 19 is Weinfeld Skull Caps, which has been at the same location for 70 years. Recent customers included Martin and Goldie Sosnick, a San Francisco couple who were ordering 240 black suede yarmulkes for their daughter's wedding. "It's nice to come to where the roots are from," Ms. Sosnick said. But, she added, "it was disappointing to come here wanting to eat in a kosher restaurant, and there wasn't one here."

Soon Weinfeld's will be gone, too; one of the owners said he planned to move the business to Brooklyn within the year, "to be in a Jewish neighborhood."

No. 21 houses T & H Insurance, which has a Chinese-lettered sign, and, until two months ago, Israel Wholesale Import, a Judaica shop, which jumped to 23 Essex, displacing a Chinese printer. Also at No. 23 is Hollywood Video, which sells Chinese-language videos; the sign identifies the address as "23 Exsses St." And so it goes.

Qun Lei, a clerk at Shun Da Sign, a store at 25 Essex Street that manufactures many of the Chinese-language signs that are installed when the Hebrew signs come down, sees the block's future more clearly than its past. "I think it's a Chinese neighborhood," said Ms. Lei, 33, who emigrated from China a year ago and calls herself Maggie."

Ms. Lei hopes to save enough money so she and her family can leave the neighborhood, unconsciously following the path trod by Jews of nearly a century ago. "Uptown Manhattan is good," she said.

Looking at a Cloudy Future

Not every business that might speak to the real or imagined past is gone.

Streit's matzo bakery still makes unleavened bread for a national and international market at the Rivington Street address where the company was founded in 1925.

Russ & Daughters, the smoked-fish and caviar store, occupies the same white-tiled East Houston Street shop where it has been since 1914. Yonah Schimmel Knishes has survived, and Guss's Pickles has found a new lease on life near the Tenement Museum. The owners of Noah's Ark, a kosher restaurant in Teaneck, N.J., will open a branch on Grand Street by year's end.

Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the few merchants who has no intention of moving is the area's last gravestone seller. "We own the building here, and people know where we are," said Murray Silver, the 60-year-old owner of Silver Monuments on Stanton Street, a business dating from the late 30's.

Still, gravestone sellers aside, what kind of real future does the Jewish Lower East Side face? Is there enough left to make Jews feel they can find a link to a Jewish past? Or has too much vanished?

"You can find it at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, you can find it in walking tours," said Samuel Norich, general manager of the Forward Association, which publishes weekly Jewish newspapers in Yiddish, Russian and English from its home on East 33rd Street. "There are enough remnants of Jewish life on the Lower East Side and life going on now that you can build on and conjure up what used to be there.

"In words at least."

Most evenings, Rabbi Schmuel Spiegel roams the streets outside the First Roumanian-American Congregation in search of a minyan, the 10 men required for daily prayers.

Schapiro's Kosher Winery sold its building and left two years ago.

Copyright The New York Times Company

Jewish-American History - Uprising on the Lower East Side, 1909

On November 22, 1909, thousands of workers, mostly young, Jewish, and female,gathered at Cooper Hall in New York City for a meeting that would initiate a new chapter in American labor history and in the role of Jewish immigrants in American society. The meeting had been called by Local 25 of the struggling International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union, looking to reinvigorate their degenerating strikes at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company and the Leiserson Company by calling a general strike of the entire New York shirtwaist (ladies’ blouse) industry, then becoming one of the largest segment of the largely Jewish New York garment industry. The general strike called that night would become known as “The Uprising of 20,000” and would drastically change the role of women and Jews in American labor politics over the next several decades.

The American garment industry itself had developed simultaneously with the waves of East European Jewish immigration between 1880 and 1920, offering numerous opportunities for work and advancement to the newly arrived immigrants. Advances in technology, industrial organization, and transportation made the mass-production of affordable clothing possible, which was in turn met with an increased demand for new fashions and styles, especially in women’s clothing. To meet this demand and increase their profitability, manufacturers developed a system of subcontractors, sweatshops, and home work, relying on the availability of cheap immigrant and female labor to fill their orders. The International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) was formed in 1900, under the auspices of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the United Hebrew Trades (UHT), to represent and protect the workers in the ladies’ garment trades, including makers of dresses, hats, blouses, and jackets. For the first several years of its existence, the ILGWU barely survived, and even considered disbanding in 1908. Local 25, which represented shirtwaist makers in New York City and whose failing strikes the meeting at Cooper Hall had been called to discuss, numbered only 100 members on the eve of the Uprising. The low membership numbers and marginal survival of the union was due to several factors. The first several years of the 20th century were hard hit by recession, making it difficult for unions to make demands that could be met by the employers. More importantly, perhaps, was the general attitude of labor organizers of the time towards women and Jews. The recent Jewish immigrants were seen by many unions as a threat to the job security of their workers, as they were seen as a source of cheaper and more easily controlled labor by the bosses. They were also victims of more general anti-Semitic and

anti-immigrant prejudices, speaking a strange language, dressing differently, and practicing a “foreign” religion. Women were also maligned by the unions, for similar reasons: they were typically paid less then men and so threatened to take jobs away from male laborers. Also, women were not considered a “good investment” of labor organizers’ time and efforts, as many worked in factories and shops only until they were married and had children, at which point most women workers withdrew from public labor, instead taking on the kinds of work that they could do at home: laundry washing, taking in boarders, and finishing garments parceled out by the manufacturers for home work.

When Local 25 called its meeting, then, few in the labor movement were prepared to take the demands of ladies’ garment workers seriously, despite the fact that they made up over 80% of the workforce (75% of whom were also Jewish). Debate went on for hours, with the mostly-male union leadership endorsing a strategy of patience and negotiation against the workers’ demands for a general strike. The meeting seemed destined to result in a stalemate when a teenage worker named Clara Lemlich, active in Local 25 and considered a troublemaker by many, took the stage. “I am a working girl, one of those striking against intolerable conditions,” she announced in Yiddish. “I am tired of listening to speakers who talk in generalities. What we are here for is to decide whether or not to strike. I offer a resolution that a general strike be declared--now!”

The response of the crowd was tremendous, and Lemlich’s resolution was quickly seconded. The union leadership was entirely unprepared for the massive response in the garment trades. 20,000 workers,or more, left their shops and joined the pickets. Relief centers were hastily set up to support the striking workers, most of whom were women. Union leaders gained a new-found appreciation of the capacities of women picketeers, as women were beaten by police and “gorillas”(thugs hired by the employers to menace the strikers) yet returned to the pickets once they were freed from jail and their wounds had healed. The strike ran through the winter until mid-February, when it was settled with a reduced work-week (52 hours) and some improvement of conditions, but without the union recognition that the workers had hoped for. The resolution of the strike was considered a defeat by many of the workers at the time, but laid the foundations for future victories. Local 25 emerged from the strike with a membership of 10,000--the first Local in the country to amass such high membership rolls. Inspired by the success of this largely unplanned and unprepared strike, the mostly-male Cloakmakers’ Union went out on strike later in the year, with 60,000 workers leaving their shops and bringing the garment industry to a virtual standstill. This strike was resolved with the industry-wide “Protocol of Peace”, which outlined a system of union-employer relations that greatly increased the accountability of the bosses to their employees (though, as is always the case in American labor history, it was never enough...). Most importantly, the Uprising of 20,000 established the importance of Jews and women--and particularly Jewish women--to the labor movement. Though they still had to struggle to control the conditions of their resistance (as with the conditions of their labor), women and Jews could no longer be ignored by any union claiming to represent the worker.

NoHo History


In 1748, what is now Lafayette and Astor Place, was New York’s first botanical garden, established by a Swiss physician, Jacob Sperry, who farmed flowers and hothouse plants. A mile from what was then the edge of the city, Sperry's gardens became the destination of weekend strollers up Broad Way from Wall St and the City’s Common (at Chambers St.).  Fifty-six years later, Sperry sold his gardens to John Jacob Astor, who then leased the property to a Frenchman named Delacroix. Delacroix transformed Sperry's property into the fashionable Vauxhall Garden, where New Yorkers could also eat, drink, socialize, and be entertained by band music and, in the evenings, by fireworks and theatrical events.

But, by 1825, with real estate values skyrocketing on nearby Bond, Bleecker, and Great Jones streets, Astor cut a broad street reducing the garden to half its size, when Delacroix’s lease was up.  This created Lafayette Place, christened by the Marquis de Lafayette himself on his last visit to New York in July of 1825, from a platform raised at the corner of Great Jones and Lafayette.  (Visit Historic Districts Council for background on efforts to Landmark these very blocks)  Astor realized a great profit for the lots on Lafayette Place, named La Grange Terrace after Lafayette’s country home in France.  The four northernmost “mansions” remain as Colonnade Row.[1]  The five southern most houses were destroyed in 1902 to make way for an annex to Wanamaker’s Department Store.

What is now Washington Square Park (two blocks from the current northern portion of NoHo) functioned, from the early 1780s, as an eight acre potter’s field and public gallows.  But, the comparative seclusion of the area began to erode when outbreaks of yellow fever and cholera ravaged the core city to the south at City Hall, in 1799, 1803, 1805, and
1821 and those seeking refuge fled north to the wholesome backwaters of the West Village.  The population increased fourfold between 1825 and 1840.  More shrewd speculators, like Astor, subdivided farms, leveled hills, rerouted Minetta Brook, and undertook landfill projects. In addition to the fashionable Astor Place, Washington Square Park, still a potter’s field in1826, at the foot of Fifth Avenue, became a military parade grounds and a spacious pedestrian commons.  On the perimeter of Washington Square, stately red brick townhouses built in Greek Revival style drew wealthy members of society. The crowning addition to this urban plaza was the triumphal marble arch designed by Stanford White, erected in 1892.

The University of the City of New York (now New York University), established itself on the northeastern corner of Washington Square in a building completed in 1837.  At the time it was a nondenominational, private university, established in 1831 by Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed ministers in response to the conservative curriculum and Episcopalian control of Columbia College. The original building stood at this site until 1894.[2] 

As this transpired, a wave of revolutions convulsing Europe precipitated a growing American disdain for monarchies, fueling tensions between working-class immigrants. The Astor Place Opera House, on the present site of the District 65 Building (UAW), became the site of the Astor Riot on May 10 1849, when vitriolAstor Riots, NY Historical Society Archive between British thespian W.C. Macready, American actor Edwin Forrest and Sixth Ward Boss Isiah Rynders, a knife-fighting, English-hating Tammany politician, inspired anti-English mobs who stormed the Theater in the second act of MacBeth setting it on fire[3]. The disturbance brought out the militia and the police, who killed 22 (more by some accounts) and wounded 48; some 50 to 70 policemen were injured. .[4]

Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a private tuition-free college provided by Peter Cooper to educate workers, opened in Astor Place in 1859, having also incorporated the Female School of Design founded to provide women with an alternative to menial labor.  Public debates, lectures and speeches were held in the Great Hall, not the least of which was one delivered by Abraham Lincoln in 1860.[5]

In the aftermath of the Draft Riots of 1863, when Irish immigrants fearing their jobs would be taken by Black laborers if they were conscripted to fight in the Civil War, and during which 11 Black men were murdered with horrid brutality, the southeastern edge of the Village (NoHo and Nolita)) became “little Africa.[6]In the late 1800s to early 1900s the East Village (NoHo's neighbor to the east) grew as the working class marched northward from the South St. Seaport (post Revolutionary War) and the Lower East Side (Civil War).  This area pioneered social services including still extant institutions:  Boys Club Headquarters (founded in 1876 1901) and a Young Women's Settlement House (1897).  These institutions for immigrants and poor Americans provided free birth control, educational classes, libraries, and dental and health services. From the1850s the area north of Houston and east of Bowery was called Kleindeutschland for the throngs of German immigrants who lived in its tenements and worked the ironworks, piano factories, gas works and breweries south of 14th St.  When these immigrants moved to Yorkville, it became “Bohemia” accommodating Eastern Europeans.  Hundreds of tenement apartments became cigar factories; storefronts showcased milliners and cobblers, cabinetmakers and upholsterers.

Throughout, greater Greenwich Village steadfastly marched to its diverse destiny as the spiritual, educational, and cultural avant guarde of the City. It's sub neighborhoods-- NoHo, SoViLa, East Village, West Village--became the site of art clubs, private picture galleries, learned societies, literary salons, theaters and libraries.  Interspersed in this fabric, fine hotels and shopping emporia also proliferated through the 1860’s.  As the poor and working class poured into the East Village, older residences were subdivided into cheap lodging hotels and multiple-family dwellings, or demolished for higher-density tenements. Plummeting real estate values prompted nervous retailers and genteel property along the Village’s Broadway corridor to move north to Union Square.

[2] ibid

[3] The Epic of New York Cit, Edward Robb Ellis, Kodansha America, Inc., New York, 1997, p 263

[5] Encyclopedia of NYC, Dr. Kenneth Jackson, ed., Yale University Press, New Haven, 1998. p. 282

[6] The Historical Atlas of New York City, Eric Homberger.  Henry Holt & Co., New York, 1994, p. 134.