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A Sense of Place circa 1950

Nat Kaufman was a Villager and a member of the Village Camera Club. This image of a man with a baby carriage at the Annual Washington Square Art won a prize  sponsored by the Art Show and Camera Club.

This photo by Nat Kaufman won a prize sponsored by the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit. Nat Kaufman Collection, c. 1950.

While not the biggest image collection in the GVSHP Preservation Archive and Oral History Project, the Nat Kaufman Collection is unique in that all the images were taken in a relatively short period of time, all circa 1950, and most focus on the activities surrounding Washington Square Park.

Sleepers in Washington Square Park. Nat Kaufman Collection, c. 1950
Loungers in Washington Square Park Fountain. Nat Kaufman Collection, c. 1950

While GVSHP usually thinks about change and continuity over time, particularly in terms of the built environment, images such as these—the art show, people sitting in the fountain, and men sleeping on a bench in the park, reveal how people interact with the architecture and landscape around them. Today, artists still crowd the sidewalks with their work at the annual Washington Square art show and people still sit in the fountain. But while you may still catch folks taking a snooze on one of the parks many benches, I doubt they will be wearing suits.

GVSHP was fortunate to receive the Nat Kaufman Collection in 1998 by a donation from his son. GVSHP’s Preservation Archive and Oral History Project, created in 1995 and containing a wealth of interviews, clippings, and photographs, documents sixty years of grassroots advocacy to save the Village. Find out more about the archive at GVSHP’s website.

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