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What’s in a Name: Bank Street

Bank of New York, watercolor by John William Hill, The Phelps Stokes Collection, New York Public Library

Sometimes determining the provenance of a street’s name is fairly easy. It is true for Bank Street in Greenwich Village, which was named for … you guessed it … a branch of the Bank of New York, which located to the area during New York’s first yellow fever epidemic in 1799. Today we will look into this story a bit more closely as part of our series, ‘What’s In A Name?The initial growth of Greenwich Village was in large part due to the 1799 epidemic, and subsequent epidemics in 1803, 1805, and 1822, when those living at the downtown tip of Manhattan looked north to escape their more crowded and unhealthy living conditions. The New York Public Library’s Moving Uptown exhibition created in 1998 is a good overview of the City’s march northward.

132-136 Bank Street today

Bank Street runs from Greenwich Avenue west up to West Street on the Hudson River. The Bank of New York building is long gone, but historic rowhouses and industrial buildings still grace this lovely street. Most of Bank Street is included within the original Greenwich Village Historic District, from Greenwich Avenue  to Washington Street.  Some of the oldest extant buildings on the street are numbers 132, 134, and 136, on the south side of the street between Greenwich and Washington Streets, which were built in 1833 for a grocer named William Fink.

Another notable building on Bank Street, between Washington and West Streets, is the artist’s housing Westbeth. You can learn more about the facility and its early industrial history in the National Register report on Westbeth, a nomination sponsored by GVSHP. Westbeth is currently under consideration, or calendared, for New York City landmark status.

Westbeth fountain at Bank Street entrance, photo courtesy of Shelley Seccombe

Another eponymously named Bank Street institution is the Bank Street College of Education. While now located on 112th Street between Broadway and Riverside Drive, the college was originally located at 9 Bank Street until 1970. But like the street that gives the school its name, it is easy to guess its roots.



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