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Before & After in the Meatpacking District

Greenwich Village, like the rest of New York City, has seen many changes over the years. What was once a marshy area of sandy hills before Europeans arrived became the location of farms and estates, and ultimately the destination for people of means escaping epidemics in Lower Manhattan.

warren estate

And what once were homes for wealthy people settling in the Village in the early 1800’s became decrepit fixer-uppers by the early 20th Century, but are now among the priciest real estate in the whole country.

source: rowhouser.com

So if you’ve recently been to one of the hottest, trendiest neighborhoods in New York, and I mean the Meatpacking District, you may be surprised to know just how different it is now than it was a mere 20 years ago. Its name says it all. As late as the 1990’s, meat processing businesses dominated this area. (And there are still a few operating there, but not as many as in years past.) Many of the buildings on 14th Street, 13th Street, Little West 12th Street, Gansevoort Street, Washington Street, and Greenwich Street had loading docks and awnings with conveyor belts and meat hooks. It was not a pleasant place for a stroll, and there were no hotels, shops or restaurants.

source: thevillager.com

Last year photographer Brian Rose found some undeveloped negatives of photos he had taken back in the winter of 1985 on the streets of the old Meatpacking District. He was stunned to look at them, and realize how much the neighborhood has changed since then. He went back and re-photographed the same locations, and these before-&-after images have been incorporated into his new book, “Metamorphosis”, which will be available soon.

photo credit: Brian Rose

This Wednesday evening Village Preservation will present a program with Brian Rose, who will talk about his experience and display some of the images in a lecture/slideshow. Village Preservation fought long and hard for the preservation of the Meatpacking District, and Brian’s photos will help illustrate the importance of historic preservation. You may see more information about the program, and rsvp here.

2 responses to “Before & After in the Meatpacking District

  1. I know it sounds trite but to me, the city looked better “back then.” More working class people, affordable rents, affordable theater, opera, shows, restaurants, bars, and life. It was before we we sold out to the real estate industry.

    Yes, cosmetically it “looks” much better. But people working, families, kids playing stickball, THAT looks best.

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