The history of Greenwich Village is a history of immigration. Although the St. Patrick’s Day Parade as we know it follows an uptown route along 5th Avenue, the original Irish immigrants to New York were a major presence here in Greenwich Village and the East Village.
From our office window we look out at the corner of 2nd Avenue and East 10th Street, which just happens to be the former starting point for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. From 1870 to 1879, the parade began here, went down 2nd Avenue and the Bowery, to City Hall and back up to Cooper Square. The parade moved uptown when the new St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue and 50th Street opened in 1879. You can read more about the history of the parade here.
Last year we did a program with authors Dermot McEvoy and John Strausbaugh about the history of Irish immigration in both the West Village and the East Village. McEvoy grew up in the Village when it was a working class neighborhood, populated with longshoremen, cops, firemen, and truck drivers. Their talk ranged from the Irish waterfront that inspired On the Waterfront to the churches, like St. Brigid’s, that anchored the Irish community, to famous Irish New Yorkers such as Archbishop “Dagger John” Hughes, Mayor Jimmy “Gentleman Jim” Walker, world champion prizefighter Gene Tunney, and the Civil War Generals Michael Corcoran and Thomas Francis Meagher.
And a few years ago, Off the Grid featured two prominent Village churches with deep roots in the Irish immigrant community.
If you’re looking for a place to indulge in the libation of your choice today, let us recommend our friends at Mr. Dennehy’s if you’re in the West Village, or McSorley’s Old Ale House, in the East Village. Village resident and artist John Sloan spent some time there. Just be prepared for crowds.
And in December, we presented a program with some history students who researched how different immigrant groups celebrated holidays in Greenwich Village and the East Village. You can see photos and videos of that program. One of the teams talked about the Irish immigrants and how they celebrated St. Patrick’s Day.
So Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all our Irish (and Irish-for-the-day) friends!