Italians of the South Village
Eight years ago today, on October 8, 2007, GVSHP published the report, “The Italians of the South Village” as part of the Historic South Village Preservation Project — you can see and read about the Columbus Day celebration GVSHP held to announce the release of the report here. The purpose of this project was to tell the story of the Italian immigrant community that settled in this area, through education, documentation, and programming. GVSHP was also advocating for the preservation of the South Village as a historic district, and had already submitted a proposal to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in 2006.
If you have ever strolled along Bleecker Street between 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue South, you may have been tempted by food vendors like former Village Award winners Rocco’s Pastry or Faicco’s Italian Specialties. Sadly, these two survivors are among the few that remain of the many, many Italian family-run food businesses that once dominated these blocks. But fortunately, for me anyway, they are still here — best arancini and cannoli you’ll ever have.
Italians began arriving in large numbers in the South Village in the 1880s, primarily due to poor economic conditions in Italy, and the attraction of a booming economy here in New York. The South Village had seen other groups (Dutch, French, African-Americans, German, and then Irish, primarily) settle in this area before moving on. Italian immigrants took up residence in these same tenements and rowhouses, and built churches like St. Anthony’s and Our Lady of Pompei.
Today the population of the South Village is diverse, and no one immigrant group dominates. But the flavor of the Italian immigrants remains, and is featured in GVSHP’s Children’s Education program’s Immigration in the South Village curriculum. If you have a child enrolled in elementary school, or if you are a teacher in an elementary school, and would like more information, please refer to our website.
Want to help extend landmarking and zoning protections to the entire South Village to ensure its special character is preserved? Click here to send a letter to city officials urging them to do so.
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