We recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Greenwich Village Historic District (GVHD50) with a bash in Washington Square Park. But thankfully, there’s even more GVHD fun right around the corner. The actual anniversary is April 29th, when we will be rolling out some truly fantastic online tours of the district, and our 21st Annual Spring House Tour on May 5th will exclusively feature some of the most incredible homes within Greenwich Village Historic District. It’s a wonderful way to learn about and appreciate the district, and support its continuing preservation.
The Greenwich Village Historic District
The original Greenwich Village Historic District covers only a portion of the broader neighborhood, with extensions added as recently as 2010. But this area – quite substantial compared to previously designated districts around the city – gives a great sampling of the qualities that make the Village extraordinary. The Greenwich Village Historic District designation report points to “the special architectural qualities of its houses” as one of its exceptional aspects, explaining that the beautiful tree-lined streets contain homes “designed in the most attractive styles of the periods in which they were constructed.” With its “singularly attractive quality,” and “an unusual cross-section” of no less than seven 19th to early 20th century building styles, its celebration and protection seems undeniably important.
Houses With Style
Appropriately, the house tour offers a look at many of these styles. Prominent this time is the Italianate style, popular during the mid-19th century. “Characterized by elaborate, bold, projecting ornament with an emphasis on repetitive forms,” the Italianate style represents the iconic New York brownstone. These grand, heavy buildings, like we saw last year on West 4th Street, departed from the previous decades of restrained Federal and Greek Revival styles, reflecting the growing city’s wealth and prosperity through splendor and flamboyance.
The Federal and Greek Revival, though, are no less stunning in their own ways. The 2017 House Tour included three Federal style row houses, one of them described as one of “the two most important houses in age, richness of style, scale and perfection of preservation” in the Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District. Also on view this year are homes in a transitional style, meaning that they were perhaps built when one style had passed its peak and a new one emerged. These include a transitional Federal and Greek Revival façade and a Greek Revival and Italianate blend, demonstrating the development from one style to the next from the mid- to late-19th century.
An Artistic District
Of course, in addition to the aesthetic qualities of each home (original details, century-old alterations, and personal touches by the current owners) the stories behind them can be just as intriguing. Particularly in an area as historically rich as the Greenwich Village Historic District, we find houses steeped in art, literature, music, business, and other fascinating pasts. Last year’s tour even included a delightful arc linking two of the locations. The tour began at the New York Studio School, originally Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s studio and the first site of the Whitney Museum, and ended with a gorgeous reception at the Whitney’s current location on Gansevoort Street. And tours have offered looks into some other incredible artist’s studios, both those of the past (like the now-landmarked home of Willem de Kooning’s studio) and those being used by working creatives today.
After 20 years of Village Preservation’s Spring House Tour, perhaps its attractions are already well-known. But whether you attend every year or haven’t attended at all, there’s always something new and exciting to discover with each year’s selection of homes. Be sure to purchase your tickets and come join us!