This is one in a series of posts marking the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District. Click here to check out our year-long activities and celebrations.
The television sitcom Friends, which premiered on September 22, 1994, is celebrating its 25th anniversary! The show presented a group of young twenty-somethings finding their way in New York City. The massive success of the show attracts thousands of fans to Greenwich Village to see a glimpse of the buildings and places depicted their favorite show. The spot in Greenwich Village most associated with Friends, and where crowds of tourists can be seen taking pictures all hours of every day, is the apartment building at 90 Bedford Street at the corner of Grove Street in the middle of the Greenwich Village Historic District, where each of the ‘Friends’ were supposed to have, at one time or another, lived.
While the crowds of tourists from across the globe gather across from 90 Bedford Street to take selfies with what they envision as the place where the Friends made their home (the program uses an exterior shot of the building, but of course the show was actually shot 3,000 miles away on a soundstage in Burbank, Ca.), sometimes they seem to miss or ignore the actual history within footsteps and sight of the spot they’re standing. So for those troops of tourists, we want to offer you a tour of some of the true stars of Greenwich Village, with these buildings on our “If-you’re-going-to-look-at-the-‘Friends’-building,-why-not-check-out-these-real-historic-sites-while-you’re-at-it” tour.
77 Bedford Street
The 1799 Isaacs-Hendricks House at 77 Bedford Street is a wooden house, with the brick front added in 1836. It’s hard to believe that it was originally a free-standing building surrounded by undeveloped land! A year after it was built the house was bought by Harmon Hendricks. Hendricks’ family, according to the LPC’s designation report, “were New York agents of Paul Revere, who laid the foundations for the copper-rolling industry in America.” Around 1812, Hendricks set up a copper rolling factory in Bellville, NJ, where they supplied copper boilers for the large shipbuilding industry that was thriving along the NYC waterfront at that time. The factory supplied copper for the Savannah, the first steamship ever to cross the Atlantic. by some accounts, Hendricks was the first millionaire in America. He was a member of the Sephardic Congregation Shearith Israel of Spanish and Portuguese Jews, whose founders were the very first Jews to settle in North America. Hendrick’s descendants long remained active in New York civic life, serving in leadership roles on the Museum of the American Indian and as the first chair of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Constructed in the eighteenth century, the Isaacs-Hendricks House is the oldest extant house in Greenwich Village.
75 ½ Bedford Street
75 ½ Bedford Street is well known for being the narrowest house at in Greenwich Village. Besides the fact that it is only 9 1/2 feet wide on the outside (and just over 8 1/2 feet wide on the inside!), the building was also home to poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and her husband Eugen Jan Boissevain in the 1920s. Millay was a founding member of the Provincetown Players and was a founder of the Cherry Lane Theater just around the corner, a much-beloved Off-Broadway theater on one of the most beautiful streets in the city! Other prominent residents of the building include anthropologist Margaret Mead, cartoonist William Steig, and actors Cary Grant and John Barrymore.
This quirky little home was originally the site of an alley for delivery carts and the like to pass through. A house was constructed on the site in 1873. According to the designation report for the Greenwich Village Historic District, the wood casement windows were installed in the 1920s.
Grove Court is set back from Grove Street between Bedford and Hudson Streets. The entrance is through an iron gate and passageway between 10 and 12 Grove Street. In 1848, the merchant Samuel Stryker sold the backyards of numbers 6 and 8 Grove Street, along with all of number 10, to Samuel Cocks. At the time of sale, Cocks already owned a small parcel of land to the East of 10 Grove Street, providing for the perfect passageway to his newly acquired courtyard. According to the designation report for the Greenwich Village Historic District, “The present six connected houses on the rear of this lot were built for Cocks and finished in 1854; however, they were taxed as a single building on a single lot, referred to as No. 10 1/2 Grove Street, until well into the present century. It was not until 1921 when the lot was subdivided by Alentaur Realty and the six houses sold and altered individually, that Grove Court took on its present delightful appearance and name.”
Grove Court is also known as the setting for O. Henry story “The Last Leaf.” Henry tells the story of a young girl dying from pneumonia who watched the leaves fall off the tree outside of her window. In the story, she assumed that she would die when the last leaf fell. Alas, she was saved by a benevolent elderly neighbor. The story was later turned into a movie that was also filmed in Grove Court.
Twin Peaks, 102 Bedford Street
Twin Peaks, not to be confused with the television show, is located at 1o2 Bedford Street in the West Village. The quirky and picturesque apartment building got its namesake due to the later additions added to the original 2 1/2 story wood frame federal style house — the kind of simple structure one usually sees throughout Greenwich Village and Lower Manhattan. It got a “facelift” in 1925 when Clifford Daily purchased the building. The 1910s and 1920s saw an influx of the artistic community moving into Greenwich Village. Real estate developers were quick to change the appearance of the buildings to attract this new clientele.
The 2 1/2 story building was raised to 5 stories and given a sort of Tudor/Medieval/Swiss Chalet facade, including the twin-peaked roofs, from which its name is derived. The building was specifically intended to attract artists, with 10 one-room studios with casement windows, similar to the “artists’ studios” which had been popping up on the top of houses throughout the Village during this time. Twin Peaks is located within the Greenwich Village Historic District.
45 Grove Street
Just west of Bleecker Street, on 45 Grove Street, stands an originally free-standing home built in 1830. According to the Greenwich Village Historic District designation report “it was undoubtedly one of the finest and largest Federal residences in Greenwich Village,” often referred to ask the Whittemore Mansion. It was built for Samuel Whittemore, who was largely responsible for the early development of this part of the Village. The home later operated as a boarding house for artists and newcomers.
One of the boarders was a man named Samuel K. Chester. Chester was a fellow actor and associate of John Wilkes Booth. Around the beginning of 1865, Booth came to 45 Grove Street to meet with and try to convince Chester to participate in his plan to take over the government by kidnapping President Lincoln. When Chester turned Booth down, Booth decided to change his plans and murder President Lincoln. Had Chester either agreed to participate in the plan to kidnap the President, or reported Booth’s plot, Lincoln’s life might have been spared, and the course of history quite different.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District, and we are celebrating! Throughout the year, we’re conducting programs and releasing research and tools to help highlight the critical importance and rich history of the Greenwich Village Historic District. All of these buildings can be found on our NEW Interactive Map of the Greenwich Village Historic District. This great new tool allows you to see side-by-side photos of every one of the more than 2,200 buildings in the district in 1969 at the time of designation, and today. Among the tours on the map are sites of where films and TV shows (including Friends) were supposed to have taken place, as well as a variety of tours about the history, architecture, and culture of Greenwich Village, upon which many of the above-mentioned buildings can be found.