2019 has been a huge year for Village Preservation. We celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Greenwich Village Historic District, fought increasing pressure on Greenwich Village and the East Village below Union Square to become an extension of “Silicon Alley” and “Midtown South”, served thousands of students and adults with our free public programs, testified at countless Community Board, Landmarks Preservation Committee, and City Hall hearings, and rebranded as “Village Preservation.” The staff spends a lot of time researching and writing our blog and there’s a friendly competition among us to claim the title of most popular. With 248 posts in 2019, it’s quite an accomplishment to write one of the top five:
5. Khalil Gibran: An Immigrant Artist on 10th Street
Though he considered himself to be mainly a painter, Khalil Gibran is best known for his English language writing. From 1911 until his death in 1931, Gibran lived in an artist studio at 51 West 10th Street. There, he created paintings, wrote philosophy, and produced his most celebrated book, The Prophet, one of the most widely read, published, and translated books in the history of literature. Gibran’s writings influenced a broad range of philosophers, theologians, writers, and even musicians, including John Lennon, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, and even Elvis Presley (who always kept extra copies of the book around to give to his friends).
4. Mazel Tov! Yiddish Theater is born
The very first Yiddish theatrical performance in New York City was held in a building that still stands at 66 East 4th Street, between the Bowery and Second Avenue. Over the next four decades, the Yiddish theater would become a focal point and social outlet for the 3.5 million Jews that immigrated to the United States, many of whom came through and settled on the Lower East Side and what is now known as the East Village. The building which gave birth to Yiddish Theater continues to perform an important role in the cultural vitality and theater life of New York City today.
3. The Pyramid Club: New York City’s First Drag Landmark
101 Avenue A is home to the Pyramid Club which became a launching point for pioneering drag superstars like Lady Bunny and RuPaul, setting in motion the contemporary drag movement. The club gave birth to the iconic drag festival, Wigstock, which liberated drag from gritty nightclubs, bringing it into the broad daylight. The Pyramid Club reigned supreme as the mecca of drag in the late 70s and 80s, also hosting up-and-coming musical artists like the Red Hot Chili Peppers & Nirvana. The Pyramid Club was brought back into the spotlight this year as a result of the release of the HBO documentary “Wig,” which debuted at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. 101 Avenue A appears on Village Preservation’s Civil Rights and Social Justice Map, along with more than a hundred other local sites, due to its significance to the LGBTQ and drag communities.
2. East Village Building Blocks Tour: Little Ukraine
The traditional Ukrainian area in the East Village is lovingly called Little Ukraine, the area bounded by Houston Street to the south, 14th Street to the north, and 2nd Avenue to the east and 3rd Avenue to the west. To explore some of the Ukrainian sites in the neighborhood, we developed this East Village Little Ukraine Tour on our East Village Building Blocks website.
1. Allen Ginsberg’s East Village Haunts
This post was our most popular of 2019 due to the uncovered video on YouTube of what looks almost like silent home movies of beat writers Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and several others gathering at an East Village bar, the Harmony Bar & Restaurant. This rare footage was shot in 1959 on 16mm film, and the others identified in the footage include Lucien Carr, his wife, and their three children, as well as artist Mary Frank and her children.