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Delving into the Past & Future of the Greenwich Village Historic District

The Greenwich Village Historic District, which was designated (landmarked) on April 29, 1969, holds some of the loveliest bits of Greenwich Village within its bounds — from Washington Square to Abingdon Square, from the New School to the New York Studio School. Historic houses of worship and historic houses, key sites of immigrant, LGBTQ, African-American history and so much more can be found in this district. On April 13-14, 2019, we held a weekend-long celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the district’s designation, but throughout 2019, we marked this golden anniversary with programs addressing the district’s history, preservation, architecture, culture, and much more.

Map art by Barbara Macfarlane

From the first glimmer of the idea of marking the Greenwich Village Historic District’s 50th anniversary to the task of maintaining and protecting the district for generations to come, these talks became a part of Village Preservation’s vast resources about the district, and are not to be missed. While we staged literally scores of walking tours, talks, viewings, and open houses as well as other programs that celebrated the delights of the District. What follows are the five panel discussions we staged throughout the year about the overall history, background, present, future, and challenges of the Greenwich Village Historic District:

Event #1: GVHD50: The Making of the Greenwich Village Historic District, January 28, 2019

We began the year with a multimedia panel telling the story of how the district was won. What were the preservation efforts that directly led to the designation? Originally, the city had proposed more than a dozen little districts, but came to do the “one big one” — how did that come to be? Why wasn’t the district extended all the way west to the Hudson River, as Jane Jacobs wanted?

With panelists:

  • Andrew Berman, Executive Director of Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
  • Susan De Vries, Preservation Historian
  • Professor Francis Morrone, Architectural Historian
  • Professor Mosette Broderick, Director of Urban Design and Architecture Studies and Historical and Sustainable Architecture Programs at New York University

Watch here

Event #2: GVHD50: The Work Behind the District’s Designation, March 11, 2019

In 1969, Greenwich Village preservationists, activists, and neighbors celebrated the victory of the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District. Travel back in time with our panelists to explore preservation battles and changes in Greenwich Village and beyond before the designation of the district. This was an in-depth look at the climate and work that set the stage for the Greenwich Village Historic District. What did the activism that led up to the designation look like? 

Panelists include: 

  • Andrew Berman, Executive Director of Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation 
  • Anthony Wood, New York Preservation Archive Project 
  • Professor Francis Morrone, Architectural Historian

Watch here

Event #3: A Greenwich Village Historic District Town Hall on its Present & Future, September 25, 2019

In partnership with our friends at The Village Alliance, and with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, State Senator Brad Hoylman, State Assemblymember Deborah Glick, and City Councilmember Margaret Chin, Manhattan Community Board 2, and the Historic Districts Council, our Executive Director Andrew Berman led a town hall addressing the state of the district. What issues does it face? What preservation issues need to be addressed? What should our agenda be for maintaining and making the Greenwich Village Historic District the best neighborhood it can be, and how can we achieve that? We looked at issues like whether it should be expanded, is it being well regulated, do rules need to be changed, and is it preserving the neighborhood as it should? We were joined by local elected officials, community groups, and others who weighed in on the key challenges we face and how they can be met.

Watch here

Event #4: Continuing the Fight: Expanding Landmark Protections in the Greenwich Village Historic District, October 30, 2019

Village Preservation Executive Director Andrew Berman reviewed the battles of the prior fifty years – what was won and how, what was lost, and what still needed doing. He also looked at Jane Jacobs’ original plea for comprehensive landmark protections for Greenwich Village and sees how much of that vision had been fulfilled. 

When Shirley Hayes, Verna Small, Jane Jacobs, Ruth Wittenberg, and other Village activists succeeded in getting the Greenwich Village Historic District (GVHD) designated in 1969, they did what no one had ever done before – securing landmark protections for over 2,200 buildings and nearly 100 blocks. As expansive and impressive as that victory was, much of Greenwich Village was left without protection. In the intervening fifty years, four new historic districts, two extensions of the GVHD, and a few dozen individual landmarks have been added, some only after long and bitter battles. Much still needs to be done.

Watch here

And, finally, Event #5: 50 Years of the Greenwich Village Historic District Panel with Village Preservation, November 5, 2019 

In our final in a series of panel discussions marking the 50th anniversary of this milestone, we considered the changes that took place over the first half-century of the district, what might have changed had it not been for landmarking, and what this all tells us about what the district’s future might look like. What did landmarking allowed?  What did it prevent? How has that process of making decisions about the shape of this neighborhood changed over the last fifty years?

With panelists:

  • Andrew Berman, Village Preservation Executive Director
  • Kent Barwick, former Chair, Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC); President, Municipal Art Society (MAS); co-founder Historic Districts Council
  • Ronda Wist, President at Wist Preservation Associates, former LPC Executive Director, and MAS Vice President
  • Frank Sanchis, Programs Director at the World Monuments Fund, former Senior Advisor to MAS and Vice President for Stewardship of Historic Sites for the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Watch here

To explore the Greenwich Village Historic District in-depth, with self-guided tours, check out our GVHD50 Map and Tours, which include updated images of the 1969 designation images, taken by my colleague Louisa Winchell. 

At Village Preservation, our dedication to the Greenwich Village Historic District continues, and we keep all this history and all our worries and community feedback about the future in mind as we go about our work. We’re grateful to all the partnering organizations and speakers who made these events so memorable! 

One response to “Delving into the Past & Future of the Greenwich Village Historic District

  1. Could someone please explain how the eyesore on Minetta Strret was able to be built? I thought this whole area was land marked.

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