The Greenwich Village Historic District (GVHD) was designated (landmarked) on April 29, 1969. The district holds some of the most important and beautiful parts 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 history, African-American history, women’s rights, LGBTQ history, and so much more can be found in this district.
The Historic District contains more than 2,200 buildings and stretches over 65 blocks. The irregular, quirky street grid that we know and love is a remnant of the 18th century pattern of streets largely oriented towards the Hudson River, rather the north-south orientation of most of the rest of the island .
The history of the district is wrapped up with the history of landmarks in New York. In April of 1962, three years before he signed the Landmarks Law creating the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on April 19, 1965, Mayor Wagner created the Committee for the Preservation of Structures of Historic and Aesthetic Importance. Its aim was to study and review New York City landmarks worthy of protection and draft legislation to protect them. It began holding regular meetings to develop a list of potential landmarks, including a Greenwich Village Historic District, which would be among the City’s first priorities for designation. The nascent historic preservation movement had secured very few historic districts by that time, and was undergoing a shift from a focus on monuments toward recognition of buildings and neighborhoods that represented a more complete history.
Residents of Greenwich Village were becoming increasingly concerned about the loss of historic buildings in their neighborhood, like the ones shown below at West 10th Street and Greenwich Avenue. The first chair of the LPC, Geoffrey Platt, convened a public hearing on the proposed Greenwich Village Historic District on December 9, 1965. The hearing lasted 7 hours with over 60 people testifying, with over twice as many in favor of the district as opposed. The Commission altered the original proposal and divided the bigger district into smaller, separate districts. Ultimately, however, the original proposal for the larger district was adopted and the district was designated under Mayor John Lindsay and LPC Commissioner Harmon Goldstone on April 29, 1969. The designated district contained more buildings in it than all of the other historic districts in New York City at the time combined.
Greenwich Village was New York City’s 12th historic district, and its designation report was unique in that it described the buildings individually in great detail and contained a substantial essay about the area’s historical, architectural, and cultural significance.
From the designation report:
“Of the Historic Districts in New York City which have been designated or will be designated, Greenwich Village outranks all others. This supremacy comes from the quality of its architecture, the nature of the artistic life within its boundaries, and the feeling of history that permeates its streets.”
You can find a list of all the historic districts and individual landmarks in our neighborhoods with links to their designation reports here.
You can take an online tour of the Greenwich Village Historic District with our Greenwich Village Historic District: Then & Now Photos and Tours which includes images of every one of the buildings in the Greenwich Village Historic District prior to its designation in 1969 and today, along with tours of the district’s history, architecture, artists, theaters, houses of worship, and so much more.
Click here to find out more about our advocacy efforts within the Greenwich Village Historic District.
This link will take you to a list of oral histories in our collection with notable preservationists like Jane Jacobs and Doris Diether, many of whom were involved with the original Greenwich Village Historic District designation effort.