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No other neighborhood in Greenwich Village has been the birthplace of more art and literature than the area around Washington Square. In the 19th Century, this area attracted the most wealthy and elegant people in New York. Aside from the famous families such as The Rhinelanders, The Belmonts and The Brevoorts, there were writers whose style reflected these times, like Henry James and Edith Wharton. At the turn of the century, when some of these wealthy families headed north, the area experienced a decline. Now a new group of "bohemians" moved in and made the area even richer. This group represents some of the greatest American literary figures and intellectuals of the 20th Century. They were the exact opposites of their predecessors in their writing style, politics and personalities. These literary rebels included Eugene O'Neill, John Reed, Sinclair Lewis, John Dos Passos, Max Eastman, Theodore Dreiser, Lincoln Steffens, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Upton Sinclair and e. e. cummings. These people were the heart and soul of Washington Square and made it the place to be if you had talent in America.

e. e. cummings The talent of these activists was infectious. They drank, ate, schemed, commiserated and talked endlessly. Socialites with conscience, such as Mable Dodge, would open her home for their entertainment. Her Greenwich Village salon was the genesis of many ideas including the Armory Art Show. This controversial first armory show displayed modern and impressionist art by Picasso, Cezanne, Gaugin, Seurat, and Duchamp. This collection was used to form MOMA. In her salon, Dodge coaxed John Reed into staging the "Patterson Silk Workers Strike" at Madison Square Garden.

Washington Square was originally a "potter's field" (cemetery) and execution ground. It was not until it was formally dedicated as the "Washington Military Parade Ground" on our Nations 50th Birthday that the area became desirable. Fashionable townhouses were built around the Square. Stanford White designed the arch (first in wood and then in marble). Marble and limestone mansions were built around the Square. In fact, the most beautiful mansion of all, belonging to John Taylor Johnson, stood at 4 West 8th Street. It was here that he began the Metropolitan Museum of Art, when he ran out of wall space and began housing his art collection in his stable, opening it to the public. Ironically, years later the Whitney Museum of American Art chose 8 West 8th Street as their first location, just next door to the first site of the Met.

John Taylor Johnson also funded New York University. Founded in 1831 by Jefferson's Secretary of State, Albert Gallatin, NYU has become our largest neighbor. Today, most of the land around Washington Square Park is owned by NYU. In 1833, after purchasing the site of their first building for $40,000.00 and constructing it, there was insufficient money left to operate the school. Forced to rent space for income, NYU's tenants included the noted artist Samuel F.B. Morse who happened to invent and demonstrate the telegraph on the premises. Morse also experimented with photography; Mathew Brady the famed photographer of the Civil War studied under Morse there. Winslow Homer painted there and Samuel Colt designed his famous pistol there. NYU continues to grow and flourish, attracting new and talented people to Greenwich Village.

 


MAP KEY TO CENTRAL VILLAGE

#1 Edith Wharton @ 7 Washington Square North
#2 Henry James @ 19 Washington Square North
#3 Eleanor Roosevelt (with Fala) @ 29 Washington Square East in 1945
#4 The Famous Boarding House known as "House of Genius" @ 61 Washington Square South, home to Theodore Dreiser, Eugene O'Neill, John Dos Passos, Stephen Crane, O'Henry and Lincoln Steffens
#5 John Reed @ 42 Washington Square South, where he wrote "within a block of my house was all the adventure in the world: within a mile every foreign county."
#6 Edward Hopper @ 3 Washington Square North
#7 Mark Twain@ 14 West 10th Street and @ 21 Fifth Avenue
#8 Sinclair Lewis @ 37 West 10th Street
#9 Edward Albee @ 50 West 10th Street
#10 Mable Dodge @ 23 Fifth Avenue 9her famous salon)
#11 Willa Cather @ 35 Fifth Avenue
#12 Thomas Wolfe @ The Albert Hotel
#13 John Phillip Sousa @ 80 Washington Place (1919)
#14 Joseph Papp @ 40 East 9th Street (1973-1991)
#15 James Thurber @ West 13th Street
#16 E.B.White @ West 13th Street
#17 Emma Lazarus
#18 The Whitney Museum's original building @ 8 West 8th Street
#19 Washington Mews (Townhouses, formerly stables)
 
Marilyn Weigner Associates, Inc.
 
41 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10011
Phone (212) 851-6314; Fax (212)388-0843
E-mail: info@mwavillage.com