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Inside Greenwich Village

Inside Greenwich Village: A New York City Neighborhood, 18981918

Gerald W. McFarland
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Inside Greenwich Village
    Book Description:

    In the popular imagination, New York City’s Greenwich Village has long been known as a center of bohemianism, home to avantgarde artists, political radicals, and other nonconformists who challenged the reigning orthodoxies of their time. Yet a century ago the Village was a much different kind of place: a mixedclass, multiethnic neighborhood teeming with the energy and social tensions of a rapidly changing America. Gerald W. McFarland reconstructs this world with vivid descriptions of the major groups that resided within its boundaries—the Italian immigrants and African Americans to the south, the Irish Americans to the west, the welltodo Protestants to the north, and the New York University students, middleclass professionals, and artists and writers who lived in apartment buildings and boarding houses on or near Washington Square. McFarland examines how these Villagers, so divided along class and ethnic lines, interacted with one another. He shows how clashing expectations about what constituted proper behavior in the neighborhood’s public spaces—especially streets, parks, and saloons—often led to intergroup conflict, political rivalries, and campaigns by the more privileged Villagers to impose middleclass mores on their workingclass neighbors. Occasionally, however, a crisis or common problem led residents to overlook their differences and cooperate across class and ethnic lines. Throughout the book, McFarland connects the evolution of Village life to the profound transformations taking place in American society at large during the same years.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-129-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Gerald W. McFarland
  5. INTRODUCTION The Latter Days of the Sixth Village
    (pp. 1-7)

    For most of its early history, Greenwich Village was physically separate from New York City, the metropolis that now surrounds and merges with it on all sides except on its western boundary, the Hudson River. During its long evolution from a separate settlement to a twentieth-century urban neighborhood, the Village went through a series of distinct phases. Each phase was so distinctive that the writer Floyd Dell, who lived in the neighborhood in the mid-1910s, identified seven historical Villages, each of which had been, like the “ancient cities which Schliemann dug up” at Troy, superimposed on its predecessors. The first...

  6. 1 Neighbors and Strangers
    (pp. 8-48)

    In the summer of 1898 Neith Boyce, a young journalist who worked for theNew York Commercial Advertiser, lived in a tiny room in the Judson Hotel, an economical boardinghouse on the south side of Greenwich Village’s Washington Square (map 2). Coming home from work, Boyce would take the Sixth Avenue elevated train uptown to the Bleecker Street station and walk three blocks to her hotel. Once there, she often stopped in at the room of one of two other Judson residents who, like herself, were young women who had begun careers in the overwhelmingly male profession of newspaper journalism....

  7. 2 For Their Mutual Benefit
    (pp. 49-76)

    In the final decades of the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth, hundreds of young American women and men, nearly all of them college educated and many from wealthy families, made a seemingly curious decision to take up residence in the slums of the nation’s largest cities, including working-class sections of Greenwich Village. The pioneering generation of American settlement house activists took inspiration from the example of a group of idealistic young Britons, students at Oxford and Cambridge, who in the 1880s had gone to live among the London poor in order to observe the conditions of urban...

  8. 3 The Patrician Response
    (pp. 77-117)

    On the north side of Washington Square, on the square itself and on streets adjacent to lower Fifth Avenue, were the homes of the upper-class Villagers. These patricians were Protestants of Dutch, English, and French stock, some of them heirs to old wealth and to the handsome residences that their parents or grandparents had built before the Civil War.

    Culturally, religiously, and politically, the north Village gentry had little in common with most of their near neighbors, the working-class and immigrant Villagers who lived south and west of the square. Italian immigrants and Irish Americans worshipped at Catholic churches, while...

  9. 4 Allies
    (pp. 118-150)

    A cartographer marking a Greenwich Village map to show where the neighborhood’s largest ethnic groups lived in 1900 would have begun by shading in four large areas: an Italian section in the south Village, an African American enclave south and west of Washington Square, a west Village Irish district, and the blocks on Washington Square North and lower Fifth Avenue where the Protestant gentry lived. This exercise would have left one section in the center of the Village largely untouched: the east, south, and west sides of Washington Square and the streets between it and Sheridan Square, and the blocks...

  10. 5 Value Conflicts
    (pp. 151-188)

    Mary Simkhovitch never tired of pointing out that Greenwich Village had an unusually heterogeneous population. She was aware that in the public mind the Lower East Side was more often thought of as the district with the largest concentration of foreign-born residents, but she liked to observe that compared with the Village, the Lower East Side’s immigrant masses were quite homogeneous ethnically and economically, being nearly all working-class East European Jews. By contrast, members of every economic class were found in Greenwich Village, and the neighborhood’s working-class districts were ethnically very diverse. In addition to large numbers of Irish, Italians,...

  11. 6 Becoming Bohemia
    (pp. 189-226)

    Between 1914 and 1916 several national magazines identified Greenwich Village as the “American Bohemia” and the “New World Latin Quarter.” It had not always been so. The original meeting place for New York bohemians was Pfaff’s, a German beer garden where Walt Whitman had held court in the late 1850s, and though its location on Broadway just north of Bleecker Street was not far from the Village, it was part of a Broadway–Bowery scene rather than within the Village orbit. Later on, in the 1890s and early 1900s, New York bohemians disagreed about which bistro or neighborhood truly represented...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 227-246)
    (pp. 247-258)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 259-272)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-274)