Thursday, January 05, 2012
I have not been to many book signings, but one which I did attend was that of Terry Miller for Greenwich Village and How it Got That Way, published in 1990. I do love the Village, but like many New Yorkers, I do find that it can, at times, be a love-hate relationship. When I met Terry for the signing, I complained to him about things I disliked about the Village. He dismissed it immediately, saying, "Where are you going to go? Europe?" He was right. I had found no urban enclave in the United States that had the ambiance and charm of the West Village in New York City.
And so it is. For old-world charm, sophistication, artistry, and elegance, Americans often look to Europe. We style, decorate, design, distribute, manufacture, and name things, foods, and places using words and phrases that hearken back to countries such as France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, and Britain. The influences of Spain also permeate our culture, not just in language, food, and transplanted citizens but also in motifs and naming.
The property at 11 Cornelia Street reflects this Spanish influence. Built in 1850, the facade was resurfaced in 1928. From Christopher Gray's Streetscapes:
Stoops started coming off brownstones in the 1890s, when a few adventurous souls took a sledgehammer to them and other aspects of the facades. According to “The Row House Reborn,” the architect Frederick Sterner was the first to remake an entire group of brownstones, beginning in 1908 on East 19th Street between Irving Place and Third Avenue.
Others followed his lead, and Greenwich Village, with its emerging bohemianism and stock of older, decaying houses, became a center of reimagined quaintness, typically with pastel stucco fronts, studio-type windows and tile roofs.
Vincent Pepe, an Italian-born real estate entrepreneur, began to be active in Greenwich Village real estate around 1900, and was soon the Village’s most enthusiastic promoter.
Another of these lively facades went up in 1928 on an old tenement at 11 Cornelia Street. The architect, James H. Galloway, ignored the upper floors but refaced the lower section with yellow stucco and tile decoration. The stucco facade is dotted with low relief molds of galleons, Venetian gondolas, parrots and other images.
Terry Miller was right. If you want to be immersed in the charm of the old world, look to the West Village. Otherwise, where are you going to go? Europe?
Discover the charm of the West Village: I Doubt It, Friends Part 2, Friends Part 1, Diamonds and Rust, Zena, Conflict, Itsy Bitsy, Our Lady of Pompei, Abingdon Square, Paris in New York, 121 Charles, 17 Grove Street, Grove Court, Cherry Lane Theater, Jane Jacobs