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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


SeveP said...

Hi Brian,
I've to tell you: how can you find all these wonderful things around New York?
DO you go around 24hours a day, 7 days per week :)?

Or you have some help ;)?

Anyway, great job!

Mary P. said...

That's really very funny. The whole remainder of the house stayed the same.

Our house on E 20th street, between Irving and Third lost it's stoop at some point, leaving us to go down several steps before we can go up again to the Parlor Floor, where we live.

Since our windows to the front are French doors (with a railing to keep us from falling out) presumably there was once a cast iron balcony, a la New Orleans, which is long gone.

All together, that's regrettable.

Brian Dubé said...

SeveP - I have lived in NYC for 42 years so I have a backlog of places. Plus, I don't have much of a life outside work and this blog :)

Mary P. - I am so narrow minded about stoops. I just hate townhouses where they have been removed. They just look so awful to me. A stoop is just a grand entrance to a piece of history.

Seitenstraße said...

great article! It's amazing to read this from the European point of view and I think vice versa these are the same reason why I love the village so much...
cheers from berlin,

SeveP said...

Brian, you make it seem a little sad when you say "I don't have much of a life outside work and this blog" :(
Likely, a lot of people say that in NY you are never alone..

Anyway, thank you tank you tank you for sharing your 42 NY years with us :)

Brian Dubé said...


Well, perhaps tiresome at times, but not really sad, because I love all my work and it brings me in contact with so many amazing people. Far better than chasing things in the city which have little meaning or value.

Kendigram said...

Oh Brian, what do you mean you don't have much of a life outside work and your blog? You have an amazing life! And you live it each and every day!

Mary P. said...

Yes, Brian.

SeveP said...

Well Brian, everyone has his personal list of "meaning and value things", I don't share all of them, but respect them.

Anyway I think I misunderstood: thanks to your sensibility you meet people,you see things and you are able to write of your experiences in a very charismatic way and you're life is not empty at all :) My apologize..

KatieLove said...

For what you pay, it's almost like going to Europe with the rate of the Dollar to Euro now, right? Not a bad choice. I can pretend I'm in Europe but with the choice to turn the corner for a slice of NY pie. Sounds good to me.