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West Village – Neighborhood Series

Beautiful quiet streets, elegant brownstones, and mixed history – These things define West Village, which has managed to create an identity for itself apart from the greater Greenwich Village. The community hasn’t forgotten its Bohemian roots, and the non-conformity is still in the air. 

Geography

West Village is connected to the Hudson River Greenway (or Hudson River) on the West Side. On the North, there is Chelsea (boundary marked by 14th Street). The Eastern border is 6th Avenue. However, this line is a bit fuzzy because some people put this eastern boundary of West Village on Greenwich Avenue/7th Avenue. In the South, it has Hudson Square for a neighbor, but the boundary is, again, a bit confusing. Some end it at Clarkson Street, while other sources consider W Houston Street and the area between the two as part of the West Village. 

History

The history of the neighborhood we now call West Village (also called Far West Village in the past) is inseparably intertwined with the history of Greenwich Village. It was well-known by the natives (though not the part currently in West Village) and was colonized by the Dutch in the 1630s, who cleared the pastures and planted crops. Then came the English in 1664, who named it “Grin’wich.” Since it was considered a farmland suburb, it remained mostly unscathed during the revolutionary war. 

The neighborhood saw affluent residents in the early 1800s and immigration in the latter half of the century. The neighborhood’s own history has split geography. The eastern side of the neighborhood (from Hudson Street) has more historic roots, while the west side saw development in the 80s. However, it’s the western part that’s home to two of the three major historic districts of Greenwich Village as a whole, while the eastern part just overlaps with the broader Greenwich Village Historic District.

West Village has the honor of being the center of the Bohemian lifestyle during the twentieth century. The Stonewall Inn, which became the site of the Stonewall riots, was a major turning point in the gay liberation movement in the states. It was also home to Café Society, the first racially integrated nightclub in the country, which was open between 1938 and 1948. 

Origin Of The Name

West Village is part of a larger neighborhood of Greenwich Village, and the name “West Village” comes from this area being on the west side of The Village. It’s a name it got in the 80s due to construction spreading between Hudson Street and West Street, the Western Half of the neighborhood. The area was also called the “Far West Village” and marks the beginning of Greenwich Village, which gets its name from the Dutch Groenwijck, which means “Green District.” Greenwich Village has seen other names as well: Sapokanican by the natives and Grin’wich by English. 

Main Attractions Of The Neighborhood

The neighborhood is known for its vibrant nightlife and several amazing food establishments. 

  1. L’Artusi (228 W 10th St): It’s a fancy Italian restaurant famous for its pasta and wine selection. You may have to call ahead for a reservation (days ahead). 
  2. Via Carota (51 Grove St): Another famous Italian place in the neighborhood, Via Carota, is beloved for its rustic ambiance (modeled after an Italian farmhouse) and is famous for its pasta and Cacio e Pepe.
  3. Art Bar (52 8th Ave): If you are looking for a cozy, comfortable bar with couches and an amazing vibe, this is the place to go.
  4. Sevilla (62 Charles St): It’s a food establishment with Spanish roots, one of the few in the neighborhood. The place offers a Sangria that’s very difficult to beat.
  5. Katana Kitten (531 Hudson St): It’s one of the most coveted places for cocktails. It offers a cool setting and great sake (A Japanese drink).  

    West Village developed its own identity, slightly separate from Greenwich Village, and it’s reflected in its prominent buildings.

  6. St. Joseph’s Church in Greenwich Village (371 6th Ave): It’s a Roman Catholic parish church built in 1834 and the oldest Roman Catholic Sanctuary in NYC. 
  7. Our Lady of Pompeii Church (25 Carmine St): Founded in 1892, it was built as a national parish to serve the Italian immigrants in the city. It’s a beautiful structure. 
  8. Carrie Bradshaw’s Apartment (66 Perry St): This beautiful little brownstone is not famous for its architecture, but for the TV show Sex and the City.
  9. Bell Laboratories Building (463 West St): This 13-building complex was once the largest industrial research center in the country. This building was home to groundbreaking research. 
  10. Cherry Lane Theater (38 Commerce St): It’s an off-Broadway theater (seating capacity between 100 and 499), and it’s the oldest one of its kind continually running in NYC. 

    West Village is home to several attractions, many with historical significance. 

  11. The Stonewall Inn (53 Christopher St): It’s a designated historic landmark and a bar that signifies the start of the gay rights movement.
  12. Friends Apartment (90 Bedford St): The Building associated with the “Friends” show is a major tourist attraction. The original structure is from 1898-1899.  
  13. Museum of Illusions (77 8th Ave): A museum filled with optical illusions might not seem too grand an attraction, but this little West Village attraction can be quite mind-blowing.
  14. Pier 45 at Hudson River Park (Hudson River Greenway): It’s a picturesque park that offers amazing waterfront views and has a calm and quiet environment, making it a perfect place to relax.
  15. James J Walker Park (Hudson St): It’s a 1.6-acre public park with a handball court, soccer field, and other activities for children. A good place for families with kids to visit. 

What Is West Village Known For?

  • Being a bohemian culture hotspot
  • Being home to the birthplace (Stonewall Inn) of the modern LGBT movement
  • Amazing and thriving nightlife and great food establishments.
  • Its cobbled streets and sandstone architecture. 

Population 

The official stats put the population of a larger area: Greenwich Village and SoHo at 91,368. West Village population is a fraction of it, and multiple sources place it somewhere between 22,000 and 31,000.

Interesting Facts About West Village

  • It was home to the first racially integrated club in the country. 
  • The smallest freestanding structure in New York in the neighborhood. It’s 125-square feet store named Greenwich Locksmiths (56 7th Ave S). Its owner was offered $2 million for the place by Chase Bank, but he turned them down. 

It’s also home to the narrowest building in New York (75½ Bedford St), built in 1873, is also one of the few NYC buildings with a fractional address. It was made by filling in the carriage passage between the neighboring houses. It’s just 9 and a half feet wide and was home to some famous New Yorkers.