The Greenwich Village at the turn of the 20th century was already the quaintly picturesque and ethnically diverse neighborhood it is still known as today. By the start of World War I it started to be known widely as a bohemian enclave with secluded side streets, low rents, and a tolerance for radicalism and nonconformity. Attention became increasingly focused on artists and writers noted for their boldly innovative work: books and irreverent “little magazines” were published by small presses, art galleries exhibited the work of the avant-garde, and experimental theater companies blatantly ignored the financial considerations of Broadway. During Prohibition local speakeasies attracted uptown patrons. Decrepit rowhouses were remodeled into “artistic flats” for the well-to-do, and in 1926 luxury apartment towers appeared at the northern edge of Washington Square. The stock market crash of 1929 halted the momentum of new construction.
The Village had become the center for the “beat movement” by the 1950s, with galleries along 8th Street, coffee houses on MacDougal Street, and storefront theaters on Bleecker Street. “Happenings” and other unorthodox artistic, theatrical and musical events were staged at the Judson Memorial Church. During the 1960s a homosexual community formed around Christopher Street; in 1969 a confrontation by the police culminated in a riot known as the Stonewall Rebellion, regarded as the beginning of the nationwide movement for gay and lesbian rights. Greenwich Village became a rallying place for antiwar protesters in the 1970s and for activity mobilized by the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
Presently, the Village is a vibrant area, dominated by some important monuments, beautiful townhouses, multitudes of dining areas, and a wacky serpentine layout of streets. The Federal-style row houses, Greek Revival townhouses, and quaint carriage houses, apart from the office buildings of the late 19th century and towering 20th century apartment buildings, reflect the creative and diverse population of the Village.
The heart of the neighborhood is the historic Washington Square Park, which is a hub of activities such as chess playing, skateboarding, and walking or jogging. The Village is also the seat for some of the important educational institutions in the nation, such as New York University (NYU) and New School University.
One of the most famous spots in New York is the Comedy Cellar at the Olive Tree Cafe and Bar. Well-known comedians commonly arrive spontaneously to entertain the crowds. There are some really crazy acts that are definitely different compared normal comedy clubs. Even celebrities like Jon Stewart, Amy Schumer and Dave Chapelle come here to watch the comedians. A visit to the Comedy Cellar is an insider tip for anyone who wants to feel like a true New Yorker and is one of the best things to do in Greenwich Village.
Thanks to it’s legacy as a groundbreaking gayborhood, some of the best nightlife in the area is found in gay venues like The Stonewall Inn and The Monster. Home of the storied Village Vanguard, and the historic Fat Cat, the neighborhood is also a good bet for jazz.
The Greenwich Village oozes with so much charm in it’s 50 blocks thanks to the strong conservation efforts by various groups and nonprofits. Passing through the bustling cafe shops and brownstones is a one of a kind experience unique to New York City, and once you’re acquainted with it’s narrow streets and alleyways it will be hard not to want to call this neighborhood your home.