Greenwich Village – Let’s start with the Jefferson Market area

 A very good place to visit during a tour of Greenwich Village is the Jefferson Market Library. It is hard not to notice and  it’s on a most peculiar piece of land. 6th Avenue on one side, Christopher Street on another, Greenwich Avenue on another side and 10th Street covers the remaining two sides.

Greenwich Village

The building has had a fascinating prior life. It was formerly a courthouse, with a prison next door ( it is a garden today. Every last inch of the unusual shaped lot was used to its maximum. Only the court house remains and in 1967, the building was reopened as a New York Public Library branch.

Notable names that were locked up in the old courthouse jail cells next door, also known as the Women’s House of Detention, included Mae West, Angela Davis, and Andrea Dworkin, Holly Woodlawn (before it was discovered she was really a man).

It had a civil court on the second floor, now the Adult Reading Room, and a police court, now the first-floor Children’s Room.

 The façade is opulently ornamented, especially the Sixth Avenue side Carved details encrust the entrance and accumulate under the beautiful stained-glass windows and elsewhere around the building. The water fountain is decorated with reliefs depicting a weary traveller and a life-giving pelican.  There is also a state seal in the main gable and a frieze representing the trial from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice that hangs over the window above the main entrance.

The surrounding Area

Standing in front of the door for the library and looking across 10th Street, there is a small, gated community that could very easily be missed by someone walking along 10th street – Patchin Place.
The small stretch of brick houses were once famous for housing writers like Theodore Dreiser and E. E. Cummings. Contrary to what you might read elsewhere, Marlon Brando did not live in Patchin Place; but his sister did, and put him up in 1943 when his career was starting.

As you walk around the corner from West 10th Street onto 6th Avenue you might not notice Milligan Place, a triangular alley. Milligan Place has only four buildings, all on the far left. A side note: Patchin Place is gated but open to the public. Milligan Place is gated and locked. 

Crossing 6th Avenue onto 11th Street we come to a cemetery that is so small you may never notice it. Lined by residential buildings, it’s only natural to assume the short stretch of fencing on the south side of West 11th Street to be the courtyard entrance to an apartment.

You’ll find what has to be the smallest graveyard in Manhattan. How small is it? Just big enough to hold about 30 graves bordering on a worn, moss-covered brick path. But perhaps even more unusual is its irregular shape: a long, thin triangle.

The graveyard is all that remains of the Second Cemetery of the Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue of the Congregation Shearith Israel. What makes the little graveyard on West 11th Street so special: it is gasp of existence of a West Village that is no more, a time when cow pastures were just down the street and local children would play in the streets.

We will end this walk on West 10th Street at #14, where Mark Twain lived.

As I begin researching Greenwich Village and its history, I am learning that this was home to many immigrants. I will update this post as I find new information.

Post first written in May 2016 updated September 2020
Thom

NYC – Two East Village Cemeteries

Halloween – maybe a visit to a cemetery?

In the East Village there are two cemeteries that may merit a visit at but should be seen when you are going to the East Village for other reasons.

Here is a reprint of a blog by Jeremiah Moss who writes for the Metro Newspaper Group.

 

Vanishing New York
Follow the blog by JEREMIAH MOSS

There are two marble cemeteries in the East Village, the New York Marble and the New York City Marble. They have nothing to do with each other, but they’re both very old and almost always locked to the public, except for a few weekends each year.

The smaller of the two, the New York Marble Cemetery, is almost completely hidden, a secret greenery between tenements, marked only by a small gate on Second Avenue. Inside, surrounded by a high stone wall here are no gravestones—and no graves. You wouldn’t know you’re in a cemetery if it weren’t for the wall plaques that mark the underground vaults where bodies lie.

Marble cemeteries have only marble-lined vaults, constructed for the purpose of containing miasma, the toxic vapors long ago believed to be emitted by rotting corpses.

Only a descendant of an original purchaser of a vault can be entombed here. No one’s done it in nearly 80 years.

 

New York City Marble Cemetery

Around the corner, on East Second Street, is the New York City Marble Cemetery. It’s the larger of the two and the more visible, with a long wrought-iron fence. Mostly marked by plaques, some of the vaults here have monuments above them. One of the largest belongs to Mangle Minthorne Quakenbos, real estate magnate with a spectacular name. But the most famous here is Preserved Fish—famous for his curious name, not for his life, which was spent in shipping and banking and outliving one wife after another.

It’s a pleasure to stroll through a cemetery, a peaceful activity not often possible in Manhattan. As I strolled along, I didn’t notice any miasmatic vapors, so the marble must still be doing its job.