THERE are a few remaining streets in Greenwich Village I haven’t walked, or at least purposefully walked from beginning to end. The Village is known for its Washingtons: Washington Street, Washington Square, even Washington Mews. The father of his country is indeed covered in the Village. Washington Place runs east to west, from Broadway (where its numbering begins) to Sheridan Square at Grove and 7th Avenue South, slotting in between West 4th Street and Waverly Place (which become Washington Square South and North when encountering the Square). It is divided in two by the Square, which is likely how it got its name; the Square was likely named first.
However, some changes have occurred since it was first laid out. On this Thomas Cowperthwait map from 1850, the section east of Washington Square is called Washington Place but west of the square, it’s an eastern extension of Barrow Street. Maps from later on show two halves of Washington Place. In The Street Book (Hagstrom, 1978), Henry Moscow declares it was named in 1833.
Or is the section west of the Square really Washington Place? Some maps, including Google and Open Street Map over the years have labeled the western “section” as West Washington Place, but what I go by is what the Department of Transportation has on its street signs, and they don’t have a “West” on the signs. Surprisingly, I can’t find this conundrum discussed in any of the guidebooks or NY Times online.
Recently I walked Washington Place from west to east, officially from the end to the beginning. The first building of note I encountered is on the west end at Grove Street, and it doesn’t have a Washington Place address at all; rather, it’s called The Shenandoah, #10 Sheridan Square, which went up in 1928, designed by Emery Roth. 1928 was amid the Deco period, the last great period of building ornamentation. The Depression and WWII ushered in a soberness that has yet to dissipate; because today, much office and residential high rise buildings are unadorned glass boxes.
The building still has its original Romanesque design, contrasting brickwork, casement windows and not least eclectic stonework ornaments like the scene shown here. You’ll see more on this page of Tiles In New York. Since I am usually tossed out on one ear or the other when I enter a private area with a camera, I was happy to get some images of the interior lobby at the site and it didn’t disappoint, with multicolored tiling and mosaics reminiscent of the early subway stations built from 1904-1928 (that year again).
While honorific street signs are usually installed on corners, here’s one in midblock, or at least where Sheridan Square becomes Washington Place across from Barrow Street. Folk singer Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002) is one of those guys I’ve heard a lot about, but have never heard (he was a bit ahead of my time) but his bio did inspire a movie I saw a few years and liked, “Inside Llewyn Davis.” More on Von Ronk.
Because of the sun angle, it was tough to get a picture of this formidable brick building at Washington Place and Barrow Street, officially called #1 Sheridan Square. It was constructed in 1903 as a warehouse for the Consolidated Dental Manufacturing Company and was converted to apartments several decades ago. It has been home as you would expect to several Village artistic characters, such as painter Saul Schary and Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company. The building also housed Café Society from 1938-1950, one of the first desegregated jazz clubs in NYC.
The wedge-shaped building on the Barrow Street side, #2 Sheridan Square, was constructed in 1834 with an 1897 addition, a 4th story.
Here’s the formidable entrance canopy at #15 Sheridan Square, a.k.a. 135 Washington Place, a.k.a. Sheridan Arms. The brick apartment building went up in 1924 to a design by John Woolley.
Today’s photos are a bit fuzzier that usual. The air was quite hot and humid and the heat was actually rising in spots.
Washington Place is lined on occasion with wonderfully maintained Federal/Greek Revival style townhouses. The trio of #124-128 were constructed in 1834. In some cases their original doorway designs, with Doric columns, have been maintained.
For quite a while I have been puzzled by the medallions or plaques appearing outside the doors of two of these buildings. One, Eagle Hose #2, is likely a volunteer fire brigade. The other, a fire hose and a hydrant with the letters FA, is clearly the emblem of some organization, but I’m stumped. Comments are open at the end of the article!
I may have a partial answer from the Firemen’s Hall Museum:
American fire marks, also known as “badges” and “house plates,” are signs issued by insurance companies that were affixed to the front of a property to mark that the property was insured for fire. Fire marks carried the symbol or the name of the insurer and were made of cast iron, sheet brass, lead, tinned sheet iron, copper or zinc. They came in various sizes and shapes, sometimes attached to a wooden plaque.
Used primarily for advertising purposes, fire marks were used from 1752 to circa 1900. Going back to their early practices, the Philadelphia Contributionship and The Baltimore Equitable Society still issue fire marks.
St. Joseph’s Washington Place School, #111 Washington Place, is the parochial school of St. Joseph’s Parish (see below), St. Joseph’s Academy. The 5-story brick building with a limestone exterior on the first floor and at the windows was built from 1896-1897. An interesting touch is the pair of caducei, with a pair of snakes entwined on a torch. The torch would symbolize learning and enlightenment, while the two snakes were part of Roman messenger god Hermes’ staff. Thus, “we spread learning.”
It doesn’t get a lot of ink in the guidebooks, but St. Joseph’s Church, at Sixth Avenue and Washington Place, designed by architect John Doran in 1833 (the date is prominent on the facing) is the 3rd oldest Catholic Church building in NYC (the Church of the Transfiguration, built on Mott Street, in 1801, and Old St. Patrick’s, built on Mulberry and Prince Streets in 1809, are in older buildings, and St. Mary’s on Grand Street, also lays a claim). It is a mix of Federal and Greek Revival styles. The facing is actually a later addition and the actual 1833 exterior walls can only be seen from Washington Place.
St. Joseph’s is among the oldest parishes in Manhattan; only St. Peter’s on Barclay and Church Streets (est. 1786), St. Patrick’s (1809), St. James (Oliver Street, 1829) and Transfiguration (1827; the parish purchased its 1801 building from the Zion Protestant Episcopal Church in 1853) existed before St. Joseph’s.
Though the location and walls are still those erected in 1833, the church has suffered several devastating fires over the years that have necessitated both the rebuilding of the 6th Avenue front as well as the interior and most of the stained glass windows. The last such restoration took place in 1992.
Sgt. Charles H. Cochrane (1943-2008), honored on the sign, was the first NYPD officer to publicly announce himself as gay and later founded the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL).
I’ve recounted the story of 6th Avenue’s “country medallions” quite a bit in FNY, so here’s a link to my original article about them. I will say that the loss of most of them is a shameful, careless episode in recent Department of Transportation actions, but few current NYers remember when most of 6th Avenue had them as recent as the early 1990s. This is the only Canada plaque remaining, at 6th Avenue and Washington Place.
Formerly Crow’s Bar, #85 Washington Place off 6th, sits in place of a former tavern called The Stoned Crow, which had been there from 1993-2010.
The Stoned Crow is owned by Betty Gordon. And judging by the decor, Betty likes these things: movies of any kind, particularly Hitchcock, the posters and stills of which cover nearly every inch of wall and ceiling; caricatures of rock stars and other famous people; images of crows; and hand-drawn cartoons, particularly the ones in the back room that depict Betty as a kind of Heavy Metal Comics superhero, all hair, thighs and cleavage. Those sketches depict “Super Betty” inflicting pain on those that would disobey her multiple Commandments of Pool Playing. No drinks near the table. No smoking at the table. Don’t leave cues lying on the felt. Careful with the balls. [Eater]
A pair of Greek Revival townhouses at #73 and 75 Washington Place constructed for a chemist and a physician, respectively.
Though Washington Place does not extend through Washington Square it’s possible to walk on a straight line (around the fountain) to the eastern piece of Washington Place via a lengthwise park corridor. On this July 2021 Saturday, there was no sign of the recent strife regarding park curfews, though I was here around high noon. Musicians were out in force and I slipped the better of the two piano players I encountered a couple of bucks.
The history of this particular spot in NYC is long and varied; it was first a marshy area surrounding Minetta Brook, which ran from Midtown southwest to the Hudson River), then a cemetery (1797; a tombstone dated 1799 was actually found during the excavation process during renovations from 2002-2011) a parade ground for military marching drills (1826); and finally, a public park (1827).
Looking north past the fountain (which was installed in 1872, replacing an earlier one from 1852), to Stanford White’s memorial George Washington Arch (1892) and One Fifth Avenue, a hotel built in 1926, with a restaurant called One Fifth on the ground floor I would frequent in the 1980s.
If traffic czar Robert Moses had got his wish, the circle around the fountain, which was once used to turn 5th Avenue buses and was open to motor traffic when the Queen of Avenues was one-way, and the fountain would be moved to make way for a connector road between 5th Avenue and LaGuardia Place. Locals fought Moses tooth and nail (as they did against his proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway on Broome Street) and after a lot of vitriol, the Master Builder backed down. However, the fountain was moved anyway between 2007-2011 during park renovations.
Decades ago, Washington Square took over the names of MacDougal Street, Waverly Place, Wooster Street and West 4th, which became Washington Squares North, West, East and South respectively. This change was made pretty early, soon after the park’s borders were set.
I don’t know if a present-day industrialist would rate a memorial in Washington Square today, but Alexander Lyman Holley is here, and his 1889 bust by John Quincy Adams Ward isn’t going anywhere.
While traveling in Europe, he observed the Bessemer process for making steel and realized its practicality and efficiency. When he returned to the states, he convinced his employer to buy the American patents for it and he became the foremost designer of steel works in the country.
The monument was dedicated Oct. 2, 1890, a gift from three professional engineering societies, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers and the American Society of Civil Engineers, though money was raised from related professional groups around the world.
Not everyone was thrilled by the gesture. Many critics, including the editorial boards of several New York newspapers, complained that Holley was hardly a household name. Dianne Durante, author of “Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan,” records the NY Times’s indignant (and rather tortured) thesis from April 24, 1890: “The time is coming … when sites for statues in the Park will be too scarce to be assigned to effigies from which the general public will derive its first knowledge that the originals of them have existed.” [NYC Statues]
For well over a century the campanile of Judson Memorial Church, at Washington Square South and LaGuardia Place has dominated the view south from Washington Square. The church is another work of architect Stanford White, and features stained glass by John LaFarge and sculpture by Augustus St. Gaudens and went up in 1896; it was designated a NYC landmark in 1966. Adoniram Judson was the first American baptist missionary in Asia, working primarily in Burma. Like a lot of property in the area, most of the complex now belongs to New York University.
After fighting in South American wars of liberation, using what today would be called guerrilla tactics, Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) organized and led insurgencies leading to conquests of Sicily and Naples which ultimately produced the unification of Italy in 1860. Abraham Lincoln offered Garibaldi a command in the Civil War, but Garibaldi asked for the post of commander-in-chief, which Lincoln was unwilling to consent.
Garibaldi resided in a house on Rosebank, Staten Island’s Tompkins Avenue from 1851-53 with his friend, Antonio Meucci, who invented the telephone before Alexander Graham Bell received his own patent for it. The house is now used as a museum.
Three blocks of Washington Place extend east of the Square. Remarkably, the buildings on this stretch do not belong to any Landmarked district, despite their occasional historic significance; they are mostly 7 or 8-story structures built between 1905 and 1935 for light manufacturing, with some apartments mixed in. One, the Asch Building on the NW corner of Greene Street (since renamed the Brown Building) was the location of one of NYC’s most heinous manslaughters, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911, in which more than 140 immigrant, mostly female, sweatshop employees were killed when they were trapped in a rapidly spreading fire when the exit doors on their floor were locked to prevent shirking or pilferage. The Triangle owners faced no severe legal repercussions, similar to the figures behind the General Slocum steamboat fire 7 years earlier in which over 1000 perished; life has always been considered cheap by one sector or the other.
Wrapping ip Washington Place at Broadway, with a trio of buildings, #714, 716 and 718, constructed from 1890-1906 and part of the NoHo Landmarks designated area.
Nearby #722 Broadway features some spectacular metalwork at its entrance.
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