simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: Bleecker Street
2 ... 2 ...

Friday, 21 December 2007

Bleecker Street

The problem with Bleecker Street is nothing new - a place being a victim of its own success. Over time, the South Village has gone through several incarnations. In the early 19th century, the area around Minetta Street became known as Little Africa. A large portion of the city's black population was living within a few blocks of Minetta Street - these were freed African-Americans (New York State abolished slavery in 1827). The area saw the nation's first black church, the first black theater (African Grove) and the first black newspaper (Freedom Journal). By the 1850s, the area just slightly east, where the Washington Square Village apartment complex now stands, became settled with an immigrant French community - in fact the area was known as Frenchtown. By the 1870s, most of the French had moved uptown, tourists invaded and the area became commercialized. Known as the Latin Quarter, it was populated with brothels and taverns. Later of course, from the early 20th century through the 1950s and 60s, the area became a renowned bohemian enter and still has that reputation to this day. Where does that leave us? Well, it leaves me with very mixed feelings about a street that has had quite a run and been virtually synonymous with Greenwich Village. The few blocks just between 6th Avenue and Laguardia Place has had many landmark establishments - The Village Gate, Bleecker Street Cinema, The Back Fence, Kenny's Castaways, Terra Blues, The Little Red Schoolhouse, Le Figaro Cafe, The Bitter End, Peculier Pub, Cafe Au Go Go and the Actor's Studio Drama School. In fairness, I must say that there are still many quality business establishments on the street, like Terra Blues e.g. When a place has been beaten hard with an onslaught of tourists for over a century, you do the best you can. And on a quiet weeknight with a little drizzle in the air and the soft neon glow of the Back Fence's neon signs, things don't look all that bad ...

A note about the street name: Bleecker Street is named for Anthony Bleecker (1770–1827), a poet and friend of Washington Irving and William Cullen Bryant. The street ran through his farm and in 1807, Bleecker and his wife deeded the land to the city.


Post a Comment