Greenwich Village (aka "The Village") has deep roots in New York's diverse history that are still very evident today. Taking a stroll down any of its seemingly unchanged streets gives tourists and long-time residents a taste of a neighborhood brimming with an eclectic array of offbeat culture, vibrant commerce, academic history and old-day aristocracy. A 10-minute walk on Bleecker Street between Laguardia Place (named for former NYC mayor, Fiorello Laguardia) and Seventh Avenue South paints a full picture of what you need to know about life in Greenwich Village. You'll encounter boisterous bars and restaurants, cozy cafes, venues featuring a mix of musical flavors, NYU establishments, even family-owned businesses like century-old Italian meat markets Faicco's and O.Ottomanelli & Son's. At the heart of the neighborhood is Washington Square Park, which still audibly beats to the sound of area residents, poets, street performers and musicians alike. The Village is not all bohemian chic; it also has a well-established upper-crust charm that dates back to the late 19th Century, particularly the area north of The Park on Lower Fifth Avenue up to 14th Street, often termed The Gold Coast, where pre- and post-war luxury high rises mingle with old-world townhouses.
Originally known as Grin'wich, The Village is deep rooted in New York's psyche. Its earliest residents came in the late 1600s. Unlike neighborhoods to the south, specifically what is now the Financial District, Greenwich Village was unscathed by the Revolutionary War. In the late 18th Century, fresh produce markets appeared; so did the potter's field purchased in the late 1780s that later became Washington Square Park - named for the first president of the U.S., Gen. George Washington, who resided in the city of New York, once the capital of the country.
The Village also has a rarely-seen side of its personality between Fifth and Sixth Avenues north of Washington Square graced by rows of townhouses and where occasional high-rise buildings reside on quiet, tree-lined streets. New York University grew on the east side of Washington Square as of 1836, and the neighborhood soon became the mecca of art clubs, photo galleries, fine hotels, shopping of all types and theaters.
During the 20th Century, Greenwich Village became a central character for artistic and social change, as the Beat movement and homosexual revolution came to fruition from its streets. To this day, many of its representative and still popular establishments stand, namely The Blue Note, The Back Fence, Café Wha?, and The Stonewall Pub.
The Village encompasses a sizable yet accommodatingly walk-able area of downtown New York, as all the streets below 14th begin to move closer together. Running as far east as Broadway and west to Seventh Avenue, the Village and its countless personalities can be experienced between West 14th Street and Houston Street, with a small pocket north of Houston between Broadway and Laguardia Place now donned NoHo. The area's main arteries include Bleecker Street, West 4th Street, Christopher Street, West 8th Street and Sixth Avenue. The section north of Washington Square Park and below 14th Street between 5th and 6th is far different in appearance and architecture than south and west of the park. It features both high-rise buildings that rose between the 1930s and 1960s and well-kept brownstones and townhouses that have somewhat of a secluded feel, as the stretch between Fifth and Sixth Avenues does not have pass-through streets like the rest of the neighborhood.
With the exception of a few key buildings, the remainder of the Village boasts largely tenement-style walk-ups, often above storefronts and diverse business establishments. The primary green space is Washington Square Park, located between Waverly Place and West 4th Street, with University Place and Macdougal Street on either side. Other parks and recreation spaces include Father Demo Square, Sheridan Square (named for a Civil War general) and the popular West 4th Street basketball courts, better known as "The Cage."