Greenwich Village Artists: A Two-Part, Self-Guided Walking Tour

Greenwich Village Artists: A Two-Part, Self-Guided Walking Tour

Compiled by Grey Art Gallery interns Saga Beus,  Sara Burkhart, Lulu Fleming-Benite, Nina Hood, Shu Han Liu, Ozana Pleminitash, Kristy Schwartzman, and Sarah Seiler

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Part 1

We estimate that Part 1 will take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete.

Begin on the east side of Fifth Avenue between Eleventh and Twelfth Streets.

  1. 47 Fifth Avenue is the Salmagundi Club, founded in 1871 by sculptor Jonathan Scott Hartley. One of the oldest art organizations in the United States, the Club historically hosted annual “Black and White” exhibitions open to the general public, which featured drawings, graphics, and grisaille oils. The annual tradition continues, with participation limited to club members.

The Club’s historic brownstone, cited by the Society of Architectural Historians and the Municipal Art Society for its architectural distinction, encompasses three galleries, a library, a parlor, a private restaurant, and a bar. Its collection comprises over 1500 works, and its membership numbers nearly 850 artists and patrons. Notable Club members have included Edwin Austen Abbey, William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, John LaFarge, Thomas Moran, Howard Pyle, Norman Rockwell, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, and N.C. Wyeth.

A resource for artists around the country, the Salmagundi Club provides exhibition space, conducts a variety of walk-in art classes for the public, and holds benefit auctions throughout the year.

Continue south on Fifth Avenue and turn left onto Eleventh Street. Walk one block to University Place and turn left again.

  1. 82 University Place is the 1960s replacement for the Cedar Tavern, which originally stood near here, at the northwest corner of University Place and Eighth Street. The Cedar offered an informal setting where artists could meet and share ideas. Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Jackson Pollock were among those who congregated here. Pollock was barred for a month after kicking in the bathroom door. Jack Kerouac also frequented the Cedar before he was banned for urinating into an ashtray. The Cedar is featured in the poetry of Frank O’Hara.

Return to Eleventh Street and walk east one block to the corner of Broadway.

  1. 80 East Eleventh Street, on the southwest corner with Broadway, is the site of the former St. Denis Hotel, which was designed by noted architect James Renwick, Jr. and erected in 1853. To the distress of many, it was demolished in 2019 to make way for a new glass-clad, “loft-style” building. Beginning in 1965, Marcel Duchamp rented Suite 403 at the St. Denis, where he worked in secret on his last major artwork, the elaborate mixed-media assemblage Etant Donnés (1946–66). It was found there at his death in 1968 and is now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Cross Broadway to the east side and turn right. Walk halfway down the block.

  1. Grace Church is an historic Episcopal parish church that was for many years the most fashionable in New York City. The congregation was originally housed at the corner of Broadway and Rector, where it held its first worship service in 1808. Under the pressure of downtown’s growing population, the church’s fourth rector, Thomas House Taylor, convinced the congregation to build a new church on its current site, then located in an apple orchard owned by Henry Brevoort, Jr..

In 1843, James Renwick, Jr., Brevoort’s nephew and a young civil engineer, was appointed architect. He designed the church in the French Gothic Revival style favored by Taylor, and built it in lath and plaster clad in Sing Sing marble. The church was consecrated in 1846. Some of the elements we see today, including stained glass windows by Henry Holiday and by the famous British stained-glass company Clayton and Bell, as well as the marble steeple designed by Renwick, are later additions. The building is a National Historic Landmark, and the entire complex is a New York City Landmark.

Proceed south down Broadway and cross to the south side of Tenth Street. Turn left and walk one and a half blocks.

  1. 88 East Tenth Street was home to Willem de Kooning and Philip Guston during the 1950s, when this block was an artist enclave. Art critic Harold Rosenberg characterized the “art colony on Tenth Street” as a community whose purpose was to “transmute the ranks established by social class into a hierarchy based on talent or daring.” During this period, nearly twenty-five painters and sculptors were concentrated here. At the same time, East Tenth Street was also the epicenter of artist-run galleries. Unlike the established galleries run by art dealers to the rich along 57th Street, Tenth Street galleries were modest co-op spaces, allowing artists to present and sell their work on their own terms.

The Tanager Gallery, located just next door at 90 East Tenth Street, exhibited works by Alex Katz, Philip Pearlstein and Tom Wesselmann. The Brata Gallery (across the street at 89 East Tenth) had among its members Al Held, George Sugarman, Yayoi Kusama, and Ronald Bladen. The Brata hosted Jack Kerouac’s first poetry reading and David Amram’s first jazz performance. The Reuben Gallery (61 Fourth Avenue), perhaps best known for hosting Allan Kaprow’s seminal performance 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, also exhibited works by Red Grooms, Claes Oldenburg, and Jim Dine. The Hansa Gallery (70 East Twelfth Street) had among its members Allan Kaprow, George Segal, Richard Stankiewicz, Jean Follett, Robert Whitman, Barbara and Miles Forst, and Jan Muller.

Other figures such as Robert and Mary Frank and Miles and Barbara Forst lived around the corner, just one floor apart, on 34 Third Avenue. Next door at 36 Third Avenue was the residence of Alfred Leslie. Those living on Tenth Street and on Third Avenue all had windows facing into the same courtyard. It is said that de Kooning could be seen through his window, working late into the night. For more on artists’ co-op galleries on Tenth Street and in the vicinity, see Melissa Rachleff, Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City 1952–1965. New York: Grey Art Gallery, New York University in association with Delmonico Books, 2017.

Walk west three blocks on East Tenth Street, crossing back over University Place. Along the way, enjoy the great diversity of historic buildings and the many antique-shop windows.

  1. 16 East Tenth Street is the former home of the Pen and Brush Club, founded by painter and bookbinder Janet C. Lewis in 1894 as an organization of professional women in literature and fine arts. Its members have included modernist poet and Pulitzer Prize winner Marianne Moore, Nobel Prize recipient Pearl Buck, sculptor Malvina Hoffman, photojournalist Jessie Tarbox Beals, and first ladies Eleanor Roosevelt and Ellen Axson Wilson.

Pen and Brush Executive Director Janice Sands characterizes the original site as “a gracious building [with] beautiful parquet floors, elaborate ceiling moldings, and a great library, originally built as a chapel in the Gothic style.” This was a residential building, limiting the number of works that could be displayed and ultimately prompting the Club to move to the Flatiron District in 2015 (29 East 22nd Street).

Cross the street and walk down the block:

  1. 7 East Tenth Street is the Lockwood de Forest house, designed by architect Van Campen Taylor and built in 1887. De Forest was a leading decorative designer and in 1879 was a founding member of Associated Artists, along with Louis Comfort Tiffany and Candace Wheeler. Inspiration for the striking teak façade came from de Forest’s wedding trip to India, where he established a woodworking shop in Ahmedabad.

Today, the building is home to the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU. 9 East Tenth Street, located next door, is the Ava building; a five-story apartment house designed by architect William H. Russell in 1888. It incorporates the same teak decoration used on the de Forest house. The novelist, playwright, and diarist Dawn Powell lived here from 1931 to 1942. She published some of her best books here, including Come Back to Sorrento, Turn, Magic Wheel, Angels on Toast, and A Time to Be Born. In her works Powell depicts life in small Midwestern towns as well as in New York City.

Proceed west on Tenth Street, cross over Fifth Avenue, and look to the north side of the street.

  1. Church of the Ascension, an Episcopal church of New York’s elites in the 1900s, is a National Historic Landmark and a New York City Landmark. Founded in 1827, the congregation moved to its current location after its previous church, located on Canal Street near Broadway, burned down in a fire in 1839. The new, Gothic-style building, consecrated in 1841, is an early design by the English-born architect Richard Upjohn, who also worked on other New York projects, including Trinity Church, Wall Street, and Christ Church, Brooklyn—both similar in design to the Church of the Ascension.

Between 1885 and 1889, the church’s interior was remodeled by McKim, Mead and White—then the leading American architectural firm—under the direction of Stanford White. The interior we see today is the product of this renovation, which involved collaborative work by many great artists. The sculpted angels over the main altar are by Louis Saint-Gaudens, brother of Augutus Saint- Gaudens and an important American sculptor of the Beaux-Arts generation; the main altar along with the two angels in mosaic are by D. Maitland Armstrong, a prominent stained-glass artist and painter; and the mural over the altar and four of the stained glass windows are by John La Farge. Two paintings by Edwin H. Blashfield hang in the rear of the church. This church is a National Historic Landmark and a New York City Landmark.

Continue west for approximately half a block.

  1. 28 West Tenth Street is where Marcel Duchamp lived during the 1960s. He and Man Ray played chess at the Marshall Chess Club, which still stands across the street at No. 23. Duchamp found these regular matches “most enjoyable.” His profound love for the game is apparent in artworks he made throughout his career, from Portrait of Chess Players 1911, to Reunion, a performative chess match staged with John Cage in 1968.

As you continue walking west on Tenth Street, look for the following building across the street.

  1. 45 West Tenth Street (formerly No. 51) is the site of the former Tenth Street Studio Building, constructed in 1858. Commissioned by James Boorman Johnston, son of a founder and officer of NYU, and designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, the building contained the first purpose-built group of studios for artists in America. Three stories high, it contained twenty-three studios and an exhibition space. The Tenth Street Studio Building was crucial in the rise of Greenwich Village as an artistic center, fostering an environment of creativity and free exchange of ideas. Artists who had studios in the building include Frederic Church, John La Farge, Eastman Johnson, John Weir, William Merritt Chase, Albert Bierstadt, and Winslow Homer (who moved here from NYU’s University Building in 1872). Homer described the Tenth Street Studio Building as having an “atmosphere of comradeship.” In 1956, the Studio Building was demolished and replaced with the current modern apartment complex
  2. 58 ½ West Tenth Street (entrance under the stoop of No. 58) served as headquarters for the Tile Club. After entering through street-level door, visitors walked out into the garden, where a small house was home to the club. Founded in 1877 and active for ten years, the club hosted informal meetings in which its 31 members, including notable painters, sculptors, and architects, came together to eat, drink, smoke, tell stories, and paint on tiles. The Tile Club took sporadic sketching excursions promoting plein air painting, or painting outdoors. Members included illustrator and muralist Edwin Austin Abbey, impressionist painter William Merritt Chase, painter, printmaker, and illustrator Winslow Homer, and architect Stanford White, among others.

Continue to Sixth Avenue and turn right. Walk one block north to the corner of West Eleventh Street and Sixth Avenue.

  1. West Eleventh Street and Sixth Avenue is the site of the Old Grapevine Tavern, built in 1830 on the southeast corner. A roadhouse and informal social club for actors, artists, lawyers, politicians, and later for Union officers and Confederate spies, it was named for its vine-covered façade and its role in supplying Village locals with news. The saying “heard it through the grapevine” is said to originate from this gathering spot. The original building was demolished in 1915 and replaced with a six-story apartment complex.

Turn back down Sixth Avenue.

  1. 425 Avenue of the Americas is the Jefferson Market Library, a Victorian Gothic style structure built between 1875 and 1877 by architects Frederick Clark Withers and Calvert Vaux. It was originally erected as a courthouse, with an adjoining prison and market. By 1927, the courts were devoted entirely to women’s trials. In 1929, the market and the prison were torn down and replaced by the enormous, bland Women’s House of Detention, no longer extant.

In 1945, due to the redistricting of the court, the building was taken over by other agencies, and by 1959, it was mostly abandoned and no longer used. Following demolition threats from city planners, who deemed it “an architectural eyesore,” countered by a strong public outcry to preserve the architecture, Mayor Robert F. Wagner decided that the courthouses would be renovated and converted into a branch of the New York Public Library. The library opened in 1967—but it was not until 1973 that the House of Detention was demolished and replaced by the community garden.  The building is now both a New York City Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.

Continue south on Sixth Avenue for two blocks. Turn left onto Ninth Street and walk one block to Fifth Avenue. Along the way, notice the historic plaques on many of the houses. Remaining on the west side, turn down Fifth and walk south about one-third down the block. Look across the street.

  1. 11 Fifth Avenue, the block-long white-brick Brevoort apartment building, named after one of the oldest Dutch families in New York (formerly No. 23), replaced the previous building, where Mabel Dodge held weekly salons for neighborhood intellectuals beginning in mid-1912. Among issues they discussed are workers’ rights, socialism, sexuality, free love, and psychoanalysis. Writer Lincoln Steffens describes Dodge’s apartment as “filled full of lovely, artistic things; [Dodge] dressed beautifully in her own way . . . sat quietly in a great armchair and rarely said a word; her guests did the talking, and with such a variety of guests, her success was amazing.” Among artists and activists who attended were painter Charles Demuth; anarchist writer Emma Goldman, socialist journalist John Reed; Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood; Ashcan School painter John Sloan; and photographer Alfred Stieglitz. In addition to hosting salons, Dodge provided artists with materials to create and space to work. She later spent long periods in Santa Barbara, and in 1917 she moved to Taos, New Mexico, where she continued to host artists and writers.
  1. 11 Fifth Avenue also marks the site (formerly No. 21) where Mark Twain lived in 1904–8. Clad in his trademark white flannel suit, he was often seen in Washington Square Park, sometimes conversing on benches provided by Boss Tweed—an ironic twist since Twain satirizes Tweed in his novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873).

Return to Ninth Street and walk two blocks east.

  1. 60 East Ninth Street, The Hamilton, is the site of the 1951 art exhibition known as the “Ninth Street Show.” With the help of art dealer Leo Castelli, artist members of The Club, including Conrad Marca-Relli, Franz Kline, and John Ferren, leased an empty floor of the building where they displayed works by 61 artists. The exhibition combined works by first-generation abstract artists, active before World War II, with those of the second generation, who came to maturity after the war. The show’s catalogue describes the exhibition as a salon des refusés response to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition the preceding year entitled “American Painting Today, 1950.” According to painter Charles Cajori, the Ninth Street Show “made it possible to exhibit without all the accoutrements and apparatus of a gallery.” Among works on view were Willem de Kooning’s Woman I and Jackson Pollock’s Number 1, both now in the collection of the the Museum of Modern Art.
  2. 63 East Ninth Street, Randall House, held the home and studio of Renee and Chaim Gross from 1932 to 1952. Born in 1904 to a Jewish family in Austrian Galicia, Gross emigrated to the U.S. in 1921. A well-known modern sculptor and educator, he was based in New York City until his death in 1991. In his work he focuses on the human figure, combining his love of folk art with abstraction and simplified forms. Among his recurring motifs are acrobats, ballerinas, mothers and children, and, especially in his later works, Jewish themes. He studied at and worked for many prominent institutions and organizations, including the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design, the Educational Alliance Art School, the Art Students League, and the Works Progress Administration. Gross’s social circle included many prominent artists of his time, such as Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Arshile Gorky, Gaston Lachaise, Jacques Lipchitz, Barnett Newman, Moses and Raphael Soyer, and Max Weber.

Continue walking east, then turn right on Broadway. Walk one block south and turn right onto Eighth Street, crossing the street to the south side. Continue on Eighth Street for two blocks, until you reach Greene Street.

  1. 46 East Eighth Street, on the southeast corner of Eighth Street and Greene Street, is the former site of the Century Association, located here between 1852 and 1857. Founded in 1847 by poet and newspaper editor William Cullen Bryant, the association was comprised of New York’s leading painters, sculptors, architects, and writers. The Century’s membership was limited to one hundred men, making it “the most exclusive club in town.” It was formed through a merger of the Sketch Club, which focused on literature and the visual arts, and the Column Club, a Columbia University alumni organization. The Century played a fundamental role in promoting social recognition for artists in America. It is now located on West Forty-Third Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

Jackson Pollock lived on this site between 1935 and 1945. He knocked down an interior wall in order to create enough space to paint a twenty-foot-wide mural for Peggy Guggenheim.

Cross to the north side of Eighth Street.

  1. 41 East Eighth Street (formerly No. 39) marks the meeting place of The Club, which was founded in 1949. After the Waldorf Cafeteria on Sixth Avenue raised the price of coffee to a dime, artists who had congregated there found a new meeting place in sculptor Ibram Lassaw’s loft, and founded one of the most important avant-garde artists’ organizations of the 1950s. At The Club, artists could meet and exchange ideas, and escape from the isolation of their studios. Member Phillip Pavia described The Club as a “mystical fraternity,” insisting that it was a place without purpose—but in fact the exchange of artistic ideas cemented the Abstract Expressionist movement. Members included Franz Kline, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Landes Lewitin, Conrad Marca-Relli, Mercedes Matter, Phillip Pavia, Ad Reinhardt, Milton Resnick, Ludwig Sander, and Irving Sandler. The Club closed in 1962.
  1. 35 East Eighth Street is the former site of the Subjects of the Artists School, founded in 1948 by William Baziotes, David Hare, Robert Motherwell, and Mark Rothko. They devised an unconventional method of teaching in which the students were not referred to as such but rather as “collaborators.” Students worked directly with the founders, developing and learning alongside their teachers. The school offered Friday evening lectures by artists, which covered “methods of inspiration, moral attitudes, possibilities for further explorations,” and so on. The School closed in 1949 in the wake of financial difficulties.

At the school’s closing, several professors in NYU’s Department of Art Education took over its space for use as an exhibition gallery for their students. Naming it Studio 35, they continued the tradition of Friday evening lectures. Speakers included Jean Arp, John Cage, Joseph Cornell, Adolph Gottleib, Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, and Mark Rothko.

Continue east on the north side of Eighth Street. At University Place, cross to the south side.

  1. 24-26 East Eighth Street is an expansive, Mediterranean-style stucco apartment building that originally dates from 1834–36 and was remodeled by architect Harvey Wiley Corbett in 1916. The façade incorporates decorative eaves and wrought ironwork, in the style of bohemian artists. Similar embellishments may be seen on the former carriage houses in Washington
  1. 10 East Eighth Street was once home to Thomas Hart Benton. Born in Missouri, he is known for his Regionalist paintings and murals, which diverge from 1920s modernism. Benton’s subject matter focuses on small-town American life in a popular and nostalgic vein, emphasizing the everyday. From 1926 to 1935, he taught at the Art Students League—where Jackson Pollock was his most famous student.

Continue walking east on Eighth Street to Fifth Avenue and cross to the west side

  1. The southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Eighth Street is the former site of John Taylor Johnston’s house and private gallery. An early graduate of NYU, Johnston was president of the Central Railroad of New Jersey and one of the first Greenwich Village residents to amass an important collection of paintings. In 1856 he converted the stable behind his house into a private gallery, which he opened for public viewing once a year. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded here in 1870; Johnston served as its first president. At his death in 1893, many works from his collection were bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum.

Between 1930 and 1950, Johnson’s former gallery space was home to the Clay Club. Established in 1928 by artist Dorothea Denslow, the club provided materials and workspace for up-and-coming artists. In 1950, the organization changed its name to Sculpture Center and moved uptown. In 2001 it relocated to Long Island City, where it is open to the public.

  1. 8 West Eighth Street is the original site of the Whitney Museum of American Art, founded in 1931. In 1914, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, daughter of one of New York’s wealthiest families and a noted sculptor, patron, and art collector, started the later-to-be museum at this location as the Whitney Studio Club.

The Studio Club was dedicated to exhibiting and supporting living American artists whose work was not well received by other galleries and museums. Among them were Edward Hopper, Stuart Davis, and John Sloan. This was the first museum space dedicated solely to American art. Initially the museum’s collection consisted of some 500 works which had been rejected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1929—along with Whitney’s offer to build a new wing at the Met to house these works, prompting Whitney to create her own museum. To do so, she enlarged the Whitney Studio Club’s space by annexing two neighboring row houses and combing them into one building. In addition to the galleries, the space contained Whitney’s sculpture studio. She often fled her palatial marital residence on the Upper East Side to work and live in the more relaxed, bohemian Village, where she was surrounded here by fellow artists. Still visible in Whitney’s studio, which may be visited by appointment, is the installation she commissioned from Robert Winthrop Chanler, a sculptural relief surrounding the fireplace and extending onto the ceiling, which depicts the “underwater realm meeting the cosmos.”

In 1954, needing more space, the museum moved to 22 West Fifty-Fourth Street, and in 1966 to its long-term home at the Marcel Breuer–designed building on Madison Avenue and Seventy-fifth Street. In 2015 the Whitney relocated to 99 Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, its current home.

Today the building before you houses the New York Studio School, founded in 1964 by artist Mercedes Matter in collaboration with art students who were frustrated with the slow pace and fragmented classes of contemporary art education. Calling for a new approach, the students chose artists they admired for the initial faculty. Studio School teachers have included Charles Cajori, Philip Guston, Alex Katz, Esteban Vicente, Sidney Geist, Meyer Schapiro, and Leo Steinberg. The Studio School offers public tours of its National Historic Landmark Building and of Whitney’s sculpture studio.

  1. 17 West Eighth Street was where the Eighth Street Bookshop moved from its original location across the street at 32 West Eighth Street. Its patrons included Edward Albee, Susan Sontag, Irving Howe, Joseph Campbell, Albert Murray Joseph Mitchell, Richard Howard, and Alger Hiss. Literary Scholar Bill Reeds notes, “Nearly every time you turned around at Eighth Street found you rubbing literary stardust out of your eyes.” As poet Jonathan Williams wrote in his 2001 “Eulogy for Ted Wilentz,” the bookshop’s owner, “One minute: Pee Wee Russell, the next Geraldine Page, the next Edward Dahlberg, the next e.e. cummings.” In 1964, Bob Dylan was introduced to Allen Ginsberg here.
  1. 20 West Eighth Street (on the north side) housed the studio of sculptor Gaston Lachaise between 1924 and 1926. Here he painted portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe and her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, among other works. In 1935, Lachaise was the first living artist to be given a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.

Look across the street but do not cross.

  1. 21 West Eighth Street (on the north side) was an antique store known as the Jumble Shop, which was taken over in 1920 by Winifred J. Tucker and Frances E. Russell. They began serving meals here and soon moved to a larger space at No. 28. By 1926, the Jumble Shop had become a popular gathering place for local artists, as well as for informal art exhibitions. Frequent customers included Lee Krasner, Arshile Gorky, Gifford Beal, Guy Pène du Bois, and Louis Bouché.

Continue walking on the south side of West Eighth Street. At MacDougal, cross to the north side of Eighth Street. The next building is on the north side.

  1. 47 West Eighth Street was artist Man Ray’s home and studio during the 1910s. He would often bring his subjects home to his studio, which occupied a corner of the living room in the apartment he shared with his wife, the Belgian poet Adon Lacroix (the pen name of Donna Lecoeur). Soon his obsession with chess grew, fostered by his friend Marcel Duchamp—with whom he spent most evenings at the Marshall Chess Club on West Fourth Street. After Duchamp went to visit his sister in Buenos Aires, Man Ray and Lacroix split up. Man Ray then took an excursion up the Hudson, retreating ever more deeply into his work. In 1921 he left New York for Paris, where he remained until World War II.
  1. 52 West Eighth Street (on the south side) was the site of Hans Hofmann’s School of Fine Arts, whose pupils included Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, and Larry Rivers. In his teaching, Hofmann stressed the basic principle of “push and pull,” a concept focusing on the application of opposing forces within an artwork, whether they be color vs. shade, hard lines vs. fluid abstractions, and so on. The school was designed for educated, practicing artists who wanted to learn the history of a specific field through studio work. Hofmann often took his classes to visit the Gallery of Living Art, guiding discussions about works in A. E. Gallatin’s.
  1. West Eighth Street at Sixth Avenue, on the northeast corner, is the former site of the Waldorf Cafeteria. During World War II, this was a favorite meeting place for avant-garde artists. Frequent patrons were William DeKooning, Franz Kline, and Philip Pavia, who noted that “six out of seven nights of the week we all sat around and talked. . . . Now this was the beginning of everything.”

This marks the end of the first part of the Greenwich Village Artists Tour.

Note: The history of artists in Greenwich Village is long and complex, rich and multilayered. This tour will always be a work in progress. After taking it, if you would like to suggest additions or make corrections or other comments, please email us at greyartgallery@nyu.edu with the words “Greenwich Village Walking Tour” in the subject line.

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Part 2

We estimate that Part 2 will take approximately an hour and a half to complete.

  1. 137 Waverly Place is where Edgar Allan Poe lived between 1844 and 1846. During that time, he was editing articles for the New York Evening Mirror. In 1845 Poe published his best-known poem, The Raven. After becoming a literary sensation, he moved to a country farmhouse located near what is now Broadway and 84th Street—now also known as Edgar Allan Poe Street.

Interestingly, Waverly Place was originally named Sixth Street—but in 1833 New Yorkers, wishing to honor Sir Walter Scott after his death, petitioned to change the street’s name to Waverly Place in honor of his novel Waverley.

Turn around and walk east on Waverly Place. At the corner, cross to the southeast side and walk to 116 Waverly Place.

  1. 116 Waverly Place was home to poet, writer, teacher, and socialite Anne Charlotte Lynch, who moved to New York and founded America’s first literary salon in 1845. Edgar Allan Poe, relatively unknown at the time, gave his first reading of The Raven Poe went on to describe Lynch in his 1846 series The Literati of New York as “chivalric, self-sacrificing, equal to any fate, capable even of martyrdom in whatever should seem to her a holy cause.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, and Horace Greeley also frequented her salon.

A watercolor portrait of Lynch, made by Savinien Edme Dubourjal in 1847, is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Walk west along Waverly Place, stopping at No. 112.

  1. 112 Waverly Place was home to the African-American playwright Lorraine Hansberry during the 1960s. Her most famous work, A Raisin in the Sun, was the first play written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway, where it opened in March 1959. Growing up in 1930s Southside Chicago, the setting for Raisin, Hansberry attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison before moving to New York City in 1950. There she attended the New School and wrote for Paul Robeson’s Pan-Africanist newspaper Freedom, and was also involved in political activism and progressive movements, such as The Daughters of Bilitis, the nation’s first lesbian rights organization. In 1953, Hansberry moved from Harlem to Greenwich Village with her husband, producer Robert Nemiroff. They lived in an apartment at 337 Bleecker Street, where she wrote Raisin, for seven years prior to moving here in 1960. Hansberry resided at No. 112 until her premature death in 1965, from pancreatic cancer at the age of 34.

Continue walking east on Waverly Place. At Washington Square West, cross to the northeast corner. Now you are on MacDougal Street. Walk half a block north to the gated entrance of MacDougal Alley.

  1. MacDougal Alley was nicknamed “Art Alley de Luxe” in the early 20th century, when this lane—which was once lined with horse stables that were superseded by the automobile—was converted into fashionable studios. The first artist to move here was Frederick Ernst Triebel in 1899, when he opened a studio at 6. In 1901 Frederick Wellington Ruckstuhl leased a studio at No. 7 and Philip Martiny at No. 17 ½ (formerly No. 21). In 1903 Andrew O’Connor, an assistant to sculptor Daniel Chester French, was working in a studio at No. 5. The next year, James Earle Fraser renovated his studio at No. 3. By 1905 Charles Hawthorne was working at No. 15 and Willard Deming was now occupying O’Connor’s former studio at No. 5. In 1907 Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney took the lease of a stable at No. 17 ½ (formerly No. 19) which she converted into a studio. A few years later in 1910, Whitney took the lease for an additional space at No. 12 (formerly No. 23).

Around this same time, Chester Beach began working at No. 9 and Daniel Chester French next door at No. 11. In 1912, French moved his studio to No. 17 which ran straight through to 12 West Eighth Street. French renovated the Eighth Street building and began renting out rooms to artists. This building became known as Chesterwood Studios. The first tenant here was the painter Thomas Wilmer Dewing. In 1930 Whitney purchased several townhouses backing onto MacDougall alley for her new museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 1916 sculptor Jo Davidson began working in a studio at No. 12 (formerly No. 23). Prior artists in this studio were Ernest Lawson and Guy Pène du Bois. In 1942, Isamu Noguchi was working at No. 33. He described it as “an oasis, a studio with a garden at 33 MacDougal Alley, perfect in every way.” By the 1950s, Alfonso Ossorio was one of the only artists with a studio in the Alley. He used a studio at No. 9 between 1949 and 1952. During this time, Ossorio traveled extensively and allowed Jackson Pollock and his wife, Lee Krasner, to use the studio in his absence. Today MacDougal Alley is a private gated road with access by key only.

Walk south one block to Washington Square North.

  1. The townhouses at 21–25 Washington Square North were featured in a photography project by Berenice Abbott. During the Depression, she received money to create photodocumentation of New York City from the Federal Art Project, a relief agency for artists under the Works Project Administration. Entitled “Changing New York,” Abbott’s project focused on Greenwich Village. From 1935 to 1939, she photographed New York’s urban architecture, both documenting the old before it was torn down and recording new construction.

At Washington Square North, turn and look across the street.

  1. Washington Square Park was initially a marshy plot of land, but in 1797 it was drained and turned into a potter’s field for the burial of paupers, criminals, and victims of cholera and yellow fever. In 1822 it became a safe haven from a yellow fever epidemic farther downtown, and in 1826, after its transformation into a public square, the surrounding streets became a popular residential area for New York’s wealthy.The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw Greenwich Village develop into a bohemian center attracting artists and intellectuals of all kinds.

Marking the start of Fifth Avenue is the Washington Square Arch, designed by Stanford White to commemorate the centenary of George Washington’s 1789 inauguration. Originally built as a temporary arch for a parade, it was re-constructed in 1895 as a permanent structure in the park. Since then the arch has hosted numerous marches and parades, and its beauty and grandeur have been celebrated by many artists. In 1917, Gertrude Drick, a former student of John Sloan’s, discovered an unlocked door at the base of the arch, which led to a staircase that led to the roof. Joined by Marcel Duchamp, Sloan, and three actors, Drick staged a midnight picnic on the roof, which was followed by the six “revolutionaries” reciting a Declaration of Independence proclaiming Greenwich Village to be the Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square.

Washington Square was a stomping ground of the Ashcan School painters, a group of eight artists (also known as The Eight) that included Robert Henri, William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn, Edwin Lawson, Maurice Prendergast, Arthur B. Davies, and John Sloan. In 1908, they staged a breakaway exhibition at the Macbeth Gallery in opposition to the National Academy of Design’s annual show. Embracing Walt Whitman’s belief that everything was an acceptable subject for poetry, the Ashcans tackled subjects such as tenement life, the urban riverfront, coal deliveries, street urchins and scenes of public life. They were also among the first to depict scenes in Washington Square Park. Since that time, the square has been featured in works by numerous artists including Raphael Soyer, Ben Shahn, Thomas Hart Benton, Guy Wiggins, Alfred Mira, Andre Kertesz, Arthur Fellig (Weegee) and Diane Arbus.

Walk east to Fifth Avenue and proceed north about one block.

  1. 2 Fifth Avenue became home to the Hungarian-born photographer André Kertész in 1952. Over the next 25 years, Kertész took many photographs from his twelfth-floor balcony overlooking Washington Square. Much of his work is shot from unconventional vantage points and oblique angles. Kertész used a Leica—the first 35mm camera to hit the market in 1925—which allowed him to walk around the Village and capture moments of intricate geometric perfection and abstraction. From his apartment, Kertész often photographed with a telescope attached to his camera. This method of image making inspired the title of the Stephen Bulger Gallery’s 2015 show “Surveillance,” which featured a large number of Kertész’s works.

Cross over Fifth Avenue.

  1. 1 Fifth Avenue was among the first apartment skyscrapers in New York. Opening on New Year’s Day in 1928, it originally had 196 apartments. Designed by the architects Helme & Corbett and Sugarman & Berger, it loomed with imposing verticality over Washington Square, demanding attention. To meet zoning requirements, the apartments that lacked kitchens instead had “pantries,” and the building included a  cafeteria on the ground floor. Twenty-seven stories high, the Art Deco skyscraper contains elements of illusionistic architecture, as its flat brick façade appears three-dimensional due to false shadow detailing. “A striking symbol of modernity, [1 Fifth Avenue] soared sixteen stories above the ground and then receded and soared again for eleven stories with many setbacks, providing multiple roof terraces, and was topped by a tower belching smoke from boilers far below and illuminated at night by searchlights.”

Head back down Fifth Avenue. Turn left onto Washington Mews. Walk to the end of the street.

  1. Washington Mews, today a private gated, cobblestoned street, originally housed horse stables for the residents of Washington Square North. In the early 20th century, the stables were converted into carriage houses where a number of artists kept studios. Sculptor Paul Manship rented both 42 (today NYU’s Deutsches Haus) and 44. In 1933, sculptor Gaston Lachaise moved into the studio at No. 42. Also during the 1930s, sculptor Heinz Warneke worked at No. 12 (formerly No. 5). In the 1950s, much of the street was taken over by NYU.

Turn right at University Place. Make your first right onto Washington Square North.

  1. 1-13 Washington Square North was constructed in the 1830s and later became known as “The Row.” The Trustees of Sailors’ Snug Harbor built The Row with the intention of supporting retired sailors through profits from leasing to wealthy bankers and merchants. These thirteen townhouses (only twelve remain) were designed in a Greek Revival Style. There is a distinct uniformity among the townhouses, which are marked by twelve foot deep front yards, white marble stairs leading to classical-style columns flanking each entrance, and a block-long, original iron fence adorned with Greek anthemions, lyres, and obelisks. Washington Square soon became one of the most coveted addresses in New York City. The Greenwich Village Historic District Designation Report dubs Washington Square North “the most important and imposing block front of early Nineteenth Century town houses in the City.”
  1. 3 Washington Square North, a townhouse in The Row, is known as the Studio Building. Abbott Thayer, Rockwell Kent, Walter Pach, William Glackens, Guy Pène du Bois, and Edward Hopper all kept studios here. Hopper lived on the top floor with his wife, Josephine, from 1913 until his death in 1965—without central heat or a private bathroom.

Return the way you came. Proceed to the southeast corner of Washington Square North and Washington Square East.

  1. The northeast corner of Washington Square North and Washington Square East is the epicenter of New York University. NYU’s original Gothic-style building was erected on this site in 1831. As Henry James described it in The American Scene, “The grey and more or less ‘hallowed’ University building – wasn’t it somehow, with a desperate bravery, both castellated and gabled?” The original building housed many scientists and artists. The University Building was demolished in 1892 and replaced by the Main Building, which was renamed the Silver Center in 2002. In 1835, artist and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse occupied four rooms with art studio and scientific laboratory space, where he conducted experiments while inventing the electric telegraph. In this same building Morse pointed his camera out of a third-jfloor window towards the New York Unitarian Church, and created the first successful daguerreotype produced in America. NYU professor John Draper also experimented with this photographic process in this building, creating the first portrait images, using his sister, Dorothy Draper, as the subject on the roof of the building. Henry James also had a room in the building as did the architect Richard Morris Hunt and artists Winslow Homer, Eastman Jackson, George Harding, Eugene Benson and Edwin Austin Abbey, among others. In 1892 the University Building was demolished, to be replaced by the current structure, long known as the Main Building and renamed the Silver Center in 2002.

Walk half a block down Washington Square East.

  1. 100 Washington Square East, NYU’s Silver Center, is home to the Grey Art Gallery, New York University’s fine arts museum. The original gallery on this site was founded by A. E. Gallatin, who was an NYU Trustee and a great-grandson of Albert Gallatin (founder of New York University). Known as the Gallery (later Museum) of Living Art and open from 1927 to 1943, this was the first space in the country to offer long-term displays of modern art, including such major works Pablo Picasso’s Three Musicians (1921), Fernand Léger’s The City (1919), Joan Miró’s Dog Barking at the Moon (1926), and Piet Mondrian’s Composition in Blue and Yellow (1932). The museum functioned as, in Gallatin’s own words, a “forum for intellectual exchange, a place where artists would congregate to acquaint themselves with the latest developments in contemporary art.”

The Grey Art Gallery, guardian to the New York University Art Collection, was founded in 1975 and includes approximately 5,000 objects.Among its highlights are the Abby Weed Grey Collection of Modern Asian and Middle Eastern Art—an unparalleled and unique resource that includes some of the largest institutional holdings of Iranian, Indian, and Turkish modern art outside those countries. The collection was donated to NYU in 1975 by Abby Weed Grey, who also founded the gallery.

The NYU Art Collection is especially strong in postwar American art, including works by Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Louise Nevelson, Alex Katz, Kenneth Noland, Robert Rauschenberg, and Ad Reinhardt. Late 19th- and early 20th-century European art is also well represented, with works by Edouard Manet, Joan Mirò, and Pablo Picasso.

  1. Northwest corner of Washington Place and Greene Street is where the Brown Building (formerly Asch Building) stands. Notice the multiple historic bronze plaques. Floors 8 through 10 were once home to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, where in 1911 a fire took the lives of 146 people, most of them young women garment workers. Splashed over the front pages of the era’s newspapers, this tragic fire drew widespread attention to dangerous sweatshop conditions in factories and led to an extended campaign to improve public safety regulations and labor laws.

Continue on Washington Square East crossing over Washington Place.

  1. 80 Washington Square East is the Tuckerman Building, built in 1879. Designed by McKim, Mead, and Bigelow, this building was nicknamed The Benedick, after Shakespeare’s witty bachelor in Much Ado About Nothing. Landlords were suspicious of unmarried Victorian men and often reluctant to rent out rooms to them. Seeing a need for residential space in this niche market, Lucius Tuckerman built the building specifically for bachelors. Vice president of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, and a lifelong member of the National Academy of Design, Tuckerman reserved space for four artist’s lofts on the sixth floor where natural sunlight could pour in. Artists included Winslow Homer, Robert Frederick Blum, Julian Alder Weir and George Willoughby Maynard. Today the building’s ground floor is home to 80 Washington Square East (80WSE), an exhibition space run by NYU’s Department of Art and Art Professions which offers a dazzling array of rotating exhibitions.

Proceed down Washington Square East. Turn right onto Washington Square South. Walk the length of the park, noting the buildings on your left.

  1. Washington Square South was transformed into a block of artists’ studios in the 20th century. Artist who had their studios here included Guy Pène du Bois, John Reed, William Glackens and John Sloan. These properties including the House of the Genius were demolished in 1949 to make way for the NYU Law School, Loeb Student Center and later Bobst Library, which was designed by architects Philip Johnson and Richard Foster.

At 61 Washington Square South was “The House of Genius” so called because it was home to a de facto colony of painters, journalists, dramatists and authors. From 1903 to 1912 Clarissa Davidge operated a boarding house at 62 Washington Square South where artists including John Elliot lived and had their studios.

From 1911–22 William Glackens had his studio at 50 Washington Square South. Glackens was interested in picturing people in the square and was one of the first artists to depict the view from his studio on the south side of the square. The 1913 Armory Show (staged north of the Village in the 69th Regiment Armory at Lexington Avenue and 26th St) was largely responsible for introducing modern art and design to New York. The show encouraged artists to create modernist pictures of the Square. James Henry Daugherty, Frank Arthur Nankivell, Glen Coleman and Oscar Bluemner all picked up on this new tradition.

From 1927 to 1935 John Sloan kept a studio apartment at 53 Washington Square South and frequently used the surrounding environs as subject matter in his art.

Robert J Coady, inspired by the 1913 Armory Show established a gallery at 46 Washington Square South, which exhibited works by Picasso, Braque, Gris, Leger, Matisse, Derain and Rousseau.

In 1932 the first Washington Square Art Show took place as an initiative for artists struggling as a result of the depression. Pictures and sculptures of any medium were exhibited for free with artists taking 100% of sales. Cecil Bell, David Burliuk,  and Alice Neel were among the 275 artists who exhibited in 1932. It was here that twenty-one year old Jackson Pollock had the first public showing of his work, although he did not sell anything. This initial show attracted 50,000 visitors and sparked a tradition that would continue for many years. Thomas Hart Benton depicts this display in his painting The Artist’s Show, Washington Square Park  (1946; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University).

Walk over Washington Square West and continue three quarters of a block on West Fourth Street.

  1. 147 West Fourth Street is where Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney established the Whitney Studio Club in 1918 as a place where artist members could drop by and read in the library, draw from the nude, or play billiards. Edward Hopper was one of the first to join. In this same townhouse, John Reed wrote the news reports on the Russian Revolution that he later published as 10 Days that Shook the World.

Now cross over West Fourth Street.

  1. 150 West Fourth Street was the site of the Mad Hatter, one of the Village’s first tearooms, founded by the sculptor Edith Unger in 1916 and decorated in an Alice in Wonderland theme. It was nestled in an inconspicuous basement where upon entry patrons would read “Eloh tibbar eht nwod,” (written backwards the deciphered phrase reads: “down the rabbit hole”). Inside, inscribed on the walls was another charming quote: “We’re all Mad Here—I’m Mad, You’re Mad, You Must Be or You Wouldn’t Have Come Here.” The Mad Hatter was frequented by Marcel Duchamp.

During Prohibition, and partly due to the rising independence of women, tea-rooms became popular locales for a host of social activities. They were predominantly run by upper class women and catered to the wealthy. Each tea-room had its own individualistic charm and was styled to be an elegant yet comfortable setting. Another type of grungier tea-room also rose in popularity—the speakeasy “tea-room.” These establishments would serve tea and covertly serve alcohol, perhaps in teacups, while often times covering up secret speakeasies in the back rooms.

  1. The corner of West Fourth Street and Sixth Avenue was the site of the Golden Swan, a bar known to locals as the Hell Hole. It served as the inspiration for Harry Hope’s, based on proprietor Thomas Wallace saloon in Eugene O’Neill’s off-Broadway revival, The Iceman Cometh. The building was demolished in 1928 as part of the construction of the Sixth Avenue subway. Today it exists as a small garden.

Return the way you came on West Fourth Street. At MacDougal Street turn right.

  1. 137 MacDougal Street was the site of the Liberal Arts Club, established in 1913 as a “Meeting Place for those Interested in New Ideas.” Emma Goldman, Max Eastman, Margaret Sanger, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, Sinclair Lewis, Sherwood Anderson and Theodore Dreiser have all been claimed as members.
  2. 133 MacDougal Street is the Provincetown Playhouse, converted in 1918 from a bottling plant to the historic theater; it remains in use today as NYU Steinhardt’s theatrical venue. Named after the Provincetown Players—an amateur group of actors, writers, and artists who fostered new work by American playwrights—the theater started the careers of many playwrights and performers. Original members included George Cram Cook, Susan Glaspell, John Reed, Louise Bryant, Floyd Dell, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Harry Kemp, Eugene O’Neill, and Djuna Barnes, among others. In 2010 NYU expanded the townhouse that houses the theater to create new space for the university’s law school.

Walk two blocks south on MacDougal Street.

  1. 113 MacDougal Street is Minetta Tavern, a restaurant that opened in 1937 under its current name but was previously a speakeasy known as The Black Rabbit during Prohibition (starting in 1922, the first issues of the Reader’s Digest were published in its basement). Some of Minetta Tavern’s earliest customers were E.E. Cummings, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, Franz Kline, Eugene O’Neill, and most infamously the homeless bohemian poet Joe Gould. Here, Beat poet Gregory Corso broke a glass over a man’s hand over an argument about his girlfriend sculptor Marisol Escobar. Today, the Michelin Star rated establishment can be described as “Parisian steakhouse meets classic New York City tavern.”
  1. 107 MacDougal Street was opened in 1953 as the Rienzi Coffee House. The owners were six artists and writers. The coffee house became a center for the Beat Movement with art exhibitions, music performances, poetry readings, performance art and café theater being held there. Beat poets sought to free poetry from academic preciosity and critique and bring it “back to the streets.” Some notable works to come out of the Beat Generation are Jack Kerouac’s novella Big Sur and Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl.
  2. 189 Bleecker St, on the northwest corner of MacDougal and Bleecker, was the SanRemo Bar, a famous bohemian hangout where William Burroughs, Miles Davis, Tennessee Williams, James Agee and Weegee congregated. It was also a favorite meeting place for the Beat Generation writers Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, Joe Gould and their circle who were periodically joined by Abstract Expressionist artists including Pollock, de Kooning and Kline. Nothing remains of this building. The building, however, is immortalized in works by Jack Kerouac in which he describes the bar as, “hip without being slick, intelligent without being corny” in his book The Subterraneans.

On Bleecker Street, turn left. Walk three blocks on Bleecker to LaGuardia. Turn left and walk north.

  1. 526 LaGuardia Place, a historic four-story brick townhouse, is home to the Renee & Chaim Gross Foundation, first established in 1974. In 1963, the Gross family moved here from the Upper West Side, and Chaim Gross lived and worked in this location until his death in 1991. Read the historic bronze plaque, placed here by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation in 2016. In 1988 The Foundation achieved non-profit status, and in 1994 the house opened its doors to the public. The Foundation’s extensive collection includes over 10,000 objects, among them Chaim Gross’s sculptures, drawings, prints, and sketchbooks. It also houses the artist’s personal collection of African, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian, American, and European art, along with a photographic archive. The art on display remains installed as it was during Gross’s lifetime. Today the Foundation hosts exhibitions both on and off site, hosts public readings by contemporary writers, poets, and scholars, and provides educational activities and resources to further the Gross’s legacy. It is open during public hours and by appointment. For current hours, exhibitions, and other events, visit the Foundation’s website.

Note that Gross’s earlier residence and studio (1930–1953) located at 63 East Ninth Street, is included in Part 1 of this tour.

This concludes our tour of the artists of Washington Square. We hope you enjoyed it!

Note: The history of artists in Greenwich Village is long and complex, rich and multilayered. This tour will always be a work in progress. After taking it, if you would like to suggest additions or make corrections or other comments, please email us at greyartgallery@nyu.edu with the words “Greenwich Village Walking Tour” in the subject line.