Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The district was better known as Washington Square in the 19th century.
As Greenwich Village was once a rural hamlet, entirely separate from New York, its street layout does not coincide with most of Manhattan's more formal grid plan (based on the Commissioners' Plan of 1811). Indeed, Greenwich Village was allowed to keep its rather confusing street pattern when the plan was implemented, which has resulted in a neighborhood whose streets have changed little since the late 1700s and early 1800s. Many of the neighborhood's streets are narrow and some curve at odd angles. Additionally, unlike most of Manhattan, streets in the Village typically are named rather than numbered.
Tourists and locals alike are often confused by the neighborhood's street layout. One street, West 4th Street, is particularly confusing because it intersects West 10th, 11th, and 12th Streets; which, if one were to follow the Commissioners' Plan, should be parallel to West 4th. The reason for this is that west of Sixth Avenue, West 4th angles to the northwest, while West 10th, 11th, and 12th Streets angle to the southwest.
True to its name, the neighborhood was originally a separate village, first attested in 1712. In 1822, a yellow fever epidemic in New York encouraged residents to flee to the more healthful air of Greenwich Village, and afterwards many stayed.
During the golden age of bohemia Greenwich Village became famous for eccentrics such as Joe Gould (profiled at length by Joseph Mitchell) and Maxwell Bodenheim, as well as greats on the order of Eugene O'Neill. Political rebellion also made its home here, whether serious (John Reed) or frivolous (Marcel Duchamp and friends set off balloons from atop Washington Square arch and declared the Village independent).
Greenwich Village contains Christopher Street and the Stonewall Inn, site of the Stonewall riots in 1969, that signalled the beginning of the gay liberation movement. The world's oldest gay and lesbian bookstore, Oscar Wilde Bookshop, founded in 1967, is also found here. The name "the Village" soon became the generic term for a city's gay neighbourhood (see gay village and The Village People).
"The Village," as it is often called, includes the primary campus for New York University (NYU), New School University, and Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Cooper Union is located in neighboring East Village.
The historic Washington Square Park is the center and heart of the neighborhood, but the Village has several other, smaller parks: Father Fagan, Minetta Triangle, Petrosino Square, Little Red Square, and Time Landscape. There are also city playgrounds: Desalvio, Minetta, Thompson Street, Mercer Street, and William Passannante Ballfield. Perhaps the most famous, though, is "The Cage", officially known as the West 4th Street Courts. Sitting on top of the West 4th subway station at 6th Avenue that serves the A-B-C-D-E-F-V trains, the courts are easily accessible to basketball and American handball players from all over New York. The Cage has become one of the most important tournament sites for the city-wide "Streetball" amateur basketball tournament.
The Village also has a bustling performing arts scene. It is home to many Off-Broadway theaters; for instance, Blue Man Group has taken up residence in the Astor Place Theater. Comedy clubs dot the Village as well, including The Boston and Comedy Cellar , where many American stand-up comedians got their start.
Several publications have offices in the Village, most notably the newsweekly The Village Voice.
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