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The Lure of Manhattan’s West Village

New York's West Village remains a neighborhood untouched by time and filled with allure.

Photo of Manhattan's West Village (Compass Real Estate)

The West Village in Manhattan remains unchanged and visually beautiful, with streets similar to what would have been seen over 100 years ago. Such aspects are rare in a city like New York, or in any city for that matter. Now, the neighborhood is filled with joys like its picturesque and historic architecture, and its annual Halloween Parade.

As a consummate voyeur, one of the major perks of selling residential real estate (in Manhattan) is the unique opportunity to peer into the homes of some of the borough’s most illustrious and influential residences. The use of space, the ability to exhibit collections, the décor and design, are just a few of the many visual feasts I’ve been privy to. Due to my interest in décor, I’ve surprised myself at the recall in referencing many of these homes.  As I’ve mentioned previously, some, in the most forgettable buildings, with no sign or preparation for what’s in store!

On W. 4th Street in the heart of the Village, sits a perfect example of one of these homes. When film clients of mine, were looking for a home to display their combined skills in design and architecture, they were summoned to view a Carriage House that was in need of loving care. What they have created is a quintessential model of how an 1880 derelict house was reinvented to accommodate their design business, a home for themselves, their son and 2 dogs; but mostly a space that could showcase a lifestyle. This unusual Carriage House was a favorite film location, and often requested for fashion/photo shoots. The grand staircase leading to a mezzanine and overlooking the living room, is as dramatic as it is theatrical. The small garden, off the LR sets the perfect tone for this charming, unusual Manhattan home.

The West Village is located below Chelsea and above Soho/the Lower W. Side of Manhattan. It is home to some of Hollywood’s most recognizable faces,from Julianne Moore to Brooke Shields to Sarah Jessica Parker and Rupert Murdoch, to name a (very) few… the list is endless, as is the price tag on residential property here. Some of the most expensive in the US, typically exceeding $2100 per square foot (as of 2017).     

Manhattan’s West Village (by Laura Wagner)

What makes the W. Village so appealing is it’s composition of primarily residential brownstones, with a multitude of small restaurants, shops, and services. An unchanged and visually beautiful neighborhood with streets similar to what would have been seen over 100 years ago. Rare in a city like New York… or in any city for that matter.

West Village’s Palazzo Chupi (by Laura Wagner)

One of the most outstanding, if not startling, structures is Palazzo Chupi, a pink Tuscan building created by artist Julian Schnabel. Standing out prominently, it is nestled among an otherwise gray and brick landscape. Located on W. 11th Street in the style of a northern Italian palazzo, it was built on top of a former horse stable. The first four floors comprises the artist’s studio; above these floors are five palatial residential condos. It has been called ‘a monument to Schnabel’s ego’. It is situated less than one block outside the NYC Landmarks Preservation/GV Historic Districts extension. As it has also been referred to as ‘woefully out of context’… the omission would appear intentional!

The Cherry Lane Theatre, established in 1924, and located at 38 Commerce Street is the oldest continuously running off-Broadway Theater… It is also one of the city’s most historic venues, and on one of the Village’s most charming streets. Originally constructed as a farm silo in 1817, it was converted in 1924 by Edna St Vincent Millay and members of the Provincetown Players. It has long been the home of non-traditional and avant garde performances by Americas most respected playwrights including, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, and Sam Shepard. Artistic Director Angelina Fiordellisi bought the theater in 1996 for 1.7M and renovated it for an additional 3M. That year, Fiordellisi & Susan Brinkley co-founded the Cherry Lane Theater Company.

The annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade is a not to be missed street scene, with an assemblage of the neighborhoods multicultural residents flaunting their ‘stuff’! Originated in 1974 by Greenwich Village Mask & Puppeteer, the Halloween Parade is a one of a kind event, having an artistic base at its heart. Its spirit has nurtured hundreds of thousands, allowing people to reach into their imagination and take themselves physically ‘out’. It began as a walk from house to house for neighborhood children. After its eighth year, when the crowd reached the size of 100,000, celebration artist and producer Jeanne Fleming took over the event. 45 years later, the Parade now draws more than 60,000 costumed participants, with spectators estimated at 2 million. In 1994 the Mayor of the City of New York issued a proclamation honoring the Village Halloween Parade for “bringing everyone together in a joyful and creative way”. The Village Halloween Parade is supported by public funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. Mark your calendars for the 45th Annual Parade scheduled for Oct. 31, 2018.

Landmark Preservation Commission designated several individual sites proposed by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, including the former Bell Telephone Complex (1861-1963) now Westbeth Artists Community in 2011, as well as houses at 159 Charles Street & 354 W 11th, in 2007.

Westbeth Artist House (by Laura Wagner)

Westbeth Artists’ Housing was conceived in the 1960s in an effort to afford housing and studios for artists and their families. It became one of the first examples of adaptive reuse of industrial buildings.  The former site of Bell Laboratories, comprised of a complex of 13 buildings, was considered one of the world’s most important research centers. Funding for Westbeth was ingeniously developed by Joan Davidson of the J.M. Kaplan Fund and Roger Stevens of the National Endowment for the Arts. It was designed to create 384 live/work spaces for artists under the direction of Dixon Bain. Richard Meier was the renovation architect. Westbeth opened in 1970 and was added to the National Registrar of Historical Places in December 2009.

Weehawken Street Historic District designated a 14 building 3 block district near Hudson River with an array of architecturally significant buildings, including a Sailors Hotel and former horse stable. The Greenwich Village Historic District Extension in 2006, brought 46 more buildings on 3 blocks, and dispersed them into the District.

Very much aside from the historic aspect, the area stretching from Houston to 14th Street and between 4th (Bowery) and 6th Ave… lies some of the city’s most picturesque and highly acclaimed streets/addresses/real estate. Take a walk on a sunny spring day to admire, imagine, and dream.

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