Hiding In Plain View: 90 Grove Street

Christopher Street ParkPhoto credit: Paul Rocheleau

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I know that I am not alone in thinking that the historic West Village is the best neighborhood in New York City!

If you have ever wandered around in the West Village it is likely that you have walked right past one of my favorite houses in New York City – hiding in plain view!

I have had the pleasure of visiting this house on more than one occasion and want to share some of the things that make it so special….

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The house sits at the crossroads of Christopher St, West Fourth Street and Seventh Seventh Avenue South, overlooking Christopher Park (you can see it ‘hiding’ behind trees in the back of this photo.)

This is a very busy and visually stimulating spot!

In addition to the park itself, there is a lot of automobile and foot traffic; a variety of bars, restaurants, shops, and historic buildings in the immediate vicinity.

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Christopher Park is perhaps best known as the location of the now legendary Stonewall Inn – the birthplace of the modern Gay Rights movement.  On June 28th, 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back against what had become regular, city sanctioned harassment by the police department of bars frequented by gay men and women. In March 2000, the Stonewall Inn was designated a National Historic Landmark.

 

Sheridan-Square-by-JJ-Keyes

In the park itself is a striking sculpture entitled ‘Gay Liberation’ by artist George Segal (1924–2000) of two sitting women, and two standing men in relaxed poses, casually ‘engaging’ with members of the same sex.

 

At the East end of the park is the 1827 Neo-Georgian ‘Northern Dispensary’, a medical clinic building founded by local citizens to provide health care for the poor.

Now let’s go inside 90 Grove Street!

2-(4)Photo credit: Paul Rocheleau

In 1893, the painter Robert Blum purchased 90 Grove Street and hired Carriere & Hastings (who would later design the New York Public Library) as his architect. The peaked roof was removed, making the second floor into this spectacular double-height studio space for Blum, who was a well known illustrator.

 

4Photo credit: Paul Rocheleau

The current owners are involved in the contemporary art world, so the house is filled with a fantastic collection of art – including this stunning oil stick drawing on the ceiling of the front parlor by Viennese artist Otto Zitko.

 

6Photo credit: Paul Rocheleau

In the 1920’s the ‘backhouse’ was modified by Helen Stokes into an Italian inspired studio connected to the main house by a loggia – now used as bedrooms overlooking a truly magical and transportive garden shared with the neighboring house.

This brings up an important topic concerning the future of the West Village: historic preservation.

Local residents and preservation groups have been concerned about development in the Village and have fought to preserve the architectural and historic integrity of the neighborhood since the 1960’s. The Houses of Greenwich Village by Kevin D. Murphy with beautiful and evocative photographs by Paul Rocheleau, celebrates and documents many of the wonderful houses in the Village.

Not a moment too soon, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), was founded in 1980 dedicated to the architectural and cultural character and heritage of the neighborhood.

Carefree and careless developers beware,

GVSHP is watching!

 

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