Anne's Tour of Washington Square Area
This tour will start off in the heart of Greenwich Village and end at one of the oldest Italian cafe's in New York City.
The Elmer Holmes Bobst Library (often known as The Bobst Library, or just "The Bobst") is the flagship institution of the 11-unit New York University (NYU) library system, and is named after the philanthropist, Elmer Holmes Bobst, whose gift made the library possible. Designed by distinguished architects Philip Johnson and Richard Foster and first opened in 1973, it is a twelve-story red sandstone building, located opposite the southeast corner of Washington Square Park in New York City's Greenwich Village. It is the primary research facility for NYU and currently serves 6000 people every day, who check out over a million books a year. It also houses many other print and non-print resources. As the library's website states, “Bobst Library's special collections and archives house significant resources, rare books, personal papers [and] University history.”
On Saturday, March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in the ten-story Asch Building just off of Washington Square. Managers often locked the exits to prevent workers from sneaking out for a break and to prevent theft. Trapped inside because the owners had locked the fire escape exit doors, workers jumped to their deaths. In a half an hour, the fire was over, and 146 of the 500 workers were dead. Most of the several hundred Triangle Shirtwaist employees were teenage girls, recent Jewish and Italian immigrants. The Asch Building is now known as the Brown Building and is part of the New York University campus.
Washington Square Park used to be marshy ground inhabited by the Lenape tribe. After the arrival of settlers, the area was used primarily as farmland. After the Revolutionary War, the area was used as a potter's field, a place to bury those who died from yellow fever. After the potter's field was full, the area was declared a military parade ground. During the Draft Riots of 1863, troops were sent to this square in order to calm down the rioters. In 1870, the area was transformed into the park that we see today.
The Jefferson Market Library (formerly the Third District Judicial Courthouse) is located in New York City's Greenwich Village, on a triangle of land bounded by Sixth Avenue to the east and 10th Street to the northwest. The area was originally a local market established in the early 1830’s shortly after the death of Thomas Jefferson, and named after him. A new courthouse, built in the Victorian Gothic (or Venetian Gothic) style, as well as a new prison and market, were constructed on the location during the years 1874-1877 by the architectural firm of Withers and Vaux (the old courthouse building is all that remains). It was voted fifth among the ten most beautiful buildings in America by a poll of architects in the 1880s. The building was vacated in 1958 and marked for demolition, but preservationists rallied to save it. In 1961, the city announced that the old courthouse would be converted into a library, and it was opened as the Jefferson Market branch of the New York Public Library in 1967. In 1972, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Here, on June 28, 1969, hundreds of people who would now be referred to as LGBT stood up to harassment by the New York City police, rebelling against the habitual mistreatment to which they were subjected. In conscious or unconscious emulation of public confrontations with the law by civil rights and antiwar protesters of the period, the patrons of the Stonewall that night did not meekly submit to injustice, but spontaneously insisted upon their right to associate without fear of arrest. This event is often considered the single most important milestone in the gay and lesbian quest for civil equality, as it galvanized the entire movement.
In 1927, a barber named Dominic Parisi opened Caffé Reggio at 119 McDougal Street in Greenwich Village. At its conception, it was actually a spot where Parisi would offer free cups of coffee to his customers who were waiting their turn for a haircut. Soon, however, the delicious brewed drinks became so popular that Parisi decided to open it as an official café. This café was the first in America to serve the cappuccino when Parisi brought his espresso machine over from Italy.