THE VILLAGE TRIP: Bringing It All Back Home to Washington Square
“Greenwich Village is a spiritual zone of mind. It has no boundaries”
Hippolyte Havel: anarchist, writer and waiter (c. 1915)
New York City’s Greenwich Village has been a cultural and countercultural epicenter of American art and thought for well over a century. Despite the myriad changes, it continues to be cherished as “a spiritual zone of mind”, a place of creativity and experimentation that knows no boundaries, a perennial bohemia that each generation discovers anew.
In Washington Square and on the crooked streets that surround it, history has been made and remade, boundaries forever pushed. Café Society, America’s first integrated nightclub, opened on Sheridan Square in 1938, hosting performers such as Paul Robeson, Leadbelly and Billie Holiday. Around the corner, the Stonewall Inn – landmark of the gay rights movement – is still open for business. A few blocks west is the White Horse Tavern where James Baldwin and Dylan Thomas drank with longshoremen, and the Clancy Brothers’ Irish rebel songs raised the roof.
Gone but not forgotten, the Eighth Street Bookshop, a few steps from Washington Square on the corner of MacDougal Street, was where Bob Dylan first met Allen Ginsberg. At 116 Waverly Place a century earlier, Anne Charlotte Lynch hosted a literary salon attended by Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe. In the early years of the 20th century, MacDougal Street habitués included Edna St Vincent Millay, Emma Goldman and Jack London.
Some of the 20th century’s most celebrated names have tramped the iconic streets of GreenwichVillage, among them Edward Albee, Diane Arbus, Joan Baez, John Cage, Gregory Corso, Merce Cunningham, Dorothy Day, Martha Graham, Jimi Hendrix, Edward Hopper, Janis Ian, Jane Jacobs, Henry James, Eugene O’Neill, Jackson Pollock, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sam Shepard, Paul Simon, Patti Smith, Susan Sontag, Dave van Ronk, Edgar Varese, Andy Warhol, Walt Whitman, and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Others – less recognizable yet no less important – contributed much to what, in 1917, Marcel Duchamp and his fellow “Arch conspirators” declared “the free and independent Republic of Washington Square”.
The old Hotel Earle, now the family-owned Washington Square Hotel, was home to author and New Yorker columnist Maeve Brennan, and Ernest Hemingway, P J Wodehouse and Tennessee Williams have all signed its guest register. Patricia Highsmith used it for afternoon trysts and Joan Baez immortalized it in “Diamonds and Rust”. Roger McGuinn wrote “Chestnut Mare” while staying in room 707, and on a winter’s day when the sky was grey and the leaves brown, John Phillips wrote “California Dreamin’”. The Rolling Stones, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Barbra Streisand and Patti Smith have all “done time” in this fabled Hotel where, not so long ago, a young Norah Jones waited tables and sang jazz in its elegant North Square Lounge before setting forth on other adventures.
It launched in 2018, with David Amram as Artist-in-Residence and Suzanne Vega headlining a free concert in Washington Square Park. The second festival offers a wide selection of events, for locals and visitors alike and for every age.
Please come join us.
“Greenwich Village… The Coney Island of the soul”