In the company of an urban historian, this walk will focus on the early history of the Village, though certain detours and tangents will bring us in to contact with the 20th and 21st centuries. We'll explore the early settlements and trace the topography of old rivers; we'll consider the human scale of the buildings and winding streets. In order to introduce the Village's many layers, we begin at its nexus: Washington Square, a former potter's field, then fashionable park, and now busy hangout. We'll look into the cobblestoned mews and nineteenth-century carriage houses that are tucked behind the mansions along the park, some of the few that remain in the entire city.
Passing landmarks like the Jefferson Market Library and Bleecker Street, we'll head into the leafy precincts of the West Village, with its clapboard houses and hidden courtyards. Time will be spent on architecture and urban development, but also on biography and the significant people who have called the Village home through the centuries, from Walt Whitman to Bob Dylan.
A stop at the Church of St. Luke's in the Fields on Hudson Street will prompt a discussion of the area's burst of growth in the early-nineteenth century from rural hamlet to bustling town, a result of fever outbreaks downtown and the development by real estate barons like John Jacob Astor. After peeking into the church's lush walled garden, we'll walk to the Hudson River, central to both the neighborhood and the city's history, and now a landscaped park with views of the harbor.
By the time we reach the Hudson we'll have traversed 300+ years of history and created a portrait of one of Manhattan's most important neighborhoods.