Greenwich Village’s history begins in the 16th century when its area was first settled by Native American tribes and then by the Dutch who called it New Amsterdam. In the 1660s, it was conquered by the British and its current name was first mentioned in 1713. In the late 18th century, the area known today as Washington Square Park was occupied by a Potters Field Cemetery, closed in 1826. During the outbreaks of yellow fever and cholera in early 19th century Manhattan, its citizens began to flee to Greenwich Village building new houses in the Federal style, shops, and banks.
They built New York University in 1836 and made it an artistic and intellectual center. Buildings in the Greek Revival style appeared around Washington Square as well as the marble arch commemorating Washington’s inauguration as President that was built in 1892 (“Village History”). An unusual wooden house at 6 Weehawken Street is the only surviving example of 18th century oyster bars that were common in the Village at that time. That street also had many stables with apartments above them some of which can be still seen today.
Residential houses whose ground floors were used for commercial purposes where more common, however. After the Civil War, Greenwich Village saw the erection of factories, warehouses, and other industrial buildings typical of the Industrial Revolution such as, for example, the Shepherd Warehouse at West Street or the Tower Warehouses at Greenwich Street. The late 19th century also saw the erection of beautiful maritime hotels (Great Eastern Hotel) and ecclesiastical buildings (Victorian Public School at West Street) (“The Far West Village and Greenwich Village Waterfront”).
By the end of the 19th century, the wealthy citizens built new buildings north from the original settlement that was left to the newly arrived immigrants from Europe. In the early 20th century, Greenwich Village’s theaters and galleries attracted artists and writers, and new luxury apartment buildings appeared. In the middle of the 20th century, Greenwich Village began to look like it appears today and has not changed a lot since then. In the second half of the 20th century, many industrial buildings and warehouses were converted to residential buildings (Sass “History of Greenwich Village, Manhattan”).