From the comfort of the Larchmont Library interested parties were able to take a ‘virtual tour’ of the famed Greenwich Village, for free. The lecture, delivered by certified New York tour guide Martin Schneit, covered the history and key sites of this lower Manhattan neighborhood.
Schneit began with the history of what was always a gathering place for the more unconventional non-conformists in the City. In fact the name came from the birthplace of Henry the VIII, one of England’s most iconoclastic of kings.
When the leaders of New York instituted the grid system onto the streets of Manhattan, including 12 avenues and 155 streets using simple numbers, residents of Greenwich Village rejected the plan, choosing instead to create their own original street plan, relying on the Indian foot paths as their main thoroughfares. The paths had been used ever since wealthy families moved in in 1789, and they wished to give those paths appropriate names.
“That’s one of the reasons the bohemians in the 1920s wanted that area,” Schneit said. “They figured, ‘Gee, nobody’s going to find us.’ “
Shneit focused on the aptly named “Gay Street” which some believe is named for the homosexual population that lives in the area. It turns out this is just a misconception. The street is actually named after a lawyer and abolitionist, Sidney Gay.
“There were blacks living in that area and he tried to get them freedom and rights so they named the street after him,” Schneit said, “so there is no sexual connotation.”