Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Bit of East Village History

Like the Tenement Museum, the East Village History Project, a nonprofit affiliated with the East Village Visitor's Center, charts how lower Manhattan's social and physical fabric evolved since the 19th century. I browsed the organization's blog the other day, and came across some interesting historical tidbits:

In 1805, when development was still concentrated on the city's southern tip, a garden sat just south of Astor Place, covering four blocks between Bowery and Broadway. It was owned by John Jacob Astor himself, and designed with Manhattan's wealthy in mind. "Gravel walks wound through the garden's finely landscaped lawns and flowerbeds; marble statues stood in shady alcoves; an outdoor theater offered bland entertainments, and farmland stretched off to the north as far as the eye could see."

East Village Cinemas on Second Avenue is one of the only former Yiddish theaters still standing on Second Avenue

One avenue to the east and about a century later, Eastern European Jewish culture flourished along what was known as "Yiddish Broadway." Few traces remain of the ornate theaters that lined Second Avenue, including the 2,000-seat National Theater - but 50 plaques inscribed with famous Yiddish actors' names still grace the sidewalk outside the former Second Avenue Deli (now a Chase Bank.)

-posted by Liana Grey

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