Segments in this Video

Introduction to Greenwich Village (01:22)


Old businesses, residences, and streets characterize Greenwich Village, which is home to many different lifestyles and famous creative thinkers.

History & Early Development (01:13)

Greenwich Village was populated during the fever epidemic of 1798, when citizens fled the rest of New York. In 1826, wealthy society New Yorkers settled around Washington Square, which eventually included the park.

Henry James & NYU (00:48)

Writer Henry James was born just off Washington Square Park. New York University gave the neighborhood its intellectual flare. Here, NYU invites contemporary writers to read the work of famous Greenwich Village authors.

Edith Wharton (01:14)

Writer Edith Wharton grew up on Washington Square. Here, Louis Auchincloss reads "The Age of Innocence," where Wharton looks back on Greenwich Village with nostalgia.

Immigration & Demographic Change (01:14)

The south side of the park became home to immigrants in the 1800s. Low-income housing and brothels characterized the Village. Real estate speculators bought up property south of the Square in 1910. As wealthy New Yorkers moved uptown, rent prices in Washington Square dropped.

Golden Years of the Bohemians (00:41)

In the low rent years, Greenwich Village became a thriving creative community, where artists, feminists, and other great thinkers enjoyed the material and creative freedom. They called themselves Bohemians and enjoyed their "Golden Years" from 1912-1916.

Liberal & Progressive Thinkers (00:46)

The self-imposed isolation of Greenwich Village attracted people who wanted to live near, but not inside, fast-moving, mainstream society. Bohemians disregarded Victorian morality.

Famous Meeting Places & Artists' Establishments (01:28)

Immigrant-owned restaurants with cheap food were popular meeting places. Mabel Dodge's salons and the Whitney Museum of American Art became homes for young, anti-establishment artists.

Reformers & Social Workers (00:46)

In 1917, a group of Villagers declared the Village independent from the rest of the United States. Henrietta Rodman advocated for birth control and women teachers' rights. Mary Simkhovitch founded Greenwich House to help the immigrant poor.

Writers, Journalists, & Playwrights (01:31)

In the Village, bold journalism and small magazines like "The Masses" flourished. The Provincetown Players staged new works by writers like Eugene O'Neill, who took inspiration from the characters of the Village.

Edna St. Vincent Millay & Edmund Wilson (02:32)

Edna St. Vincent Millay performed with the Provincetown Players. Edmund Wilson documented experiences with her and in the Village. Here, E.L. Doctorow reads from Wilson's "The Twenties" and discusses his impressions of Millay.

Millay & Beginning of the End (02:31)

Grace Paley reads "Conscientious Objector" by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Doctorow says Millay represents the beginning of the end of the Bohemian period.

Changing Village: 1920s-1940s (01:36)

Poet e.e. cummings continued to write about the lively Greenwich. In the 1920s, speakeasies flourished, and the Village became a parody of itself. Bohemians dispersed, realtors came, and rents spiked. By the 1940s, the Village was fashionable again.

Beatniks in '50s & '60s (01:33)

In the fifties, the Beatniks reinvigorated the Village, including writers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. By the sixties, new rebels like Bob Dylan called the Village home.

Walt Whitman (02:09)

Whitman was among the first Village Bohemians in the 1860s, writing about the beauty and chaos in the streets he loved. Poet Galway Kinnell discusses his Whitman's and his own inspiration and reads from "Leaves of Grass."

Galway Kinnell (03:47)

Kinnell discusses his own inspiration from his Village neighborhood and reads his poem, "The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World," which details a pushcart market.

Doctorow & The Village of the 1980s (05:35)

E.L. Doctorow describes the commercialized Village of the 1980s. He reads from "Lives of the Poets," which circles around a hypochondriac and the end of the Village's era.

Grace Paley & Village Nostalgia (03:24)

Grace Paley acknowledges the materialism of the contemporary Village, but she can still remember why she, and others, came. She reads from "Three Days and a Question."

Change is Constant (00:38)

Each Village generation laments its own passing, but Greenwich Village retains its intimacy and liveliness in every era.

Credits: Greenwich Village Writers: The Bohemian Legacy (01:12)

Credits: Greenwich Village Writers: The Bohemian Legacy

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Greenwich Village Writers: The Bohemian Legacy

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For more than a century, New York’s Greenwich Village was home, playground, and inspiration to many of America’s leading writers and artists—Henry James, Edith Wharton, Eugene O’Neill, Theodore Dreiser, Stephen Crane, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Willa Cather, e.e. cummings, Allen Ginsberg, and Bob Dylan, among many others. How these writers used and were shaped by the Village is the subject of this lively history, which includes readings and commentary by today’s Village authors E. L. Doctorow, Galway Kinnell, Grace Paley, and Louis Auchincloss. (30 minutes)

Length: 31 minutes

Item#: BVL3021

ISBN: 978-1-60467-093-6

Copyright date: ©1992

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

Recommended by School Library Journal.

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Only available in USA, Australia, Canada and United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland.