Greenwich Village: A Haven for Artists and Activists in 1920s New York

Greenwich Village, a neighborhood in lower Manhattan, was a vibrant and diverse community in the 1920s. It was a haven for artists, writers, and bohemians who sought to escape the traditional norms of society. The streets were filled with music, and the air was thick with the scent of coffee and spices from the local shops and cafes.

One of the most famous residents of Greenwich Village during this time was the poet and writer, E.E. Cummings. He lived in a small apartment on Patchin Place and could often be found at the famous Washington Square Park, where he would join in on the impromptu poetry readings and political rallies that were common in the area.

The Village was also home to a thriving jazz scene. Jazz clubs such as the Village Vanguard and the Onyx Club were frequented by the likes of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Bessie Smith. The music and energy of the jazz scene brought people from all walks of life together and helped to break down racial barriers.

The Village was also a center for the feminist movement. The Women’s School of Planning and Architecture was founded in the Village in 1907, and the Village was also home to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Many suffragettes and feminist leaders lived and worked in the neighborhood, including Margaret Sanger who opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in 1916 on Amboy Street.

Despite the artistic and intellectual freedom that was celebrated in the Village, it was not without its problems. The Great Depression hit the Village hard, and many residents struggled to make ends meet. Additionally, the onset of World War II brought about increased government surveillance and censorship, which put a damper on the free-spirited culture of the Village.

#3 Portrait of Jessie Tarbox Beals standing on a city sidewalk with her camera, 1920

#9 Edith Hayes Thompson standing in the doorway of Her Shop, 1920

#10 Exterior view of The Crumperie and The Treasure Box at night, 1920

#14 Allison at her kitchen stove, dying scarves, 1920

#15 Portrait of Charlotte Powell standing on a ladder and painting the exterior of The Village Store, Sheridan Square, 1926

#16 Teddy Peck and Romayne Benjamin in their retail shop, The Treasure Box, 1920

#17 Portrait of Don Dickerman standing in the doorway of his business, 1920

#19 Joan Schromache and Lin inside their shop, Jolin’s, 1926

#20 Florence Gough and friends and:or patrons inside of her shop, The Paint Box, 1925

#23 The Isba Tea Room on 4th St. Sachia–now a famous photographer in Europe

#32 Mabel Herbert Urner, author of Helen & Warren ready for trip to Europe

#33 I could spend hours in thy society’ Will o’ the Wisp Tea Room, Sheridan Square–Greenwich Village, New York

#34 Great lurid blobs of color on a wooden box and Bobby Edwards in his garret ‘neath the stars creating ukeleles

#35 Getting ready for a village revel at Liberal Club

#36 Fontaine Fox, cartoonist, ‘Toonesville Trolly’

#41 Dancing in Charley Reed’s Purple Pup, Greenwich Village

#48 Alice Foote MacDougal entertaining a group of sailors in her small apt in Old War

#49 Woman With Dogs

Woman With Dogs

Woman with dogs, rooftop of Arthur Shettle residence, Washington Mews, Greenwich Village, New York, New York, 1929.

#50 Rooftop, Arthur Shettle residence, Washington Mews, Greenwich Village, 1929.

#51 Exterior View of the Jefferson Market Courthouse and Jail

#52 A scene in the public school 38 auditorium during the annual Greenwich Village baby contest in which hundreds of childrenware entered.

A Scene In The Public School 38 Auditorium During The Annual Greenwich Village Baby Contest In Which Hundreds Of Childrenware Entered.

The contest was arranged by the Judson Health Center and the Board of Health. In the foreground may be seen doctors Eleanor A. Campbell, and Dr. Bluementhal of the board of Health. Dr. Campbell is director general of the Judson Health Center.

#55 Members of the ‘Greenwich Village Follies’ learning to become good cooks and bakers at the Mary Ryan Tea Room in Greenwich Village, 1925

#56 Anna Held, daughter of musical comedy star of same name, at her novelty shop in Greenwich Village.

#57 For a bit of real Bohemia or the Quartier Latin of Paris, the visitor might journey to Greenwich Village and spend a half hour in Washington Mews

#59 All the Village is raving over the coming Insect Frolic costume ball, to be given by a prominent group of artists from the Village and theatrical personages, at Webster Hall

#60 Greenwich Village Girls Start Cross Country Film. Eva Roland, Bobby Castleton, Edna Morgan and Peggy Thomas start out from the “Pepper Pot” in West 4th Street

#63 Men Dressed as Pirates Standing at Bar in Greenwich Village, 1920s.

#64 A flapper hangs a poster to advertise the Greenwich Village Halloween Ball, at which Paul Whiteman is to perform.

#65 View, looking north, at Washington Square Park, with traffic visible as it enters through the arch off Fifth Avenue, 1920

#69 Fifth Avenue near 8th Street, looking south towards Washington Square Arch, with pedestrians and double decker bus, 1920s

#70 Greenwich Village, Manhattan — Washington Square and Fifth Avenue, New York City, 1921

#71 The New Bohemians, 1922

The New Bohemians, 1922

McRay and Baroness v. Freytag. Claude McKay, Jamaican writer and a figure in the Harlem Renaissance, and avant-garde artist-poet Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, the "dadaist baroness" of Greenwich Village.

#72 Greenwich Village Follies girls mending toys, 1924

Written by Adriana Palmer

Blogger, Editor and Environmentalist. A writer by day and an enthusiastic reader by night. Following the Jim Roh's prophecy “Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.”

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