Hippies & Punk & East Village Spunk
East of Third Avenue and the Bowery and nestled between 14th Street and Houston Street lies Manhattan’s East Village.
Well known for being a center of counterculture in Manhattan, this diverse district is colored with artistic feeling and vivacious nightlife, as has been the case since the 1950s… If you’re moving here, don’t worry, you’ll find plenty to see and do!
Today’s East Village was once a farm owned by a Dutch governor and employee of the Dutch West India Company. The deed to the farm was granted to Peter Stuyvesant in 1651, and his family held onto the land for several generations before an heir sold the property off in pieces. Landowners built tight living spaces in order to rent out rooms to the expanding working class, mostly made up of German immigrants at the time; granting the area the nickname “Little Germany.”
Continuing waves of immigration brought in many Poles and Ukrainians as well. During this time, East Village was considered no more than the northern end of the Lower East Side.
Rockin’ & Rollin’
Cue the 1950s. For over a decade, Beatniks drifted into the neighborhood attracting musicians, artists, and hippies. Those looking to divorce the area from the “slummy” reputation of the Lower East Side decided to rebrand it as “East Village”- and the name stuck ever since.
The area was once largely inhabited by Jewish, Russian and Ukrainian residents until, like many other NYC neighborhoods, it’s cheaper rents attracted students, musicians, and artists in hoards. With the changing population, East Village soon became the birthplace of Punk rock, said to have been born at the famous nightclub CBGB.
Andy Warhol served as a promoter for multimedia shows in a Polish ballroom on St. Marks Place, a main cultural street today. That same ballroom served as a performance space for many famous rock bands including the Allman Brothers Band and The Grateful Dead before its closing in 1971.
Fillmore East, otherwise known as “The Church of Rock and Roll”, was yet another East Village venue. Opened by famous promoter Bill Graham, the venue introduced British bands like The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd to America.
Places to Go
Some years after the arrival of the rock music scene in East Village, Tompkins Square Park played host to a slew of protests, even including the housing riots of the 1980s. Today, the park is filled year-round with all types of activities from rallies, to music festivals to sports games.
St. Marks Place has been the destination for the counterculture of East Village as mentioned earlier. Presently, the three-block strip is sprinkled with Asian dining, bohemian boutiques, and chain shops. However, you can still head to the famous newsstand Gem Spa for an egg cream exactly as it was made in the 40s. The St. Marks Hotel is still operating as well!
Time travel back to the prohibition era at William Barnacle Tavern, but not until you’ve checked out the Museum of the American Gangster. Another must-see museum is The Ukrainian Museum, which harbors one of the largest Ukrainian art and archival items in the US.
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