The Origins of Greenwich Village Historic District Street Names: Part II
The following article was written by Sam Moskowitz of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.
The streets, parks, and squares of the Greenwich Village Historic District are named for a unique collection of historical figures. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Greenwich Village Historic District, we have developed a guide to how these locations got their names. Click here to read other posts about the origins of GVHD Street names.
Mapped prior to 1799, Bedford Street was named for Bedford Street in London. London’s Bedford Street was named for Francis Russell, the Fourth Earl of Bedford. The Earl of Bedford title first originated in 1138. London’s Bedford Street was named in the mid-17th century as the Fourth Earl of Bedford developed the area.
- Interesting Fact: Built in 1799, 77 Bedford is the oldest building in the Greenwich Village Historic District. It is known as the Isaacs-Hendricks House for its former owner, Copper Merchant Harmon Hendricks. This historic home was on Village Preservation’s House Tour Benefit in 2016. See other historic homes on this year’s House Tour. This year’s tour features homes exclusively within the Greenwich Village Historic District.
Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford. Painted by Henry Bone R.A. 1836
Charles Street, Christopher Street, and Christopher Park
Charles Street, Christopher Street, and Christopher Park were all named for Charles Christopher Amos.
Local Favorite 121 Charles Street
The land under much of Greenwich Village was developed as a tobacco farm by Wouter Van Twiller, who served as the fifth of seven Director-Generals of New Netherland from 1633 to 1638. Following Van Twiller’s death in 1654, his land was divided into three farms. The Trinity Church and Elbert Herring farms to the south and Admiral Sir Peter Warren’s farm to the north were divided by Skinner Road. Skinner Road was named for one of Warren’s sons in law, British Colonel William Skinner.
In 1799, Warren’s land was acquired by a trustee of Warren’s estate, Richard Amos, eventually passing to relative Charles Christopher Amos. He renamed Skinner Road Christopher Street, which makes Christopher Street one of the oldest streets if not the oldest street in the Village. He also named Charles Street after himself. Some believe he also named Amos Street after himself, while others believe it was named for Richard Amos. Charles Street remains, but Amos Street was renamed West 10th Street in 1857.
The northeast corner of Bleecker Street and Christopher Street, 1925. Image via NYPL.
Amos also named Charles Lane after himself, but this is just outside the borders of the Greenwich Village Historic District. Along with Horatio Street, it is unique that these were named for first names, not surnames.
Christopher Park was created in 1835. Following a fire, local residents petitioned the City to condemn the triangular area and provide open space on the block bordered by Christopher, Grove, and West 4th Streets. On April 5, 1837 the City created Christopher Park.
- Interesting fact: The flagpole in Christopher Park, erected in 1936, commemorates the 1861 Fire Zouaves, the 11th New York Infantry that wore uniforms styled after North African tribesmen in the Civil War.
These statues by George Segal are titled Gay Liberation in honor of gay rights and the Village’s rich history in this area. Unveiled in 1992, these statues reside at Christopher Park, across the street from the Stonewall Inn.
Waverly Place was named after Sir Walter Scott’s 26-novel series known as Waverleypublished between 1814 and 1831. Waverley was the name of the first title, published in 1814, but Scott did not claim authorship until 1827 so all following books simply noted “by the author of Waverley”. When Scott died in 1832, Villagers honored him by naming a street after the novel. Prior to 1833, it was known as Art Street.
- Interesting fact: Waverly Place is the film/TV location for: Don Draper’s bachelor on Mad Men; Will Smith’s character’s townhouse in I am Legend; and the setting of the Disney Channel’s hit series, Wizards of Waverly Place, in which Selena Gomez competed with her wizard siblings to win custody of the family powers with their magical abilities.