Field Trip: The Greenwich Village Collection

Reading material at the Greenwich Village Collection at Jefferson Market Library.

Reading material at the Greenwich Village Collection at Jefferson Market Library.

Cross-posted from my last entry as guest blogger for The Desk Set:

Well, it’s the last day of February, which means my work here is done. For my final post as guest blogger I thought I’d share what is sure to become one of my new favorite discoveries in the city: The Greenwich Village Collection at the Jefferson Market Library.

New York Public Library never ceases to amaze me. After hearing about some of the gems found at Jefferson Market, I knew I had to check it out for myself. Down the spiral stairs in the brick-arched basement—which, by the way, was originally used to hold prisoners on their way to trial or jail—is a very special, 150+ book collection on the history of New York City with an emphasis on Greenwich Village. Many of the books are rare, but even those that are more common are quite interesting. I could have spent an entire day here perusing the shelves, but alas, I was limited to a mere 2 hours. Here is just a sampling of the highlights from my visit:

Greenwich Village Today & Yesterday by Berenice Abbott and Henry W. Lanier, 1949

A glimpse into life in the Village post WWII coupled with Abbott’s classic documentary photography style make this one engaging read. Despite their age, many of the photographs depict scenes that are all too familiar to New Yorkers even today.

“Greenwich Village: Today & Yesterday” by Berenice Abbott and Henry W. Lanier, 1949

“The Napolitana Kitchen on 4th Street announces its specialties” and “The Cheese Shop on West 8th Street” by Berenice Abbott

“An industrial designer’s window, Bleecker Street.” by Berenice Abbott

New York Unexpurgated: an amoral guide for the jaded, tired, evil, non-conforming, corrupt, condemned, and the curious, humans and otherwise, to underground Manhattan by Petronius, 1966

Yes, this book is as insanely entertaining as it sounds. Ever wanted to know where to buy an eye patch after midnight? How about the best places for staring, peeping, and spying? Well, this book has got you covered plus a whole lot more. And if you’re worried this under-underground guide will get you into trouble, have no fear! There is even a “Legal Advice” chapter at the end.

Chapter 1 of “New York Unexpurgated”

Valentine’s Manual of Old New York, volumes 1916-1927 edited by Henry Collins Brown

These almanacs, of sorts, are not only full of facts, but offer a rare glimpse into the late 19th, early 20th century New York. Read excerpts from a “diary of a young girl in old New York”, take a tour of the “old mansions of the Bronx”, or just admire the colored lithographs included in every volume.

11 Volumes of “Valentine’s Manuals”

Hellhole: the shocking story of the inmates and life in the New York City House of Detention for Women by Sara Harris, 1967

An exposé of life on the inside of one of the most infamous women’s prisons.  The library put it best with its description, “A serious discussion of a truly horrific prison also reads like the script treatment for a movie starring Pam Grier.“

Spine of “Hellhole”

I’ll leave you with a few more of my favorite pictures from my field trip:

Coney Island, from “Naked City” by Weegee, 1945

“Sleep…is where you find it,” from “Naked City” by Weegee, 1945

“Nooks & Corners of Old New York” by Charles Hemfreet, 1899

“New York: Not So Little And Not So Old” by Sarah M. Lockwood, 1926


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