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The South Village is a largely residential area in Lower Manhattan in New York City, directly below Washington Square Park. Known for its immigrant heritage and Bohemian history, the South Village overlaps areas of Greenwich Village and SoHo. The architecture of the South Village is primarily tenement-style apartment buildings, indicative of the area's history as an enclave for Italian-American immigrants and working-class residents of New York.
The South Village is roughly bounded by West 4th Street and Washington Square Park on the north, Seventh Avenue and Varick Street on the west, Canal Street on the south, and West Broadway and LaGuardia Place on the east.
Originally home to a merchant class in the early 19th century, by the late 19th century the area was dominated by immigrants, largely from Italy. The Italian immigrants built their own distinct parishes, to distinguish them not only from their Protestant neighbors on the north side of Washington Square Park (in Greenwich Village), but their Irish neighbors in the South Village. By the late 19th century, Italians outnumbered the Irish in the area, but were not preeminent in the local church hierarchy, especially the parish of St. Patrick’s, which covered this area. In response, the Italian-American communities of the South Village built Our Lady of Pompeii and St. Anthony of Padua, which remain the area’s defining religious edifices. Since the Italian-American community was very poor their parish churches often had to be subsidized by third parties;Our Lady of Pompeii Church was the personal charity of a woman named Annie Leary who is buried in the crypt of Old St. Patrick's Cathedral.
By the 1920s, however, as the Village had fallen out of fashion with New York’s patricians, artists, bohemians, and radical thinkers began to populate the area, and the institutions which served them, such as jazz clubs and speakeasies became commonplace throughout the area. By the 1950s and 60s, many of these had become coffeehouses and folk clubs for hippies, beatniks, and artists. These South Village establishments were frequented by some of the most significant players in these cultural movements, including Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, James Agee, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sam Shepard and Jackson Pollock.
In 2003, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) started work on a proposal for a South Village Historic District which would include the area east of Seventh Avenue South, north of Watts Street, west of LaGuardia Place and south of Washington Square South. GVSHP lauded the area's rich immigrant history, cohesive character and architectural significance and submitted the proposal to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in December 2006. In 2008, the LPC agreed to consider the proposal, specifically the section west of 6th Avenue, or 1/3 of GVSHP’s proposed South Village Historic District. As time passed and the LPC continued to consider the area west of 6th Avenue, local residents and preservationists became increasingly worried about the threat to buildings in the area from development.
In May 2009, the LPC scheduled a community meeting to discuss the area. At the meeting, the LPC unveiled the Greenwich Village Historic District Extension II, which would cover the area between Seventh Avenue South and Sixth Avenue of the proposed South Village Historic District. While preservationists were pleased that the LPC was finally moving on landmarking the area, many expressed dismay that the renaming of the district failed to acknowledge the area’s unique history as separate from the original Greenwich Village Historic District. The Greenwich Village Historic District Extension II was designated by the NYCLPC on June 22, 2010.
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