Neighborhoods Podcasts Writers and Artists

Greenwich Village in the 1960s: A nostalgic stroll through an era of preservation and protest

This is the story of Greenwich Village as a character — an eccentric character maybe, but one that changed American life — and how the folky, activist spirit it fostered in arts, culture and the protest movement came back in the end to help itself.

This April we’re marking the 50th anniversary of the Greenwich Village Historic District designation from 1969 — preserving one of the most important and historic neighborhoods in New York — and to mark the occasion we are celebrating the revolutionary scene (and the revolutionary moment) that gave birth to it — the Greenwich Village of the 1960s.

The Village is the stuff of legends: a hotbed of musicians, artists, performers, intellectuals, activists. In the 1950s, people often defined Greenwich Village as a literal village with a small-town atmosphere.

Nobody was saying that about the Village in the 1960s. In just a few short years, the neighborhood’s community of artists and creators had helped to define American culture. The Village was world famous.

This episode will present a little walk through Greenwich Village in the early ’60s, giving you the flavor of the Village during the era — and an ample sampling of its sights and sounds.

There’s gonna be mandolins! And chess players. And avant garde theater. And art markets. And lots of coffeeshops. *snap* *snap*

But we’re also talking preservation with Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation, to learn how the Greenwich Village Historic District came to be.

Listen Now: Greenwich Village 1960s Podcast

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Greenwich Village Historic District 50th Anniversary Celebration and Open House Weekend! 
Washington Square Park Celebration 

Saturday, April 13 from 12:00-3:00pm in Garibaldi Plaza 

Historic District Open House Weekend 

Saturday, April 13 – Sunday, April 14 
Full calendar at

Inside the Gas Light Cafe, in a still from the film Greenwich Village Story directed by Jack O’Connell

Jean Shepherd, performing at the Limelight Gallery.

Peter Paul and Mary

The Fantasticks original cast featured Rita Gardner, Jerry Orbach and Kenneth Nelson

Some images of Greenwich Village today which recall its days from the 1960s — and even earlier (photos by Greg Young):

Robert Otter/New York Times
Caffe Reggio has been an anchor of MacDougal Street since 1927, an Italian owned business that transitioned into a center for the beatnik scene.
The location of the Gaslight Cafe
UNITED STATES – FEBRUARY 19: Patrons at the gaslight, 116 McDougal St. Greenwich Village (Photo by Charles Payne/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Cafe Wha? today
Cafe Wha?, Minetta Tavern and the rest of MacDougal Street (aka ‘the fun zone’)

Some material we recommend you check out for more information on Greenwich Village:

360 Sound: The Columbia Records Story by Sean Wilentz
Around Washington Square: An Illustrated History of Greenwich Village by Luther S. Harris
Greenwich Village Stories: A Collection of Memories by Judith Stonehill, Andrew Berman, et al
The Village: 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues, a History of Greenwich Village by John Strausbuah
The Village Voice online archives
and of course….
The original Greenwich Village Historic Designation Report (1969)

The original map of the Greenwich Village Historic District

23 replies on “Greenwich Village in the 1960s: A nostalgic stroll through an era of preservation and protest”

In the 60’s was born in the West Village the first tie dye store in America.
where the trend of tie dye started. It was called Fur Balloons on a corner store on West Bank and 4th where celebrities such as Janis Joplin and Jimmie Henricks . They where clothed in velvets, silk and leather garmets where they tried their outfits on in the Infinite Crystal infinity chamber that was used as a dressing room for their store.

I remember Fur Balloon!!!! You are the only other person I’ve ever encountered who remembers that! My friend Anastasia’s mother bought her mutton sleeved satin shirts there… very elegant. Do you remember Marty Proctor’s Papier Mache on the corner of Greenwich Avenue and Perry Street?

Oh that was my time there, living on Jane Street. The Village was amazing, jazz clubs, coffee shops, Ingmar Bergman films, shopping for homemade leather bags at Hildegarde’s, and so much more.

I believe in the 1960s there was a debate corner in the west village where various topics were debated.
I can’t remember the exact location but I think is was near a park .
Does anyone remember this as I believe the debate corner is no longer around.

I have researched and read all the information on this blog — There was one floor of this apartment that was used for musicians that can go to and try out different songs They writing and trying out — Little cubicles for some privacy — They also have rooms for pianos — I know Carole King was one of those musicians who used it ! !

As a high school kid in the mid-1960s (1963-67), I and my friends would visit Greenwich Village and Washington Square Park on weekend nights. I remember visiting basements with folk musicians/singers who passed the hat after each performance.

Does anybody remember the man dressed in a white wedding gown on roller skates skating at high speed through the park with an entourage of 30-40 similarly dressed men; I believe he was nicknamed “Tinkerbell” ?


there was big bill (king) brown x heavy weight contender reciting his poetry at the Washington sq. fountain. Alen Ginsburg holding court in the park. the basement cafes where musicians passed the bucket on McDougal. In ’61 music was banned in the park. first demonstration was met with billy clubs. 2nd demo and we marched up east side to parks commsion apt., and music in park ever since.

Yes, that was on Bleecker east of 6th Ave. Fun place, but pricey for the kid that I was at the time. My creations never looked like the amazing samples!

i was there twice in the late 60s. We came up from the naval base at Bainbridge by train. stayed both weekends at the Geenwich viillage hotel..what they rented the rooms by a half day. But who cared it waas great fun. would come in on friday night and the streets were packed..i was 18 and from West Virginia it was great

Roller Rina, was his/her name.
Used to skate up behind you tap you with her
wand on the head and Knight you!

Anyone remember a kinetic sculpture gallery on LaGuardia Pl. between Bleeker & 3rd called “a bird can fly, but a fly can’t bird” ?
Or … or did I just hallucinate it ? (It was the 60’s after all)

does anyone remember the crazy horse cafe on bleeker i think it wasn’t a gay club but coffee it closed down and we went to the wha instead

My father owned “Marvin’s Shoes from 1959-1971. It was at 19 Greenwich Avenue. I never see photos of that block. The store wa across the street from the Women’s House of Detention.

My Dad stanley owned the Gallery Deli, Restaurant. 77 Christopher street. from 1964 to 1979 It was right across the street from the village Mens shop, & boots & saddles. Next door was a bowling ally, which later became a roller scating rink. I think it was called cocos

8th Street between 6th and Broadway: SHOES, SHOES, SHOES! My dad would take me there as he was fixated on shoes at the time (1969). Every other store. Every style. Then over to 6th and 11th for a wonderful slice at Ray’s.

Such fond memories.

Iconic Christopher Street shop Village Cigars has officially closed down. I was in this tobacco shop almost every day as a kid. My dad had a restaurant right across the street. Sorry to see it go. Businesses in New York are in big trouble. Sad.

There was a fellow who played a concertina that would come into restaurants on a Saturday night .He wore a sailors cap – Cannot recall his name, but he was a Village regular in the 1970s.

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