Exploring Manhattan’s Village

By Philip Marcantonio

Six months ago, on a cold February day, I relocated from Detroit to Manhattan. I rented an apartment with a friend from college in the Upper East Side for a few months. Between searching for jobs, interviewing, and seeing old faces, I took the time to explore this great city.

I dedicated every afternoon to exploring different neighborhoods and seeing the great architecture they had to offer. I couldn’t have done it without the help of the witty AIA Guide to New York City. This book is a one stop overview of practically every significant or less significant piece of architecture scattered between all five boroughs.


One of my favorite areas to explore is lower Manhattan, specifically the villages.  It’s non-conformist street grids, scalable architecture and open lifestyle make it perfect to navigate by foot. The architectural heritage of this community as well as its historical importance towards counter culture can keep you inquiring for days.


Washington Square Park

Since the 1900s, Greenwich Village was a creative neighborhood and stood as a symbol for a "free life". The village escaped most of the gridiron street planning that was applied to other parts of Manhattan. It was too challenging to impose this “new” layout on its already well-established pattern. With the addition of Sixth and Seventh Avenues, the Village became easily accessible. The popularity of the area diminished during the chaos caused by the Depression and WWII but the Village bounced back. This time drawing in housing developers, young entrepreneurs, and those who decided to leave the outskirts and give city living a try! This new crowd of middle-class doctors, dentists, and suite-makers drove out the Creators. Now the middle-class observers have moved back to the city’s outer boroughs due to the astronomic rise in real estate cost. The creative crowd has built a community throughout Brooklyn. 

Greenwich Village in the 1950s

Today the Village is home to affluent clientele, viewed as quite the "step-up" in the professional world. The theaters and nightclubs continue to attract creative characters, but New York University has the most prominent presence in the neighborhood. The Villages are just some of the places I’ve explored. There are countless other neighborhoods I have yet to discover. 

The NYU Scene

West Village town homes

If you haven’t already looked through a copy, I highly suggest it! Pick a neighborhood and take a walk, street by street, address by address. As you nosily look up at that innocent brownstone, stately corner apartment building, or glistening skyscraper, this catalog for the curious will guide you through history like no google search can. You never know what you will stumble upon.