It Happened on Washington Squareby Emily Kies Folpe
The heart of New York City's Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park has been a vital public space for nearly two centuries. Lined by elegant townhouses, anchored by Stanford White's iconic Washington Arch, and used by students and professionals, dog walkers and musicians, chess players and toddlers, the park is both an oasis from and an ideal of urban life.
The heart of New York City's Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park has been a vital public space for nearly two centuries. Lined by elegant townhouses, anchored by Stanford White's iconic Washington Arch, and used by students and professionals, dog walkers and musicians, chess players and toddlers, the park is both an oasis from and an ideal of urban life. Synonymous with the city's artistic identity, the park has also witnessed waves of political and social unrest, and served as a focal point for contentious debates about the future of urban development. This rich and colorful history is captivatingly told by Emily Kies Folpe in It Happened on Washington Square.
Farmed by New Amsterdam's freed African slaves in the seventeenth century, the park was used as a potter's field and dueling ground in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War and then converted into a parade ground for the city's volunteer militia in 1826. Since the 1830s, when it formed the nucleus of an upscale community, Washington Square has been an incubator for American art and a haven for writers, painters, sculptors, and architects. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the area began to attract the artists and political radicals--from John Reed to the Beats--who gave the Square a counter-cultural aura it still possesses. In recent decades, the Square's residents have united against such threats to their neighborhood as the urban redevelopment proposed by Robert Moses and the expansion of New York University. Illustrated with a remarkable selection of historic images, It Happened on Washington Square explains why the survival of this unique public space is so important.
The city has always had a knack for improvisation. It Happened on Washington Square, Emily Kies Folpe's social history of the Greenwich Village park -- once a potter's field -- explains that the square's Washington Arch was a temporary innovation that persisted: the original, conceived by the architect Stanford White as a parade decoration in 1889, was made of white-painted pine and papier-mâché and was popular enough to soon be replaced by a stone version.(Lauren Porcaro)
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Meet the Author
Emily Kies Folpe is an independent scholar who served for many years as Museum Educator at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. She has taught at Sarah Lawrence College and New York University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies, and she lectures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She lives on Washington Square.
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