The earliest European settlements in what is now New York City were at New Amsterdam. The Dutch, in particular the Dutch West India Trading Company established New Amsterdam at the southern tip of Manhattan Island. After the Dutch came the British, who in turn were replaced by the creation of the Unites States following the Revolutionary War. Amid all of these historic changes, an area of New York City sprung up along the Hudson River that would come to be known as Greenwich Village.
Bounded by Broadway on the east and the Hudson River on the west, the area known as Greenwich Village, or the Village for short, developed a character and diversity all its own. Even the layout of the streets is out of character with other neighborhoods that make up the Lower West Side of Manhattan.
Anchored by Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village is one of the oldest established neighborhoods in New York City. Once referred to simply as Washington Square, the area evolved from a Dutch tobacco plantation that was established in the Sixteenth Century. As Greenwich Village developed during the Nineteenth Century, the dominate architecture consisted of row houses. Like modern townhouses, row houses shared common walls. In spite of the changes that come from decades of urban renewal and rebuilding, many of these charming homes still stand today.
Over the years, Village residents pushed hard for the preservation of historic structures, saving many from demolition. Like many large cities, the process of gentrification has moved forward often with unintended consequences. Lower income residents are often displaced as higher property values make it too expensive for residents to stay. In spite of efforts at preservation, many older buildings were demolished during the 1950s. Even so, Greenwich Village is unlike other areas of Uptown and Lower Manhattan. As land became scarce, the natural course was to build up instead of out. As a result other areas of Manhattan saw a boom in the construction of high rise buildings.
The Village boasted an incredibly diverse population as immigrants from all over Europe flooded into the large cities of the Eastern United States. Little Bohemia, another nickname for the Greenwich Village area, became home to a mix of Irish, German and Italian immigrants. While still known as Washington Square, Greenwich Village welcomed New York University in 1831.
Starting early in the 20th Century, artists, writers, poets, intellectuals and member of the cultural avant garde began to gravitate towards Greenwich Village. Political radicals and activists were also drawn to the area. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Village gave birth to what became known as the Beat Generation.