Love Letter to Greenwich Village

February 14, 2016


Of course I love this book!

It was published right around the time that I was born, in the place that I was born – and it captures the Village I grew up in.  It was a friendly place;  PS 41 (the old building, a pre-civil war monster, stood on the site of the current playground), was so small the principal knew every one of us by name.  Sutter’s Bakery, on the corner of tenth street and Greenwich Avenue perfumed the entire street with the scent of butter and sugar, and we’d stand there, listening to the women in the House of Detention across the street, shouting down to their boyfriends who stood on the sidewalks below. We’d linger, hoping that e.e. cummings, who lived in Patchen Place, the little mews behind the school, might come out.

It really was a place of artists, writers and musicians; nobody had much money (I don’t think I ever met anyone who actually owned their own apartment), but the proximity to Little Italy, Chinatown and the old Jewish Lower East Side meant that we ate interesting food.

As for the Old Lafayette Hotel on Ninth Street and University Place – it was pretty sad by the time I knew it.

Strange, isn’t it, to think of “Peter” Seeger as a “young voice on the radio”?


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I love the directive half-way through Morris’ Ernst’s Potato Eleventh Street. (Mr. Ernst, incidentally, co-founded the Civil Liberties Union) : “Sprinkle with paprika, which has no taste but looks pretty.” Tells you how long that particular spice sat forlornly on the shelf. (Were he still alive, I’d advise Mr. Ernst to go uptown to Paprikas Weiss to buy fresh paprika.


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  • anne taylor says:

    Hi Ruth,

    Could we have been at PS 41 at the same time? Sutter’s was the best, and the lovely women behind the counter always gave a free cookie to young shoppers. Then there was Jefferson Market, the old Balducci’s, Art Food on 6th Ave for the best sandwiches…and so much more. I now live on 11th Street and the neighborhood still delights. Must find cookbook.

    Thanks for the memories.

    • admin says:

      Anne, if you were in the old building at 41 (we moved to the new one when I was in 5th grade), we probably were there at the same time. I still think it’s a tragedy that they tore down the Rhinelander Gardens to build that horrible 50’s piece of architecture.

  • Anonymous says:

    ruth – another treasure is the Greenwich village cookbook – published in the sixties with all the great receipes from our era – including chicken villaroy and crabmeat in green sauce – yum

  • Linda says:

    I love these and am going to try them all! That egg & baked potato combo is inspired. Same for the egg scramble using mac & cheese. Yum. Please share others that catch your eye, w thanks.

  • Jeanie says:

    Where did you ever get this cookbook! An unbelievable treasure. i thought I was the luckiest girl in the world to live in the Village, in spite of the 1 bedroom apartment my family of 4 shared next door to what was then P.S.41, and then the schoolyard when we were in 5th grade. Just a few days ago my husband and I were on Greenwich Avenue, eating oysters at Virgola, which in the “olden” days of my youth was just a 6 foot wide dark tunnel leading from the street to the courtyard behind my building, in which we would play ball, bouncing it from wall to wall in that tunnel. So amusing that that dark tunnel is now a cozy restaurant. Last week, on that day, I was trying to remember what preceded Sutters…no luck. I did love the chocolate leaf cookies they would give children who were shopping there with their parents. Having the same last name, we would sometimes get mail mis-addressed to e,e. cummings, as Patchin Place was/is just around the corner. The original Balducci’s ( just a small produce market) was great for filching a sample of string beans, and the Village Bakery on the same block had the most wonderful chocolate chip cake, and chocolate fudge cupcakes. In trying to duplicate the cake, I was never successful. The chips always sank to the bottom. There was hardly any rye bread left when we got home, after buying it there…irresistible. Pop’s on Greenwich Ave had the best selection of penny candy. and… then there was 8th Street… Merritt Farms for egg rolls, Mr. Waffles for ice cream sundaes. The memories are endless. (Notice how many are food-based). Of course Washington Square Park ..roller-skating over cobblestones to get there,..playing there in the early years, and joining the folk singers on Sundays in the early 60;s……and then there was… 10th and Fifth Ave ….that .holds a special place in my heart. Once again….wherever did you get that cookbook!

    • admin says:

      It’s not my cookbook; it’s in the New York Public Library collection. But I do have a Village Restaurant Cookbook from the 60’s. When I get back home, to my own library, I’ll post some recipes from that.

      Do you remember when Julia Ballinger’s family moved into the old Lafayette Hotel for a bit? I distinctly remember having a whipped cream fight there; I thought it was the coolest thing ever. We each had a can of Reddi-Whip….

  • Linda L L says:

    Have enjoyed reading about the old Village. We used to visit my uncle Joseph at 44 West 10th St and the women’s detention center would frighten me so badly I had begun to think I made it up. This was a cheerful walk around. Linda

  • Lori Nevins says:

    Love all you share, books, recipes, tweets, all things Ruth!

  • Susan T. Case says:

    Just saying “ditto” to Lori Nevins’s reply.

  • Robin says:

    Love this column – thank you, Ruth for bringing focus to such a charming book. I didn’t move to NYC until I was in my twenties, which was awhile ago, and seeing the changes brought to the city in the 15 years I lived there, was well astounding. Artists were appalled by the gentrification of The Village, and The East Village. I watched many friends lose studios and lofts, and such. Being reminded of the thriving artistic community that the Village was, made me happy.

  • Jeanie says:

    Ruth – I don’t remember Julia Ballinger living in the Lafayette Hotel, nor the Reddi -Whip fight. So so so cool. I guess I wasn’t invited….That is something I would definitely remember. I do remember throwing water-bombs out of Polly McGraw’s window. They were origami cubes that we filled with water. Such fun.
    About the Women’s House of Detention. i have a vivid image of two little girls, all dressed up in pretty little dresses yelling up to their mother who was looking out the window, “Mommy, when are you coming home?” Heartbreaking.
    I remember all the discoveries made as I grew up in that wonderful neighborhood. I would often take after-dinner walks with my dad, often ending up in Washington Square Park, playing catch endlessly with him with a Spalding, and buying ice-cream from the Good-Humor men, Morris and Tippy, who pushed the carts in the park. Morris would tell me that he couldn’t sell me a sundae, only a monday. And then, there was that magical evening when my dad took me to the lively area south of the park where all the nightlife was. I was awe-struck I had never experienced that before….had no idea it existed!. I also remember the raw clams we ate that night – sold right out on the street- a first for me.
    And,Ruth, regarding your response to Anne, I have a couple of little photos of the rear of Rhinelander Gardens taken from my apartment window, but none of that gorgeous ornate front of that row of houses.
    And Linda….You visited your Uncle Joseph at 44 West 10th? Joseph Mitchell? I know he lived on West 10th and I believe the address was 44. We were friends with his daughter Elizabeth, who went to PS41 with us. Was that the Uncle Joseph you refer to? And, is Elizabeth your cousin?
    So many memories.I am sure we all could go on and on. What a great place to grow up..

  • Laurel Bellon says:

    Just discovering this blog post in 2018. I went to P.S. 40, grew up in Stuyvesant Town, and have so many happy memories of going to Sutter’s with my parents for a weekend treat. I haven’t had a danish like that since. I was reading about the death of Andrew Balducci today, and started reminiscing again about what a wonderful time that was to grow up in New York City.

  • Lauren Naismith says:

    My parents lived at Rhinelander Gardens and we would walk by , long after it was gone, wistfully, my mother would talk about the early 1950s there, the neighbors would meet in one another’s apartments with big pots of stew and thick bread and they would stay up all hours talking, artists, writers etc. I have photos of my sister as a baby, holding on to the lovely black grill to help her hold herself up. Your words brought back my own memories of the women calling down . But it was Rhinelander Gardens that haunted our walks through the Village…Mom said those gatherings over stew and bread, with music and poetry, stayed with them long after Rhinelander Gardens was torn down.