|A VILLAGE, A TAVERN, A HOME|
Native Americans who farmed its tobacco fields called it
Sapokanikan, and the early Dutch settlers who cleared it for pasture
gave it the name Noortwyck. But it is from the British, indulging
themselves in nostalgia by naming their conquests after the places of
their homeland, that the name descends, and ever since its
incorporation it is called as we know it today: Greenwich Village. In
many respects, it has always been and is still today a hamlet, at once
in and of the city but yet still removed from it, a place unto itself,
a rural haven from the yellow fevers that spread up from the newly
emerging city to its south during the 1800s, a sanctuary from the
avarice and affluence that in more modern times surrounds it.
When the New York State legislature approved the Commissioners Plan of 1811, a plan which laid out the borough of Manhattan into what is now its familiar grid pattern of streets perpendicular to avenues, those parts of Greenwich Village that were already developed were exempted, and allowed to keep for its the streets the names by which they were already known: Horatio, Bethune, Charles, Perry. Thus, although some streets now bear numerical names, the original character of the Village is readily visible in the small lanes, the curved by-ways, and the anomaly of West 4th Street intersecting with West 10th Street.
by David McBride
TAVERN ON JANE IN NEW YORK CITY
THE TURN OF THE BAR
within this neighborhood that one
finds a former cow path, once
leading to a tobacco farm, that became a street along which the
newly-rich would build their grand houses, young authors and artists
would find their first homes, and the tapestry of a city would enfold
under the conspiracy of a hundred-fold carpenters: Jane Street.
Running on a longitude from Greenwich Avenue to the Hudson River, Jane Street is a part of the landscape that records many of the moments of the city’s history. It was to a house here that Alexander Hamilton was brought to die, fatally wounded by a bullet from the gun of Aaron Burr. At the site of the former Seaman’s Institute, surviving crew members of the Titanic were given refuge. Jasper Johns lived on this street, as did John Cheever, Jason Robards, and Jimi Hendrix. Its ambiance is captured in such films as Shaft, Sex and the City, and The Tavern, a 1999 feature starring Cameron Diaz and directed by Walter Foote, set in a place called the TAVERN ON JANE.
The TAVERN ON JANE straddles Jane Street and Eighth Avenue, and a visitor approaching its threshold does so with one foot in the quiet of a Village neighborhood and the other in the apex of the bustling, north-south thoroughfare. It is owned by Horton Foote, Jr., brother to the aforementioned Walter, and the son of the two-time Academy Award winning playwright best known for his screenplay of To Kill a Mockingbird and for his vocal portrayal of Jefferson Davis in the Ken Burns documentary of the Civil War.
The TAVERN ON JANE is best entered in the twilight of a winter evening, when the late December cold wraps the city, a still welcome climate in the lee of the solstice. Inside, the holiday lights scatter across the front window, bright as stars against the patch of cobalt blue that hangs between the city buildings, a glimpse of the night sky. A fire glows beneath the stout mantel, and the warmth, of hospitality and hearth, entices the visitor to stay.
By the wine rack, a waiter writes on a board, with chalk dipped in water, the day’s menu appearing out of the black as if by wizardry, trailing well after the hand that forms the words. Tables huddle together in front of a wall of exposed brick and beneath a poster of one of the senior Foote’s movies; Le Sillage de la Violence it promotes, and one’s mastery of French and the cinema is tested, until the image of a sulking Steve McQueen and a long-suffering Lee Remick brings clarity: Baby, the Rain Must Fall.
Along the dark wooden bar, the regulars cluster, though the club is not exclusive, and the welcome is genuine. The night descends, and in this moment between the twilight and the dark, this crepuscular hour, the course of time shifts, and one returns to an earlier time to find a refuge, a village, a tavern, a home.
AN UPPER CLASS SELECTION OF BEERS
BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL
TAVERN ON JANE
31 8th AVENUE
NEW YORK, NY 10014-5156
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