I’ve been spending some time lately on each trip to New York getting to know the city’s historical treasures a little better. So the last time I was stateside, I set out to find Patchin Place, a curious little alley I’d seen pictures of and heard a lot about. If you happen to find yourself in Greenwich Village any time soon and in the mood for a time-travelling adventure, you must stop in at this urban gem. You’ll find it tucked in a corner on West 10th Street, between 6th and Greenwich avenues…
Push open the iron gate, wander inside and suddenly the traffic noise seems to disappear as you find yourself standing in a peaceful tree-lined enclave made up of 10 three-story brick row houses. It’s the kind of street you might see in The Gangs of New York or a nostalgic old black and white movie.
Patchin Place was built in 1849 by a man called Samuel Milligan for his son-in-law, Aaron Patchin, some say to house Basque waiters at the nearby Brevoort House Hotel on Fifth Avenue.
What’s remarkable about Patchin Place is that it remains pretty much unchanged, from the wall lamp above the gate by the street sign to the wrought iron fire escapes and sash windows. Pictured, Patchin Place, 1925.
By the early 20th century, the waiters had moved out of this little unassuming street, and the writers, actors and artists had moved in, all of them after a bit of privacy in the middle of Bohemian Greenwich Village. A plaque on the wall of number 4 Patchin Place celebrates the famous poet, EE Cummings, who once lived here in the early 1900s.
Although a wander to the end of the mews reveals perhaps its most charming feature, an original gas lamp – one of two left in the city – whose flames would flicker each night to light up this darkened little street and keep its residents safe, once upon a time…
Traveller tip: Don’t be put off by the big gate. Visitors are more than welcome to step inside and have a walk around.