The Free & Independent Republic of Greenwich Village…it almost happened! 100 years ago today on January 23rd, 1917 six artists including Gertrude Dick, John Sloan and Marcel Duchamp covertly made their way past a patrol man and entered the side door of Washington Square Arch where they scaled the 110 steps to the top!
Fortified with wine & liquor, cap guns, sandwiches and red balloons they had one mission, for Greenwich Village to secede from New York City and the nation, and become the “Free & Independent Republic of Greenwich Village”. This would be documented and declared with the Declaration of Independence, written by Duchamp.
Once atop the arch, the gang of six who named themselves the “Arch Conspirators” started their party, and mission. They lit a small fire, tied their balloons to the parapet, recited poetry, drank and ate.
Then came the time to declare independence, which was read aloud by another member of the group, Gertrude Dick, thought to have been the mastermind behind the entire secession plan. Once the declaration of independence was read and each member had signed the declaration, balloons and lanterns were released into the night sky, the cap guns were shot, their bangs ringing through the neighborhood, and of course plenty more wine was drunk to celebrate! At that moment the Free and Independent Republic of Greenwich Village was born!
As the sun rose on the first full day of the Free and Independent Republic of Greenwich Village the group disbanded from atop the arch, until they were required to reconvene as and when pressing matters of state required. News spread quickly as many folks south of 14th Street quickly became aware of the newly liberated community and republic.
What happened thereafter is less known, history has taught us that clearly the Free & Independent Republic of Greenwich Village never really succeeded. However, these events left a legacy, the side door of Washington Square Arch was fitted with a lock!
You can celebrate the centenary of these events on Tuesday January 24th with the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation at the Judson Memorial Church. Here you can learn more and then watch lanterns being released into the night square over Washington Square Park to commemorate this historic event. Click here for event details.