Walking down University Place or Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village, it's possible to catch a glimpse of Europe when one happens upon Washington Mews. The little traversed street runs discretely parallel with Washington Square North and 8th Street. The cobblestone alley features former carriagehouses adorned with climbing vines and rustic shutters. It is a classic European street that seems to belong to another city, or at the very least, another time.
Its beauty can't be denied, and neither can it's history.
Taking a stroll down the mews, one can infer that this was never a commercial street. The alleyway was in fact not a public street at all. The Mews was used as the entrances for the stablehouses that connected directly to the grand Greek Revival town homes that lined the North end of Washington Square Park. These houses are the settings for Henry James' classic novel Washington Square (and its stage adaptation The Heiress, a revival of which is currently on Broadway) as well as the 2007 blockbuster action film I Am Legend. 1-3 Washington Square North also served as the longtime residence and studio of American artist Edward Hopper.
Washington Mews is now privately owned by NYU and much of the buildings that line the stone street serve as faculty housing. The street remains open to visitors during the day.
Macdougal Alley runs mid block along with Washington Mews, but can be found a little further west in between Fifth Avenue and Macdougal Street.
The cobblestone street was the last street in New York to be lit by gas lamps, before they were extinguished in the late 1930s. Its past along with Washington Mews revolves around stables and horses, but Macdougal Alley has also had a gravitation towards the artistic.
Getrude Vanderbilt Whitney operated her art studio along the alley and eventually founded the Whitney Museum of American Art at 8 West 8th Street. The street was also home to artist Jackson Pollack and poet Edward Arlington Robinson. The street is now privately owned by the propety owners along Washington Square North and West 8th Street, but it is still possible to view this hidden New York treasure.
Come down to the Village and see these secret streets for yourself.