One of the most iconic neighborhoods in New York City, The East Village has left its mark as both a cultural and artistic center, and has long been associated with movements pushing for change. It spans from the area east of Broadway and the Bowery to the East River between 14th Street and Houston Street. Though the neighborhood has changed, it has retained a great deal of its charm and maintained its unique cultural identity, even in the face of gentrification.
Originally, the East Village was a farm sold in 1651 to Petrus Stuyvesant. They continued to own the area until pieces were sold in the early 19th century. By the 1840s, the East Village saw an influx of immigrants, mainly from Germany and Ireland. In fact, because of such a high concentration of German immigrants, it was called “Klein Deutschland” (“Little Germany”), and boasted the largest German population outside Berlin and Vienna. It remained a popular destination for many immigrants well into the 20th century, and is often considered to be America’s first “foreign language” neighborhood, a hub for those new to the U.S. where they could carry on their traditions by building cultural and civic centers, some of which still stand today. It was in the mid-1960s, however, that a major shift occurred. Considered before this period to simply be part of the Lower East Side, it attracted many of artists, musicians, and counter-cultural leaders, transforming it into ts own separate entity. Andy Warhol, for example, made his home in the East Village. This vibrant center of the arts was also home to legendary club CBGBs, where bands like The Ramones, Patti Smith and Talking Heads established themselves as rock and roll legends. Though tastes and styles have changed since then, the neighborhood remained an epicenter for everything artistic.
Over the years, as it has grown more popular amongst people spanning all demographics, the East Village has become somewhat gentrified. No longer is it the same neighborhood portrayed in the musical Rent, but it still retains a great deal of its former flavor. Though many of the music halls and art galleries have closed over the years, the East Village has managed to keep Webster Hall and Stuyvesant Polyclinic, two of the neighborhood’s earliest designated landmarks. With a vibrant nightlife and a culturally conscious aesthetic that pays homage to the past, the East Village continues to remain a highly popular neighborhood amongst all Manhattanites, despite all of its changes.