Before all the trendy restaurants and divey bars, the East Village was a straight-up farm. In the 1600s, it was slowly parceled out and sold by the director-general of then named New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant (who graciously lent his namesake to Stuyvesant HS, Stuy Town, Bed-Sty afterward), to make space for new developments.

Peter Stuyvesant aka “Peg Leg Pete”

Fun but not so politically correct fact – They used to call Peter Stuyvesant, “Peg Leg Pete” after he lost his leg to a cannonball. There’s even a yearly scavenger hunt called the Peg Leg Pete Scavenger Hunt. 

FIRST THE IMMIGRANTS, THEN THE ARTISTS

Families began to turn their homes into boarding houses as a new wave of German immigrants moved in. The area became SO POPULAR (50,000 people) that it became America’s FIRST Foreign language neighborhood aka hood,  known as Little Germany or “Klein Deutschland.”  The most popular spot in the hood? St Mark’s Place. 

You know how the cycle works, first the immigrants, then the artists, then the gentrification.

Until the 1950s, the East Village was mostly an immigrant refuge for Europeans and Puerto Ricans.

In this case, it was the Beatniks and Hippies who decided to name it the “East Village” to differentiate themselves from the slums of the Lower East Side. The area became so “hippie”, tour buses began to drive down St Mark’s place for tourists to see long-haired hippies in action. Hippies weren’t a fanhowever, and ran their own tour buses to Queens to watch “squares” in suburbia. As Nelson Muntz would say, “HAHA”. 

The East Village Now

Over the years, the East Village has made a name for itself as a landmark for artists. From Kerouac to Ginsberg to the setting of “RENT” to Shepard Fairey, the East Village has somewhat paved over its immigrant beginnings with trendy bars, art, and coffee shops.

Today you can still spot remnants of the East Village’s storied past like NYC’s first public library, The Ottendorfer Library on 135 Second Avenue, or scoping out the Hamilton Holly House on St Mark’s Place, one of the still-intact buildings that once housed Alexander Hamilton Jr and more recently, punk shop Trash and Vaudeville.

If you loved this weird NYC history, then you’ll be sure to love the wild tales of the Taxi Dance Ballrooms of Times Square or the little suburb that fought against slavery.

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ciaooo! is an NYC based editorial site, newsletter, and events company. We're the local's guide to conquering NYC. Follow us on Instagram @ciaooomag for the latest. Nice to see you here!

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