2007_01_SouthVillage.gifThe Villager is reporting that the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation last week submitted a report calling for the creation of a South Village Historic District. Comprised of 38 blocks and about 800 buildings, it would be the city’s first tenement-based district.

“Landmark designation of this area is one of the great pieces of unfinished preservation business for Greenwich Village and, indeed, for New York City as a whole,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation director.

The boundaries of the district would cover the blocks south of West Fourth St. to West Houston St., between Seventh Ave. and LaGuardia Place, and an extension from Houston St. down to Watts St. between Sixth Ave. and the midblock line west of West Broadway.

Now for a small history lesson: In 1644, New Netherlands Director General William Kieft transferred property north of the New Amsterdam settlement to African freed slaves to prevent incursion by American Indians, an area known as “the Negro land.” In the late 1600s, those land parcels were sold to large landowners and became the property of the grandson of original Dutch settler Nicholas Bayard – how that happened exactly the Villager doesn’t explain. Fashionable row houses arrived in the 19th century and by 1870 the era of the tenement began – with historians defining the tenement as a building with at least three families living there independently from one another.

More from the report: “The South Village provides an opportunity to study and understand the entire history of tenement design, construction and use, with archetypical examples of pre-law, old-law, new-law and reform tenements.”