There's a 1961 map of Greenwich Village hanging in the men's room at Julius' bar. If you see it there, you might think, as I did, that it's an antique, a one of a kind that you'll never be able to find. But that'd be wrong. A week later I saw it again, this time in the window of a frame shop on 14th Street.
The map, originally drawn and published by cartographer Lawrence Fahey, was rediscovered and reprinted by local tour guide and amateur historian Tom Bernardin, author of the Ellis Island Cookbook.
Tom told me the story behind the map: "When my dear friend Margot Gayle died, her daughter called me and asked if I wanted to go to her apartment for Greenwich Village and New York City books and stuff. Fortunately, I had a friend here and we loaded up a taxi. For the longest time, I had the map, folded, staring me in the face. A friend was unemployed and teaching himself Photoshop. So I had it scanned and he spent hours meticulously cleaning it up. Fold lines, etc. Quite a job. I had 800 printed. Quite a financial layout and my friends think I am nuts. But I knew it was just too wonderful not to have it out there."
This large, handsome poster is an extraordinary time capsule of the Village in 1961--which
basically means the 1950s. It took Fahey three and a half years to make the
map and he published the first edition in 1960. "Every important place
in the Village is drawn on the map," says the cartographer's
explanation, including bookstores, bars, restaurants, shops, movie
houses, and places to buy chickens.
Fahey opted not to include the Hudson River Waterfront because, he wrote, it "lacks the charm of the 'Old Village' and the zest of Bohemia. The same is true of the area south of Prince Street where depressing loft buildings and dark streets would hardly appeal to any visitor."
These areas were omitted so the map could include Astor Place and its environs, including the galleries of 10th Street, Fourth Avenue's Book Row, and McSorley's Old Ale House, "that famous old 'for men only' hangout."
The slice of the city you'll find in this map is filled with the vanished. The people who lived in its world and roamed its streets cared about different things. They must have loved books, because there are lots of bookstores. They also must have loved going to the movies, listening to jazz, and drinking coffee in ramshackle cafes.
Of all the coffee houses listed, I believe only Cafe Reggio remains. The bookshops have been wiped out. A few of the restaurants are still in operation, like Seville and Gene's, but most are gone or have been gutted and re-branded, like Fedora, Rocco's, and the Waverly Inn.
This is the kind of artifact you'll want to gaze at for a long time, the kind that can transport you--and break your heart.
You can buy a copy of the map for $20 by contacting Tom Bernardin directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone: 212-229-0202. Then have it framed at the 14th Street Framing Gallery.