Trying to Save Part of Edward Hopper's New York

Art
Photo: Courtesy of The Whitney Museum of American Art, John Carbonella

When much of Greenwich Village was landmarked in 1969, the low-rise sprawl of humble Italian-immigrant groceries and tenements southeast of the neighborhood, along Sullivan and Thompson streets and even Seventh Avenue South, didn't make it inside the designated historic safety zone. The area, while not full of great monuments, has its own quiet claims on history. The artist Edward Hopper lived there most of his life, and his paintings like Early Sunday Morning were set there. On December 10, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and the local community board convened more than 100 people inside Our Lady of Pompeii Church to figure out how to get the city to landmark the area to keep its Hopperness intact. GVSHP's Andrew Berman points out that it's filled with gems like Macdougal Street's Provincetown Playhouse, which launched Eugene O'Neill, and a nearby rowhouse where Louisa May Alcott may have worked on Little Women. Parts of the façade are all that remains of Edgar Allan Poe's house on West 3rd, which NYU subsumed into a big new building, raising alarms.

Right across the street from the church is a stretch of storefronts, at 233–237 Bleecker Street, that some experts have argued is the one depicted in Early Sunday Morning. Avis Berman, author of Edward Hopper's New York, noted it was first titled Seventh Avenue Shops. Yet, she concedes, "Hopper did like to throw people off the trail because he didn't want them caught up in the facts, but the mood." And that mood is, as much as anything, what landmarking would protect. —Tim Murphy