If you happen to be an English major, then I apologize because that’s not a great life choice in this economy. But if you’re going to do it, there’s no better place to study writers than in New York City, the literary capital of the world (take that, London). You don’t have to look far to find famous spots where authors once stood, drank and did crack, as Greenwich Village has been home to a host of writers since its creation. Here are a few places to check out.
Washington Square Park
You are likely going to spend a large amount of time here as an NYU student, but there is no denying the park’s historical significance. This location featured prominently in Henry James’ 1880 novel “Washington Square,” and if you prefer more recent works it was a hangout for Beat poets in the ’50s and ’60s including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. A book could be devoted to the importance of the park, including its origins as a cemetery, its proximity to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, which is now the Silver Center for Arts and Science, and the story of the Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square — definitely look it up.
White Horse Tavern (129 Macdougal St.)
There are a number of places around Greenwich Village which were famous hangouts of artists, but White Horse Tavern is one of the most famous, and also has the great honor of not having been shut down because of rent hikes — yet. Opened around 1880, the tavern has served customers such as James Baldwin, Hunter S. Thompson and Norman Mailer. This might be a good place to save until you’re 21, though.
Strand Bookstore (828 Broadway)
In the old days, Fourth Avenue between Ninth and 14th streets was a haven for literature lovers, with dozens of used bookstores. In the past few decades, most closed down or moved, but the Strand Bookstore has managed to keep going, though it did move one block over to Broadway. The store is one of the most famous in the world and boasts 18 miles of books. It also hosts famous authors often. It is truly an institution, but don’t forget to check out other local bookstores, such as Alabaster Bookshop, East Village Books and Mercer Street Books, among many others.
It would be too difficult to choose a single author to spotlight here, as there are so many. With names such as Edgar Allan Poe, who NYU tries to claim as an alumnus even though he never went here, Louisa May Alcott and William S. Burroughs, grab a map and explore your favorite dead authors’ abodes.
A print version of this article appeared in the Food and Fun Guide. Email Thomas Devlin at [email protected]