Home throughout the 20th century to bohemians, revolutionaries, beats, hipsters, and artists of every stripe and genre, Greenwich Village earned a reputation as the place to live for the avant-garde and the coolest of the cool. It's hard to imagine now, but it was once exactly what its name implies—a pastoral hamlet. It was still so rural, in fact, in the 1820s, that when a yellow fever epidemic struck the urban center of New York, residents there fled to the healthier environs of the Village. Many of those seeking refuge decided to stay, and speculators and developers started buying up the farms and pastures and laying out the idiosyncratic grid that never quite matched up with the rest of Manhattan. The public gallows was torn down, the potter's field closed, and Washington Square Park emerged in their place. Row after row of federal-style townhouses went up throughout the rest of the 19th century, rendering the area's remarkably low profile in comparison to the skyscrapers that now surround it. Though no longer affordable to the voluntarily disenfranchised, Greenwich Village remains hallowed ground in the annals of nonconformity.
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