Lower Fifth Avenue: from Washington Square to 14th Street
The lowermost section of Fifth Avenue still preserves what Henry James, writing in his novel Washington Square, called “a kind of established repose…a riper, richer, more honorable look.”
More or less dividing the West Village from the East Village, Lower Fifth Avenue is a distinct location all its own, a majestic yet sedate row of pre-war buildings that suggests a stretch of UES Park Avenue carried out at a more intimate and subtly domestic scale.
Bracketed by Washington Square to the south and 14th Street to the north, this is the shortest “neighborhood” on Fifth Avenue; yet despite its appearance of leafy, near-suburban gentility, Lower Fifth is as highly eclectic and diverse as anywhere else on the avenue, featuring the nation’s oldest arts club (housed in Fifth Avenue’s last completely intact brownstone south of Harlem), the public galleries of one of the city’s most important design schools, two of New York’s most beautiful Gothic Revival churches some of the city’s earliest skyscrapers and some of its best and most desirable apartment addresses.
“It was here,” as James put it well over a hundred years ago in Washington Square, “…that you had come into a world which appeared to offer a variety of sources of interest.” The buildings from James’ day have nearly all been replaced, but both the variety and the interest remain.