"......One need never leave the confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes......."
From 'Meditations In An Emergency' by Frank O'Hara (1926-1966)
When renowned poet Frank O'Hara wrote these words, he could well have been thinking of Jefferson Market Garden - a lush oasis in the heart of Greenwich Village.
In 1931, the Women's House of Detention was built on the site next to the Jefferson Courthouse (designed by Calvert Vaux, of Central Park fame, and F. C. Withers); its eleven stories towered above the courthouse, casting the sidewalks in shadow. Neighbours recall round-the-clock noise as inmates shouted from their windows to friends and visitors on the streets below.
In the 1960's, Greenwich Village residents organised to save the courthouse from demolition and persuaded the City to renovate it for use as a public library and successfully demanded that the prison be demolished. Encouraged by this accomplishment, the community created the garden as a public green space in place of the womens prison. It opened to the public in 1975, and whilst owned by the City, is under the stewardship of a local committee.