Cynthia Crane - Saloon Chanteuse

















Jefferson Market LIbrary Bell - Photo: Jack Manning/The NYT

"CELEBRATE THE BELL: As soon as THE VILLAGER arrives I tear through it for news of our neighborhood. I'm a 3rd generation native New Yorker, and Greenwich Village is my passion. So let me tell you about the Jefferson Market Courthouse and our giant bell. The "island" on which the Disney-like "castle" stands was once part of a large land grant given by the king to Sir Peter Warren. Fast forward to 1832 a brick market was built in reponse to a citizens' petition for a public market at Sixth Avenue and Greenwich Lane. It was named in honor of Thomas Jefferson. Then in 1852 the wooden fire tower at Sixth Ave. and West Tenth Street burned down fire bell and all. Tah-Dah! Our bell, a 12,000 lb beauty is born! Ol' Jeff was cast in 1851 and was hung in the 1874 Venetian Gothic Courthouse designed by Frederick Withers and Calvert Vaux. Don't know how I missed it as I see it every day now, but I never knew of Ol' Jeff's existence until I read about this ancient fire bell, twice the size of the Liberty bell, in the NY Times interview with Margot Gayle, the preservation angel who saved the Courthouse in 1961. We got together, raised money and on April 11, 1997 the NY Times' Weekend Section 2-page cover story headlined: "Old Bell in the Village Regains It's Voice". Here's a part of what they wrote:

April 11, 1997
"Old Bell in the Village Regains Its Voice"

"Ol ' Jeff is a majestic bell. It has its own door on 10th Street and stands atop a combination of 75 cement steps, 75 more that belong to a spiral staircase, and then two steep ladders. Twice as large as the Liberty Bell, but half the size of Big Ben, Ol' Jeff measures six feet in height, almost seven feet in diameter. . .The bell has enhanced Villagers' sense of community helping to put the concept of village back in Greenwich Village; it serves as a powerful, an hourly, reminder of the values of architectural preservation. . . Ol' Jeff evokes memories of childhood for people who grew up in small towns, where a ringing bell was a beloved fixture of village days. . . It connects New York to Europe, where bells have been a call to community for hundreds of years and has newly and unexpectedly connected the community surrounding the building on Avenue of the Americas at 10th Street.

It remains one of the finest things that has happened to the Village since the Courthouse itself was saved."

Brief Timeline of the Jefferson Market Courthouse Library:

1829: Villagers petition for a market at Greenwich and 12th St. City turns it down.
1831: They try again, but shift the site to Sixth Av and Greenwich Av
1832: Petition granted, named after 3rd President,Thomas Jefferson
1863: Wooden Firetower burns down. 9,000 lb bell, a total loss.
1874: Construction begins on new courthouse, with new bell, and prison designed by Frederick Withers and Calvert Vaux
1906: Harry K. Thaw arraigned at courthouse for murder of Stanford White.
1927: Prison and market building demolished to make way for women's prison
1973: Women's House of Detention demolished and a beautiful garden established.

Dedication of the Jefferson Market Library Bell. L to R: Cynthia Crane, Kim Hunter, the wonderful actress, Marilyn Dorato, Ann Spira, and the great preservationist, Margot Gayle, the lady who saved the building in the 70's.

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