Research Question Essay: Laura Williams

My exhibition will focus on the section of MacDougal Street between Bleecker and West 3rd, and its relationship to the folk revival scene of the 1960s.

Since beginning this project, I have been interested in this block of MacDougal Street because of its popularity with locals and tourists. My first challenge was limiting my interest to a particular time period or theme. I found an invaluable map that traced the history of the buildings on the street, from which I noticed the popularity of coffeehouses during the 1950s and 60s. Combined with a suggestion to learn more about the Mayor of MacDougal Street, folk singer Dave Van Ronk, these two ideas firmly guided my research into the folk revival scene.

Much has been said about folk music, and there are many archives and organizations interested in its history. These sources often concentrate on the music—styling, lyrics—and the musicians who performed these songs. While this research is very helpful to my project, my interest is specifically about place: MacDougal Street. In my exhibition, I intend to use various types of resources, such as photographs, documents, and audio clips, to paint an image of MacDougal Street during the folk revival.

To do so, my exhibition will include:
Setting the stage: the decline of the Beat poets
Beat poets and Beatniks
Folk music in Washington Square Park
Beatnik Riot
Important venues on MacDougal Street, as related to folk music
Coffeehouses (Figaro, Gaslight, The Commons, Café Wha?, etc)
Izzy Young’s Folklore Center
Dave Van Ronk and his experiences in Greenwich Village
Collaborating/playing in coffeehouses on MacDougal Street
MacDougal Street in popular culture, as related to folk music
Allen Ginsberg “MacDougal Street Blues”
Fred Neil, Bleecker and MacDougal
Inside Llewyn Davis
MacDougal Street today
Businesses still existing today (Café Wha?, Caffe Reggio)
Contribution of the 1960s era to MacDougal Street’s popularity today, as being a center for Bohemian counterculture, the next new thing
Laura Williams biography


Originally, I wanted to focus my exhibit on a historical or important bar in Greenwich Village. I found that previous students had already researched many of the big ones, however, and I decided that I wanted to do something new. So, for my exhibit I would like to research the two blocks of MacDougal Street between West 3rd Street and Bleecker Street. I used to live around the corner from this location, and I was always surprised at the numbers of people that could be found in this section of the Village at any given time. I want to learn more about the businesses on these two blocks and discover why this specific location is so popular with both tourists and New Yorkers today.

In order to complete my exhibit, I will need to first spend time on MacDougal and decide which sites to concentrate on, based on their history and relevance to the street’s contemporary life. I imagine that my secondary sources will primary be written histories of MacDougal Street and the businesses that can be found there, including the Comedy Cellar, Café Reggio, Café Wha?, and Minetta Tavern. I also want to look at how the ethnic and fast food restaurants, shops, and newer establishments have influenced and been influenced by the area, which may lead to articles about urbanization and gentrification. Primary sources will include tourist brochures, photographs, building documentation, and ethnographic participant observation.

Site Will Include:
Introduction/Summary of Exhibition
History of MacDougal Street
Historical/Notable Sites
MacDougal Street Today

Add a New Comment
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License