Straightening Out the Minettas

In Greenwich Village, on the east side of Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) between 3rd Street and Bleecker Street, several little nooks and corners of this area bear the name of Minetta, a reference to the trout-filled stream that once meandered in this place. Native Americans called the stream "Mannette," meaning "Devil's Water." Variations of the name over the years include Minnetta, Menitti, and Manetta. Let's look at the various Minettas, all within yards of one another in lower Mannahatta.

Minetta Triangle. Near Bleecker Street, Minetta Street, and Avenue of the Americas. the historical sign (NYC Parks & Recreation site) on the park fence explains the park's naming for Minetta Brook, once a real stream that originated near what is know Gramercy Park and meandered through Greenwich Village to the Hudson River near W. Houston Street. The stream has since been diverted and paved over with decades worth of concrete. Basements along the way still flood. Freed slaves lived along Minetta Brook in the 17th century, and more African-American families later joined these communities.

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Minetta Green. Near Minetta Lane and Sixth Avenue, cast your eyes downward in this tiny park and behold images of trout that once frolicked in this burbling brook.

Minetta Street, starting at Minetta Lane and winding down to near Sixth Avenue and Bleecker, follows the course of the old stream, Minetta Brook. When in the area, I often choose to follow the street, as if I'm giving in to an unconscious primal impulse. (See image below.)

Minetta Playground. W. 3rd St. and Avenue of the Americas. Swing sets, jungle gyms and the like. The McDonald's next door donated new equipment ten years ago. These Minetta parks were neglected for a long time and only restored in the early 1990s.

Minetta Lane (top image) is the name for a short street between MacDougal Street and Sixth Avenue. At the top of the lane sits Cafe Wha? on the north side and the Minetta Tavern on the south side of the lane's intersection with MacDougal. Down the gently-sloping lane you would find the Italian restaurant and wine bar, Bellavitae (very good), and the Minetta Lane Theatre.

Minetta Lane Theatre. 18 Minetta Lane. Inside is a 399-seat theater that has staged well-received productions including the recent Adding Machine and Garden of Earthly Delights.

Minetta Tavern. 113 MacDougal St. Recently renovated and reopened, the Tavern has been a Village fixture for over 70 years. Once a hangout for the Beats, the tavern is now attracting visitors for the high quality of its food. (I wonder if trout is ever on the menu.)

For more on the ecology of early Manhattan, see the website at the Wildlife Conservation Society on The Mannahatta Project.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple. March 28, 2009. Top, Minetta Lane. Middle, trout in Minetta Green. Bottom, Minetta Street. More images will be posted on Flickr in a set.

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