Grove Street Surprise

I love being surprised by the city. Living in New York, you somehow adopt a jaded attitude that you’ve seen it all, which makes it even better when something unexpected comes along.

As I was going down Grove St today, I passed a bus load of tourists gawking at the apartment used in the sitcom Friends, located on the corner at Bedford Street. Nope, I’m too jaded to even look up. As I watched them snap thousands of pictures, I began thinking how much I like exploring the outer boroughs, because there’s just so much more of the unique and unexpected.

That’s when I saw something that surprised even me. What’s unusual about this picture?


See that break two houses from the right?




I’ve been down Grove Street a zillion times. I’ve filmed around the corner and held parking here. One of the offices frequently rented by NYC productions is a few blocks south. Yet I’ve never noticed Grove Court, neatly tucked away in the corner. You can’t even see it in Google Maps satellite view. It was built around 1850, a time when it was unthinkable to not have a home located directly on the street. Tradesmen and laborers were relegated to these dregs.

Of course, that’s all changed, and nowadays, this is an extremely exclusive property. But take a peek through the fence next time you’re going down Grove Street – it will impress even the most jaded New Yorker.


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  1. I live on Morton Street, between Bedford and Hudson, and every time I walk past this “hidden” spot I see a tour guide pointing Grove Court out to a bunch of Europeans eating their black-and-white cookies.

    If you want to see some real hidden locations, hang out outside my (basement level) door around 4:30 am where a tranny prostitute “works” and delivers such memorable lines as: “It’s so big–I don’t know if I can handle it!” and “What’s my name? The Girl of Your Dreams–now give me a kiss.”

  2. it’s a Buddhist association/temple.

  3. It’s worth reading the H.P. Lovecraft story, ‘He,’ where the narrator wanders around the West Village late at night and slips through a series of interconnected hidden courtyards to find a surviving 18th century house and its inhabitant. Grove Court was supposedly one of the inspirations for the story.

  4. The house next door was also occupied by Angela Lansbury in 1964’s “The World of Henry Orient”, and is now the home of one of my favorite writers.

  5. There’s a similar (although less hidden) spot at Greenwich and 10th – Greenwich Mews.

  6. It makes me dreaming!
    I really enjoy your blog – wish to be able to visit NY one day. Thanks for sharing!

  7. …green felt tables = Mahjong. (with those tiles, not the online type)
    And according to what ken said… is that even allowed? Isn’t it… you know, rude to play mahjong in a buddhist temple? ><

  8. Re: Chinatown sign…
    It’s a somewhat “poetic” sounding name.
    The two lower larger words mean “bamboo mountain”
    and the smaller characters say “house of nine saints”
    Actually, it is whatever the Chinese equivalent of “saints” would be.
    I I think it is a Buddhist temple, or monastery, or whatever. The words for “Buddhist” and “association” appear on the longer banner. But their signs are usually ornate, and contain no English, just like this.  

  9. Note that Grove Court was also a location in the Italian horror film THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1981).

  10. I have visited my relatives at Grove Court my whole life. Always a bit of magic when you walk through that gate and leave Manhattan far behind. So nice to see pics.

  11. My first week in New York, when it was 95 degrees and I had no air conditioning, and had just arrived here after a string of personal tragedies for a fresh beginning and instead was feeling like I had made the worst mistake possible, I took the train in from Queens in the middle of the night because I couldn’t sleep. I had no idea where to go, so I went to the Village and wandered and wandered. I stumbled upon Grove Court and stopped and just stared and stared. I felt like–cheesy as it sounds–I now had a secret with the city, and it made me feel like I’d be okay. When I got home later, a few hours before dawn, it was the first night I actually got to sleep in New York.

  12. there are many places like Grove Court in the West Village>> some of them really secluded and not in any way visable from the street >>you don’t get to see it unless your’re invited in>> one on Carmine Street another on Morton , and yet another one on Barrow and several others

  13. if you overlooked grove court it is possible you also missed milligan place patchin place (e e cummings last home) mcdougal alley washington muse and others

  14. “if you overlooked grove court it is possible you also missed milligan place patchin place (e e cummings last home) mcdougal alley washington muse and others.”

    I don’t normally correct a person’s spelling on the internet, but since this poster was so smug, I feel I should point out that he overlooked the spelling of Washington MEWS (meaning stables).

  15. Janice Delaney Stearns

    Hi Scout – My uncle, Jack Delaney had a famous restaurant back in the day at #72 Grove St. It is now the Sheridan Sq. restaurant. He was a thoroughbred horse breeder and the tavern was decorated with the horse-racing theme. My parents had their wedding reception in the upstairs room back in 1946. Don’t know when it closed, but he died in 1962, but it had been sold by then to I don’t know who…the Delaney family was all from the village originally.

  16. I discovered Grove Court last October. It was magical. The entire central area was filled with flickering jack-o-lanterns on a perfect October evening. A few mothers and children were scampering about tending to them. I stood there and looked through the gate for quite while soaking it in. Imagining what a wonderful memory these children will have. I am sure they do this every year. Try to make it down there next year to take a peek. I LOVE your site! It is now bookmarked so I can tune in on a regular basis.

  17. Really cool street. I did the stoop on the corner spanish revival house, 18 Grove St. On the far corner you see the apt used on “friends” opening scene. And right across the street there is the oldest 100% wood construction house. Intact. I had the pleasure to go into this courtyard. Definitely, a gem.

    • Yes, and that ‘oldest 100% wood construction home at Grove Street was occupied since the late 1980’s by TV producer Don Taffner and his wife, Eleanor, both of whom died in 2011; his daughter and son-in-law now live there. And each Christmas one can peek through the wooden fence at the Bedford Street side of this home to see a tall Christmas tree decked out in all of its Christmas finery. And somewhat appropriately across the street from the Taffner home which has a wooden owl atop its roof to unsuccessfully scare away the pigeons is a restaurant named: The Little Owl.

  18. I came close to buying one of the Grove Court houses not long after I was married in 1971. Totally charming, but two drawbacks: too small, and my wife wanted someone (ie, doorman) between her and the street.

  19. I believe Grove Court is the setting for O. Henry’s short story “The Last Leaf.” Tours of Literary Greenwich Village include that stop and view from the gate on their maps, I think. (the short story Last Leaf is about the kid who is dying and stares as the leaves fall from a tree [a tree at the center of Grove Court, one assumes]—the kid imagines when the last leaf falls, she will die. i don’t remember if she does; trusting O Henry, there might have been a twist) Thanks for this blog; I have bookmarked it.

    • In the O’Henry story, an artist lives upstairs and is friends with the sick girl’s family. He couldn’t sell a single painting but when he realized that the leaves were dropping from the tree and the kid thought she’d die when the last one fell and went into a “medical crisis” she awoke the next morning, having beaten the fever and sees a single leaf still clinging to the wall outside her window she is on her way to a full recovery…then the reader flashes to a ladder and body in the snow, where the artist died after falling off the ladder when he completed painting the “final” leaf on the wall.