Jefferson Market

Art & Culture | History

From Fires to Bells to Jail Birds and Flower Buds this Turreted Beauty is Full of History

jefferson market courthouse greenwich village

About Jefferson Market

 & why it made the Carpe City list

  • The Jefferson Market is one of the most beloved buildings in the Village, and the best turret on 6th Avenue!   
  • The building dates to 1874, and over the years, has been used as a market, courthouse, and firewatchtower.   
  • The 172-foot high watchtower, featuring a working clock and bell, is nicknamed Ol’ Jeff.   
  • The unusual architectural style is known as “Ruskinian Gothic,” and in the 1880s, a panel of architects voted the building the fourth most beautiful in America! 
  • When the building was a courthouse, Civil Court proceedings took place upstairs on the second floor, where the library’s reading room is now. 
  • Today’s reference room, located in the basement, was once a holding area for prisoners on their way to trial. 
  • Moreover, next door, in what is now the Jefferson Market Garden, there was once a women’s prison.   
    • The building was the only art deco prison in the world!  
    • Before it was demolished in 1973, Soviet spy Ethel Rosenberg, and Hollywood sexpot Mae West, arrested for a play she acted in, were both held here.   
    • Today the land is sustained by local volunteers. You can even book the garden for your wedding!   
  •  In 1967, the vacant courthouse was scheduled to be demolished to make way for an apartment complex, but local groups fought for its preservation and renovation 
    • It was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1977 currently serves as a branch of the New York Public Library  

Carpe City Trivia

Digging all the incredible history of the Jefferson Market Library?

The library has a specially devoted local history section where you can dive further into the history of the building and the neighborhood! 

By: Lucie Levine

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