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Two years ago I moved away from Greenwich Village. Now after living in three different neighborhoods all over the city, I'm trying to move back.

November 24, 2019

Lingering at the Waverly Diner for its art of the past

Going to diners became a habit when I moved to New York. The urge to get out of my apartment strikes as soon as I wake up, as much to escape a small space as a craving for that first cup of coffee. I don't like Starbucks. I always pick a Greek diner with windows.

Waverly Diner, looking north to the Jefferson Market Library

The Waverly Diner sits on a corner, and from a table on the raised platform I can look out at Sixth Avenue and down Waverly Place towards the park. A few weeks ago I sat by the window and saw Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez come up the subway steps with someone, looking lost. They turned every which way then took off down Sixth Avenue.

Waverly Diner on Sixth Avenue, NYC
But I don't go there looking for famous people. It's the pictures inside the restaurant of the Jefferson Market Library that make me really like this place, that big mural of the library, a color copy of the famous 1878 etching. I said 'hey' when I first saw it. When I lived on Waverly Place I had a framed copy over my fireplace. In a conversation with myself, I say to the diner's owner and the artist, 'so you like it too?' 

Sixth Avenue El Train, 1868

This is an old Village place, and that's why I like it. There's an old photo by the window of the diner's corner in 1860. There are elevated tracks and wood buildings. It was run down and shabby even then.

The Waverly Diner block in 1860


John Sloan's "Snowstorm in the Village," 1925
Link to Reynolda House museum description

"Snowstorm in the Village"--I love this etching and I love John Sloan! 

Library, library, library. Even the menu has a drawing of it.

Waverly Diner menu

No one knows how the mural got there or who chose the pictures. I wish I'd had a chance to talk to them. The owner died in June and his daughter who lives in Greece doesn't know. I hope the diner stays open. I hope the mural doesn't get lost. 

I'll be going there this Thanksgiving to linger in the neighborhood's past by stepping into these pictures, Mary Poppins-style. Maybe it'll be slow and there'll be someone to talk to. Maybe an old guy sitting at the counter will tell me what he knows about the mural and won't be so truthful. That's how legends are made. 

Waverly Diner mural


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