With all the skyscrapers, congestion, and huge crowds dominating New York City, it can be easy to overlook some of its more isolated refuges. But these places are all around us—that is, if you know where to go. From historic districts smaller than a block to alleys and small private streets, there are many peaceful places hidden in plain sight, often right in the middle of New York City’s busiest areas.
Now, here are 12 courtyards hidden in plain site for you to scope out. Though most are not open to the public, they are nonetheless notable for their historical secrets, quaint atmosphere, and stark contrast to the surrounding hustle and bustle.
1. Grove Court
Starting at Christopher Street, you’ll notice that Grove Street continues west, curving before ending on Hudson Street. Along the street, you’ll notice a tiny gate with a black sign in gold lettering reading “PRIVATE COURT, No Trespassing.” Hidden behind the gate is a small courtyard with 19th century townhouses—Grove Court!
Samuel Cocks likely created the alley in 1848, with the townhouses complete by 1854 (although others have dated them to 1820), to house tradesmen and other workers in efforts to attract customers to his nearby business. It was nicknamed “Mixed Ale Alley” for the cheap alcohol produced there, and was far from the desirable place to live that it is today. Now, it’s home to much sought after Federal Style apartments, retaining its old-style gate and cobblestone road. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind courtyard in New York City and a West Village gem.