“Whereas!” “Whereas!” “Whereas!” A group of drunken actors, poets, and artists shouted this word into the night from the top of the Washington Square Arch in January 1917. It was the one-word constitution of the “Free and Independent Republic” of Greenwich Village as declared by the Arch Conspirators. Those rowdy conspirators were artist Marcel Duchamp, painter John Sloan, poet Gertrude Drick, and a handful of actors from the Provincetown Players theatre collective. The group was part of Greenwich Village’s bohemian crowd and the burgeoning modern art movement of the early 20th century.

Join us for a virtual talk with Lottie Whalen, author of Radicals and Rogues: the Women Who Made New York Modern, to discover more early 20th-century escapades in New York City and the daring women who led and took part in them! This virtual talk on January 24th is free for Untapped New York Insiders! Not an Insider yet? Become a member today with code JOINUS and get your first month free.

Radicals & Rogues Book Talk

Radicals and Rogues book cover

The Untapped New York team has also visited the top of the Washington Square Arch, though our visit was much more tame than the infamous visit of Duchamp, Sloan, and Drick. The trio and their guests gained access to the arch through an unlocked door on the side of the monument. This door led them to the interior spiral staircase which they climbed with balloons, wine, blankets, food, cap pistols, and radical ideas in tow.

Once the picnic was arranged, the group drew up a plan for Greenwich Village to secede from the nation. Into the wee hours of the morning, the party shot their cap pistols and declared their allegiance to the new bohemian republic.

Roof of the Washington Square Arch

Though the conviction of secession faded with the light of dawn, the sentiments of the stunt were widespread throughout the Village. On the brink of World War I, free-spirited residents of the Village largely held pacifist beliefs and revolutionary ideas about art, life, and politics. Defiance of the prevailing norms that dictated life in the rest of New York City society is what drew artists, activists, intellectuals, musicians, and writers to Greenwich Village. Radical art, songs, plays, magazines, and political groups sprang from the streets of the Village to inspire change.

The playful scene at the top of the arch is immortalized in a sketch by John Sloan titled Arch Conspirator. Today, the door that leads inside the arch is securely locked. Check out of video from our visit to the top here!

Join us on January 24th to learn about more trailblazing women, bohemian hangouts, and forerunners of the avant-garde scene of 20th-century New York!

Radicals & Rogues Book Talk with Author Lottie Whalen

Lottie Whalen

Next, check out 10 Secrets of Washginton Square Park