The old English word "gloaming" as a synonym of twilight brings with it a slightly mournful sound, and indeed the gloominess of gloaming implies a melancholy light. An early evening walk through the South Village down Thompson Street and then back up Sullivan Street can at times feel tinged with a little sadness. The shops that are lively by day have closed, and bars and restaurants are beginning to fill up with patrons. At sunset, these pleasantly-scaled streets, the kind suitable for human interaction, can envelop a solitary walker in a wistful mood. "Twilight" works fine, too, especially for those of us who do not immediately equate the word with vampires.
The South Village was settled by Irish and Italian immigrants with the latter group becoming dominant in the area by the 1900s. Many residents were working poor. Look up above the storefronts. That's where they lived. In fact, several of the Italian-American young women who died in the Triangle Fire lived on Thompson and Sullivan Streets. In recent decades, this area of the Village and nearby SoHo has become a sought-after address, leading to the opening of upscale shops and restaurants.
Fortunately, the South Village still retains some of the area's historical flavor with a mix of stores and restaurants. Milady's, for example, is a casual bar and restaurant, completely comfortable and so unlike many of its uptight SoHo neighbors to the east. Even the French restaurants along in here are informal and affordable. This is an excellent neighborhood for dining and speciality food shops.
Like several older pockets of downtown Manhattan, the streets and businesses along it are scaled down to human scale. The businesses take up a small footprint, creating a sense of intimacy. By day, stopping in and visiting with the workers is one of the chief pleasures of living in the Village.
A walk at rush hour through these streets inevitably encounters the rush of vehicles that are heading away from the city through the Holland Tunnel. Be careful crossing Broome and Watts Streets.
Crossing Canal Street leads to Tribeca. Across the way - the Tribeca Cinemas. But we're not going there on this walk.
Turning back north on 6th Avenue (see map below), look for the southern end of Sullivan Street, parallel to Thompson to the west.
Night is falling. Walking north, it's easy to see the lighted colors of the Empire State Building in the distance.
Some of the cafes may be closed in the evening. Below is Once Upon a Tart, a personal favorite during the day.
Joe's Dairy sells some fine mozzarella. Latticini Freschi means "fresh milk products." The sign was once common throughout the Italian South Village.
"Penombra" is a beautiful Italian word for twilight.
Now it's night. A walk through the evening shadows is over.
Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from April 1, 2011. 7:17 p.m. to 7:58 p.m. A map -
View Walk on Thompson and Sullivan Streets in a larger map