The ever-expanding NYU fiefdom aside, it now seems unthinkable that one man could possibly own nearly all of Greenwich Village — but indeed, this was once the case. The gentlemen in question was one Admiral Peter Warren, an 18th-century Englishman prone to fits of familial largesse (likely grog-induced). One such moment of generosity was the wedding present he made to his daughter Charlotte (possibly nicknamed “horse-faced Charlotte”) of a large parcel of land around what is now Abingdon Square (not-so-coincidentally named for Charlotte’s brand-new husband at the time, Willoughby Bertie, the Earl of Abingdon…before he was even dead!).
Unlike most other local streets, squares, creeks, outcroppings and dells named for the English aristocracy, Abingdon Square survived the great, post-Revolutionary name purge of 1794. It’s true, the New York powers-that-be felt it offensive to commemorate the families of their former colonizers, so in a giant municipal nose-thumbing, the names were changed… But why not the Abingdon moniker? It turns out that the English Abingdons actually supported the cause of the rowdy colonials during the war, earning them scorn in 18th-century England, but a nice little square in Greenwich Village. Nora Lynch