Parks of the Village

Father Demo Square, the Minetta Triangle and the Golden Swan Garden

By Anthony Paradiso

The stone fountain at Father Demo Square, located at 220 Bleecker Street, captured in all its beauty as a young girl reaches over the fountain’s iron fence and birds perch on it. All photos by Bob Cooley.

Washington Square Park is undoubtedly the best park in Greenwich Village. It is big and beautiful. It has the 73 and a-half-foot tall Washington Square Arch, a beautiful water fountain and plenty of space to walk around. But what about some of the Village’s smaller parks?

The four-block section of Greenwich Village that begins at West Houston Street and ends at West Fourth Street amazingly contains eight parks, fields and playgrounds. We’ll focus on three: Father Demo Square, Minetta Triangle and Golden Swan Garden.

Let’s begin our journey down Sixth Avenue with Father Demo Square, named after Father Antonio Demo, who was the pastor of Our Lady of Pompeii Church from 1900-1930. Father Demo deserves to be remembered for more than being the pastor of a Village church. He was a leader who expanded the services that the Church provided to the community and was “active in social services,” like helping immigrants find jobs. According to, this famous Village pastor’s “spiritual care was exemplified by his hard work and generosity of spirit in response to the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, which claimed the lives of 146 female employees in 1911.” Today, large trees hover over the square, providing shade for the people who come in and sit down on the benches around a water fountain in the center of the square.

On the other side of Sixth Avenue is the Minetta Triangle, a garden located on the corner of Minetta Lane. The story of the Minetta Triangle begins in the 1620s when Dutch colonists settled in Manhattan. Native Americans told the colonists about “a small brook full of trout,” that began at what is now Gramercy Park and ran through Greenwich Village all the way to the Hudson River. Although the stream has been covered up, when people go there today, they will find trees, shrubs and a stone path with stones that have pictures of trout on them.

Located right next to the West Fourth Street courts is the Golden Swan Garden, which has a long interesting history. From the mid-1800s to mid-1900s, the plot of land where the garden is today was where the Golden Swan Café once stood. The famous playwright Eugene O’Neill would stop to drink and eat here.

The Swan Café was demolished in 1928 but a playground was opened on the land in 1935. Throughout the last 85 years, this small piece of land became a garden with several trees on it. There are two plaques inside the garden that commemorate its history. One is engraved with the name “Golden Swan Garden” and the other is engraved with a picture and text that reads: “In the early 1900s, at this site stood the Golden Swan, also known as the Hell Hole, one of Eugene O’Neill’s inspirations for Harry Hope’s saloon in The Iceman Cometh, which opened at our Circle in the Square Theatre at Sheridan Square, on May 8, 1956.” Following the text are the names Theodore Mann and Paul Libin and the date the plaque was dedicated (June 22, 2011).

Who would have known there could be so much history contained in just four blocks on Sixth Avenue? There are many more parks to see in the West Village. Stay tuned for information on more of them in the next issue.