William Rhinelander Stewart (1852-1929) was born in NYC. He was president of the Rhinelander Real Estate Co. and an officer of the Greenwich Savings Bank and the Corn Exchange Bank. As a philanthropist, he was active in the work of the Conference on Charities and Corrections and served as president of the State Board of Charities for twenty-five years.
Mr. Stewart is often considered responsible for Grant’s tomb funding, Washington Arch in Washington Square Park and was the President of the State Board of Charities in NY. The family was one of the oldest in NYC. He was also rumored to be a member of a secret society before WW II called The Room. The covert group, founded in 1917, included the real estate heir Vincent Astor, a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt; the book publisher Nelson Doubleday; Winthrop W. Aldrich, the president of the Chase National Bank; Kermit Roosevelt, a son of Theodore Roosevelt; David K. E. Bruce, a son-in-law of Andrew W. Mellon and a future ambassador to France, West Germany and Britain; the philanthropist William Rhinelander Stewart; and Marshall Field III, a newspaper publisher and heir to the Chicago department store fortune. The group gathered info from various governments for President Roosevelt as well as gather to hear famous speakers.
Guido Bruno (1884–1942) was a well-known Greenwich Village character, and small press publisher and editor, sometimes called ‘the Barnum of Bohemia’. He emigrated to the United States from Prague as a second cabin class passenger under the name Kurt Kisch in December 1906. He was based at his “Garret on Washington Square” where for an admission fee tourists could observe “genuine Bohemian” artists at work. He staged “bohemian” working environments with painters, writers and models” and charged admission for the expectant visitors. He produced a series of little magazine publications from there and sold them to the tourists and others.
From July 1915 to December 1916, Bruno’s Weekly published poems, short stories, essays, illustrations and plays, as well as special sections, such as “Children’s House,” and “In Our Village.” His support for young unknown talent and his continuing battle for a freer American press were at the forefront of his work. He lost a lot of his own and others work,including unpublished manuscripts by Bernard Shaw and Mark Twain, when a fire tore through the building he lived at on Washington Square Park (no. 58) in 1916.
On January 23, 1917, a group of artists, led by Gertrude Drick, snuck into the Washington Arch in Washington Square Park, climbed the spiral staircase that leads to its roof, and had a drunken picnic there; they also tied paper lanterns and balloons to the arch, and recited poetry. They declared Greenwich Village “The Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square”.
Drick was an artist and poet. She had come to Greenwich Village from Texas to study under painter John Sloan. She had gained notoriety in the Village under the self-imposed nickname ‘Woe’, so that when asked her name she would respond ‘Woe is me.’
The Village was filled with artists and writers at that time, including Marcel DuChamp, and John Sloan. They both accompanied Drick into the arch along with 3 others. Drick was the one that initially noticed the door on the West side of the statue was often unattended. They tied balloons to the arch, and signed a parchment with a seal for the Free Village on it. As the other five fired their cap pistols, Gertrude Drick read their declaration, which consisted of nothing but the word “whereas” repeated over and over and ending with the declaration of “The Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square.”
Greenwich Village did not end up as an independent republic, but the door on the arch is now always locked.