Grove Court was the setting of O. Henry‘s “The Last Leaf,” which tells the story of a sick woman who—looking from her sick bed at a vine through her window—convinces herself that she’ll die when the last leaf falls. But thanks to the power of art, she never sees the last leaf fall. A frustrated, unrecognized artist saves her life by drawing a leaf on the wall outside her window—finally creating the masterpiece that had always eluded him.
The secluded location of the court might suggest to the modern-day observer that the owners were exclusive and wealthy, since in our day, the wealthy seek privacy. However, in the 1850s—when the Grove Court was built—seclusion meant quite the opposite, as respectable families built their houses fronting the street to exhibit their prosperity and social status.
So the fact that the Grove Court was tucked away from the street indeed spoke to its tenants’ low station in life; it was built by the co-owner of a nearby grocery to house laborers and tradesmen. As a reflection of the questionable drinking choices of its inhabitants, Grove Court was dubbed “Mixed Ale Alley.”
Ironically, Grove Court’s current seclusion coincides with its owners’ affluence—townhouses within Grove Court are worth around $4 million today.
Location: between 10 and 12 Grove Street in West Village