Your gifts are tax-deductible through our Partner, Historic District Council. Click on the link below.


The Friends of the Lower West Side aims to preserve the history of this neighborhood through commemoration and preservation

The Lower West Side from the Battery to Liberty Street west of Broadway was once one of New York’s most diverse ethnic immigrant neighborhoods, sometimes referred to as “Little Syria,” or “Bowling Green Village.”

Starting in the 1880’s,  peoples from the Ottoman Empire, mostly Syrians, Lebanese, Armenians, and Greeks, began moving into the narrow old streets by the docks west of Trinity Church and the Financial District – a neighborhood previously populated by Irish and German immigrants. The end of the 19th century saw an influx of Slavic immigrants arriving mostly from Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Ruthenia, and Moravia. By 1917 the Guaranty News estimated that there were 8000 inhabitants of twenty-seven nationalities living in this small area -truly a great melting pot.

Visit 103 to 109 Washington Street, some of the last significant buildings that so well represent this once unique neighborhood. See the landmarked, glorious terra-cotta facade of the former St. George Syrian Melkite Church. Also known as the Syrian Church, it represents one of the diverse religions practiced here. (The Greek Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas was destroyed on 9/11/2001.) Next door, neglected and threatened with demolition, is the Downtown Community House built in 1926 in Colonial Revival style as a settlement house providing social, educational, and health services to the immigrant population. Next to that–at 109–is the last of the old tenement buildings that used to line both sides of Washington Street.



Watch the video, “The Sacred,” by Ozge Dogan, who created this video about the lower west side using oral interviews and historic footage.
Dr. Linda Jacobs presents the history of the “Lost Lower West Side” to an audience at the Skyscraper Museum in lower Manhattan.

A film about the importance of memorials and monuments, including the lower west side starting at approximately 17:20 (apologies for the ads).


In-depth histories of the Lower West Side can be viewed and downloaded here.


Our Goal is to preserve the remaining historic buildings as a means of memorializing the neighborhood

Preserving the Buildings

The lower west side neighborhood was decimated by the construction of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and the World Trade Center. FLWS is working to preserve the buildings that remain. Their cultural importance overshadows their architectural merit. 

Preserving the Memory

The “lost” lower west side is no longer lost: commemorative plaques have been installed on benches in Elizabeth Berger Park, those who live or lived there remember it in oral histories, and we are supporting the construction of a memorial to the writers of the Syrian colony in Elizabeth Berger Plaza. 

Our sister organization, Washington Street Historical Society, installed plaques in Elizabeth Berger Park to commemorate the Syrians who lived on the lower west side in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.


Two books about the neighborhood–Strangers In the West and The Financial District’s Lost Neighborhood–tell the stories of the Syrian and multi-ethnic  immigrants who lived on the lower west side, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in New York City.
–The Syrian Colony of New York City in the Nineteenth Century
–The Slavic immigrants who came to what is now the Financial District

Midwest Mahjar: The Recorded Sounds of the Greater Syrian Diaspora in the United States at 78 RPM


Midwest Mahjar© is a blog dedicated to uncovering the stories of Arab American musicians and music of in the 78-rpm record era. This period spans roughly from 1900 to 1961. The purpose of our site is to provide mostly biographical information on the men and women who recorded or founded record labels for an Arab American audience. It turns out, many of these musicians also performed at haflas and mahrajans in the United States during the same era, and most lack profiles online since they were Americans who primarily spoke Arabic. While our focus is Arab musicians who came to live in or were born in the United States, sometimes blog posts about recorded musicians of Arab descent who were favorites of Arab Americans lived in the mashriq or other mahjari countries may be posted.



Memories of the Neighborhood from those Who Lived There: Oral Histories

Use the scroll arrows to see all interviews

Recalling 9/11

Conducted in the months following the disaster, these interviews capture the fear and trauma that forced these once-anonymous apartment dwellers to turn to one another for help and solace. Today, 109 Washington Street has become a closely-knit group of concerned friends and neighbors.

109 on 9/11


Ed Metropolis

Hear Eddie Metropolis, apartment # 13, lifetime resident, talk about the morphing of Lower Manhattan from Little Moravia (a working class immigrant neighborhood) to a ghost town in the shadow of the financial district. To quote Eddie: “I’ve seen the Trade Center being built, now I’ve seen it all destroyed.”

Jim Pedersen

Jim Pedersen, apartment 9: the horror of a front door that won’t open as the South Tower collapses.

Lesley McBurney

Lesley McBurney from apartment 7: on the guilt of leaving behind two cats

Nancy Keegan

Nancy Keegan, apartment 1: walking seven miles with a dog and cat—just to get to a place to sleep for the night.

Erwin Silverstein

Erwin Silverstein, apartment 6, witnesses fallen bodies…and then goes to work.

Roxanne Yamashiro

Roxanne Yamashiro, apartment 10: what it felt like being trapped on the subway underneath the twin towers.

Flavio Rizzo & Veruska Cantelli

Flavio Rizzo and Veruska Cantelli, apartment 15, play back for us frantic answering machine messages from Italy and elsewhere. “109 on 9-11”, first and foremost, demonstrates how the September 11th tragedy helped transform a building.

Press & News

Our Partners

Events & Tours


2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the “Pen Bond,” a group of Syrian writers and poets who lived in the Syrian colony. Exhibitions, workshops, and poetry performances will be presented by our partner organizations this year.


FLWS hosted the first-ever lower west side  block party on Washington Street in 2016 to call attention to our preservation efforts (right).

FLWS Meetings

Meetings are held monthly on a rotating schedule. Contact Esther or Joe for meeting time and place.


Tours are held several times a year. Contact Esther or Joe for tour times.


Your gifts are tax-deductible through our Partner, Historic District Council. Click on the link below.


Contact us for updates by emailing Esther Regelson at [email protected] or

Joe Svehlak at [email protected]