Little Green Street
Little Green Street isn't in the center of London, but maybe that's why it survived so long-it's one of only a few intact Georgian streets left in the whole metropolis. These two-story brick houses may have survived the Blitz in World War II, but the inexorable march of gentrification is another thing altogether.
It's not even a full neighborhood, just a one-block-long street, a narrow cobblestoned lane lined on both sides with perhaps a dozen modest 18th-century terraced houses.
What's especially ironic is that the houses of Little Green Street, just off Highgate Road in Kentish Town, aren't themselves being knocked down. They are listed as Grade II historic properties, which in British parlance means they're entitled to a certain degree of landmark protection. No, it's the street itself that lies in danger, by an accident of urban geography. The land behind Little Green Street now stands derelict, and a developer won initial approval to build an underground parking garage, 20 new houses, and a block of flats there. Just north of trendy Camden Town and east of posh Hampstead, Kentish Town is no doubt ripe for gentrification. There's only one catch: To build those new structures, trucks and heavy construction equipment would have to be routed up and down Little Green Street.
The street comes honestly by its name: Little Green Street is only 2.5m (8 ft.) wide. Lorries and backhoes would barely scrape through this lane, coming within inches of the terrace's neatly painted front doors and bow windows. What's more, no studies had been done to test how much the constant rumbling and vibrations of that traffic would affect the foundations of these 225-year-old buildings, given a projected construction period of four years.
Little Green Street looks like a perfect slice of Regency London; it's been celebrated in the poetry of that quintessentially British poet John Betjeman, and used as the setting for music videos and photo shoots. The campaign to save Little Green Street has not only knit together the dozen families who live there, it has attracted actors, writers, musicians, and others concerned with preserving London's historic character. On February 28, 2008, the Camden Town Council denied the developers construction access to Little Green Street, but the appeals process continues. Little Green Street's safety is by no means certain. Stay tuned.
Contact: Little Green Street Blog (www.littlegreenstreet.com).
Where to Stay: Hart House Hotel, 51 Gloucester Place, Marylebone (tel. 44/20/7935-2288; www.harthouse.co.uk). Vicarage Private Hotel, 10 Vicarage Gate, South Kensington (tel. 44/20/7229-4030; www.londonvicaragehotel.com).