Tag Archives: King’s Handbook of New York City

When Rent Cost $10 Per Week In New York City

The Cost of Apartment Living In New York In 1892

Lexington Avenue and 64th Street - typical turn of the century brownstones

Lexington Avenue and 64th Street – typical turn of the century brownstones

New York has always had a wide range of housing choices. But the gulf in living conditions between rich and the poor remains vast. If you have a lot of money, your housing choices are unlimited. If not, you are hard pressed to find anything decent. As Kansas gunslinger and New York journalist Bat Masterson observed in his final column, “Everybody gets the same amount of ice — the rich get theirs in the summer and the poor get theirs in the winter.”

The lowest of New York's living quarters: the 7 cent per night lodging house

The lowest of New York’s living quarters: the 7 cent per night lodging house

Over time when it comes to housing a lot of things have changed, others have not. In 1892 living conditions for the very poor in New York were abysmal. Maybe not as bad as they are now, but pretty close. The majority of New Yorker’s were not living in poverty, but were just plain working people at various income levels; some struggling to survive and in many cases raise a family.

Which brings us to the question about living in New York in 1892 – just what sort of housing did you get for your money?

Kings Handbook of New York coverThe fabulous King’s Handbook of New York City, (1892), delves into everything related to New York, including home life, and answers the question.

One chapter in the book devotes itself to the types of housing available in New York.

The mansions, high class homes, bachelor apartments, middle income flats, boarding houses, tenements and lodging houses are all covered.

The most surprising thing is that you could live in a relatively decent neighborhood with room and board for about $10 per week. Realize of course that an unskilled laborer might barely earn that amount of money and paying room and board put them at the the precipice of poverty. For those people it typically meant finding lodging at a $2 per week boarding house.

152nd Street Riverside Drive Onondaga Apartments postcardThe wealthy, professional and merchant classes could afford to choose their housing according to taste and preferences with a good deal of flexibility. The middle class also had choices which varied widely. So when you read about what you got for your money at $50 or more per month, you cannot help but feel envy for Gotham’s dwellers of the past. You come away with the feeling that New York was a much more affordable city 123 years ago. The prices quoted may have you looking for a time machine.

From King’s Handbook, a selection from the section on housing: Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #41

Park Avenue And 51st Street 1889

Park Avenue 51st St looking north 1889

In 1886 what had been unglamorous Fourth Avenue above 42nd Street was renamed Park Avenue. This mix of 19th century modernity and bleak landscape is Park Avenue looking north from 51st Street in 1889. You would be hard pressed to find a time today when this busy intersection of New York would be so deserted. There is little activity besides a lone horse and cart on the right side of the incline by the tunnel and a ghostly man in a derby by a boulder in the lower portion of the photograph.

Commodore Vanderbilt reluctantly covered the tracks used by his New York Central & Hudson and New York & Harlem Railroads along Park Avenue from 58th through 99th Streets between 1872-1875. This improvement opened up building possibilities in what had been an undesirable stretch of land with noisy and polluted streets. But from 56th Street to Grand Central Depot at 42nd Street, the tracks had an open cut as seen here. The railroad tracks remained that way until they were finally covered in 1914.

The main building on the right in this photograph is Steinway & Sons Piano Forte  finishing factory, which occupied the entire block on Park Avenue from 52nd to 53rd Streets. According to King’s Handbook of New York City (1892) “There, 500 workmen plain, saw, join, drill, turn, string, fit, varnish and tune the piano works and cases received from the 600 workmen of Steinway, Astoria.”

The Steinway Factory Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #14

The Old Men And Women’s Hospital (Presbyterian Hospital) Circa 1872

This photograph is from a stereoview which captioned the Presbyterian Hospital as “the old men and women’s hospital.” This photo was taken by E. & H.T. Anthony Co. about 1872, shortly before the hospital’s first complex of buildings was completed.  The hospital was built by the leading architect of the day, Richard Morris Hunt. Though you cannot tell from the black and white photograph, the contrasting color scheme had bricks that were very red and others that were pale.

Extending from 70th to 71st Streets and occupying the entire block from Madison Avenue to Fourth Avenue (later renamed Park Avenue), the land was donated by philanthropist James Lenox.  The Lenox Hill neighborhood surrounding this portion of the upper east side is named after merchant Robert Lenox, James Lenox’s father.

In 1868, Lenox had gathered a group of prominent Presbyterian’s to join him in building and managing the new church affiliated hospital.   In 19th century New York it was common for hospitals to be affiliated with religious institutions for the care of their own. This would not affect who the hospitals would see, as they would often apply a nonsectarian policy.

According to King’s Handbook of New York for 1892, the hospital was true to remaining non-denominational with less than ten percent of the patients being Presbyterian. One truly amazing statistic, in 1891, of the 3,300 patients cared for, 3,200 were treated gratuitously and scarcely more than $3,000 was received from paying patients!

The hospital stayed open until March 29, 1928 when it moved all of its patients to its new state of the art facility Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in Washington Heights. The old hospital buildings were immediately demolished and soon after replaced by apartment buildings and private homes.