Tag Archives: Real Estate

Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 1

The Bronx In 1897 – A Borough of Beautiful Homes

Hampden Street in Fordham Heights Bronx, NY 1898

Hampden Street in Fordham Heights Bronx, NY in 1898. This view is looking east from Sedgwick Avenue towards Loring Place along West 183rd Street, (formerly Hampden Street). Every house in this photo is now gone, replaced by apartment buildings. The sole remaining structure is the stone wall on the right.

Same view of West 183rd Street (formerly Hampden Street) in 2011

Same view of West 183rd Street (formerly Hampden Street) in 2011

For almost anyone who grew up in the Bronx before World War II, they will recount happy memories of neighborhoods brimming with life and full of possibilities. But no one alive today remembers the Bronx when it was mostly undeveloped in the late 19th and early 20th century. Open land and spacious elegant houses dominated the landscape.

The Bronx was a conglomeration of about 50 villages, most of them rural in nature. In the grainy photographs you are about to see, many of the settings look like they could be in Ridgefield, CT or Smalltown, USA – but not the Bronx.

Now, with all the modern apartment buildings, public housing projects and ugly highways that have sprouted up in the last 60 years, these views of the Bronx will come as a surprise to many.

The book where these photographs originally appeared is The Great North Side or Borough of the Bronx by editors of The Bronx Board of Trade. After looking at these photographs, one thing is for sure: the Bronx will never again look as it did in 1897.

Stately homes in the Bronx 1897

Stately homes in the Bronx 1897

Accompanying the photographs, also taken from The Great North Side are the words of Egbert Viele (1825-1902), the famous engineer, surveyor and mapmaker. Viele’s genuine adulation for the The Bronx is readily apparent.

William Niles residence Bedford Park Bronx, NY 1897

William Niles residence Bedford Park Bronx, NY 1897

“The North Side of New York, i.e., the territory above the Harlem River, bears a similar relation to the city at large that the Great West does to the country — a land of great promise of infinite possibilities, and the seat of future empire.”

Ernest Hall residence Boston Avenue Bronx 1897

Ernest Hall residence Boston Avenue Bronx 1897

“No city in the world has such a wealth of public parks and pleasure grounds as lie within its area; no city in the world has such natural and economical advantages for commerce, or on so grand a scale.”

Louis Eickwort residence Anthony-Avenue Mt. Hope Bronx 1897

Louis Eickwort residence Anthony-Avenue Mt. Hope Bronx 1897

“None has a more salubrious climate, or such a variety of surface, nor has any other city such abundant facilities of passenger transit and land traffic.”

Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #13

10 Postcard Views Of Fifth Avenue From 31st -59th Street

postcard Fifth ave street sceneLet’s have a look at ritzy Fifth Avenue. All the postcards depict scenes from about 1900 – 1935. Fifth Avenue has a long association with wealth and privilege. Several of these postcards  capture the shifting tide of commercial intrusion into a neighborhood once dominated by  private residences.

As we look over the avenue, the one thing you will notice is how much traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, increased after the 1920’s.  We’ll start south and work our way north.

postcard Fifth Ave from 32nd St Waldorf AstoriaThis photo postcard taken around 1915 is looking north on Fifth Avenue from 32nd Street. The turreted Waldorf-Astoria Hotel with its American flag raised on the roof is the focal point of this scene. There are no traffic signals to interrupt the  vehicular traffic on the avenue. People cross the street with little difficulty as the traffic is light.

postcard Fifth Ave 34th St 1936In just 20 years Fifth Avenue has changed dramatically. Looking south on Fifth Avenue from 34th Street in 1935, the Waldorf-Astoria is gone and the Empire State Building is in its place. The Empire State is directly behind the double deck Fifth Avenue bus. Pedestrian and vehicular traffic is substantial and in front of the bus a policeman deals with the congestion. Continue reading

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 Postcards #12 – 20 Historic Buildings That Were Demolished

20 Historic, Beautiful New York Buildings That Were Demolished

City Hall Newspaper Row Buildings (l-r) World Building (aka Pulitzer Building), Sun Building, Tribune Building - all demolished. New York Times and Potter Buildings are still extant

City Hall Newspaper Row Buildings (l-r) World Building (aka Pulitzer Building), Sun Building, Tribune Building – all demolished. New York Times and Potter Buildings are still extant

New York City real estate developers will always knock down a building if a buck can be made. So it really should come as no surprise that these buildings were demolished because they outlived their usefulness or more often than not, the land they sat upon was deemed more valuable than the building itself.

Nathan Silver’s must-own book, Lost New York (1967) Houghton Mifflin, was the first book to explicitly point out what New York City had lost architecturally over the years. If you have never read it, you should.

For our short postcard essay, there are hundreds of examples we could have chosen from and we picked 20. We omitted places of worship, theatres and restaurants which are the most transitory of buildings.

We’ve covered hotels before, and we could do another story on all the historic hotels that have been torn down, but we’ve included a few in this retrospective.

Rather than comment extensively on the buildings, a brief summary will suffice and the images should convey what we have lost. These postcards have been scanned at 1200 dpi in high resolution, click on any postcard to enlarge.

Singer Building hresSinger Building – 149 Broadway (corner Liberty Street),  A gem by architect Ernest Flagg, built 1908. Once the tallest building in the world. The Singer Building was elegant and sleek. Demolished 1967-68 and replaced by a ugly box of a building built by the Unites States Steel Corporation.

Produce Exchange hresProduce Exchange – 2 Broadway between Beaver and Stone Streets. Architect George B. Post’s splendid work of grace was built in 1883, demolished 1957.

Gillender Building 2 hresGillender Building – northwest corner Wall Street and Nassau Street. Architects, Charles I. Berg and Edward H. Clark, built in 1897 at a cost of $500,000. The Gillender Building was the tallest office building in the world for a brief time. The 20-story tower lasted only 13 years. In 1910 it was the first modern fireproof building to be demolished and it was done at breakneck speed, in under 45 days. The Gillender Building was replaced by the Bankers Trust Tower. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #40

A 1920’s View Of Lower Manhattan Looking Northeast From The Now Closed Woolworth Building Observation Deck

Lower Manhattan from Wooloworth building Observatory 1920s

A tourist in the early 1920’s took this panoramic view of lower Manhattan from a place that is currently off-limits to the general public, the observation deck of the Woolworth Building. The visitors observation deck was shut down in 1941 right before the United States entry into World War II, when the Navy ordered it closed because it offered too good a view of ships in the harbor. Recently even the Woolworth Building lobby was declared off-limits to anyone wanting a view inside of the ornamental entrance.

Woolworth Building 1913

Woolworth Building 1913

From this vantage point we can see from right to left the Brooklyn Bridge, the East River, the Manhattan Bridge and in the hazy distance the Williamsburg Bridge. Spread across the lower east side are an array of many small buildings, with a couple of exceptions, most notably the tower of the New York City Municipal Building, which can be partially seen on the extreme left in the foreground.

When it was completed in 1913, the 792 foot tall Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway was the tallest building in the world and retained that title until the Chrysler Building usurped it in 1929. Depending upon your source and how you are counting the Woolworth Building contains anywhere between 55 – 60 floors.

For the admission fee of 50¢, visitors could get an incredible view of the surrounding metropolitan area from its observation deck. The tour book the building Continue reading

Notorious Crime Scene Property Is For Sale

In Back Of This House One Of The Most Horrendous Killings In New York History Occurred

Westchester Home For Sale in 2014. In the 1930's the home was known as Wisteria House. photo: HGMLS

Westchester Home For Sale in 2014. In the 1930’s the home was known as Wisteria House. photo: HGMLS

You may or may not believe that houses have vibes, memories or energies surrounding them. But regardless of your beliefs, would you want to live on a property where a serial killer committed a murder so horrific that the police did not initially believe the details of the confession?

Albert Fish Crime Scene 1934 - Investigators check over a doll's wig, women's shoes and a man's suit , found near the deserted Westchester home where Albert Fish murdered Grace Budd. photo: Daily News

Albert Fish Crime Scene 1934 – Investigators check over a doll’s wig, women’s shoes and a man’s suit , found near the deserted Westchester home where Albert Fish murdered Grace Budd. photo: Daily News

In a bucolic town in Westchester, NY, you can buy the three acre property where serial killer Albert Fish took and brutally killed ten-year-old Grace Budd on June 3, 1928.

Discovering a ramshackle cottage in the glades behind Wisteria House, where Albert Fish, confessed to murdering Grace Budd, police are dismantling the old structure, and digging methodically the ground surrounding it in a search for bones of possible other victims. The house are at Greenberg, N.Y. Photo shows the small cottage also occupied by Albert Fish. 1934

Discovering a ramshackle cottage in the glades behind Wisteria House, where Albert Fish, confessed to murdering Grace Budd, police are dismantling the old structure, and digging methodically the ground surrounding it in a search for bones of possible other victims. The house are at Greenberg, N.Y. Photo shows the small cottage also occupied by Albert Fish. 1934

Asking price – $799,900.

The home shown in the contemporary photograph above and in the vintage news photograph on the left was once known as Wisteria House, an 1860 villa in what was once Greenburgh, NY, and is now part of the town of Irvington.

Obviously the real estate agent listing the home will not advertise the fact, that on this property right behind the old home was where Wisteria Cottage stood (shown in photo to the right). This is where Albert Fish strangled, dismembered and later, at his own home, ate Grace Budd.

To say Albert Fish was one of the most heinous people who ever walked the earth would be an understatement.

Reading Fish’s life story is to uncover the debaucheries of a real life Hannibal Lecter as described in Silence of the Lambs. Continue reading

Life In 1909 – Random News And Advertising

What Was Happening On January 21, 1909

I picked a random day 103 years ago to see what was in the news. I read the entire New York Times newspaper for Thursday, January 21, 1909 to come up with the some interesting stories and unusual items.  The paper was only 18 pages! The major differences compared to current newspapers: few photographs accompany any story and  articles of different types are interspersed on the same page, so the news is not sectioned by category.  I have put the article summary in blue and my comments are in black italics.

Crowds flocked to the Auto Show at Madison Square Garden. Lots of famous people showed up including Colonel John Jacob Astor and Mr. & Mrs. George J. Gould. There was a selection in gasoline powered and electric cars on display.

Not many people realize that in the early days of automobile manufacturing gasoline and electric cars were battling for market share. Steam cars were also an option, but were left unmentioned in the article.  Before 1909 over 600 companies in the United States had at one time started manufacturing automobiles and half of them had already run out of business.  An estimated 200,000 automobiles were in use in the United States according to the  Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers. What would our current energy situation be like today had the electric car won the battle for vehicular supremacy over the gasoline powered engine?

An advertisement for Renault showed they led all automobile companies in US imports with 214 in 1907 and 244 in 1908.

The runner-up for sales in each year (by half as much) were in order: Mercedes, Fiat and Panhard?!

The Conference Committee of the Independent Telephone Officers to meet the following week on plans to build a long distance telephone line from Boston to Omaha. The cost: $5,000,000 immediate expenditure and $30,000,000 over the next four years! Continue reading

The Garage Antique Flea Market Closing (Make That – Closed)

Famous Chelsea Flea Market Hub To Close And A History of The Chelsea Area Flea Markets (see update)

UPDATE November 2014: The flea market has finally closed three years after we reported the imminent closing and demolition is underway. The remaining outdoor flea market on 25th Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway charges $1 admission for a sub-par experience.  Below the update is our original story on the history of the flea markets in the Sixth Avenue corridor.

UPDATE December 24, 2011: The flea market thankfully remains open. Dealers don’t seem to know what the future holds. Speaking to several exhibitors they have not been told how long they will remain. So keep your fingers crossed, maybe Extell will not build until market conditions improve.

According to a dealer at The Antiques Garage at 112 West 25th Street, the last stalwart of what was once a thriving antique center in Chelsea, is closing in the near future.

The Antiques Garage which has over 100 dealers selling all sorts of merchandise every Saturday and Sunday will be torn down and replaced by a hotel and condos.  The developer, Extell Realty bought the garage in 2006 for $42.7 million.  The dealers who exhibit have been told that Extell will soon begin demolition and this month is to be their last.

In the mid 1980’s the parking lots and vacant lots in Manhattan from 24th to 27th Streets, just east and west of 6th Avenue, had developed into a weekend cornucopia of junk and treasure. Lower end antique dealers, second hand junk collectors, and abandoned storage unit scavengers set up shop, providing the public with endless browsing and purchasing opportunities. You could find everything from mundane items to rare and valuable objects. Continue reading

The Cost of Living in Manhattan Apartments – 1926

The Prices of Fancy New York  Apartments and Where You Could Live on a Decent Salary

As I continue to look through the Sunday October 10, 1926 New York Times real estate section, I wanted to get a better understanding of what a dollar could buy when it came to apartments.

First I did some income research.

According to FRASER (the Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research) , a little over 4 million individual tax returns were filed in 1926.

The average net income on those returns was $5,306.43.

The average amount of tax liability was – get this – only $176.11!

So you might think that everyone was doing Continue reading

The Most Pretentious Home

How To Advertise a House – 1926 Style

This is an ad from a copy of the October 10, 1926 Sunday New York Times. An odd choice of words to sell a home.

Larchmont is a wealthy suburb 25 miles north of New York City.

This ad has me pondering numerous questions:

I wonder if this home sold quickly because the H.M. Williams copywriting team knew the word  “pretentious” would appeal to that special, up and coming snob who wanted to live in a pretentious home?

Even in 1926 wasn’t it demeaning if you admitted that you lived in the most pretentious home in Larchmont? Maybe it was bad, only if other people said it about you or your home?

If this house still exists in 2011, do the current owners know how it was once advertised?

Does anyone out there from Larchmont recognize the house and if so can you drop us a line with the street address?