Tag Archives: Real Estate

New York Illustrated – As It Was 150 Years Ago – Part II

More New York Illustrations From Around 1870

Part II – Familiar Names – Vanished Sites

New York And Its Institutions book cover 1871We continue our look at New York of 150 years ago from Reverend J.F. Richmond’s New York and Its Institutions 1609-1871 (E.B. Treat; 1871).

The names may be familiar, but possibly not the building or site.

While Central Park has remained a constant presence in New York City for over 160 years, it has constantly changed.

There were always developers looking to infringe upon the park with buildings and schemes. A fair portion of Central Park has managed to keep its original spirit, but many of its early additions have changed or no longer exist.

 Central Park

Children's playground Central Park 1870 playing baseballThe Children’s Playground in Central Park. There was no “Great Lawn” when Central Park was built. The Great Lawn opened in 1937, the result of filling in one of the two receiving reservoirs located within the park. The Central Park Playground seen above is an open field where children can play within its great expanse. This section was located in the southern end of the park, now site of the Heckscher playground and ballfields. Continue reading

New York Illustrated – As It Was 150 Years Ago – Part I

Illustrations Of New York As Seen By Artists Around 1870

Part I – Demolished & Mostly Forgotten

Intersection Fifth Ave and Broadway at 23rd St looking north 1870

Intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue looking north towards the Worth Monument with The Fifth Avenue Hotel on the left (c. 1870)

Demolition of anything old  goes on every day without regard for New York’s history. I believe a day will come when all the pre-20th century buildings not given landmark protection will be gone. Demolished in the name of progress. Real estate values rule, not history values. That’s always been the way of New York.

When a historic structure like The St. Denis Hotel is obliterated instead of renovated it is a shame.

I see more and more ordinary tenement and commercial buildings falling at an astonishing rate. So I look around trying to see vestiges of things my great-grandparents might have known and been familiar with.

What did they see?

Recently I took out my copy of Reverend J.F. Richmond’s New York and Its Institutions 1609-1871 (E.B. Treat; 1871) and started to re-read it. I had forgotten how many excellent illustrations were in the book. Belying the name, New York and Its Institutions is not solely focused only upon hospitals, asylum, charity and worship facilities. The book thoroughly covers other important sites and buildings with their respective histories. Though it was not written as a guide book, it essentially is one.

What my ancestors saw were these historic buildings which are now not even memories to most New Yorkers, most having been taken down over a hundred years ago,

Let’s take a look at what New York City looked like around 1871 and take in what the visitor and native New Yorker would have seen.

Part I – Buildings No Longer In Existence

Very few lamented the loss of the old Post Office at the corner of Nassau and Liberty Street – — until they saw what replaced it in 1875.

The modest Police Department headquarters at 300 Mulberry Street was replaced in 1909 by a grand structure on Broome and Centre Streets.

Wilson's industrial school for girls 1870 new york Wilson’s Mission House or Industrial School For Girls at 27-29 Avenue A corner of St. Mark’s Place across from Tompkins Square Park.

Broadway Grand Central Hotel 1870The Grand Central Hotel stood on the west side of Broadway opposite Bond Street between Amity and Bleecker Street. Illegal alterations caused a major collapse of the Broadway facade  on August 3, 1973. Incredibly only four people were killed. The remaining section of the hotel was soon demolished. Continue reading

Alexander Hamilton, The Grange & A Dubious Story Of 13 Trees

Alexander Hamilton’s Final New York Home, The Grange & The Mythical Legend Of Its 13 Trees

With A Description Of Hamilton’s Grange In 1872

Alexander Hamilton’s home, The Grange as it appeared in 1872. print: Appleton’s Journal

In New York City where “preservation” can be a dirty word, an impediment standing in the way of “progress,” it is miraculous that Alexander Hamilton’s home, The Grange, still exists.

Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton and the subsequent smash musical Hamilton by Lin Manuel Miranda, spurred an awareness and appreciation to a long dead founding father. Alexander Hamilton has been firmly reestablished in the pantheon of great Americans.

1867 New York City Atlas showing original location of Alexander Hamilton’s home The Grange

Alexander Hamilton’s original property of about 30 acres once stretched from about Tenth (Amsterdam) Avenue to St. Nicholas Avenue and from 138th to 145th Street. Hamilton’s Grange built between 1801 and 1802, had been threatened with demolition many times over its 200 plus year existence. The Grange was moved from its original location, not once, but twice.

As described in an 1872 Appleton’s article (reprinted at the end of our story), the author takes note that the house had survived late into the 19th century and should continue well into the 20th century.

“(The Grange) is constructed in the most substantial manner, and is good for a century yet, if the exigencies of city improvement do not demand its destruction.”

Those exigencies did arise a few years later. Hamilton’s home was first moved a couple of blocks south and a half block east in 1889. Real estate development had the Grange in the path of the street grid, laid out in 1811,  which had slowly but steadily worked its way north to upper Manhattan.

Thirteen “Union” Trees Planted By Hamilton print: Appleton’s Journal

After the move the Grange remained safe for the time being, but there was the matter of its famous group of trees, supposedly planted by Alexander Hamilton. The story was recounted by the Appleton’s article:

“A grove of thirteen stately gum-trees on the lawn in front of the mansion, which were planted by General Hamilton in token of the union and perpetuity of the thirteen original States of the republic. The beautiful star-like leaf of this tree rendered it peculiarly appropriate for the purpose.”

By March 1892 the Amos Cotting estate which now owned the parcel of land where the trees stood at Amsterdam Avenue and Convent Avenue between 142nd and 143rd Streets was set to be auctioned off. Destruction of the trees seemed imminent.

Wealthy businessman Orlando B. Potter bought the tracts of land where the trees stood for $140,500 and vowed to preserve the grove.

There was only one problem which seems to have escaped most historians notice, even up to this day – the trees were probably not planted by Alexander Hamilton. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #83 – Macy’s & Surroundings 1905

Around Macy’s Herald Square – The Greatest Store In The World 1905

This high definition photograph of Macy’s department store was taken by the Detroit Publishing Company in 1905. Macy’s led the march of modern department stores uptown, moving from their Sixth Avenue and 14th Street location where they had been since the 1858. The “Greatest Store in the World,” opened at the Herald Square location on Saturday, November 8, 1902.

We are looking west from the Sixth Avenue elevated station along Broadway with 34th Street on the left and 35th Street on the right.

Above is the color postcard that was created from this photograph.

Let’s take a close-up view of Macy’s and the surrounding area from our photograph. Click to enlarge any photo.

In the immediate foreground on the extreme right is a small portion of the New York Herald Building with a large owl, wings spread, perched at the corner.

James Gordon Bennett, and later James Jr., owners of the Herald, had a thing for owls. The Herald building was adorned with many of them. Mechanical owls attached to the clock had their eyes illuminated and would light up when the Herald clock struck the hour.

The Herald Building is long gone, but Herald Square retains its name and two of the original owls are still in Herald Square. They are part of a monument to  James Gordon Bennett and the newspaper he founded. And yes the owls eyes still light up.

Looking past the Herald Building down 35th Street is the loading bay of Macy’s. Delivery trucks of all type congregate here, including an ice wagon. Continue reading

It’s True, A Group Wants To Entirely Rebuild The Original Penn Station

A Serious Proposal To Rebuild The Original Penn Station

New Main Waiting Room Penn Station Credit: Jeff Stikeman for Rebuild Penn Station.

The National Civic Art Society has developed a plan to entirely rebuild the original Penn Station.

The biggest and most obvious hurdle to accomplishing the Society’s plan would be demolishing the many buildings that currently stand on the site including Madison Square Garden and a 34 story office building. Then the next question arises: who would fund such an enterprise?

As crazy as all this sounds, the actual rebuilding plan sounds feasible. You would just need all the corrupt politicians and greedy real estate entities to cooperate. That will almost certainly not occur.

But that doesn’t stop one from hoping. The organizers have an executable plan and want to drum up support among the public. Here is the opening statement from their website rebuildpennstation.org

New York City’s original Penn Station was one of the finest buildings ever constructed. With its vast main hall and soaring concourse, it provided a triumphant gateway into the city. Its demolition in 1963 was one of the greatest architectural and civic crimes in American history.

That wrong is all the worse given the current station, which is cramped, dismal, and hard to navigate. As the historian Vincent Scully said about the original station, “One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat.”

We aim to reconstruct the original station to return it to its former glory. Click here to join our cause.

The video the Society produced explains more.

As the rebuild Penn Station group pointed out, New York’s greatest architectural loss occurred 54 years ago.

On October 28, 1963 the demolition of Penn Station began and three years later the majestic station was gone, its marble and debris trucked out in pieces to the New Jersey Meadowlands and used as landfill.

Trains still go in and out of Penn Station. But the Penn Station that replaced the original has nothing in common with the original but the name.

Main Post Office completed 1912 photo: Underhill

Directly across from the original Penn Station between 31st to 33rd Streets and Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #17 – Riverside Drive

Postcard Views of Riverside Drive 1900-1920

Riverside Drive may not be the most famous street in Manhattan, but it is among the prettiest.

The natural beauty of the surrounding area made this parcel of Manhattan real estate an ideal setting for a park and residential development.

Up until the late 19th century there was not a whole lot of home building along this western portion of the city with the exception of a few mansions perched high along the river.

As transportation options continued to improve, Riverside Avenue began attracting wealthy New Yorkers and real estate developers to the west side. The opening of the Ninth Avenue Elevated in 1879 and the subway in 1904 made it possible to commute from the upper west side to New York’s business center downtown. In 1908 Riverside Avenue’s name was officially changed to Riverside Drive.

If Riverside Drive had been built as originally proposed by Park Commissioner William Martin in 1865, it would have been a 100 foot wide straight boulevard.

Fortunately that turned out to be impractical due to the natural topography of the area.

Riverside Drive looking north towards Grant’s Tomb 1912

In 1873 Frederick Law Olmsted the designer of Central and Prospect Park received the job of laying out Riverside Park and Drive. Olmsted realized that incorporating the existing landscape surrounding Riverside Avenue into a park was a better plan than grading and straightening the hills along the drive.

By the time work started on the park in 1875 Olmsted had left New York City. Over the next 25 years  a succession of designers, engineers and architects executed Olmsted’s proposal but not exactly sticking to his plan. Calvert Vaux, Samuel Parsons and Julius Munckwitz all had their turn in building up Riverside Drive and its park.

By the turn of the 20th century Riverside Drive was lined with expensive single family townhouses and row houses overlooking the Hudson River. Land speculation led to a spate of luxury apartment buildings in the upper parts of the boulevard.

A touring bus along Riverside Drive

The first portion of  Riverside Drive from 72nd to 85th Street was opened in 1879. Riverside Park terminated at 129th Street. The Riverside Viaduct completed in 1900, bridged the schism between 125th and 135th Streets. Riverside Drive then continued north to 181st Street.

Here are some of the views from 100 years ago.

postcard view Riverside Drive north from 72nd Street 1918

Riverside Drive north from 72nd Street 1918

This World War I era view shows Riverside Drive at 72nd Street looking north. The entire block between 73rd and 74th Streets and Riverside Drive and West End Avenue belonged to one man and his extravagant home. The french style chateau with the large front lawn is the 75-room Charles M. Schwab mansion.  Designed by Maurice Ebert and completed at a cost of $6 million in 1905, the home contained a gym, a bowling alley, a pool, and three elevators. Schwab had made his millions working with Andrew Carnegie. Schwab went on to head United States Steel. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #79 – Broadway & 79th Street c. 1890

This Pastoral Scene Is Broadway and 79th Street

While the quality of this photograph is far from perfect, we thought it was unusual enough to share.

With laundry hanging off a clothesline, a horse grazing near the front door of a tree filled yard, this bucolic area is Bloomingdale, near the corner of the Boulevard and 79th Street. At least that is what is written on the back of the circa 1890 photo.

As you may know, The Boulevard was the continuation of Broadway above 59th Street.

Robinson’s Atlas of New York City 1885

Checking Robinson’s Atlas of New York City from 1885, I’ve tried to figure out where this house stood and what direction the photograph was taken from.

The atlas key is as follows: structures shaded in yellow are made of wood, pink are brick and brown are stone. We can see our three story house is made of wood. In the background on the right there is another building. But which of these buildings fits the description?

The authoritative book on the Bloomingdale area (the Dutch name for Valley of the Flowers) is The New York of Yesterday (1908) by Hopper Striker Mott. According to Mott, the house that was nearest that site was the van den Heuvel homestead a two story stone and wood home built approximately in 1759.

The end is near for the former van den Heuvel / Burnham mansion c. 1905 photo: Robert Bracklow NYHS

Sometime in the early 19th century the van den Heuvel home had an additional story added after a fire destroyed the original slanted roof. Continue reading

New York City Apartment Building Names In 1904 – Part 3

New York City Apartment House Names In 1904 (O-Y)

A survivor – The Vondel 171 East 83rd Street

We conclude our list of the named apartment buildings in New York city in 1904 with letters O-Y, there were no named apartment buildings beginning with a Z

The most popular name was the Washington, with eight buildings spread out across the city.

Walking across 23rd Street the other day I noticed an abundance of vacant lots and new construction.This is the trend all over the city. Old smaller (and sometimes large) buildings get demolished and glass-mirrored “luxury ” apartments take their place.

As we pointed in the first of these articles, almost none of the named buildings in 1904 are extant today (either by name or location).

If humanity does not destroy itself, how many of the buildings that are here in New York City today, be around 113 years from now?

This list is only comprised of apartment buildings in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Apartment – Hotels are denoted by an asterisk.

Oakdale, 36 W. 25th st.

Oakhurst, 2139 Seventh ave.

Oakland, 152 W. 49th st.

Oakley, 212 W. 14th st.

Ohio, 200 W. 79th St.

Olga, 44 W. 120th St.

Olympia, 501 W. 125th st. Continue reading

New York City Apartment Building Names In 1904 – Part 2

New York City Apartment House Names In 1904 (G-N)

Graham Court Apartments Seventh Ave 116th – 117th St

We continue our list of New York City apartment building names and their addresses in 1904 with part two, building names from G to N.

Researching a building at random, I came across this interesting aside. The fully occupied Marlborough Arms, a seven story apartment building at 57 West 10th Street was offered for sale at auction in 1895.

The sale price was $89,407.

The building stands today, though the name Marlborough Arms is nowhere to be seen. The current managing agent lists the building as being built in 1915, but they are wrong. According to real estate records, the same 19th century Marlborough Arms apartment building was sold in 1919 to A.A. Hageman.

This list is only comprised of apartment buildings in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Apartment – Hotels are denoted by an asterisk.


Gainsboro, 2 W. 120th st.

Gainsborough, 112 Riverside ave.

Galathea, 51 W. 106th st.

Galena, 101 W. 89th st.

Ganoga, 35 E. 27th st.

Garden, 164 St. Nicholas ave.

Garfield, 338 W. 56th st.

Garrick, 101 W. 126th st.

Gedrin, 525 W. 123d st.

Genesta, 448 W. 57th st.

Genevieve, 51 E. 12 2d st. Continue reading

New York City Apartment Building Names In 1904

A Good Name Is Hard To Find – New York City Apartment House Names In 1904 (A-F)

Demolition and new construction: the old landmarks vanish, new ones takes their place. It’s a practice that has been celebrated and lamented in New York City for more than 200 years..

As New York City accelerates its destruction of past places, it is important to note what was previously there.

The naming of apartment buildings in New York City goes as far back as 1870 when the Stuyvesant Flats, the first modern apartment building in the city was constructed.

Of course many people are familiar with The Dakota, The Beresford and The Osborne: grand apartment buildings with high prices and famous residents.

But in the 19th century, hundreds of relatively nondescript apartment buildings were given names too.

Real estate developers generally did not trademark the names they gave to their building. Therefore you will find multiple Augusta’s, Berkshire’s and Cambridge’s and other not so unique building names.

So why compile this list? If you are reading an old news story, doing genealogical research or are just curious for the exact address of a named apartment building from turn-of the-century New York City here it is. We thought this list would be helpful.

On the handful of addresses I checked on, the building was gone or the name had been removed from the facade. I would estimate fewer than half of these apartment buildings remain standing today and of those that do remain, less than one in ten retain their original name.

Because of the number of buildings involved in this list we will be breaking this up into three separate stories.

This list is only comprised of apartment buildings in Manhattan and the Bronx. It is also almost certainly not a complete inventory, because there were many tenement buildings on the Lower East Side and elsewhere that were given names, but do not show up on these lists.

Apartment – Hotels are denoted by an asterisk.

Below is A – F

Abelard 1887 Seventh ave

Aberdeen 249 W 107th st

Abington 44 E 79th st

Acacia 142 W 103d st

Acadia 1889 Seventh ave

Ackerly 241 W 101st St

Acropolis 519 W 123d st

Adela 228 W 25th st Continue reading