Part of Town

This sector was the colonial settlement’s near-northwestern farms, and then its “suburbs.” It ran along the Hudson River, continuing beyond Canal Street to Houston (North) Street, and then ended on 21st (Love) Street at Fifth Avenue. In the southern portion, Broadway distinguishes the East from West Side, and then Fifth Avenue above East Seventh Street.

It’s a story of three amalgamated north-to-south corridors, and from westto-east, their order is—

  • The Hudson River (West Street) to Tenth Avenue;
  • Ninth to Seventh Avenues;
  • Sixth Avenue to Broadway, which takes in Fifth Avenue.

Furthermore, these three strips are subdivided into nine distinct north-tosouth neighborhoods. Moreover, they lie between the three major east-towest thoroughfares, as West Houston, 14th, and 23rd Streets. It is true, too, that the 1811 grid allowed one exception: the twisting and crisscrossing, lanes of the original Greenwich hamlet lanes.

The West Canal to Houston Street neighborhoods, from east to west, are:

  • SoHo as (just east of) Broadway to West Broadway, which had been named Fifth Avenue South as well as Chapel Street;
  • A working-class section, with single- and multiple-family dwellings along Sullivan and Thompson Streets, as well as Sixth to Varick Street, which becomes Seventh Avenue South above Houston Street;
  • West of Hudson to West Street, and it takes in Greenwich and Washington Streets. Practically speaking, this was a light-industry and commercial zone tied to shipping and the wharves.

The West Houston to 14th Street entirety is the greater Greenwich Village, with neighborhoods, from east to west, falling as:

  • Greenwich Village from Broadway to University Place as well as Fifth to Sixth Avenues;
  • Village, initial Greenwich Hamlet, stands between Sixth and Eighth Avenues, which below West 14th Street is Hudson Street, and it encompasses Seventh Avenue South as well as three major diagonal running streets, too;
  • West Village and Meatpacking District, which lies west of Hudson Street to West Street, at the Hudson River, which includes the Gansevoort meatpacking district, at its north boundary.

The West 14th to 23rd Street portion forms greater Chelsea, and it is three distinct neighborhoods, from west to east, they are:

  • Chelsea Square, Eleventh to Tenth to Ninth Avenue;
  • North Chelsea, along Tenth and Eleventh Avenue to West Street, (and extending beyond the initial Chelsea Farm West 25th Street borderline) from West 21st to 30th Street;
  • Flatiron/Ladies Mile District, running from Sixth Avenue to Broadway, through to the 1960s this was the Menswear District, and then the photography district.

Downtown West’s rich historically mosaic was interwoven with its proximity to Lower Manhattan, and so the northwesterly farming district fell this way—

First of all: New York Harbor, as a quintessential ice-free and limitless year-round port, allowed the Hudson River shoreline to hold commercial potential. No portion more so than between West Canal and 14th Streets. This stretch accommodated the needs for the ever-increasing raw materials and commodities to be shipped to Holland, then England, and then international markets. It was a given that this commercial corridor would evolve into an extensive swath, consisting of docks, wharves, auxiliary warehouses and machinist shops. The supply and demand never fell short either.

Secondly: From the onset, by providing foodstuffs for the nascent and flourishing and commerce-oriented Dutch West India Company settlement, it was crucial to the colony’s survival. In order to be a shipping hub for needed commodities—initially highly valuable timber and beaver skins—so, to insure the food supply’s continuity, Queen Anne (of England), granted Trinity Church a massive tract, as a veritable fiefdom.

It extended north from the Lower Manhattan settlement boundary, approximating Duane Street through to West Houston Street, and then beyond the innumerable rivulets, ponds, and drained marshes leading to the Hudson River. These flatlands were the leased 428-acre tract farmable acreage that the Duke of York, soon George III, took over upon his ascension to the crown.

It was then King’s Farm, and the leases were still controlled by Trinity Church and included King’s College, later Columbia University.

The northeast portion was leased for 99 years, to the British paymastergeneral Abraham Mortimer—at an absurd yearly rate. Nearby Minetta Brook, on contemporary Charlton Street and east of Varick Street, was where Mortimer built Richmond Hill, his excessively impressive, 18-room mansion, with numerous bays and a columned portico entrance. When he fled in 1776, the mansion and surrounding 26 acres served briefly as General Washington’s headquarters; after Mortimer’s second departure, during the Federal period, it was Vice-President John Adams’ residence.

A subsequent investigation into war-time Trinity Church of England activities, chaired by Aaron Burr, left the remaining 55 years Richmond Hill lease in Burr’s hands—still at the same ridiculous land-lease rent. Burr returned here after dueling Alexander Hamilton. Then, under duress Burr sold off the lease as well as all his Manhattan holdings to John Jacob Astor. Although J.J. Astor would never own the property, controlling the lease was instrumental to advancing his investment fortune, or, so his biographers say that he said.

The third factor: The dominant landowners’ tracts fell neatly into one of three portions—West Canal to Houston, Houston to 14th, or 14th to 23rd Streets. These were vast and tightly held private reserves and leased farmlands, fell into five divisions. Starting from the south, they were—

The southeast sector was left, as lots, to the fourth-generation Nicholas Bayard scions, inclusive of the Fresh Water Pond edge, at West Canal Street. In essence, the combined Bayard Farm East and West comprised all traditional Chinatown and Little Italy and SoHo to the Greenwich hamlet southeastern-most tri-trail axes: Bleecker, Carmine, and West Third Streets. Spreading as a parallelogram, and taking in the entirety of the drained meadow, at Houston Street, and as far east as The Bowery. This included every Broadway frontage lot between Canal to Houston Streets as well as west to Minetta Brook—approximating Minetta Lane—at West Fourth Street, near to Sixth Avenue.

The west-northwestern sector, Greenwijck or the Pine District,

Anglicized to Greenwich—pronounced as Grin’wich—was the Yellis de Mandeville farm. A central portion was contested by the very feisty widow, Anneke Jansen (aka Jans) Bogardus, who inherited her first husband’s 62-acre tract, granted by the West Indies Company. These farmlands comprised the open fields nearby the Greenwich hamlet. However, after 100 years of claim’s litigation, the widow’s heirs sold their totality to Vice-Admiral Sir Peter

Warren, commodore of the British New York Fleet. An additional 200 tracts, comprising some 240 acres, were bought individually to complete the Lady Sarah (nee de Lancey) and Sir Peter Warren Greenwich Farms. It spread north from Christopher to West 18th Street, and reaching east to the FitzRoy Road, near present-day Seventh Avenue.

The north-northwest sector was Major Clarke’s Chelsea. A French and Indian War hero, Thomas Clarke purchased and subsequently acquired a virtual fiefdom, which his wife and daughter expanded. The entire farm— spanning West 18th to 25th Streets and running from the riverbank to FitzRoy Road—was inherited by Clarke’s grandson, Clement Moore. As the War of Independence ended, the Chelsea sector due east consisted of significant tracts, each controlled by longstanding landholding Manhattan families—for Randall’s Minto Farm details, see in Downtown East, page 91—as Henry Brevoort (who was Mrs. Sarah Astor’s nephew) and Mary Mann. Plus the Henry Springler heirs held the largest tract, by far—it stretched from West 12th to East 18th Street, encompassing the mid-block between Sixth and Fifth Avenues to Fourth Avenue’s east. In fact, several eastern Springler parcels were purchased by the city to complete the Union Square traffic hub and park. The description is on page 84, and takes into account the necessities there, and not repeated again here. Many lots, especially those along 14th Street, were improved as boardinghouse rows; oddly enough, developed under longterm leases, built nearby, abutting, or opposite the family mansion too.

The east-northeast sector, due east of the Clarke’s Chelsea Square reserve, was a mosaic of sizeable parcels, sprawling between Eighth and Fifth Avenues. Additionally notable, and to the east, was Cornelius Williams’ country seat. It stretched so far northeast that one parcel was absorbed into Charles Ruggles’ development, Gramercy Park. The Williams heirs then sold the entirety to a new generation of Goelet brothers. Peter Goelet’s mansion and garden, housing his menagerie of exotic birds, hugged Broadway’s west side, and it extended to The Avenue. Thereby, two property owners, Goelets and Spinglers, (consult the Landholders Digest and Book One Index (pages 204-12) for the most complete particulars), held a major portion of contemporary Flatiron District, a Downtown West to East crossover neighborhood.

A Fourth consideration: Though all-encompassing, the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 design spared the core Greenwich hamlet and environs. Though positively British in every way, the Downtown West landowners were patriots, so, their vast tracts avoided the Commissioners of Forfeiture seizures. Complicating matters, though, was that the colonial land transfer records were not—in fact, never were—surrendered by the British occupying army. As with the Dutch retreat, again 100 years later, this included Downtown West’s smaller farms and the hamlet lot tax records. For the most part, these modest cottages, by then unassuming single-family homes were coveted as a refuge, harboring Lower Manhattan residents fleeing early 1800s calamities—such as repeated contagious diseases and consuming fires. Coincidentally, the hamlet successfully buffered the port industrial activity and its traffic congestion from the thriving, high-end, central residential corridor, which let these nascent aristocratic neighborhoods, including their prerequisite purveyors take hold, allowing these merchants to blossom into emporiums, as they followed Broadway northward.

Fifth and last, though hardly least: The ardently pursued commissioner grid plan accommodated eight south-to-north avenues, and provided four east-to-west thoroughfares. However, the West Canal, to Houston, to 14th, to 23rd Streets span was void of a single diagonal avenue to create an open space. That disadvantage proved to be an advantage, eventually, when the mass transportation system factored in: Each transit route moved northward following the prescribed grid. In 40 years, by the mid-century point, besides daily Milk Train runs from Columbia County along railway tracks in Ninth and Sixth Avenues, the horse-drawn trams alongside, put Manhattan on the move. Forty years later, as the 20th-century neared, the IRT Elevated Railroads overhead and extensive trackless electric Trolley coaches carried passengers throughout Manhattan. In 40 more years, motor bus lines, including double-deckers on the east-to-west crosstown streets, and underground mass transit systems running through north-to-south tunnels, moved millions of New Yorkers daily.

West Canal to Houston Streets

To the Colonial Dutch this was the Valley, an arable portion beyond the Fresh Water Pond, once Pump Street, and now West Canal Street. It included Lispenard’s meadows, between Spring and North Streets, and ran west from The Bowery to the Hudson River. The easternmost slice, in its entirety— though a mere fraction within Nicholas Bayard’s extensive lots and tracts— was pasture lands accumulated from such Dutch settlers as the Augustyn Herrman, Steenwyck and Van Cortlandt families. Starting with 12 acres, within 30 years, Bayard acquired the equivalent of 73 blocks along The Bowery, and extending west to Broadway. Above North Street to West Fourth Street, his westerly farm formed a scalene right triangle, reaching beyond Sixth Avenue, and entailed thousands of standard city lots.

His good fortune was not mere luck. In 1666, Nicholas Bayard married Judith Varleth, by chance, the new Mrs. Bayard’s uncle, Nicholas Varleth, one time ambassador to the colony of Virginia, was also his mother’s third husband, Anna (nee Stuyvesant) Bayard. Nicholas Bayard’s step-brothers by marriage, thereafter, became his half-brothers in-law as well. Additionally, Peter Stuyvesant was a double, double-relative: Nicholas’ father, Samuel Bayard had a younger sister, Judith (nee Bayard) Stuyvesant. Nicholas’ aunt, Judith, married the colonial director general, his mother’s older brother, which made him the governor’s nephew on both sides. Well-interconnected to say the least, Bayard managed to be the largest Manhattan property holder when he died. One son, Samuel, inherited the East and West Bayard farm, which then passed to his son Nicholas (2nd), and then to Nicholas (3rd), who first surveyed and improved the farm’s southernmost tracts, in 1771.

SoHo

(1812-40)

The Valley’s initial residential development occurred around rocky Bayard’s Mount—New York City’s Bunker Hill equivalent and southern Manhattan’s highest peak—west of Broadway, at present-day Broome Street. The neighboring Lispendard’s Meadows farm tracts, surrounding Broadway and Spring Street, were drained and subdivided into smaller leased units. They were gradually sold, as indicated on the Viele Map of 1865, (a civil engineer’s excavation tool still). There was little change until further urbanization held fast after the War of 1812. Steadily, the Bayard estate’s northeastern edge was elevated to an elegant suburban neighborhood—Manhattan’s first above Canal Street. Initially, it was inhabited by very wealthy Manhattanites’ in their stately mansions. Rapidly though, with Broadway’s increasing appeal, the easterly Valley was evolving into a suburban shopping quarter for wellto-do residents living nearer to Wall Street and Bowling Green.

As the Lower Manhattan Pearl Street shopping district faltered, simultaneously along Broadway, new elegant and up-to-the-minute stores opened continuously. That cobblestone artery was then elevated to the city’s premier thoroughfare. Within 20 years, this was the most densely populated part of town, with enterprises such as hotels, restaurants, theaters, and Minstrel halls, even brothels and gambling casinos. (The latter elements excluded), it was a foreshadowing of the phantasmagoric Broadway to West Broadway SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District, with its art galleries, shopping and restaurants, and as the world-renown loft-living district. Contrarily, in the late 1830s, the influx of foot traffic had an ill-effect on its pioneering residents. As newer enclaves evolved further uptown, the initial aristocratic inhabitants left. They moved themselves north to Washington Square, and would spread all the way to Madison Square, subsequently. (1840-70) Daniel D. Badger, a well-known founder, (along with Peter, the New Amsterdam reverend’s descendent) erected the first cast-iron-façade buildings throughout America. Others followed by the hundreds; and similar cast-iron-fronted buildings soon stood, like sentinels, on Mercer, Green, Wooster Streets, Grand, Broome, Spring and Prince Streets, as well as along West Broadway. Industry and commerce continually seeped in during the years leading up to the Civil War. The Valley, in truth, then became Hell’s Hundred Acres, the city’s bawdy red light district. So much so, the district overflowed Saturday nights to Monday mornings, with besotted crowds filling the narrow sidewalks and lying about until dawn in alleyways. As Franklin Place, at the district’s heart, fell into disrepute the residential population had already declined by 25 percent. (1880-1960) Gradually the storefronts along Broadway, where elegant shops and mansions once stood, began displaying inexpensive clothing. For one century, wholesale houses and outlet stores remained a permanent fixture uptown to Houston Street. Additionally, a burgeoning import and export textile industry settled in, thrived, and created traffic congestion servicing the sweatshop rag trade. The cobblestone streets and avenues were an urban industrial wasteland: housing small factories for household dry goods clothing, and fashion and trimmings as well as accessories. A light-manufacturing expanse followed Broadway uptown—passing West Houston Street, then engulfing East 13th Street, and employing fresh immigrant waves who were paid low wages. The Great Depression suppressed all that. By the mid-20th century, the low rents, plentiful uninterrupted and well-lighted spaces attracted the nearby plastic artists. When they filtered in, in a remarkably short time frame, an unprecedented onrush for loft spaces to convert to residential usage ensured to participate in the “SoHo lifestyle” experience. (1973) The designated SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District became the loft-living hub, although actually only 30 identifiable post-Federal period buildings remain within its boundaries. The renaissance began on West Broadway, with an initial core art galleries and neighboring watering holes, for example, Spring and Broome Street Bars, the long-time Raoul’s and Fanelli’s, evolved as “places to be seen.” Soon, cutting-edge fashion boutiques opened, and suddenly spreading to Broadway, one international flagship store vied to be a presence next to one another, and crowding the narrow, cobblestone streets. The sprucing up began in earnest; likewise, the loft spaces above, formerly grand-daddy “Artist-in-Resident” designated leases, were conversion-to-co-operative ownership. Once renovated and transformed into something else—there was a worldwide appeal. So luxury hotels and commensurate restaurants returned to the Valley, and it was as had been 150 years prior.

West Houston to 14th Streets

These are the three neighborhoods which do indeed radiate from a significant, and buffering, commons. Eventually, the Greater Greenwich Village squares serve as a park or commons, and are, from east to west:

  • Greenwich Village—Washington Square, running for three-blocks from

West Fourth to Seventh Streets, detours Fifth Avenue, and resumes as La Guardia Place (once called, Fifth Avenue South). As a commons the square spans one avenue, covering University Place, which dead-ends there, to MacDougal Street, Washington Square North.

  • The Village—Sheridan Square, at the unique six-way intersection of Grove, Christopher, Barrow, and West Fourth Streets as well as Waverly and Washington Places, where each converges and diverges as they cross (a wider and renamed) Seventh Avenue South.
  • West Village—Abingdon Square, which forms where a diagonal Bleecker

Street crosses west-to-east running West 11th, Bank, and Bethune

Streets, then heads east beyond the north-to-south Hudson Street.

  • High Line—both an innovative and recent park—follows north from Gansevoort, passing Little West 12th and 13th Streets, and continues to

West 23rd Street, then crosses beyond Downtown West into Midtown West. Ultimately, its significance is as a very-21st -century, newly recapture, interior Manhattan parkland, the only to emerge within Downtown West in 100 years.

Greenwich Village

The neighborhood centerpiece is Washington Square Park at The Avenue’s southern terminus. For the 1800s Manhattan’s elite the elective affinity was friable. There and then, to the north, Fifth Avenue was to be theirs to own, occupy, and dominate. Living there was the residential pinnacle. (1826-33) Washington Square’s meager beginnings was a New York City common council purchase of a six-plus-acre de Peyster-owned parcel, designated to be a graveyard. Its northern portion was as a German cemetery, the southern part a potters’ field for the unknown and indigent. Shortly following the immediate southwest land was purchased from Nicholas Bayard III, to properly drain the insect-ridden Minetta Brook, the cemetery wasn’t long lived. It closed, and then was transformed into a military parade grounds. The following year, a spacious pedestrian commons opened to the public. One decade later, Washington Parade Ground was Washington Square; 200 years prior, this was known as ‘stone-on-stone’ to Munsee-speaking natives. A merchant-class residential district (now NoHo), was blossoming to the east, near Broadway. The new neighborhood was populated by New Yorkers fleeing the recurring epidemics. Meanwhile, a second affluent enclave also appeared at the foot of Fifth Avenue. This was to become Washington Square Park’s northern perimeter. These stately, red-brick town houses, built-out on land leased from Trustees of Sailor’s Snug Harbor, and designed within the Greek-Revival vocabulary, were completed between 1829 and 1833. The Row (as it was then known) had grand and steep step-up entrances, though not stoops exactly; and, Ionic or Doric columns, with white marble balustrades. MacDougal Alley and Washington Mews North, two private livery mews, were soon added as an amenity for the Row’s tenants. (The 1840s) From its onset, the Row (of houses) was a magnet, which drew in the crème de la crème among New Yorkers. After all, Mr. and Mrs. William C. Rhinelander were in residence here. And thereafter, an attraction formed, even before the Washington Parade Ground was reconfigured as a park, in 1850. Consequently, Washington Square Park was reworked with more paths, and a new fence surrounded it. Under the auspices of a newly-formed New York City Department of Parks, again, the square was redesigned: now, with curving rather than straight secondary paths. By then, the streets surrounding the square were the city’s consummate elite residential district. New York University’s presence, at Washington Square’s east, was also conspicuous with its first Main Building—a Gothic tower, constructed by SingSing, chain-gang prisoners. Before completed, it sparked the 1834 Stonecutter’s Riot. Nevertheless, the university has remained a vital force. Some might suggest omnipresent, as evidenced by the university acquiring a

99 year lease, and then purchasing fee simple nine additional loft buildings, with retail stores. Yet, the campus did displace what had morphed as a ghastly sweatshop zone. (Mid-19th Century)

Washington Square and lower Fifth Avenue, as well as the adjoining SixthAvenue-to-Broadway blocks, became a powerful place-name, and Greenwich

Village has remained so since its Golden Age. In fact, the 1845 Gothic Revival First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York, ended where the uppercrust considered their private promenade. This passage took in lower Fifth Avenue’s opulent mansions and grandest, broad-stoop, brownstone, town house residences, between the “Row” to 12th Street. So much so and over time however, as the hoi polloi joined in on their Sunday strolls, societies’ best families felt impelled to pack up and move further north along The Avenue. In short order, they crossed 14th Street—as far as, once unthinkable 19th Street to Love Lane, and here August Belmont (and his wife, Admiral Perry’s daughter), Peter Goelet, the noted real-estate owning eccentric, and the wild and wily Springler family, lived in a commodious mansions, with a garden. Continuous incursions, by the nouveau riche and their sycophants, coupled by the elite’s knee-jerk inkling to migrate farther northward, are reasons why Fifth, The Avenue, had no rival: It simply stretched for seemingly endless

miles. (1899)

Even as society’s flight continued, Greenwich Village set the example throughout Manhattan for single- and multiple-family housing design and construction. Every conceivable dwelling type—with untold variations and modifications—is found here. As important, the longtime resident groups (with attenuated preservation instincts), react with absolute resolve, when protecting the architectural character and integrity is at stake.

The signature marble memorial arch celebrating the George Washington presidency’s centennial was erected when a temporary wood-and-plaster arch garnered immense popular approval. The permanent 77-foot arch, designed by prominent New York architect Stanford White was commissioned for just inside the park. Throughout the late 19th century, Washington Square’s north side continued to attract the city’s leading citizens, with a wide variety of elegant multi-family dwellings constructed to meet the mounting demand from the upper-middle class. (1920-32) The apartment-house-building boom culminated with two Washington Square West apartment houses, as well as the 27-story Art Deco, limestoneand-brick façade, No. One Fifth Avenue. Thereafter it defined lower Fifth Avenue. Moreover, it remains as a broad pre- and post-war apartment house strip, stretching between Eighth and 13th Streets, today. In addition, both the Fifth-to-Sixth Avenues and Fifth-Avenue-to-Broadway blocks are home to a wide small and elegant assortment of innovative single- and multiple-family dwellings; plus, a veritable array of converted loft-to-residential-usage buildings. Each block immediately surrounding Washington Square, and north to 13th Street, contain excellent housing examples of Greenwich Village’s diversity and range. Including several novel juxtapositions, including—a Federal style 1829 brick house, on MacDougal Street, built for Aaron Burr; nearby a West 11th Street 1845 Greek revival town house, with stoop intact; and, abutting, is a 1978 gut-renovated row house, which reemerged as an International-Style, brick home with angular, bay protrusions. What’s more, its neighbors are 1870s brownstone row houses, with polished details, such as brass saddles, door plates and knobs, some with finials topping wrought-iron banisters along its stoop. On West 12th Street, off Fifth Avenue, furthermore, is an 1895 nine-story, Beaux-Arts apartment house juxtaposed to the 1962 Contextual-Modern Butterfield apartment house.

To Washington Square’s south—always in sharp contrast to the elite north—are still the shabbily constructed tenement-apartment-house rows erected for immigrants, resulting in single-family-home-to-single-occupancyhotel conversions, with countless modest-scale dwellings leveled to make way for high-density housing. All designed for the immigrant waves arriving to work in nearby waterfront warehouses and slaughter houses, coal and lumber yards, or a sweatshop close to Broadway, such as the Ashe Building on Green Street, at Waverly Place, the infamous 1911 Shirtwaist Factory Fire

site. (The 20th-century)

Early on, Greenwich Village attracted a bohemian crowd. Post-World War Two Washington Square Park however, became a perennial Sunday event. Already renowned as a semi-annual, Depression-era, contemporary-art forum and open-air art exhibition, with the advent of beatniks’ beat, hippies’ loveins Washington Square became an expanded venue for open-air poetry readings and speechifying, too. As the square progressed into a year-round fairground, it was first a forum for weekly afternoon, folk-music sing-a-longs and street performances, which included dancers and comedians, acrobats and jugglers. Students, too, were to be seen carving out memories of their youth, by expressing their new-found freedoms, or by simply enjoying an afternoon in the nearby MacDougal Street coffee houses.

The Village

The first Dutch settlement prior to New Amsterdam (when the European’s assumed they had bought the entire island), at the flatland along the riverbank, let’s say, between Christopher and Little West 12th Streets, was Sapokanikan, the tobacco plant fields. An area so named because its edges were cultivated for just that purpose. The nearby waterfront trading outpost, perhaps at Gansevoort Street, was where Henry Hudson first stopped in to trade with the Delaware-speaking Wappinger confederacy tribesmen. Every surrounding tribe frequented the village for their ritual “smoke.” East of the village and trading post was marshland, with a fresh water trout stream, Minetta Brook. The creek ran north-to- south.

Customarily, the Native Lenape welcomed all newcomers who wanted to trade. Therefore, they helped the settlers through their initial acclamation to a new home. That harmony didn’t last long. In short order, the Dutch retreated from their Noortwyck, the Northland, and sought the protection that the new fort, at the island’s southern tip, offered. Afterward, the only security was found behind the stockade, which the Dutch called the Wall. The British Out Ward was these same pastures and planted fields, which were interlaced by extensive footpaths, creating a crisscrossing medley.

The English tenant farmers built their cottages in the northwestern sector, at the crux of the trails (approximating contemporary West Fourth and Tenth to Gansevoort Streets), and they cleared the fields running to their drinking water source, the Minetta Brook. When the Lenape farmed the land, then the Dutch, even throughout the British-era, access to the area was via the northwest-to-southeast trail, Bedford Street. The British coach roadway, following the Hudson River, the Greenwich Route, was a direct, two-mile journey to the city. The Native people traveled exclusively by the river. Furthermore, the east-to-west established trails included:

  • Greenwich Lane (Greenwich Avenue), running east-northeast, (not to be confused with Greenwich Street, which was expanded by the grid plan from the old Greenwich Route);
  • Christopher Street, crossing northwest-to-southeast;
  • Bleecker Street, the longest trail, wound its way east-southeast toward the

Bowery Road.

(1664-1774) Houston (North) Street, and then beyond Greenwich Lane to West 21st Street. It spanned the Hudson River to Sixth Avenue. The hamlet soon became a village; its cottages rapidly overlapped the narrow paths. For the most part, they were a labyrinthine and zigzagging maze set at odd angles. When widened as a way, even a modest southeast expansion encroached upon a field or pasture, and when broadened the crisscrossing and rugged dirt country lanes, or meandering modestly wider north-to-south cobblestone half-mile route to the city-limit farmers’ markets, at Broadway or on the Greenwich Lane, created intersections. This included at Bleecker, Carmine, and Downing Street, as well as Minetta Lane in the southeast. Shortly, the farmlands, pastures, and streams, too, were gone completely.

North of the Trinity Church farmlands, to the Greenwich hamlet’s west, began the estate of British naval hero, Sir Peter Warren and his wife, Susannah. Their farm spread to the very northeast Greenwich boundary, approximating West 21st Street. Warren House, build with the vice admiral’s prize money taken from the French, overlooked the Hudson River at West Fourth, with equal vistas from Charles, Perry, and Bleecker Streets. The Warrens had six children—one had died in childbirth—and then their only son and one daughter died in the 1744 smallpox epidemic. Two years later, with the first signs of a second episode, Sir Peter, and his wife, with three surviving daughters relocated to London. (Certainly an early indication how virulent the city’s episodic diseases were—if London was considered a safe refuge.) The modest dwelling hodgepodge name-change to Greenwich Village had come about in the 1760s, when the Warrens recycled it for their amalgamated tracts, as the Greenwich Farms. (1785-1825) In any event, the quaint village survived the Revolutionary War intact, unblemished actually. It remained much the same during the city’s short spell as the nation’s capital, and, though begrudgingly, the New York City commissioners’ 1811 Grid Plan did spare its character and integrity. The bucolic aura vanished with the early century dangerous fires and ongoing killer epidemics throughout Lower Manhattan. On the other hand and meanwhile, the downtown east side’s loyalist-leaning landholders’ estates and farms were seized, surveyed, subdivided, and sold, conforming to the grid.

The seizures included all of the Oliver De Lancey landholdings, (he held a large tract north of his sister, Lady Warren), because he was a loyalist and refugee brigadier commander. However, in deference to Sir Peter Warren, who for the last five years of his life, as an-ambassador-at-large in Parliament, argued for the colonists’ rights and against the British colonial policy, his Greenwich estate place-names and Anglo-associated twisting, cobblestone streets—Manhattan’s only consecutively named street designations—remained unaffected. An important later inclusion was Lady Warren’s gardens, a wedding gift to their daughter Charlotte, who married Willoughby Bertie, 4th Earl of Abingdon. This parcel when granted to the city by the heir (Montagu Bertie, 5th Earl of Abingdon)—likewise, acknowledging Lady Charlotte’s outward patriot sympathies and her efforts to gain support at Court through her brother-in-law, General Charles FitzRoy, the 1st Baron of Southampton—it was to become Abingdon Square. (The 1830s) Sheridan Square, dedicated to the Civil War general Philip H. Sheridan, has two separate, though unequal, triangular and cast-iron-gated portions— the Christopher and Sheridan Square Viewing Parks. The northerly triangle includes Northern Dispensary, an unassuming, light-color-brick, health services building (built to treat the city’s epidemic sufferers). Oddly, two sides are on Waverly Place, the third side is on Christopher as well as Grove Streets. The six streets entering, crossing, and ending or exiting the square best demonstrates the serendipitous nature, in other words—what the colonial hamlet may have been. First, though, a momentary diversion: Bleecker Street, the important indigenous people’s trail crosses Seventh Avenue South half-block south while wending its way southeast. Between Hudson Street to Seventh Avenue South, additionally, Bleecker traverses Barrow, Christopher, and Grove Streets going into or coming out of the Sheridan Square.

It is true that no two Village streets are the same length, nor do they remain parallel for too long—for instance:

  • Barrow Street, at Sheridan Square’s west, works its way southwest for little more than two blocks, and then hooks due west, heading toward West Street before ending at the river.
  • Grove Street runs parallel to Barrow Street, then curving abruptly west toward Hudson Street, which is three avenues before the river, it dead ends.
  • Christopher Street, to the square’s immediate west, cuts across Seventh Avenue South and continues west-southwest; it, too, ends at the river. West Fourth Street, enters along the east-to-west street grid, bisects the square, and then the roadway exits on a north-northwest projectile. It cuts nine streets, and then it ends at West 13th Street.
  • Waverly and Washington Places run due west and parallel into one or the other portion of Sheridan square. While Washington Place ends there, Waverly Place exits sharply to the northwest, now moving parallel to West Fourth Street. Five blocks later, Waverly Place dead ends at Bank Street, west of Greenwich Avenue.

While all the above mayhem went undisturbed in 1811, but to better service the port district, by necessity, the grid plan broadened the north-tosouth cobblestone avenues. Though no colonial hamlet structure exists, these six winding streets (not to mention, a dozen intersecting Bank, Charles, and Perry), share the Village housing diversities—for example:

  • Federal-style row houses, with small-paned windows, many with dormerroof third floors;
  • One free-standing wood-frame farmhouse, with a backyard, the oldest remaining dwelling in the Village;
  • Early 19th-century town houses, with steep-pitched slate roofs;
  • Second Empire row houses, including extensive exterior detailing—for instance, mansard roofs, stone-frame arch windows and stoops, and ironwork banisters—leading to carved teak doors;
  • 1870-90s brownstone row houses, with brass gas lamps and wrought-iron entry detailing and balconies;
  • An 1878 brick house, at 9.5-feet wide—the narrowest in Manhattan;
  • Turn-of-the-century apartment houses, with intricate detailing and soaring ceilings;
  • Late 19th- and early 20th-century tenement apartment houses—many with an intact high stoop, others that underwent a façade renovation;
  • And, a moderate sprinkling of pre- and post-war apartment houses, on the wider streets and broad avenues.

Tucked away in every direction, the picturesque residential alleyways and enclaves, are:

  • Milligan, Patchin and Pamela Places;
  • Charles and Minetta Lanes;
  • Gay and Weehawken Streets—among Manhattan’s shortest;  Grove Court.

West Village and Meatpacking District

This enclave carved from the Pig Alley slaughterhouse district did not escape the grid plan. That is, not entirely. Overall, a rectilinear mass: the east-to-west running streets are only somewhat parallel, and the north-bysouth avenue arteries are perpendicular, yet not too perfectly. While conforming to the grid concept, the whole is set at a rakish angle. (As is the case within the South Street Seaport, here too the avenues are designated by a prominent surname, and so are the streets; additionally, the thoroughfares are called streets.) The boundary was definitely historically Ninth Avenue, bearing in mind, that the span west to tree-lined Greenwich and to Washington, and then to West Streets are insignificant. The inclusive east-towest streets are Tenth, Charles, Perry, West 11th, Bank, Bethune, West 12th, Jane, Horatio, Gansevoort, and then Little West 12th to West 13th Streets. At the southernmost point, and radiating west-by-southwest were concentrated port activity mechanical workshops, support toolsheds, and ironworks— which dominated Christopher, Barrow, Morton, Leroy, and along Clarkson to

West Street. (The 1800s) Where the original crisscrossing trails and paths of West Fourth, Bleecker, Charles and Perry Streets advanced, Lady Warren planted a sprawling formal garden. Five years passed before the common council determined the land donated by her grandchildren, the heirs of Lady Charlotte Abingdon, would be enclosed (of course, by the prerequisite wrought-iron gates) as a common—Abingdon Square. Subsequently, the city acquired the northwest Hudson Street parcel, between West Tenth and 11th Streets—where Bleecker Street first veers southeast, thereby cutting Bethune, Bank and West 11th Streets—was added onto the proposed square. The entire quarter-acre plot remained enclosed for 50 years, however. Then, during a city-wide effort encouraging public access to green spaces, renowned Central Park landscape architect, Calvert Vaux, collaborated on the winding, tree-lined walks as well as the planting designs, which ended in a petite plaza.

At the north-northwest corner was Pig Alley’s last bastion, the Gansevoort Meatpacking District, which includes Horatio, Gansevoort, and Little West 12th, and 13th to 14th Streets, running along Hudson, Greenwich, Washington and West Streets. This northernmost tip, within a vast wholesale food district—the extension of a bustling wharf district below West Canal Street— provided wholesale meat, poultry, vegetables, flour, and sugar for the transatlantic shipping lines, as well as to supermarkets, butchers, and greengrocers city-wide.

Stepping back for a moment, by 1818 the former Lenape village and trading post, between West 12th and 13th Streets, consisted of a few—at most a baker’s dozen—wooden structures, and they were owned (almost entirely) by George Washington Clinton when he died. Near to the riverbank around West 14th Street, the additional half-dozen lots were owned by widows and orphans, such, for example, as Maria Beekman, Elizabeth Tallmadge, Cornelia Genet’s children as well as Abraham Varick and John Jacob Astor. After 1840, as J.J. Astor’s heir William was purchasing properties in the Gansevoort Market area, the illustrious landholders, including John G. Wendels, the Goelet brothers and the Roosevelt interests came, saw, and bought. Moreover, and for the most part, these properties did not trade often, that is until the 1930s, specifically in 1935.

As additional port sites were required for heavy industrial and durable goods, their warehousing and mechanical shops’ needs squeezed perishable produce purveyors, as the trans-Atlantic liner piers moved off Manhattan entirely. Better than 250 meatpacking firms occupied the already shrunken district. As it came about 75 years later, the majority of the skeletal remnant packed up—lock, stock, and barrel, as the saying is—and left. (Its final retreat nearing the 21st-century mark heralded in the East Side Fulton Fish Market’s fate too.) (1975-99)

Its resulting lot was urban neglect. This included decrepit West Side Highway steel platforms, abandoned freight trestles were overgrown with weed-and-thistles, and shuttered corrugated steel Gansevoort and Chelsea piers, standing across West Street. In all, they fashioned a decadent backdrop for an ongoing, underground, gay-dominated, -owned and -operated nightlife scene. These unsupervised and unmaintained (therefore, unsafe), cavernous spaces were manmade and heavily trafficked routes leading to indiscriminate sexual encounters.

As the property—whether land or buildings—values plummeted once again in the 1970s, a quirky lawyer, William Gottlieb, went on a whole buying spree of West Village properties—at foreclosure prices. His empire, totaling over 100 structures of all kinds, was run out of a makeshift office on Hudson Street, files were kept in reused envelopes, notes on scraps of paper, and with all the keys his pocket. Gottlieb, who never married and had no children, suffered a stroke and within days, at age 64 he died. A modern and ongoing Manhattan real-estate development tale ensued. It seems for some time he operated under one overriding principle (taken from the well-worn route forged by the Astors and Wendels and Goelets)—never to sell; he held on to good tenants (as long as there were no complaints or demands); in addition, Gottlieb minimalized costs (he even did his own repairs).

Where he differed from previous landlord titans was his incredibly arcane accounting system. Over time, his methodology amounted to a subsidy—cheap rent. The paring down of the remaining wholesalers’ was unexpected; it came about when the senile landlord died intestate, without a Will. This put his estate—constituting a major portion of the present Gansevoort Meatpacking District commercial sites, and a variety of row houses, warehouses, and hotels stretching south to Christopher Street—into the hands of one elderly sister (Mollie Bender). She had been a part-time office worker. Allegedly Mollie found a four-page 1972 Last Will and Testament tucked among her brother’s massive, dusty book collection. It named her beneficiary. At that time, Mollie and their mother nurtured Gottlieb’s ownership passion. Once named the court-ordered overseer, the extended Mollie Bender family instituted rental adjustments, that, and standardized rent collections altered the status quo, drastically.

The plotline thickened. Empty properties were nothing new, the Gottlieb portfolio was packed with them—for instance, a block-long meat locker in the meatpacking district, with complicated development restrictions, which Gottlieb acquired in 1986. With fewer butcher shops stuffed like so many sausages between the shoreline elevated West Side Highway, with the steel structure’s disassembling process begun uptown and proceeding south, though at a snail’s pace, with the defunct, forlorn West Side Elevated Freight Line roadways decaying overhead, on Washington Street, with the Gansevoort Piers destine for demolishment, therefore, the Gottlieb meatpacking district parcels were primed for “improvement.” Of course, that wasn’t going to be easy.

Four years later, after extensive wrangling between civic groups and an array of potential developers, the bereaved sister and her sons and nephews, in addition to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, the procedure produced a reduced (size-wise, anyway), yet loftier historic district with a restoration plan for the cobblestone-paved, commerce streets. The Gansevoort Market Historic District plan re-emerged as a mixed-usage zone, comprising office space, with ground-level retailing, restaurants and bars, but only a few sites were left unprotected for a modest-size tower.

The Gottlieb family saga wasn’t over yet. Shortly after, Mollie Bender was dead. Her 2005 Last Will and Testament required years to settle through the courts. Accordingly, the intact Gansevoort Meatpacking District exploded as a robust, urban, cultural phenomenon within the West Village. The quiet and quaint, subdued not always tony, southward enclave, though no longer under the Greenwich Street El shadows, received an equal jolt, which became a decidedly dramatic surge in demand to acquire and restore residential properties. The frenzy engulfed every modest 1840-50 row house tucked here and there: each scattered small-scale warehouse space, between Greenwich and Washington Streets; every low-rise loft and warehouse building; in fact, any and all structures to Abingdon Square’s west were included. Plus, the Gottlieb-owned parking lots, lots were overgrown with weeds, and his rundown tenement apartment houses, dilapidated hotels, a narrow, triangular block, at West 14th Street, fronting Ninth Avenue as well as Hudson Street, plus much, much more were available to develop.

No doubt that the migratory international fashionista (very fashionable person, especially one who work within the industry or who follows trends, obsessively) infusion—in this instance, 2002-07 Upper East Side expatriates— who would unite in a high-performance, civic-minded spirit with the longtime successful gay residents. Their camaraderie catapulted what was then to what is now: a West Village, rivaling any other premier Downtown neighborhood. Suddenly and in addition, a condominium tower medley rose along West Street. Consequently, it is true that the same cache spilled over at Abingdon Square, and then east onto Bleecker Street, where a ribbon of elite fashion boutiques ties Hudson Street to Seventh Avenue South.

True, too, a highly exceptional feature above was transformed. It became the neighborhood’s crowning touch as an exhumed park space, High Line. Landscaped as a casual, meandering promenade atop trestles, built in 1929, which replaced the street-level Tenth (aka Death) Avenue tracks stretching south, and then connected to St. John’s freight lines, at the Hudson River ferry terminal—now the Holland Tunnel rotary. To high praise, in 2008, High Line opened the first leg above Gansevoort to West 20th Streets. Subsequent legs opened to like kudos. West 35th Street, fittingly, will be the final leg to terminate at Westside Amtrak railroad yards.

The yarn has no end in sight. Inadvertently, as to be unlikely intended, William Gottlieb single-handedly conserved a major portion of the area from development, which 300 years ago had been the Lenape village, Sapokanikan; which 250 years before, was the Warren’s Greenwich farms’ neighbor; which

150 years earlier, was a dozen structures; and, which 50 years prior, was a perishing wholesale market. Only time will tell whether a second-generation Gottlieb can manage this considerable real-estate portfolio as earlier empirebuilding Manhattan landholders did, once upon a time.

West 14th to 23rd Streets

Chelsea

The east and west boundaries are Fifth Avenue and the Hudson River, too. The three distinct corridors, from north-to-south, are: nearby the port district; the area, comprising Tenth to Ninth to Eighth Avenues, generally considered including West 18th through 21st Streets; and, the Ladies Mile to Flatiron district, which encompasses Sixth to Fifth Avenues, and is inclusive of the Broadway-to-Union-Square-West-to Park-Avenue-South blocks, and covers the cross streets from West 15th to 22nd Streets.

Partially, today’s Chelsea owes its unique character to ongoing neglect throughout the lean 20th-century decades. Beginning with the tumultuous

1907 financial panic, and that negligence was exacerbated by a devastating

1929 stock-market crash; moreover, the post-war boom years passed over Chelsea. Furthermore, the easterly residential enclaves were confronted with mid-20th-century commercialization (and encroaching constantly on the concentrated residential neighborhood’s edges), from all directions. Therefore, an omnipresent and unrelenting predicament surfaced, with several resurgences.

It is true as well that the seven avenue-to-avenue mid-blocks, those spanning West 15th to 24th Streets, are long and flat and without an incursion as well as void of even one planned common public space to alleviate the monotony. This is a well-documented Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 oversight. The “over slight” was ignored repeatedly despite cogent arguments offered that pinpointed the failing, and they were raised again throughout the grid plan’s 1807-11 revisions. But to no avail.

It is also true, on the other hand, that several considerations over time mitigated the commissioners’ lapses and toned down the most egregious effects. First, the 150-year mid-block covenants by Deed, put in place to foster a respectable neighborhood, remain. Therefore, Chelsea Square’s development has been kept near to that intent, and so outlandish singlefamily row house façade renovations have been constrained, and therefore only a few scattered gut-renovated tenement apartment houses exist between Eighth and Tenth Avenues. A second and beneficial side effect of being a lessthan-desirable neighborhood while the 1948-75 city-wide housingdevelopment bonanzas blazed is Chelsea’s avenues have limited—in both size and scale—white-glazed or red-colored brick, post-war (corner, 21-story, plus penthouse) apartment houses. Thirdly, since the late 1970s, overall, civic pride compounded by a sense of place from long-term as well as, and especially by recent Chelsea residents regarding the streetscapes, in particular, abundant and healthy trees, has yielded a discernible result.

While all of the above does alleviate the tedium somewhat, now Chelsea’s strong origins, emphatically demonstrated throughout the West 18th to 24th Streets on the Eighth-to-Tenth-Avenues’ mid-blocks, are joined with intermingled dwelling types, ranging from quaint Federal-style to highceiling Anglo-Italianate row houses. While Chelsea’s streetscape variety is the odd juxtapositions, the respectable aura began with Clement Clarke Moore, a savvy landowner, and manager, in collaboration with his shrewd real-estate broker, James Wells.

Chelsea Farm to Chelsea Square

For Clement Moore, Chelsea Farm’s nucleus was flanked by West 19th and 24th Streets, and it stretched between Tenth and Eighth Avenues. For 100 years, this 30-acre farm tract had been owned by the Somerindyke family. Yellis de Mandeville’s descendants (with an inexpiable name change), sold the parcel, in the late 1760s, to a highly decorated French and Indian War commander, the retired British Major, Thomas Clarke. The Clarke’s acquired the adjoining, larger northern Hudson River to the Fitz Roy Road (nearly at Seventh Avenue) tracts, encompassing West 24th to 28th Streets. Needless to say, it significantly changed their Chelsea farm into a country seat.

(The pre-Revolutionary War and Federal Eras) Their manor house, Chelsea (named after the home of Sir Thomas More, adjacent to the Old Town Hall in the King’s Road), was surrounded by a fullblock sprawling garden from Ninth to Tenth Avenue. Beyond that was an apple orchard, which began at West 22nd Street and stretched to West 19th Street. Suspiciously the Clarke manor house burned to the ground in the earliest battle for Manhattan; immediately thereafter, Major Clarke died suddenly. By owning roughly 90 acres, the widowed Molly Clarke was among the Greenwich region’s select patriot landowners. Revolutionary War notwithstanding, the unstoppable Mrs. Clarke rebuilt a massive whiteclapboard farmhouse, sitting upon the same knoll. Her somewhat further enhanced private reserve was inherited by the Clarke’s daughter, Chastity and her husband, Benjamin Moore, the Episcopal bishop of New York, rector of the Trinity Church of England. As her mother before, Chastity Clarke Moore consistently and methodically added more surrounding tracts and lots onto the estate. Then, in 1813, the couple deeded the acreage to their only son, Clement Clarke Moore, who was born at Chelsea Manor House.

Columbia-University educated, and still a young man throughout an 1807to-1811 common council’s urban planning debates, Clement Moore penned, “Proprietors of Real Estate,” a pamphlet setting out his ardent property rights principles. In it, he wrote, “The commissioners are men who would have cut down the Seven Hills of Rome.” With that having been said, Moore planned how to best adjust his private reserve to the foreseeable. To the best of his abilities (up-righteously, as a preacher’s son), Moore took up a lifetime battle for control over his fiefdom’s city-mandated “improvements.” What riled him most, in fact, was that his own money—paid in taxes—provided the proceeds for the city to implement the very intrusive improvements—paved streets and avenues—that he fought to avert. So—

First, on religious grounds and as the founding parishioner of St. Luke’s in the Field, a Greenwich Village Episcopal church on Hudson Street, Moore donated a portion of his apple orchard (66 lots between West 20th and 21st Streets, from Ninth to Tenth Avenues), to the General Theological Seminary. Next, he granted to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church the lots due east of Ninth Avenue for their sanctuary and rectory. Though these land-grants were occupied by 1827, the Gothic-inspired complex was completed when Chapel of the Good Shepherd opened in 1888, which was immediately hailed the Chelsea Square “jewel”.

Then, when he could no longer stave off a city eminent domain edict paving the way for Ninth Avenue, which was destined to destroy his treasured rural charm, Moore systematically subdivided his lots—initially opposite the seminary. Always particular about high-quality construction, he sold these lots individually to be built out as fine residences for the well-heeled. Covenants in the deed of sale restricted the improvements and included what could not be built—manufacturing and commercial uses—in particular, stables. Therefore, virtually not one single sidewalk curb-cut ever existed. Again, in the early 1830s, Moore developed a series of lots, this time, his West 23rd and 24th Streets block fronts, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. With James Well’s sagacity, on West 24th Street, Moore build out modest twostory, wood-frame homes which he called Chelsea Cottages. Soon after, he established London Terrace, homes facing West 23rd Street. These were 36 far grander, town-house-like brownstone row houses. Each was uniformly built in the Greek-Revival style, and they were setback and separated from the sidewalk by buffering trees and privets.

Subsequently, the proposed Tenth Avenue street-level freight tracks confirmed his hunch: the inevitability that the industrial port would continue north, and would gobble up his westernmost parcels. These lots had been purchased 40 years before by his grandmother; he realized that he could no longer curtail the commercial encroachment, so he begrudgingly sold them off. In 1847, the Hudson River Railroad exercised its Tenth Avenue right of way. That was just the beginning.

Throughout, Moore fought the Ninth Avenue IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) Elevated Railroad, even vehemently. Just ten years before his death— at his Newport cottage, in the summer of 1863—the last Downtown West Side manor house, Chelsea, was demolished. And finally, Molly Clarke’s substantial remaining gardens were sold off as individual building lots. They, too, included Moore’s covenants, specifying even the architectural details (Anglo-Italianate, with second-floor balconies) as well as site requirements (setback with wrought-iron gates). Among them, only 428-50 West 23rd

Street remains. (1869-1946) Overall, Moore sold off what he could not control. He fended off the industrialization at his west as well as upcoming commercialization to the east. Construction did commence above Ninth Avenue; the final test runs were completed six years after Moore’s death. While the Tenth Avenue freight train tracks had radically altered Chelsea, Manhattan’s West Side Elevated mass transportation line had an even more drastic effect. Presciently, Clement Clarke Moore correctly put together the puzzle pieces, and as he predicted it brought the endless blue-collar workers, who marched west (literally, traipsing across “his” Chelsea manor gardens) to the waterfront rail yards. The draw was mechanical and metalwork shops, the warehouses and trucking terminals servicing the largest and ever-growing port in the nation. Even Moore could not possibly have envisioned how far the industrialoriented New York Harbor would expand, and for 99 additional years either. With calculated results, in hindsight, he did cordon off what could not be protected. Moore’s corner of Greater Chelsea was soon compromised, however, as his southwestern land had to be sold off (by lots) to meet deathtax obligations. A decade after Moore’s death, south of West 18th Street and west of Ninth Avenue was exactly what he labored diligently against— distilleries, initially for camphene turpentine lamp fuel. Quickly that advanced to gas works; as quickly again, to converting bituminous coal as an industrial energy source.

A few more years passed. The first local mid-block commercial enterprise intruder, Thomas’ “English” Muffins, reestablished and updated their Ninth Avenue bakery, to 377 West 20th Street, (by outfoxing Moore’s covenant). Shortly, in fact, Eighth Avenue to the Hudson River docks evolved as a predominantly blue-collar worker community, necessitating tenement apartments or rooming houses to be converted from single-family homes. Moore’s proto-suburbia experiment seemed all but obliterated. Yet his sound deed covenants—included by the score—served as protections, which proved to be a firm and salvageable foundation for a revival: call it a self-enforced hibernation, and despite benign neglect for 135 years.

To the immediate north and east, Chelsea Square now has two notable residential and very urban neighborhood fixtures. One is in the West 23rd-to24th-Street blocks, Moore’s setback row houses became the 1930s, 18-story, brick and terra-cotta, Italianate-inspired London Terrace apartment house complex. Two is older and due east in the mid-Eighth-to-Seventh-Avenue block, it is the seminal Chelsea Hotel. This 12-story, Queen Anne style brick with brownstone trimmings, is truly unique. From its inception, as a cooperative ownership innovative apartment house, the Chelsea Hotel was touted in the Real Estate Record and Guide, January 20, 1893, as “a flats building, designed for 40 families, comprising a 175 x 86 building lot, with a new patent for the mansard brick roof, raised at a considerable cost to its owner, George M. Smith.” The Chelsea Hotel evolved into a national treasure as the long-term residence for a remarkable grade of artistic tenants. And still, the “Chelsea” has only one equal—though 15 years its junior and three miles northwest—the “Ansonia.” (1950-90) A stark contrast to Moore’s vision came to be in the post-World War Two years. The vast slum was razed to the immediate south of his Ninth-to-TenthAvenue General Theological Seminary, occupying the West 20th and 21st Streets. These blocks were replaced with several city-sponsored, low-income multiple-family apartment houses, set in a park-like setting; each sprawling between West 16th and 19th Streets. Now, in those Avenue blocks, and sideby-side to that uniformly bland housing project, is a further contrast, which Moore could not possibly have envisioned.

Little remains and much have changed for the Hudson River shoreline lots that Moore sold early on. A displaced SoHo art gallery district sprouted. An elite art gallery district, with the requisite restaurants and retailing shopping, begins as a northerly meat-packing district extension. It then runs north alongside Tenth Avenue, straddling High Line. Initially confined below West 22nd Street, the art district inched steadily northward—albeit with limited available housing choices. This rejuvenated industrial zone, to the neighborhood’s monumental asset, Chelsea Pier’s east, includes the half-block Clement Clarke Park, at West 22nd Street and Tenth Avenue. The community now it spreads north to West 28th Street as Chelsea North. Perhaps, even miraculously, a westerly relief or a gateway to—what promises to become an even more frenzied—Midtown West, to the north.

Ladies’ Mile

In the late 1700s, Chastity Moore acquired a substantial tract as well as several contiguous lots nearby West 26th street. They ran as far east as the present-day Flatiron and No-Mad districts. Many of these lots adjoined what would become Ladies Mile. In its nascent stage, before taking on the city’s fashionable shopping district mantle, the Moore holdings reaching to Sixth Avenue were sold, in order to protect the beleaguered (and, frankly, seemingly quainter), westerly Chelsea Square area. Eventually, the Ladies Mile enveloped every Sixth Avenue block front, even beyond West 23rd Street, and incompatible with Moore’s principles.

The lower Fifth Avenue mansion-and-town-house building fervor proceeded northward. First, it lengthened across 14th Street and then, like wildfire, traveled as far as 21st Street where, in 1859, it paused at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. The residential streets at The Avenue’s immediate west progressed in lock-step. With the advent of Civil War strife still far off, the carriage-trade clientele settled into their new brownstone row houses. The ladies of these households would be seen driving by in horse-drawn carriages, complete with all the caparison and trappings. For 50 years, Houston to Bond Street was where the swankiest household and dry goods shopkeepers and proprietors, collectively and gingerly, nurtured their clientele. (It’s well documented that this included the first lady, Mrs. Lincoln. For instance, Congress itself questioned each Mary Todd Lincoln Manhattan shopping spree, singling out Stewart’s on Broadway, at City Hall Park.)

When the Civil War ended, new shops were needed to supply the burgeoning upper class. It was then that Alexander T. Stewart, the city’s preeminent and revered department store proprietor, announced his intention to reestablish himself at East Ninth Street and Broadway. That and that alone were impetuous for elegant specialty shops to stretch north along Broadway to Madison Square. What was to become was Ladies Mile. Its rise mirrored roots put down on The Avenue residents, and on the immediate easterly thoroughfare, Broadway. The aim was holding on to The Avenue’s lavish and fashionable shopping trade. (1850-80) Suddenly, Sixth Avenue, the immediate westerly artery was seen as having better shopping district potential. With merchandise displayed to please the area’s well-to-do, brownstone dweller’s tastes, and with the post-Civil War prosperity, this westerly retail strip took hold rapidly. The Ladies Mile moniker was soon applied. The city’s retailing household names arrived, the likes of Brooks Brothers, B. Altman, Arnold Constable, Lord & Taylor’s, Gorham Silver, Tiffany and Co.; they were strung along either side of Sixth Avenue, like a double strand of exquisite South Sea pearls. Moreover, behemoth retailers were evolving there as well. The newcomers included Stern Brothers, at West 23rd Street; their emporium was seven stories high. R.H. (Rowland Hussey) Macy relocated to West 14th Street, in 1858; by 1877, the ground-floor shop engulfed the 11 adjacent ground-floor stores. Lord & Taylor’s was installed into a five-story cast-iron building, replete with steam elevators that enabled shoppers to add-on additional parcels. L & T had plush carpet every step along its aisles, with nooks conveniently arranged upholstered settees, intended for the ladies to sit down, to have an intimate chat, that is, if she cared to do so.

From the onset, an abundant stream of fashionable ladies had stepped off the tram lines, and into the shops. However, the West Side El along Ninth Avenue brought an entirely new element. The shopping district was increasingly commercialized—overcrowded by day with shoppers; by evening, the restaurants came alive as the Vaudeville, light opera and music hall-goers filtered in. At its peak, this was the city’s fashion, music and theater epicenter. With its aura of exclusivity evaporating, however, the commodious, brownstone row houses were put on the market to sell. As events unfolded, in time more, more residents did sell—even 10-year-old homes—in order to join their own: the “400 Families,” who were resettling farther north along The Avenue. (1884-92) With the Sixth Avenue El line operating, hordes arrived at the retailer’s doorsteps from all over the city. This, however, further diminished Ladies the glamor and allure—losing the luster entirely altered an already shaky citywide social-standing. Earlier prominent dispossessions had stripped the Ladies Mile somewhat. The Metropolitan Opera House opening on Broadway and West 39th Street, however, began the nightlife’s five-year relocation north of Ladies Mile. Then, the 23rd-Street theater district migrated, above West 34th Street and Herald Square to the Longacre Square area, they too were clamoring to be along West 42nd Street. The Ladies Mile miracle appeared like a mirage, and, as miraculously—it vanished. (1895-1907) At the decline’s onset, takers would be found for the fine Broadway-toSeventh-Avenue homes. That did not last long. The unsold brownstone parlor floors filled with lesser dry-goods merchants, then as trinket shops selling items to amuse the throngs clogging the street—that did not last long either. Yet, there are no standing brownstone row houses from that era because light-manufacturing industries—such as textile dyers and re-weavers, jewelry and accessory assembly bench shops along with toy industry manufacturers, eventually, overwhelmed every West 15th Street to 23rd Street home. They, too, were razed in short order to make way for loft-style buildings better equipped for this purpose. It was up to the grand avenue mass-market retailers to make a move…up Sixth Avenue and Broadway to Herald Square or along Fifth as well as Madison Avenues.

Flatiron District

The neighborhood surrounds its namesake, the monumental, groundbreaking, and skyscraping office building, on 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue, facing Madison Square. It is fitting that the final neighborhood to consider is at the northeast corner of Chelsea. It is noteworthy as being pivotal in regard to Manhattan’s Manifest Destiny. First, as a recap, as the Civil War concluded, along Broadway and on the adjoining streets, as well as throughout south central Downtown, cast-iron-façade buildings were being built by the hundreds. Here, where Broadway reached the Love Street (as 21st Street) and Fifth Avenue juncture, the city’s residential migration northward climax progress had paused for 25 years. As well Broadway, always at the cuttingedge of Manhattan’s upper-crust community migration north, here meets its equal partner, Fifth Avenue. Moreover, Broadway veers to the northwest here, while The Avenue continues due north, as the East and West Side division. Not only do the two boulevards meet here but, then, the streets surrounding Madison Square were the city’s ultimate respectable, brownstone, row-house community. Moreover, from here to the north, there is a new force to be considered as well: Madison Avenue. And finally, here begins a two-mile long central corridor, encompassing the Sixth-to-FourthAvenue blocks. Without repeating the saga ahead, the migratory path through Midtown West, so appropriately, the discussion is taken up there.

Moreover, suddenly there was a new, even stronger commercialization competitor desiring The Avenue’s exclusivity, as well as Broadway’s utilitarian appeal—especially coveted, were corner lots. The Lower Manhattan central business and commerce hub had leaped from Canal to

Houston Street, the cast-iron-façade area, and then from Houston to 14th Streets, to pinpoint the “important” retailing strip; by the late 19th century, office-building developers too wanted to possess 23rd Street, at Fifth Avenue. Within a few years, the entire square-facing lots were assembled for “important” business interests—finance and insurance come to mind. Therefore, the dueling duo—retail stores and residences—met their match. (As an aside: an innate distrust existed between Manhattan’s residential neighborhoods and the encroaching strictly commercial-oriented buildings. Throughout colonial times in Lower Manhattan, the inclination by the moneyclass was to separate where one lived from the commercial element, where one worked. The line between is well defined, and is deliberately drawn. Even so to the moneyed, where money materially matters most, and with enterprise’s determination and absolute ability to overpower, by tempting one resident after another’s resolve; inevitably, individuals gave in. As early as 1870, a new option opened up, and a stampede began to purchase the East Sixties standard city lots, across from Central Park, as well as in the nearby mid-blocks. Therefore, to escape a commercial onslaught, an upper Fifth Avenue concept was born.)

What remains quite important here, though, is that as Broadway crosses to the West Side, the plush specialty shops and emporiums choose Madison Avenue spreading into the neighboring and blossoming Murray Hill. As lower Fifth Avenue’s mansions and town houses were being converted for commercial usage—except the proverbial Klein’s on the Square—every Unionto-Madison-Square premier specialty store, including Tiffany & Co., the last fashionable shop to linger, and so Broadway lost all its standard bearers: Arnold, Constable & Company, W. J. Sloane, and Gorham’s, they were relocating north, reestablishing themselves at some point within the Midtown Sixth-to-Fifth-and-Madison-to-Park-Avenue corridor.

That Manhattanites have a perpetual attraction for fashion is undeniable, and it is natural then to assume that they regularly drop by their key fashion department stores. Where would the huge middle-class department stores go? Should mass-market emporiums for the plainer folk opt for a thriving Herald Square? And then, capitalize on the nearby theatrical panache? Then Macy’s, imaginably the Stewart heir-apparent, made the first move to Herald Square by relocating from its mishmash of shops, on West 14th Street. Its owner, Nathan Straus, leased where Broadway crossed the Sixth Avenue site, running along the West 34th-to-35th-Street block front. Instantly, Saks (& Company) bought the block front opposite Macy’s; Abraham & Straus (of Brooklyn, no less!) and many other retailers, even from farther afield, principally Philadelphia’s Bernard Gimbel, made their presence apparent too. Each sensing the impending changes for Herald Square; each by buying on the dozen most passed corners of fashion; and each, would play their part developing the busiest retailing intersection, on the planet. The groundbreaking triangular Fuller Building, at 23rd Street and by pointing north, merely re-enforced, cemented if you like, the reality that commercial enterprise, with an insatiable office-building-usage demand, was now a societal force to be reckoned.