Part of Town

This renowned slice of Manhattan is a two-square-mile square. The four sides being: Fifth Avenue to the east, the Hudson River on the west, West 23rd in the south, and West 59th Street as the northerly borderline. Moreover, each ten-block marker is a differentiation—as the West Twenties, Thirties, Forties, and Fifties. Moreover, it comprises four sectors, as: southern, central, easterly, dead center, and northerly. In Midtown East, there is one broad and continuous swath of slums. Here it’s between Ninth and Eleventh Avenues. Furthermore, the additional residential pockets form enclaves, and they are nestled unexpectedly. They crop up amid commercial office building skyscrapers—especially near to Central Park and Seventh Avenue, which once was touted by realtors as the Avenue of the Future. The neighborhoods in Midtown West, beginning from south to north, fall as:

  • North Chelsea comprises the southwestern-most sector, from West 24th to 30th Streets, and spanning West Street to Tenth Avenue.
  • South Central, which remains unnamed still, runs throughout the West Twenties as well, and extending between Tenth and Eighth Avenues. It consists of 20th-century hulking, red-brick complexes; each apartment house is sited as massive piles amid park settings.
  • Madison Square North, as No-Mad, encompasses the 23rd-25th Street square and adjacent streets north to 29th Street, as well as taking in the Broadway and Fifth-to-Madison-Avenue blocks.
  • On The Avenue, as well as within the central Park-to-Sixth-Avenues corridor, from 23rd Street, through the Thirties, then skipping the Forties, but including the Fifties.
  • Dead Center are a series of “transient’s” neighborhoods that follow Broadway, as West 29th-31th, 40th-47th, and 55th-59th Streets, connecting Madison Square to Greeley and Herald to Times Square, then proceeds northwesterly to Columbus Circle.
  • The Times Square area was eastern Reed Valley, between West 40th and 55th Streets, spanning east of Broadway to Ninth Avenue.
  • The West Fifties constitutes West 54th to 59th Street, which is Central Park South, and spans Fifth to Eighth Avenues, or, from the Pulitzer Plaza to Columbus Circle entrances into Central Park.
  • Hell’s Kitchen is a vast cityscape that sprawls continuously throughout the West Thirties and Forties, and it encompasses the Eighth-to-Ninth-to- Tenth-Eleventh-Avenue expanse.
  • A “Special Clinton District” takes in the West Fifties, spanning west of Eighth to the east of Tenth Avenue. In this case, “special,” connotes a low-rise zone, which extends south, between West 43rd and 55th Streets.

Four Broadway Plazas

Having crossed Fifth Avenue to the West Side, Broadway is Bloomingdale Road’s northerly extension. It steadfastly holds to a 25-degree southeast-tonorthwest trajectory. This path creates equidistant, but acute incursions into Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Manhattan’s best-known, and most impressive three-roadway intersections are formed here. Of particular note are the landholders who, as the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 approached their doorsteps, held a major, or else crucial or pivotal tract are, from south to north, as follows:

  • Madison Square, East 23rd to West 26th Streets at Fifth Avenue, with a park along Madison Avenue, as well as spanning to Broadway. Its fate was bandied about by the commissioners, because as a minor portion of the military Magazine and United States Parade Ground, the Corporation of the City of New York would control it, after 1812.

The westerly landholders from West 25th to 30th Streets, on Broadway, were Joseph Horn with Isaac Varian, and Matthew Dikeman who owned the lion’s share.

  • Herald (with Greeley) Square is inclusive of West 32nd to 35th Streets, at

Sixth Avenue to Broadway. Likewise, as with the West Twenties’ FifthAvenue-to-Broadway span, the West Thirties easterly parcels were Corporation of the City of New York controlled.

The far westerly land throughout the West Thirties were owned exclusively by George Rapelye. At West 30th Street, the major tracts to Broadway’s immediate west belonged to John Slidell; Henry Jackson, with John Hyslop, owned several tracts; and farther west, Thomas Gardner controlled a substantial tract.

In addition, a Van Norden owned the actual crux of Broadway and Sixth Avenue.

Then, a massive Thomas farm stretched from West 32nd to 35th Streets as well as East 33rd to 36th Streets, and crossed Sixth, Fifth, and Madison, to Fourth Avenue. John J. Astor bought the farm in 1799, and subsequently, he cited this 20-acre parcel as his most profitable purchase. (Two grandsons thought so, too, because, in the 1860s, the cousins built—and then soon demolished their rivaling Fifth Avenue, Mansions, which were developed, contentiously, as one Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.)

  • Times (formerly Longacre) Square, spanning West 42nd to 47th Streets, at Seventh Avenue, again on the east, was Corporation of the City of New York owned. By the mid-century mark, this significant breadth from Broadway’s east to Fifth Avenue—occluding two one-block-wide parcels, which were held by John Taylor and William Ogden—included a popular promenade along the reservoir and exhibition space.
  • The western extent was all the Norton Farm, running from West 37th through 43rd Streets.

J.J. Astor bought General Scott’s horse farm, which spread from West 43rd to 46th Streets, and west of Broadway toward Ninth Avenue.

  • Thereafter, the humongous Hopper farmland reached to West 57th Street, as well as extending from the mid-Sixth-to-Fifth-Avenue block to the river’s edge, covering a distance better than one square half-mile, by crossing half the island.
  • Columbus (then, the Great) Circle, comprising West 58th to 60th Streets, at Eighth Avenue, and the swathes from West 57th Street to Central Park, as well as the parcels surrounding Broadway, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, were owned by either a Havemeyer or Moreau clan scion.

A Brief Survey: Where Happenings Took Charge

(1800-92)

Throughout the early 1800s, a wide variety of factors, such as advances in the sciences, economic fluctuations, political events and social revelations, just to name a few possibilities, played out with an enormous effect on each Midtown West neighborhood’s evolution. And, they evolved, as follows: First, the Erie Canal fueled the city’s third post-Revolutionary War economic explosion, which lasted throughout 1836, and which prompted enthusiasm for the city’s northward expansion as far north as Madison Square—where headway came to a halt.

Next, in 1836 as well, Madison Avenue was decreed by the city council to be injected between the proposed Fifth and Fourth Avenues. Additionally, Lexington Avenue was a second mid-avenue insertion farther east, between Fourth and Third Avenues. Although this too was not enacted immediately, Madison Avenue would provide the alternate venue for Broadway’s luxury dry-goods emporiums. Their horse-and-carriage trade was again expected to spearhead The Avenue’s residential migratory channel farther northward and uptown. And they did, with the next significant event.

Next, came the actual opening of Fifth Avenue, replacing the circuitous

“old” Middle Road, which wound around solid schist protrusions between 21st and 42nd Streets. It, then, would move north as Fifth Avenue. Meantime, that didn’t happen all that fast, because it was taken on in phases as finances allowed. That brings up the subsequent event.

Next, the 1837 panic, with an impact lasting for six years, was the century’s second and longest economic downturn. It caught investors off guard—even those with deep pockets. Especially hard-hit were land speculators who entered into contracts by sham auctions conducted at

Tontine Coffee House, (long before evolving into the New York Stock Exchange). These contracted owners, who bought with the intention to resell within 90 days, prior to the conveyance date, were either down and out or out in the cold. Whichever! Few recovered easily, much more were wiped out completely, and some down on their heels did rebound, during the subsequent decade.

Next, the early mass transportation stagecoach line operators (in the lingo of the day, “stagers”), for a 12.5 cent horse-drawn-tram ride, provided Manhattanites access to the rural Highlands of New York, to enjoy the

Observatory Place reserve, from east 90th to 94th Street and Fifth to Fourth Avenue, included Prospect Hall, a nearby inn and pavilion restaurant set among 12 pristine acres.

Next, Central Park was available for day-trippers, as a one-hour excursion uptown from Prince Street. This was now an important Midtown West attribute, as well as the northern boundary.

Next, throughout the 1870s, the El lines were built and expanded. First along Ninth and Third Avenues, and then in 1892, augmented with a Midtown West Sixth Avenue “El.” (Notable is, for 75 years, the single-ride fare remained a nickel.)

Next, also, a transportation factor came by the city ordinance banning the steam locomotive below 42nd Street. This forced Cornelius Vanderbilt to move his already expanded Grand Central Station (twice more). City council financing authorizations allowed for submerging his (the Commodore’s), existing tracks below grade through the Murray Hill dense rock base. However, he would not budge on submerging Fourth Avenue’s tracks from 42nd to 59th Streets, spanning Midtown. The issue was using his money.

Several street-level accidents, occurring just before his death, in 1877, which were obvious threats to his right of way renewal, persuaded Vanderbilt. That progress proceeded according to Vanderbilt time—anytime but not rapidly.

Finally, economics factored in again. Prior to the Civil War, the panic of 1857 began its recovery in early 1859, but it proved lackluster. Then again, after the conflict, the panic of 1873 lasted five years. Meanwhile, over 15 years, real-estate investment interest and speculation was desultory. The very rich landholders, of course, were not fazed all that much: in fact, they merrily assembled lots, parcels, and tracts—at wholesale prices. Because of these events, the residential concentrations to develop into neighborhoods, between West 23rd and 59th Streets, beginning from south to north, are:

Southwest

North Chelsea

Spanning West 24th to 30th Streets, as well as from West Street to Tenth Avenue, is now a burgeoning Chelsea art gallery enclave. It is the West Village to meatpacking district’s northern continuation. Innovative High Line does run through, though west of Tenth Avenue; and Chelsea Park, a recreation, and sports facility, does occupy one square block, on West 27-28th Streets, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. Presently, the North Chelsea area contains a variety of loft-building-styles; some comprise a high technology industry district, few have been converted to residential usage. The West Twenties is High Line’s final leg before reaching the vast (Hudson) West Side Railyard, on West 30th Street, and ending at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center of New York, which occupies West 34th to 38th Streets, between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues. High Line is on the fast track to being completed overhead shortly; furthermore, a new mixed-usage community is scheduled to “break ground” shortly as well. This waterside development touted to be big and bold and self-contained—with theaters and restaurants, retail shopping strips, park grounds, and fountains, you name it and it’ll be there. Then, it will stand along with the City’s other urban planned mega-subdivisions: the 1950s East River-facing, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village; as well as the 1980s Battery Park City, sited alongside the New York harbor.

South Central Housing Projects

A massive middle-income-housing corridor is dominated by two 20th century masses of red brick. These apartment house complexes, situated amid a park setting, are:

  • Ladies Garment Workers’ Union Housing cluster, which encompass the Eighth-to-Ninth-Avenue blocks, running from West 23rd to West 26th Streets;
  • Spanning the Ninth-to-Tenth-Avenues blocks, between West 24th and 27th Streets, is the second maze of juxtaposed city-sponsored, low- income, apartment towers.

Southeast

Madison Square North (NoMad)

No-Mad, comprising the blocks immediately northwest of the square, is a compact historic residential enclave. Its run is between West 24th and 30th Streets, and along Fifth Avenue to Broadway to Sixth Avenue. On Broadway, between West 28th and 30th Streets, three apartment hotels represent what was throughout the later part of the 19th century, an increasingly popular Manhattan lifestyle. By 1902, office and light manufacturing loft buildings gradually pushed on the residential neighborhood streets. By 1910, the neighborhood was devoured completely. Now, 100 years later, along the same Sixth Avenue, is a recent towering rental-apartment-house eight-block-long corridor. Starting on West 23rd Street, they replaced the wholesale Flower District, as well as a string of parking lots, which for three decades, were the venue as Sunday morning Flea Markets.

This ultra-fashionable 1845-90 residential concentration was anchored in the south by the 1859 Fifth Avenue Hotel. Amos Eno built the city’s finest hotel with his profit gained as a dry-goods merchant-prince, and with his landowning partners. For nearly fifty years, this hostelry was where notables visiting Manhattan would stay, and where Manhattan’s biggest business deals were hatched. Along Fifth Avenue, the north boundary was West 33rd Street, at the 1893 Waldorf-Astoria Hotel site, where two (William Waldorf and John Jacob, III) Astor cousins’ mansions once stood.

For 150 years, the strip, from 24th to 34th Streets, between Fifth to Broadway and to Seventh Avenue was public land. By 1839, the defunct War of 1812 military installation was converted to a juvenile delinquent’s home, but it was devastated by arson. At the time, The Avenue above 21st Street was a dirt farm road. Reaching what was to become Fifth Avenue, above 35th Street, involved two steps: first, a trek along the East Post Road, approximating Third Avenue; the second leg, from East 28th, was cutting over on the old Middle Road. It held a mostly north-to-south direction while meandering east and west around the rocks. The Middle Road stopped, at 42nd Street, and this was considered to be the city limit. As other well-to-dos arrived into Madison Square North, three prominent churches were built. One, running deep, between West 25th and 26th Streets, erected as a Trinity parish church, and now it is the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava. Two, at 29th Street, on the northwest Fifth Avenue corner, is the marble Collegiate Church; one of six Collegiate Churches which trace their origins to Dutch settlers and their church, organized in 1628. Three is on East 29th Street, off Fifth Avenue. Officially, the Church of the Transfiguration but better known as ‘Little Church around the Corner’ is an Episcopal church, and it dates to 1849.

The plots surrounding the stagecoach two milestones, the Love Street Home Station, and the lots along Broadway, were owned by John Jackson, Matthew Dikeman, John Horn, (see page 147, for the Horn-Hopper relations), and one large tract holder, Christopher Mildenberger. The latter two remained landowning partners in Eno’s Fifth Avenue Hotel. These owner’s lots bordered Madison Square Park when it opened in 1847. Shortly (better put, rapidly), many of the city’s first families, to name one, Theodore Roosevelt’s parents, were ensconced in a double-wide, high-stoop, brownstone home around the corner. Madison Avenue along the square was lined with staid, (exactly alike) brownstone row houses. In 1859 New York society had never seen the likes of Leonard Walter Jerome’s French Second Empire, five-story—overly exuberant—palace. Situated at East 26th Street, on a Madison Avenue corner, the house predominated by featuring a high, slate shingle, mansard roof, a stone portico—supported by four columns, with a carved stone balustrade at the second floor. And, two additional second- and third-floor balconies extended along the entire Madison Avenue façade. In the second-floor ballroom, built above the matching stables along East 26th Street, their daughter Jennie, Winston Churchill’s mother, was presented into society.

This was also the northern extent of the great luxury dry-goods and specialty shopping district—a section bounded by East 10th Street in the south to East 21st Street on the north, with Broadway as the eastern, and Sixth Avenue as the western thoroughfare. The leading women’s fashion emporiums, which had established their businesses downtown, were moving farther north by gradual steps: as change warranted. Then, a big-time changer came: A city council ban was proclaimed on locomotive engines below 42nd Street.

William Vanderbilt reconsidered Madison Square’s northwest corner, as a grand station. Instead, it was to be the city’s first sporting arena, his Hippodrome, and then Madison Square Garden. First, the first families, as they were want to do anyway, headed north above the old city limit, sociallyspeaking anyway, at 42nd Street. Once the venerable Fifth Avenue Hotel was scheduled to be demolished, and the opposite was to be a proposed, pouredconcrete, triangular “skyscraper,” which would then define the Flatiron

District.

By 1902, the swank specialty shops followed their wealthy customers along Madison Avenue. Meanwhile, the Ladies’ Mile merchants were morphing into the Broadway retailing giants of Herald Square. By 1910, with the Union-Square-to-Ladies’-Mile-to-Madison-Square triangle merchants moved out, the last brownstone lining Madison Square was being demolished to make way for another white-collar-worker office building.

Easterly

Along The Avenue—In the Thirties

The expanse from 34th to 40th Street would seem to continue the leapfrogging mansion- building strip. It did not. In large part, this was due to strict Murray Hill covenants. Therefore, commercial enterprises were barred to Madison Avenue’s east side. So in order to be at their clientele’s backdoor, the “merchant princes” had to pay The Avenue’s escalated lease rental prices. To say the least, only the most prepared, those with lustrous passed as well as very deep pockets, could make this quantum leap. Having outlasted the Civil War years, and during the 1870s, numerous imposing department stores and dry-goods specialty shops bloomed and flourished. Furthermore, to the fashion-conscious of that day these were extremely significant establishments. In 1900, the long-established retailing icons—beforehand, effectually, functioning from East Tenth Street to Union Square, and then along Broadway to Madison Square—opened their grandest yet Fifth Avenue emporiums. Though many of these ripened and urban shopkeepers’ utopias are defunct, the initial Ladies’ Mile survivors and noteworthy transplants to The Avenue, from south-to-north, included:

  1. B. Altman & Co. In 1865, Bernard Altman took over his family store on Third Avenue, at East 10th Street. Then in 1870, he moved his shop into a neoGreco building between West 18th and 19th Streets, on Sixth Avenue. B. Altman was the first department-store owner to move off Ladies’ Mile and onto Fifth Avenue by buying the A.T. Steward mansion, between 34th to 35th Streets. Being diagonally across from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel certainly was a plus, too.
  2. Tiffany & Co. Moving onto Fifth Avenue, at the southeast 37th Street corner, and vacating its 1870 Union Square store, at East 15th Street, was a monumental move. After all, “Tiffany” was a singular retailing name, an absolute institution to three generations of Manhattanites. To understand the significance is to begin in 1837, with Charles Lewis Tiffany and John F. Young opening their stationery shop, opposite Manhattan’s City Hall Park. With $1,000 in backing from Tiffany’s father, they offered stationery and a variety of “fancy goods,” including costume jewelry. By 1841, Tiffany, Young & Ellis discontinued paste for real jewelry only. Silverware was added in 1847, and five years later, the firm was Tiffany & Co., with its signature blue box presentation an icon.

Tiffany & Co. established itself worldwide with no American rival, by winning the 1878 Paris Exposition gold medal for jewelry and the grand prize for its silverware—American craftsmen awarded in Paris!—the accomplishment solidified pinnacle status for design and quality. To inch northward in 1902 was meaningful, and then again, in 1940, by vacating to occupy the even grander Avenue corner of 57th Street, Tiffany & Co. therefore, heralded in and out, Murray Hill’s brief, retail shopping district’s rise, and its fall.

  1. Franklin Simon & Company. In 1903, the main store was reestablished at 38th Street, in the former home of Mrs. Orme Wilson, a sister of John Jacob Astor. It was a short-lived endeavor. The store went bankrupt, in 1979. 4) Across the way, equally short-lived Russeks Fifth Avenue, opened as a branch of its distinguished Brooklyn fur store. By World War One and continuing throughout the Second World War, Russeks Fifth Avenue was renowned for its yearly high-fashion collection.
  2. Another now-defunct, 38th Street corner department store was Bonwit Teller. As a millinery shop proprietor, Paul Bonwit moved around Ladies’ Mile several times before joining with Teller. After four years in business, as a complete women’s specialty store, in 1911, Bonwit Teller opened on The Avenue. By 1930, the store relocated again to 56th Street.
  3. The originator of W. & J. Sloane, William, later joined by his brother John, established himself in 1843, as a proficient, Manhattan-based carpet business. By encompassing floor covering, upholstery, decorative antiques and period reproduction as individual departments, the family-run firm grew to be America’s foremost home furnishing house. Its reputation was superb quality and trendsetting design. In 1884, the Sloane brothers built an unusual Queen Anne-style building on northwest East 19th Street and Broadway. Their corner lot had showrooms below, and bachelor apartments above. All “Sloane’s” stores, including the flagship store, at 8 West 38th Street, after floundering in the wrong location, closed its doors in 1984, 140 years later. 7) The Gorham Company. Founded in Providence, R.I., and within 20 years, by the late 1850’s, it was a leading American silver concern. Gorham opened their store on East 19th Street and Broadway, in 1884. In short order, Stanford White was commissioned to design their 1905 Gorham Building, at 36th Street and on The Avenue. Though still in business, Gorham Company does not have a flagship store any longer.
  4. Lord & Taylor. The Pearl and Catherine Street dry-goods store opened in 1826, and moved in 1860, into a newly constructed cast-iron building on Broadway and Grand Street, and then to Broadway and 20th Street. Moreover, L &T was among the first major stores on Fifth Avenue—the flagship store encompasses 38th to 39th Streets still.
  5. Arnold Constable & Co. The specialty fashion store relocated to Broadway and East 19th Street in 1869, and then in 1914, to The Avenue between 39th and 40th Streets. The Frederick W. Vanderbilt Fifth Avenue mansion was masterfully adapted as a store. After an illustrious 150-year history, Arnold Constable & Co., too, was gone in the mid-1970s.
  6. Stern Bros. move, in 1912, was an oddity. Unexcitingly, Stern’s exited their West 23rd Street cast-iron building, regarded as the ultimate in exclusivity, and reopened on West 42nd Street, off Fifth Avenue. Their luster was unmatched for a woman’s specialty shop—in Manhattan or anywhere in America. Without fanfare, Stern Bros. had arrived from Buffalo New York in

1867, and it, too, joined a host of suchlike stores in the Ladies’ Mile. Once on West 42nd Street, with a south-facing façade overlooking the 1911 Beaux-Arts masterpiece by Carrère and Hastings, the New York Public Library and Bryant Park, their new store included exclusive touches such, for example, as a separate entrance for the Astor, Gould, Vanderbilt and suchlike fashionable ladies.

To be expected, there was one exceptional resident on The Avenue in the Thirties, and it was John G. Wendels. His grandfather (of the same name) was John Jacob Astor‘s fur trading partner. In addition, John Wendels married Astor’s sister, Elizabeth. The elder John Wendels had already purchased three Maiden Lane lots, including the fur-trading store. In fact, he amassed a Manhattan land fortune (many times over), before John Astor began, or even thought to dabble. Throughout their lives, both Wendels and Astor adhered to Wendels’ contemplative approach, or his four “real estate investment” pillars, which was never: mortgage or sell or repair, and never-ever forget that Broadway’s price crest moves uptown ten blocks every ten years. His son (and Astor’s nephew) built an 1858 mansion, in the West- 39th-to-40th-Street block front—on farmland his father purchased from William Ogden; the above-mentioned grandson, remained right there for 75 years—without a single update, except indoor plumbing, installed to placate his two spinster sisters.

Across the way from the Wendels compound, built full to West 42nd Street, the Croton Distribution Reservoir Egyptian-inspired perimeter wall, completed in 1842, dominated. Shortly, an agreeable promenade and garden, now Bryant Park, had been molded atop and behind. In the late 1890s, the reservoir was torn down, and the Carrère and Hastings New York Public Library and Bryant Park opened, in 1911. Another trendy neighborhood addition, one block east, the formidable Manhattan Hotel, occupied an important corner at East 42nd Street and Madison Avenue. The hotel opened in 1904, and immediately succeeded the Fifth Avenue Hotel as the magnet for genteel foreign visitors and the local carriage-trade. The hotel restaurants and taverns, especially, became the haunt for suburban businessmen coming in and going out of Grand Central Station.

Nearby, the men’s wear specialty store hub evolved. First to arrive was the already iconic Brooks Brothers. They choose a corner site on Madison Avenue and at East 44th Street. Soon, the outdoorsy specialty shop, Abercrombie and Fitch, joined in, one block north and these two became a legendary Madison Avenue complementary duo. Understandably, they were joined by Ivy-League-leaning J. Press, a more fashion-forward, Paul Stewart; plus, scads of haberdashers as well as hats, shoes, and boot-makers, set up shop to offer gentlemen only the best-imports from around the world.

Along The Avenue—In the Forties

At first, there were no takers for the “old dirt” Middle Road lots when they were offered by Corporation of the City of New York. Every future Fifth Avenue plot went barren, and then was leased, (very gradually), to charitable institutions as their facilities, including St. Luke’s Hospital, the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, and a public orphanage, and they were paying $1.00 yearly rent. As late as 1842, the city granted charities 22 lots, reaching along The Avenue, from 43th to 44th Streets. At the established cattle trail, 42nd Street and on the Middle Road, was the Bristol Hotel, actually a tavern that remained through to the Civil War’s conclusion. On 45th Street, to the Allerton Hotel’s east—which was no more than a low, white-washed, wood-frame building surrounded by a plot of grass—the future Madison Avenue was still cattle holding pens. Tyson’s Market, a beef and fowler, stood at the corner of 44th Street, next to the Willow Tree Inn.

Only a very few private residences’ existence, below 45th Street, are noted on Dripp’s Map of 1860. Those few were set back and included gardens, forming a semi-suburban feel. Nearby, to the west, and along the Hopper family fourth milestone tract, a smattering of the family members—R. Cosine, J. Ward, J. Emmett, J. Kemp, C. McEvers, S. Hopper, and D. Harsen, to bring up just a few names, over some 150 hundred years—still retained their ancestral homes, and still lived within walking distance to their westerly family cemetery.

Above West 45th Street in 1801, was a 12-acre purchase from the city (now, comprising Rockefeller Center), for $400 per acre. Here, Dr. Hosack, professor of Botany and Homeopathic (Materia Medica) at King’s College, opened his Elgin Garden. The property was owned by Columbia University, by 1814: in 1851, the entire expanse had been divided into city lots. When the Civil War ended the university moved from Murray Street and College Place to West 52nd Street, on its way to opening their Morningside campus, in 1892, which was still very much the Bloomingdale Village.

Many prominent religious institutions built their major sanctuaries between 43rd and 50th Streets. For instance, opposite Elgin gardens, in the 50th-to-51st-Streets Fifth Avenue block front, and to the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum’s north, St. Patrick’s Cathedral was begun in 1858, and dedicated in 1879. The southern anchor to the cathedral was the newly completed Temple Emanu-El—erected in 1868, as “an exotic, Saracen-like style, and including Moorish spires and a stenciled, soaring ceiling five stories high,” at least according to Harper’s Weekly. The chapel was immense–sprawling for one-half block, 104-feet wide and stretching 184 feet along East 43rd Street to Madison Avenue—capable of holding 2,000 worshipers. The basement lecture room and schoolrooms as well as auxiliary rooms could accommodate 400 to 500 children. As with the Catholic cathedral’s move from Mott Street to Fifth Avenue brought their congregants, the temple attracted German Jewish banking families—such multiple generation clans as Schiff, Seligman, Loeb, Kahn, Warburg, Goldman, Sachs, Straus, Lehman, Lewisohn and Guggenheim. Their nearby grand-style town houses, between Sixth and Vanderbilt Avenues, have been replaced by several Ivy League university club headquarters or an exclusive men’s social club. One prominent example, at 37 West 44th Street, the extravagant New York (and Newport) Yacht Club building, is a beaux-arts, nautical-looking, limestone affair, designed by Warren and Wetmore, and was completed in 1898.

On another page of Midtown Manhattan history crop up surrounding two latter-generation Goelets. The ironmonger patriarch had two sons as well as two grandsons, all a Peter P. or Robert R. The mid-1800s generation followed in the family knack of buying ahead of the crowd. As young men with an eye for the advantageous, each married a Thomas Buchanan daughter. The important legacy to be had was their father’s lands: above East 41st to 48th Streets, and reaching from Fifth to Third Avenue—all of it! It wasn’t far off when these Goelets and their sister-wives controlled a Manhattan land inheritance that was at the city’s center. Furthermore, the carriage-trade specialty shop was moving northward along The Avenue channel the cousins already cornered, and their wives’ easterly lots surrounded the street-level railroad tracks that Cornelius Vanderbilt belligerently refused to submerge. Vanderbilt held off (and the Mrs. Goelets’ held on) as long as it was cows that his trains hit, not pedestrians. As time went by, Vanderbilt did install bridges, but only when informed his street-grade provision could be revoked for any mere annoyance. Then, one accident involving two pedestrians and 15 passengers, garnered tabloid death-toll headlines. Did the Commodore adjust his thinking? Not even a scintilla! Moreover, he was reputed to have said, “Over my dead body.” After he died, more was to come than submerged tracts. Importantly, an electric-engine locomotive was introduced to reduce the foulair problem from idling trains entering Grand Central Station.

In the meantime, The Avenue was the city’s residential centerpiece. The 1870s broad- avenue brownstone town houses were without equal; the rows of homes along the adjacent streets were unequaled as well. The coveted corners were much-much more—presenting one mansion after another. For example, the 47th Street corner was Jay Gould’s residence, and then it belonged to his daughter, Mrs. Finley J. Shepard, as her city home until her death. It was the last remaining millionaire’s mansion on the row to Central Park. Mrs. (Robert) Almy Buchanan Goelet’s mansion dominated the southeast corner of 48th Street, and her sister Mrs. (Peter) Margret Buchanan Goelet’s did the same, one block north. Russell Sage, an associate of Jay Gould, was at 601 Fifth Avenue, on the 49th Street corner, abutting the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas. When Theodore Roosevelt was in town, he still prayed at this church, which traced its ancestry to New Amsterdam’s Church in the Fort.

Along The AvenueIn the Fifties

The early 1880s “El” completion had an immediate effect that was heard, felt, and smelled, even on The Avenue in the Forties. The adjoining streets to Sixth Avenue were noisy and the buildings would shake, while the engines spewed ash, oil dripped, and cinders rained down along the way. The grand side street town houses faced the rapidly commercial encroachment. It turned the neighboring mansion row around. The “El” turning west 53rd Street insulated The Avenue in the Fifties, (making the Elgin Garden lots more desirable for commercial development, too). At the Gilded Age’s dusk, north of the cathedral and gardens was even more elite than along the Forties—if that seems even possible. Beginning with the 51st-to-52nd-Streets’ twin residences, the duo palaces, as they were known, which were built by William K. Vanderbilt—one for himself, one for his daughter Mrs. William Sloane.

Upon the death of John Mason, in 1854, Chemical Bank president, Mary Mason Jones’ family country estate included the Kemp heirs’ portion, which then encompassed Fifth Avenue to Third Avenues, and the easterly block fronts between 54th and 58th Streets. Once her father’s will was probated, 15 years later, Mrs. Jones commissioned architect Robert Moore to design a white French chateaux-inspired mansion series, One East 57th Street for herself, as well as one town house for each sisters, Rebecca and Serena, (who were Edith Wharton’s great-aunts). On its completion, the trio was dubbed society’s Marble Row. Across The Avenue on West 57th Street’s northwest corner and spreading north to envelope the block front entirety to 58th Street, Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s greatly expanded upon his grandfather’s modest lifestyle in his nearby, Fifth Avenue double-wide brownstone. Instead, he double-downed on their duo palaces, and built his block-long home, and assembled 200 paintings to display in its 59 rooms—the largest and most impressive and spectacular mansion in Manhattan then (and since). The Villard mansion, (a kerosene tsar, and then some), occupied 50th to51st Streets, encompassing the eastern Madison Avenue block front, was designed by Stanford White of McKim, Mead and White, and constructed in 1884. On the block, another free-standing mansion, a complex, actually, at four West 54th Street, built for C. P. Huntington, a California railway magnate, was purchased by John D. Rockefeller, in 1884. The mansion remained Mr. Rockefeller’s city home until his death. St. Thomas Church now occupies his Fifth Avenue garden; the “back lots,” so to speak, stretched onequarter deep into the Fifth-to-Sixth-Avenue block, was where John D. Rockefeller Jr. played his boyhood games. His heirs subsequently donated the mansion to the Museum of Modern Art’s as its first sculpture garden. Across the way, Nos. Nine to Eleven West 54th Street, are an intact mid-block mansion, providing a glimpse into the majesty possible for a few along The Avenue in the Fifties. Ninety years later, Nelson Rockefeller owned, kept offices and died next door, in No. 15. Next are the late 1930s Sister buildings, Rockefeller Apartments, constructed as executive residences for their nearby Rockefeller Center.

As mansion-building leapfrogged north into the Upper East Side, replacing the stately Fifties multi-millionaire enclave was four deluxe hotels, five luxury department stores, a vast and world-renowned, office-building complex, replete with an ice-skating-rink plaza. That is, except one superb 1905 Italian Renaissance mansion, on the East 52nd Street southeast corner, graced by a C.P.H. Gilbert fine-fine design. The home included an east wing; the interiors were reconfigured in 1917, for Cartier, Inc. There’s a yarn attributed to the transfer. The ownership was exchanged in kind for $100 and a $1,000,000 double-strand South Sea pearl necklace the wife, Mrs. Platt, fancied. Shortly after as a wealthy widow, she proceeded to wear the pearls daily—even though they were obviously deteriorating. As the story goes, the chemistry was so bad that on her death the necklace, too, was gone. The short endpaper reads: vanished into the thin air. The property was already priceless.

Dead Center

On Broadway—Greeley and Herald and Times Squares

By 1858 it was obvious the specialty shopping strip was following Madison Avenue, and would not continue on Broadway to reach Sixth Avenue. The advent of R. H. Macy on West 14th Street moving one mile north, on Sixth

Avenue, marked the beginning of a phenomenal and unprecedented epoch as well as a new fascinating chapter in Manhattan’s dry-goods trade saga, its power-house department stores growth, and the merchant princes masterminding these fortunes.

Why, for instance, did Mr. Macy select Sixth Avenue for his venture? One can only surmise he was attracted by a busy and popular thoroughfare. Was it the location on a crowded corner, attracting people to a focal point, with all needs and all tastes, with stores of all kinds, but where he would satisfy one and all? Did Macy’s next owner, Nathan Straus, know Herald Square would grow by leaps and bounds? Did he realize it would quickly become the city’s prodigious shopping district? Was it because it was the next “El” express stop from West 14th Street, discharging hordes who bought often? Was watching the Metropolitan Opera House opening above Herald Square, and then looking beyond to Longacre Square, with the newest of entertainments—the Broadway Musical Comedy—important? It couldn’t hurt! Could Nathan Strauss perceive Ladies’ Mile specialty stores would create a void by following their patrons, by staking their claim along The Avenue in Murray Hill?

Whatever, did Mr. Straus know that Macy’s move to Herald Square would propel a series of ground-level store fronts to retailing’s forefront? Then again, maybe what influenced Straus to make the daring move was that he understood the prosperous partnership possibilities of newspaper publishing and retailing from the lessons garnered by A.T. Stewart on New York City Hall Park and Broadway?

As of 1846, the city had already acquired the Herald and Greeley Squares sites not in the Corporation of the City of New York control, in preparation of opening the improved Bloomingdale Road (Broadway). The squares namesakes are: as the southern triangular portion, the New York Tribune founder, Horace Greeley, and, the New York Herald, to the north. James Gordon Bennett Sr. Bennett, at the helm of the Herald, decided to move from

Newspaper Row, on Park Row and at Beekman Street, opposite New York City Hall Park, but he died beforehand. For the new 1895 headquarters at the square’s crux, comprising West 35th and 36th Streets, on Broadway, at Sixth Avenue, James Gordon Bennett Jr. engaged Stanford White. White based his design on the 1476 Venetian Renaissance Palazzo del Consiglio in Verona— beyond paying homage, White produced a near-perfect reproduction.

On BroadwayReed Valley

For Native people, Kanonnewaga, the riverfront village cultivated a coveted raw material woven for the regional squaw’s ceremonial skirts. (Hunters, on the other hand, wore tanned skins.) The Dutch referred to the district as SawKill, a body of water where a three stream convergence, between West 40th to 43rd Streets, at Tenth Avenue, which then emptied into the North River. The Dutch built a repository for timber to be milled and destined for Amsterdam. Prior to the Revolutionary War, the large family farms sprawling from the outpost, near to the deep streams and spreading northeast to West 55th Street, encompassed everything to Seventh Avenue. The two significant land and manor house owners were:

  • John Leake owned the Heritage Farm, at the renamed Great Kill. The farm fell to his niece Martha Norton, under the management of her son, John Leake Norton. John Norton granted the city an 1825 right of way across Heritage Farm. West Forty-Second Street, then, was a public crosstown cattle trail, from the Weehawken ferry docks to the East River Turtle Bay slaughterhouses. (Noted previously, see page 144, the

Madison-to-Fourth-Avenue blocks remained holding pens through during 1860s.)

  • Mathew Hopper, in the mid-1700s, as heir to southeasterly Hopper farmlands built a manor house at West 44th Street, near to Eleventh Avenue. This eastern Hopper eastern acreage, a minor part of the whole, extended to West 48th Street at Bloomingdale Road.

Two Revolutionary patriot generals were substantial nearby landowners, and they were:

  • General George Clinton, whose country villa and estate, on West 46th

Street, near to

Ninth Avenue remained his residence throughout an extensive political and diplomatic career.

  • General John Morin Scott, a Manhattan patriot, lawyer, statesman, military officer and war hero, worked his narrow, 70-acre pastureland as a horse breeding farm. General Scott built his manor house, at Broadway and West 43rd Street—its southeastern-most point.

As a New York Provincial Congress member and brigadier general, Scott’s home was seized throughout the British occupation. Scott did reclaim it all, and again horses grazed the pasturelands. The general died in 1784, however. The horse farm was then inherited by his only son. Fifteen years later, Lewis Allaire Scott died. In 1807, the Reed Valley owners were for the most part still Norton and Hopper descendants. By 1810, they included John Jacob Astor, when Astor bought the Scott horse farm. He acquired the 70-acre Scott farm, between West 43rd and 47th Streets, spanning Broadway to Ninth Avenue. During the ensuing years, Astor purchased additional tracts from the Norton and Hopper families. He was amassing a (second) fortune because Astor foresaw and understood as well as focused on the impending buildingout of a great, world city. All the while, in addition to Wendels’ doctrine, Astor adhered to the tenet: always allow others to improve the property, and then let them collect rents. After all, wasn’t Astor’s brother-in-law his mentor? As the 1820s began, Astor’s real-estate strategy became more ambitious, systematic, calculating—following a long-term and thoughtful approach. Until his death, J.J. Astor was trading his Lower Manhattan lots and assembling tracts where the city was spreading rapidly—north along Broadway. Reputedly (heard by a fly on the wall, perhaps!) one buyer of a Wall Street lot asked: Why accept a few thousand dollar profit now? The property will be worth more than $8,000 in two or three years. Astor (supposedly) replied: The $8,000 tract uptown I buy now, in 20 or 30 years—will top $200,000. It was during William Backhouse Astor’s reign that the Astor Reed Valley holdings were consolidated. While working with a young, Columbia Collegeeducated lawyer, William Bayard Cutting (associated with the Hopper clan, and married to Olivia Peyton Murray, of the Murray’s hill family). An aristocratic, merchant, real-estate broker and investor, and as Astor’s investment partner, Cutting cultivated the far western commercial lot sellers, where the timber mills, tanneries, lamp oil refining, and other enterprises needing the river in which to dump industrial waste. Cutter bought and sold, Astor bought and held.

Sixty-five years after General John Morin Scott’s death, his lush pastures were Manhattan’s carriage industry center. Ninety years after, the Metropolitan Opera House opened near his backdoor. By the century milestone, a nascent Broadway theater district had morphed around Longacre Square, where Scott’s barns, stables and corrals once stood. Ninety-six years after the Revolutionary War Hero’s death, The New York Times publisher,

Adolph Ochs, opened his first Times building: bettering his chief rival the New York Herald Tribune, on Herald Square. The Leake (Norton) and Scott (Astor) farms’ nexus, straddling the Bloomingdale Road, soon thereafter and forevermore would be Times Square.

Center North

West Fifties

(The 1700s)

To the north, on (the future) West 50th Street and at the Bloomingdale Road, Hopper’s Lane was cleared by Mattbys Adolphus Hopper. On West 54th Street and beyond Eleventh Avenue, he built a homestead, including a bathing and boating house on the Hudson River. The Hopper vast farmlands extended (irregularly) east to the Middle Road, and from their Great Kill tract (West 44th Street) bordering the deep stream, spanning north to West 57th Street. Ten generations (maybe more) of Mattbys Hopper descendants lived in their scattered easterly homes near to Sixth Avenue—by then, with distinguished Dutch or British landed gentry surnames—were also interred in the family burial ground that their patriarch set aside on West 50th Street, at Ninth Avenue.

The burial grounds case was one of the numerous mid-19th-century legal battles concerning the Hopper’s rights. This extensive litigation followed the family remains’ removal by Ellsworth Striker, who claimed possession of the property 150 years later. The courts ruled in the heir’s favor. Striker proceeded to build a three-story apartment house where Hopper, Varian, Cozine, and Horn bones had been interned. A point of fact: whereas the 1820s Randel Farm Maps clearly delineate the Hopper funereal plot, Viele’s map of

Manhattan (1865) does not. (1714-70) Through direct descendants and marriage alliances, the family occupied the imposing West 54th Street manor house for an astounding 197 years. The initial heir, John Hopper, fathered six children; each was granted a portion of his landholdings, with an appropriate house. Two children sold and moved elsewhere. His only daughter, Jemima, who married John Horn, a partner in the Fifth Avenue Hotel at 23rd Street; and the youngest son, Yellis (Yelless), who married Elizabeth Waldron, moved to her family’s stone house, on East 86th Street, at Second Avenue. (Refer to page 30, for more on Baron Resolve Waldron. Incidentally, this is the site of the oldest apartment house, the Manhattan, designed by George W. Clinton, erected by Peter Rhinelander, and completed in 1880.) In addition to Mathew Hopper’s 1700s Great Kill farm, which did not remain long within the Hopper family, the other John Hopper heir’s manor houses and tracts were, as follows:

  • Wessell, the eldest son, and Anna (nee Dyckman) lived with his father and their four children. The balance of that block front fell to a Knickerbocker branch, the Harsen clan.
  • Andrew occupied the West 50th Street northeast Bloomingdale Road corner—in a conspicuous stone-and-brick domicile, with an incompatible wood annex. His son even further extended the home. It was razed for William Vanderbilt’s American Horse exchange, and is now the Winter Garden Theater.
  • John, the younger, inherited the Hopper northwest lands’ end. Along with a 1752 farmhouse, Rosevale—named for the extensive rose gardens—on West 53rd Street, at Eleventh Avenue. Now, the two-block wide DeWitt Clinton Park, which was donated to the city by general Garrit Hopper Striker’s grandson.
  • The Jordan Mott family branch lived on Mott’s Point, the promontory at West 53rd to 54th Streets on which the bath and boathouse occupied. It was steadfastly held by Winifred Mott, John Hopper’s granddaughter, until the early 1890s—when (far) West 54th Street was to be graded. Subsequently, the Hudson River Railroad took over the property. The title was never relinquished however, even after decades of litigation.

On Broadway—Meeting Up With Central Park

(1890-1915)

On West 57th to 59th Streets, alongside The Avenue mansions and in the surrounding blocks, an ultrafashionable art gallery, restaurant, and retailing nucleus were germinating. This exclusive, cosmopolitan district was thought to compare with Paris’ Rue de la Paix environs. At the immediate south, on the easterly Hopper descendant’s tracts, elegant single-family, brownstone homes rapidly lined the West Fifties’ streets. Throughout the late 19thcentury, the plastic arts, literary and musical worlds harmonized there; with, a Seventh Avenue residential enclave concentration sandwiched between West 53rd and 59th Streets, Central Park South. The Real Estate Record & Guide of 1906 said that ”Seventh Avenue…cannot be viewed in any other light than one of the finest avenues of the future.” That was when the recently build Edward Clark and Henry J. Hardenbergh, Wyoming, at West 55th Street, was replaced by a 13-story namesake, designed by Rouse & Sloan. It joined the 20-year-old James Edward Ware 1883 Osborne Flats landmark, on West 57th Street’s northwest corner, and the Van Corlear, on West 55th Street’s southwest corner—also developed by the duo developers, Clarke and Hardenbergh.

Note: Consider Ware’s Osborne on steroids, because nothing like (or since) exists, as…the Hubert and Pirsson Navarro, or Spanish Flats, as Elizabeth Hawes described the eight separate apartment houses, in New York, New York, How The Apartment House Transformed The Life of the City. They “occupied a half-block between Seventh and Sixth Avenues, from West 58th to 59th Street…stood eight stories tall, towers, gables, and turrets notwithstanding…like a fortress, or a whole Moorish kingdom.

“Inside, each house held twelve apartments of extraordinary dimensions. The largest provided a drawing room (23 by 29 feet), a reception room (14 by 29), dining room (20 by 23), kitchen (18 by 20) with several roomy pantries, six bedrooms ranging from 22 by 24 to 14 by 18, three baths with tubs, and three rooms for servants. It was munificent space, distinctly more generous than an entire three-story house.”

Abruptly, following the new Wyoming, the building surge on Seventh Avenue included survivors, such as:

  • Alwyn Court, 150 West 58th Street, was completed in 1909.
  • Adlon, 200 West 54th Street, was completed in 1912.
  • Two Hundred West 58th Street was completed in 1913.
  • Rodin Studios, the southwest West 57th Street corner, was completed in 1917.

Additionally, neighboring noteworthy and pioneering residential studio buildings played a significant role for wealthy Manhattanites transitioning from brownstone homes into a multiple-family-dwelling lifestyle. The early alternative housing examples still standing, are:

  • Nos. 130 and 140 West 57th Street, built as a pair
  • Two-Twenty-Two Central Park South, the Gainsborough Studios

Although nonresidential usage, a world-class 1890s cultural and artsrelated or landmark-designated edifice cluster is, as follows:

  • The Renaissance Revival Music Hall Founded by Andrew Carnegie, on the southeast corner of West 57th Street and Seventh Avenue, was designed by William B. Tuthill (et al.), and was completed in 1891.
  • The American Fine Arts Building, 215 West 57th Street, off Seventh

Avenue, has been the continuous home of Arts Student League of New York. The French Renaissance design, executed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh (et al.), and was completed in 1892.

  • The 1897 American Society of Civil Engineers headquarters, 220 West 57th Street, built in the French Renaissance Revival style, was designed by Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz, with a 1906 mirror-like annex, design by Andrew C. McKenzie.

The Vast West—Hell’s Kitchen and “Special” Clinton

Eighth to Tenth Avenues throughout the West Thirties, Forties, and Fifties was shoddily built tenement apartment houses. By sheer volume alone, this low-income band of slums was the Lower East Side’s equal. Simply by dint of limited popular acceptance, the district underwent many name changes. The omnipresent and street gangs ruled. Slum-living became entrenched, more so than anywhere since vice and debauchery was expunged from Five Points. For Damon Runyon, Hell’s Kitchen denizens, in his day, the Tenderloin District, were ladies in ermine and pearls, on the arm of their gent, with a touch of Sing-Sing in his background. Speakeasy after speakeasy lined West 49th through 54th Streets, including the 21 Club, near to Fifth Avenue and Frankie

& Johnnie’s steakhouse, in the theater district. (1800-90) The first to settle the area were Dutch freed Africans who could no longer occupy their tradition Lower Manhattan ward. Then, the community was relocated again for the Croton Distribution Reservoir. Then again, the early 1850s brought an end to their Seneca Village, which was vacated to make way for Central Park. Around then, too, after years of steady slow growth, Manhattan’s African-American population dropped precipitously—from 16,000 to 12,500—due to the strict enforcement (by Millard Fillmore) of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. As was the case with the Lower East Side and due east, in Turtle Bay, Midtown West filled in fast. It became a shanty, IrishAmerican community expected to absorb each and every immigrant group needing inexpensive tenement apartment house or single-room-occupancy hotel or boardinghouse-like lodging.

However, beginning as a trickle, and then developing into a steady stream by 1870, the rural migration of freed slaves to urban centers was under way. Each migration wave was seeking a different way of life; moreover, each caused increased competition over the same unskilled jobs. The friction between Irish immigrants and newly arrived African-Americans over the same turf increased. Beginning in the mid-1870s and with the 1881 “El” opening along Ninth Avenue, the African-American community sought work northward in the Manhattanville factories. Throughout the 1880s, the entire migration into housing uptown was completed.

For 110 years Hell’s Kitchen, constituting West 34th to 59th Streets and

Eighth to Eleventh Avenue, remained hemmed in entirely. Starting below

West 34th Street, by the railroad yards, on its west from end-to-end, the Tenth-to-Twelfth-Avenue blocks were defined as warehouses and for the service trades, such as glass, lumber and plumbing suppliers, or for trucks and automobiles repair shops, or as a variety of industrial workshops. The border to Ninth Avenue’s east became an international commercial quarter, dominated by the women’s garment center, the Broadway theater district, and the skyscraper office building sector. In addition, in the north, the slum continued beyond Columbus Circle (Midtown West’s natural border) reaching to the subsequent Broadway incursion (into Ninth Avenue), as Lincoln

Square. (Post-WWII) The battle to reclaim this swath was a long and arduous affair. The effort was initially energized by Robert Moses, but only at the northern fringe. Victories remained elusive, and it was often impossible to make headway. However, when a slum the likes of Hell’s Kitchen improves, gentrification is possible anywhere. Real progress can be traced to the unique 1974 “Special Clinton District Preservation Area” zoning restrictions implemented. The codes, then, were set to limit building heights at seven stories, and much, much more.

Accordingly though for 20 years, the tenement-apartment-house rows, with narrow avenue shops, remained unchanged. Yet, somehow, the neighborhood mellowed rather than deteriorating further: working-class row house pockets—off Tenth Avenue, in the low to mid-West Forties, and off Ninth Avenue, in the low West-Fifties blocks—gradually, grew quainter as a residential street. The unchanged, low-rise, residential area truly benefitted with the sky above and direct sunshine.

On Broadway—West Fifties Revival

Location, location, location, the ultimate axiom regarding property investment is embodied, concretely, in the West Fifties. Proximity to iconic institutions—for example, Museum of Modern Art and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, or nearby Times Square, the national Broadway theater district treasure, and with the immediacy of Fifth Avenue, a first-class international shopping strip or monumental achievements’ imminence—for instance, Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Center, and Central Park—each is a qualifier for the West Fifties to be an A-plus Manhattan location.

(1975-83)

After a 60-year doldrums, signs of life sprouted along Fifth Avenue, at 51st Street, with Aristotle Onassis’ pioneering Olympic Tower—a mix-usage glassand-steel office and white-glove residence, in the city center. Eight years passed before construction resumed on similar residential towers—first, under the auspices of Museum of Modern Art, 15 West 53rd Street; followed by the mix-use Trump Tower, at East 56th Street. Each a link to an existing apartment-hotel tower enclave, at Grand Army Plaza and along Central Park

South to Columbus Circle. (1986) From there, the sequence of events was: During the following three years, again surrounding Carnegie Hall on West 57th Streets, six residential towers, each with a massive, mid-block-through footprint, each soaring to 75 stories, each changed the skyline to Fifth Avenue’s west. With these condominium and rental tower versions, further construction ceased. Although demand was consistent thereafter; assembling large building sites within this already densely build area required time, sometimes extensive time. For instance—

  • Forty years (and counting), for 400 West 57th Street, at Ninth Avenue, which is a special case as Manhattan’s second oldest apartment house, and first with an elevator;
  • Thirty years, for 157 West 57th Street, east of Seventh Avenue, which spans West 57th to 58th Streets, and with enough height to redefine the Central Park South skyline;
  • Twenty-five years, for 225 West 57th Street, massive in dimensions—a million square feet, over 90 floors—with one Broadway as well as West 57th and 58th Street façades.

Self-perforce zoning and air-right purchases, amid (in and out of court) wrangling by neighboring residential tower projects, their jockeying for expansive and unobstructed Central Park views, cost both projects dearly, for years without a shovel in the ground;

  • Ten years (plus extensive planning and preparation time), for 220 Central Park South, whose bulk would have limited its southern neighbor’s park views, even so, with occupancy considerably off, the developer enjoys a waiting list to purchase units anyhow.

(The 1990s)

Even so, everywhere surrounding West 57th Street, constituting Broadway (at Columbus Circle) to Fifth Avenue (Grand Army Plaza), plus, along their connector, Central Park South, was poised to be within a world-class residential enclave once again. A big hurdle, though, was what was to be with Columbus Circle and its Coliseum? The two-block wide, half-avenue deep convention and exhibition space emptied, abandoned (eventually for 14 years), had morphed into a city-soot gray, Constructivist-influenced, curbside homeless persons’ headquarters. Several developers’ attempts went sour, one by an aggressive community. Action: One, by a city-wide mass demonstration outlining the proposed structure’s shadow across Central Park. Suddenly city approval evaporated; over time…eventually, Time-Warner Center construction began. Since Columbus Circle’s rejuvenation onset, and with the trophy Plaza Hotel conversion to residential usage complete, New York 10019 integrated a fresh supply of Manhattan’s $75,000,000-plus co-ownership properties. The planet’s priciest so far—and a far cry from $19 (even $24, if that version is fact), for all of Manhattan island, 400 years before—and with Five Star service every bit as all-encompassing, attentive to details, and luxurious as the fabled nearby apartment hotels. So West Fifties apartment house towers, too, are as good as platinum in Manhattan residential-realestate terms.

A New Millennium—Clinton Redux

As the garment industry demise progressed, and the 1992 Times Square Redevelopment Project—targeting, in particular, West 42nd Street—launch proving successful, the way was paved, finally after much ado, for the Midtown far west rejuvenation. The Lenape’s Reed Valley, then the Dutch colonist’s Saw-Kill, then John Leake Norton’s Great Kill cattle trail, then the Longacre carriage-industry center, and then the Times Square automobile repair hub, was center stage for real-estate titans to produce an encore. And so, they did.

Even before the initial Ninth Avenue restaurant corridor emerged, construction on the pioneering, mega-anchor, Manhattan Plaza, began. This 47-story, red-brick residential twin towers, with ground-level gardens, a vast sports complex, and retailing portion, would involve on the West-42nd-to43rd-Street span, and in the entire Ninth-to-Tenth-Avenue block. At the time, beyond the site to the Hudson River was a barren Lincoln Tunnel ingress-andegress patchwork and it stretched south to West 35th Street. A sleek and impressive residential corridor, the new West 42nd Street, put in flux the

Hell’s Kitchen streets north, between Ninth Avenue and the Hudson River, too. Though low-rise tenement-apartment-house rows abound, the far West Fifties (now, Clinton) emerged above West 52nd to 54th Streets, at DeWitt Clinton Park, with a string of rental apartment towers west of Tenth and along Eleventh Avenue. Furthermore, that residential tower trajectory, fused by Columbus Circle’s resurgence overflow, created the West 57th to 59th Streets and Ninth to Eleventh Avenue, formed a bountiful northwesterly Clinton, which runs to the Fordham College at Lincoln Center campus. It is true that the iconic Central Park South skyline framing Clinton will be evolving again. (Three massive, long-time “on hold” 75-plus-story, back-toback residential skyscraper projects, to the east, are on the fast track.) It is also possible that a northwest architecturally-significant restoration may be—well, eventually, maybe—in the making. That anchor, after 40-years encased in scaffolding, would be a new life for the decrepit 1880 Renaissance Revival, Windermere. The residential complex commands the West 57th Street southwest corner of Ninth Avenue, precisely on the northeastern-most 1974, Special Clinton District Preservation Area edge. At one time, the site running from West 53rd to 57th Streets and Ninth to Eighth Avenues (on Randel Farm Maps), is penciled in as Bloomingdale Square but was abandoned in favor of Midtown West’s most iconic linchpin—Central Park.