Significant Landowner Directory

As the grid plan approached, there were virtually unlimited opportunities, for Colonial- and Federal-era landowners. Throughout Manhattan, every up-and-coming residential hamlet and rural community as well as all the farmland along the riverside railroad track edges, eventually, would succumb to the grid.

It was simple to tap into the northward-moving commercial swath on and off Broadway, or the residential migration along Fifth Avenue and adjacent to Central Park. On-the-spot speculators were handy and ready to forward every transaction. Many gambled and lost their land once an economic boom was followed by a panic.

Also, with the major players, say, an Astor or Wendel, willing to step in and to capitalize with each recurring stock market crash. The long-term investors had the means to amass more farm tracts as the city expanded farther north, along Broadway from Union and Madison Squares to Greeley and Herald to Times Squares and then into the Upper West Side—always northward.

This continual trend of encroaching commercialization on high-end specialty shops and upper-crust brownstone homeowners caused store owners and residents alike to again move on. The “Gold Key of Hanover Square” opened the way for the Goelet family realestate fortune. Their sizable holdings between Union and Madison Square, where Broadway and Fifth Avenue cross one another, provided continuously increasing property values and revenues from their leased holdings.

No doubt the “grid plan” was all-encompassing and without regard to established owner’s boundaries and borders. Farther along Fifth Avenue, third- and fourth-generation Goelets amassed land already cut-up into plots, which they further divided into lots, and were way ahead of the crowd there, too.

Although this dead-center alley of resident’s to retailers to commerce buildings, proved to be among the most lucrative lots and plots in Manhattan, the significant outlying areas—those nearby the New Amsterdam settlement, now considered Downtown Manhattan, were great consecutive farm and pasture tracts, which were owned by a few families, namely Stuyvesant, Bayard, De Lancey, Warren, and Moore. Their holdings, as rural estates, could be measured in square miles.

The two largest homesteaders, the Hopper homestead (now, Hell’s Kitchen to Clinton) and Benson Farms (present-day, Southcentral Harlem to northeastern Yorkville) were within the Colonial-era Bloomingdale district or Harlem Commons. Both considered far from civilization when their boundary and border markers were staked out and registered. From the beginning, there was resistance to urbanization as well. First, the landowning families were politically connected powerhouses. The more adventurous among them had improved small portions of their farms prior to the War of Independence. Additionally, farming villages had established themselves between the harbor settlement and Love Lane. The westernmost was Hampstead Hamlet, approximately within the five Tribeca historic districts. It was incorporated into the Trinity Church King’s Farms, in the early 1700s.

The enlarged 1600s Greenwich Hamlet, the “Village” as it is referred to today, began at West Houston Street and was contained between Seventh to Sixth Avenues, which remained intact by the “Grid Plan” designers.

The Bowery Village, beginning on East Houston Street abutting a tax-free farmer’s market, spread to East 12th Street, at Union Square. It ran along the Bowery Road, between Broadway and Second Avenues, centered at Copper Square, the confluence of the Bowery, Astor Place, and Stuyvesant Street. Another community followed the UnionPlace-to-Love-Lane triangular extension of Bloomingdale Road, as East 17th to 21st Street Fifth Avenue, today’s Flatiron and NoMad.

The next semblance of country villages was in the West Nineties to 116th Street, in the northern Bloomingdale District, as Morningside Heights. Below, within the Harlem the Harlem Plains, spreading from West 126th to 130th Street, is Manhattanville. A Lenape trading post, at a shoreline flat region. And, the Harlem Common Village, near to the Harlem Bridge, from East 117th to 128th Streets. Finally, in Upper Manhattan, near to West 168th Street at the Knightsbridge Road, a stagecoach station evolved into a first Washington Heights enclave on improved streets.

As the surface grid brought change, mass transit accelerated the unrelenting grading progression from rough terrain into standard lots. Many additional significant and very asymmetrical outlying Manhattan tracts—whether left fallow or tilled, a country seat or future building site—were amassed shortly after the 1684 British takeover, and consolidated through to 1775.

The significant landowners’ boundaries, by neighborhood—rather than ordered by purchase or deed registration—are based on the John Randel Jr. Manhattan Farm Maps identifications, surveyed in association with Charles Clinton, after 1813, and drawn between 1818 and 1820, north from East Houston Street or Greenwich Avenue at West 13th Street, to the city limit, as West 155th Street.

Wherever there was a question. The matter was resolved, as best as possible, by crossreferencing comments or notations on the Dripp’s Map of 1860 or the 1865 Viele Map of Manhattan boundaries and waterways.

The additional investigator’s estimated boundaries included, for the most part, were unearthed while tracing a parcel’s ownership lineage. They only need to be considered better than interesting accumulated impressions, and far short of flawless. They are, therefore, to be enjoyed, hopefully as asides, and never to serve as proof-positive and absolute identification for the past, present, or future inheritance matters. Or, any other matter, as a matter of fact.

At Love Lane, 21st Street, a notable protrusion initially held up the Grid’s northward progress. Then, the 1837 panic, with an impact lasting for six years, was the century’s second and longest economic downturn. Meanwhile, a practical issue regarding visual boundaries, often moved during the War of Independence, were suddenly important issues. Deeds and records went missing.

With the impending urban grid design at the southernmost border, East 23rd Street, as well as through to the northernmost boundary, East 59th Street, this long and narrow strip would be divided into two corridors.

The slightly elevated, Fifth-to-Third-Avenue stretch, where development was also influenced by the 1800s railroads and their right of way, bounded around Fourth (Park) Avenue; and the flatter, East River plain, inclusive of the hilly topographic ridge running west of Third Avenue in Murray Hill, between Second and Third Avenues in Turtle Bay, and then at the river’s edge, between East 49th and 59th Streets.

It is true, of course, that the East River coastline has been completely altered over time. The southeast lots, encompassing East 20th to 30th Streets, from Fourth Avenue to the East River shoreline, was the confiscated de Lancey, Rose Hill Farm. Kips Bay, along East 28th to 40th Streets, was altered by a series of eminent domain decrees. Turtle Bay, which was a commercial ship- building and repair hub, was traded to Englishmen, just as the Dutch evacuated New Amsterdam.

Additionally, the entire East River corridor’s commercialism brought an extensive slaughterhouse district from Kips Bay to the 1763 Beekman mansion, Mount Pleasant, atop the East 48th Street river-facing bluff. Fifth Avenue’s fate as The Avenue as well as the adjacent streets—first, for mansion residences or institutions, and then, for upscale retail and commercial usage—had been sealed. At the farthest northwest boundary, Central Park expanded The Avenue’s destiny as society’s domain; moreover, among the very well-connected, an assumption was that one lived in a corner building lot—even on The Avenue.

Nowhere was Manhattan’s destiny more in the control of the Corporation of the City of New York than in mid-Manhattan’s East Side. Beginning mid-island with the United States Magazine and Parade Grounds surrounding present-day Madison Square, to the Murray Hill land-lease tract. In the Forties on The Avenue, Corporation of the City of New York’s holdings included the Old Croton Reservoir and Park, at West 40th to 42nd Street, and the Literary Institution, East 49th to 52nd Street, as well as significant scattered, East and West Side block fronts. Then, by neighborhood, the Significant Landowners of Midtown East, are:

NoMad—Kips Bay to Murray Hill.

(1750–1850)

Between East 20th to 49th Streets, and spanning Fourth to Second Avenues, was controlled, as:

  • East 20th to 30th Streets, in part from Fourth Avenue to the East River, the confiscated De Lancey Rose Hill Farm, was the Corporation of the City of New York vast reserve to survey, grade, and divide into standard city lots;
  • East 23rd to 31st Streets, as Fifth to Fourth Avenues, United States Magazine and The Parade, (the entirety was set aside by the commissioners in 1811, though scaled back to Madison Square);
  • East 28th to 40th Streets, erratically between the Eastern Post Road (about Lexington Avenue)beyond First Avenue, and then to the East River, fell to innumerable Dutch settler Jacobus Hendrickson Kip (Bay) heirs;
  • East 32nd, unevenly, to East 38th Street, at Fifth Avenue’s east, as well as west of Third Avenue, John Murray (Hill) estate.

Turtle Bay.

(1750-1850)

  • East 39th to 49th Streets, inclusive of Fourth to Second Avenues, the Francis (Bayard) Winthrop heirs.
  • East 38th to 41st Streets, west of Fourth to west of Third Avenues, James Quackinbush;
  • East 38th to 42nd Streets (along Fifth Avenue), Joel and Jotham Post, James McBlair, Levinus and Nicholas Clarkson;
  • East 42nd to 45th Street (on Fifth Avenue), George Warner and Isaac Burr: the same near easterly blocks were owned by Michael Evener and a Mr. Kay (to Fourth Avenue);
  • East 41st to 48th Streets, near to Madison and spreading to Third Avenue, Thomas Buchanan.

NOTE: The Thomas Buchanan sisters (Margret and Almy) inherited his East Forties holdings. Additionally, the third- generation (a Robert W. and R.) Goelet—cousins, married these two sisters—gobbled up much of the central Forties between Fourth and Sixth Avenues.

  • East 48th to 52nd Streets (Fourth to Second Avenues), Jacob Odell;
  • East 52nd to 57th Streets, the heirs of John Kemp;
  • East 57th to 58th Streets, Samuel S. Thompson;
  • East 58th to 59th Streets, Albert Anderson;
  • East 59th to 60th Streets, the Cheeseborough estate.

Beekman and Sutton Place.

(1760-1860)

  • East 48th to 49th Streets, Stephen N. Bayard;
  • East 50th to 51st Streets, James Beekman;
  • East 51st to 52nd Streets, Edmund Seaman;
  • East 52nd to 55th Streets, George Youle;
  • East 55th to 57th Streets, Thomas Buchanan;
  • East 57th to 60th Streets, Thomas C. Pearsall.