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 their tracts 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. Then, by neighborhood, the Significant Landowners of Downtown West, are:

Midtown West

As Broadway crosses three Avenues, creating a three-thoroughfare-interchange, helps to define the westerly enclaves. So by moving, snake-like, through the southwest to southeast neighborhoods, roughly) between West 23rd and East 34th Street, each large tract owner can be delineated as within one or another quick-to-change enclaves—as first the grid brought residential streets, followed by urban commercialism taking over the avenues.

Next, by covering (roughly) East 35th to West 48th Streets, the parcel owners within those current neighborhoods can be identified as well. And last, by establishing the country gentlemen’s seats, often alongside Corporation of New York City holdings), between the farthest

West Forties homesteads to the East River and East 59th Street—the northeastern-most border, and riverfront reserves with their private villas, gardens, and boathouses. At that point, all 11 Midtown neighborhoods and enclaves are included, starting at the southwest, they follow as:

North Chelsea.

  • West 23rd to 28th Street, at the Hudson River stretching to Sixth Avenue, Clement Clark Moore;
  • West 28th to 30th Street, at the Hudson River to Eighth Avenue, Cornelius Ray;  West 30th to 32th Street, at the Hudson River to Ninth Avenues, George C. Schroeppel;
  • West 30th to 31st Street, Ninth to Eight Avenue, Richard Harrison;
  • West 30th to 33rd Street, Ninth to Eight Avenue, John D. Decatur;
  • West 32nd to 34th Streets, along the Hudson River shoreline, and to Tenth Avenue, ten independently-owned, commercial lots;
  • West 32nd to 33rd Streets, Tenth to the Fitz Roy Road (Eighth) Avenues, Samuel Watkins;
  • West 33rd to 34th Streets, spanning Tenth to Seventh Avenues, Isaac Moses;
  • West 34th to 40th Streets, on the Hudson River to Fitz Roy Road, (west of Eighth Avenue), George Rapelye.

NoMad (westerly).

  • Following Bloomingdale Road through the Love Lane Village area, say, East 21th to West 29th Street, was encased by Fourth and Fifth Avenue, to Broadway and Sixth Avenue.
  • First, the future, ultra-elite 1845-90 Madison Square enclave, surrounding a stagecoach two milestone, the Love Street Home Station, comprised 15 substantial buildings west of Bloomingdale Road, and 18 more to Fourth Avenue, in 1818 and through to 1840.
  • Next, United States Magazine and The Parade spread from 23rd to 31st Street, along Bloomingdale Road, covering Fourth and Sixth Avenues.
  • Next, therefore, the Corporation of New York City controlled from 23rd Street to the Murray family heir’s property line southern edge, at East 33rd Street. As well as beyond from West 37th and 45th Streets, though irregularly, and not always consecutively.
  • Finally, the block and lot owners alongside Broadway, between easterly Madison Square and westerly Greeley Square, were:
  • East 21st to 27th Street, Broadway, and east to Fourth Avenue, John Watts;
  • East 21st to 22nd Street, on Fifth Avenues, John Horn;
  • East 21st to West 24th Street, along Broadway, Christopher Mildenberger;
  • East 21st to West 24th Street, Broadway to Sixth Avenue, from east to west, James Striker, John F. Jackson, and Matthew Horn;
  • West 24th to 25th Street, Broadway unevenly to Sixth Avenue, Mathew Dikeman;
  • West 25th to 27th Street, Broadway irregularly to Seventh Avenue, Matthew and John Horn;
  • West 25th to 29th Street, Broadway irregularly to Seventh Avenue, Isaac Varian.

West Thirties to Greeley Square.

  • West 32nd to East 36th Streets, stretching diagonally, from Sixth Avenue (crossing Fifth Avenue) to the Middle Road (west of Fourth Avenue), was the Thompson farmlands.

NOTE: In 1799, John Jacob Astor bought Thompson Farm, citing the 20-acre pastures as his most profitable purchase. Two squabbling grandsons thought so too. At the southern edge, along The Avenue, each built and shortly demolished rivaling mansions, contentiously were developed as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

  • West 30th and 32nd Streets, straddling Broadway, east and west (Greeley Square),

John Slidell;

  • West 32nd to 33rd Street, west of Broadway, Henry Jackson with John Hyslop;  West 32nd to 34th Streets, east of Broadway, John Hyslop;
  • West 33rd to 35th Street, west of Broadway (Herald Square), Thomas Gardner;
  • West 33rd to 35th Street (east of Broadway, at Herald Square, the Van Norden family.

Herald to Times Square.

  • West 37th through 43rd Streets, once the Great Kill where numerous creeks reached the river, was John Leake’s Heritage Farm. It ran along Seventh Avenue to the Hudson River.

The West Forties, Reed Valley to the Lenape Native Americans, was owned by very few families. Then, in 1810, the community included John Jacob Astor’s footprint, too, as:

  • 1810, the farm was under the management of John Leake Norton, one of his three grandsons.
  • West 46th Street, near to Ninth Avenue, a small estate and villa on remained Brigadier General George Clinton’s permanent residence throughout his productive political career—as the New York State governor for 21 years, as well as United States vice-president in Thomas Jefferson and James Madison administrations.
  • General John Morin Scott, a War of Independence hero, worked his 70-acre horse breeding farm and pastureland along West 43rd Street to 45th Streets, between Broadway to Tenth Avenue. The manor house was at the parcel’s southeastern-most point.
  • Fifteen years after General Scott’s death in 1784, the general’s son Lewis Allaire Scott died suddenly.
  • These West Forties pastures came to John Jacob Astor, in what was to become Times Square. His heirs built the Astor Hotel there, 104 years later.

West Thirties, Broadway to Hudson River.

  • West 36th to 39th Streets, Eighth Avenue (Fitz Roy Road) and sprawling across Seventh Avenue to Broadway, Samuel (Leake) Norton;
  • West 40th to 43rd Streets, Seventh Avenue (at Broadway) sprawling west to the Hudson River, John (Leake) Norton;
  • West 42nd to 47th Streets, Ninth Avenue sprawling west to the Hudson River, Robert (Leake) Norton.

East of Broadway to Fifth Avenue.

  • West 34th to 37th Street, Broadway (on a diagonal) spanning east beyond Sixth Avenue, Corporation of the City of New York;
  • West 37th to 38th Street, Broadway (on a diagonal) spanning east beyond Fifth Avenue, William Ogden;
  • West 38th to 40th Street, Broadway (on a diagonal) spanning east beyond Fifth Avenue, John Taylor;
  • West 39th to 41st Streets, Broadway (erratically on a diagonal and sprawling east,) Corporation of the City of New York;
  • West 41st to 43rd Streets, Broadway, irregularly, east to Sixth Avenue, Arthur Kinder;
  • West 44th to 49th Streets, Broadway east to Sixth Avenue, John Hopper heirs, as—Isaac Wright, John N. Grenzebach (West 45th to 47th, to Fifth Avenue), Thomas Emmit and Andrew Hopper.

Fifth Avenue, The Avenue’s Reach.

(1810-90)

Throughout the Thirties and Forties, spanning Sixth to Fourth Avenues, the Corporation of the City of New York exerted complete control over substantial midisland, tracts, and several small but crucial plots, especially abutting Broadway’s intersections with Avenues and wider east-to-west streets. Some loyalist forfeitures, many bankruptcies, others tax liens, and not an insignificant among them were intestate deaths.

The officers continuously granted significant avenue corners to institutions, such as New Public Library at 42nd Street, a dozen houses of worship, across every denomination, and large-scale projects for the public good, like Grand Central Station.

Into the mid-1800s, the Madison to Park Avenue swath was cattle holding pens, and West 42nd Street remained a cattle trail, which connects the Hudson River ferries and East River slaughterhouses.

In fact, the Dripp’s Map of 1860 shows only setback homes and gardens scattered about. The dominant, West Forties and Fifties Colonial-era Hopper family heir’s “fourth milestone” tracts, east of Sixth Avenue, were the amble homes, south to north, to R. Cosine, J. Ward, J. Emmett, J. Kemp, C. McEvers, S. Hopper, and D. Harsen. The remaining West Forties side-street lots were controlled by the Corporation of the City of New York and owned either by the father or son, Robert Goelet.

Along The Avenue, the Forties.

  • Fortieth to 42nd Streets, the Croton Distribution Reservoir, while spanning Sixth to Fifth Avenues (as well as unequally to Fourth Avenue), Forty-Second to 45th Streets leased to charities, such as orphanages or deaf, to be their countryside facilities.
  • Forty-Fourth to 50th Street, on The Avenue’s east side, provided two half-blockwide houses of worship and one block-front cathedral.

Along The Avenue, the Fifties.

Prior to the “Grid Plan” implementation, the plot and lot holders, from East 48th to 59th Streets, and between Fifth to Fourth Avenues were, as follows:

  • Forty-Sixth to 51st Streets, on The Avenue’s west side, was purchased in bulk, in 1801, for Dr. David Hosack’s Elgin Garden. These 12 acres comprise Rockefeller Center. (Columbia University owned Elgin Gardens, by 1814; in 1851, the tract was subdivided into standard city lots and leased).
  • East 48th to 52nd Streets, held by the Literary Institution, with the juxtaposed Corporation of the City of New York tract, reached to Third Avenue;
  • East 52nd to 54th Streets, Charles Mc Evers;
  • East 54th to 56th Streets, John Mason (who would acquire additional Avenue block fronts. His daughter, Mrs. Mason Jones—and her two sisters, Rebecca, and Serena Mason—built The Avenue’s “Marble Palace,” from 57th to 58th Streets;
  • East 56th to 58th Streets, the heirs of John Kemp sold to their southern neighbor, John Mason;
  • East 57th to 58th Streets, the Hugh Gaine heirs’ their southernmost property line was later purchased by William Vanderbilt.

NOTE: On The Avenue and in the Madison-Avenue-to-mid-block-Sixth-Avenue-side-street city lots, above Elgin Gardens in the West Fifties—nestled around St. Patrick’s, at 49th Street, to St. Thomas, at 53rd Street, and to Fifth Avenue Presbyterian church, at 55th Street—evolved into the ‘serious’ money enclave category.

The Avenue, here, was virtually a Vanderbilt scions, Morton F. Plant—now Cartier, who paid $1.00 and a $1,000,000 pearl necklace Mrs. Plant desired; (it had disintegrated while on her deathbed—and such likes’ palaces. The side-street plots (a collection of standard 25-foot-wide lots) were Rockefeller-owned or their equivalents.

The Avenue’s supra-exclusivity, begun in the late 1870s, went on a very long time for many instances, for some, their family homes were open undisturbed to the Great Depression.

  • West Forties and Fifties, from Broadway to the Hudson River, was the Mattbys Adolphus Hopper homestead. The family patriarch was the son of a successful New Jersey settler. In1700, in addition to productive farmland and pastures, the patriarch Hopper created a family compound, with a sprawling wood-frame farmhouse, acres of formal rose gardens, as well as the Hudson River boathouse, approximating West 54th to 55th Street.

Clinton.

Until the mid-1700s better than one-dozen, third- and fourth-generation (all Mattbys’ only son, John Hopper’s children and grandchildren, great-grandchildren, et al.) had been granted gargantuan tracts—with suitable manor houses as well—which extended as far east as Sixth Avenue.

NOTE: Between 1700 and 1889 an astonishing ten Hopper generations (maybe more!) were interred in the family burial ground on present-day West 48th Street, at Ninth Avenue.

One branch, on Mott’s Point, a West-53rd-to-54th-Street Hudson River promontory, the family home was reconstituted from the 1708 Mattbys-built bath and boathouse. Through to 1890, Mott’s Point was owned by Winifred Hopper Mott.

However, when West 54th Street was to be graded the 24 Mott lots were vacated by eminent domain. The Hudson River Railroad took over the property, though the title was never relinquished—after decades of litigation.

West Fifties.

John Hopper heir’s mid-1700s tracts, were:

(1740s-1890)

  • Mathew Hopper (II) received the Great Kill tracts—the only parcel which did not remain within the Hopper family. He sold out his homestead early on to John Leake.
  • Wessell, John’s eldest son, and Anna (nee Dyckman) lived with his father and their four children in the original 1704 farm house. The balance of those block fronts fell to a Knickerbocker branch, the Harsen clan.
  • Andrew occupied the northwest West 50th Street corner on Broadway in a stoneand-brick house, with a quirky wood annex. His son extended the conspicuous home even further. It was razed for William Vanderbilt’s American Horse exchange, (now the Winter Garden Theater).
  • John, the younger, inherited a 1752 farmhouse, Rosevale, named for its extensive rose gardens. These lots on West 53rd Street, at Eleventh Avenue, are now the two-block-wide DeWitt Clinton Park, which was donated to the city by a John Hopper great-grandson, General Garrit Hopper Striker.
  • Jemima, John’s only daughter, married John Horn, a partner in the Fifth Avenue Hotel, at 23rd Street; with no manor house ever built, her properties was subdivided into lots by the horn Family heirs.
  • Yellis (Yelless) married Elizabeth Waldron and moved to her family’s stone house and farm on East 84th to 86th Street, at Second Avenue. (His West Side tracts were traded for the Second-to-York Avenue tract, which was adjacent to his wife, Elizabeth’s farm spanning East 84th to 85th Streets, between Third and Second Avenues.