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.

The rocky summits along the Hudson and Harlem Rivers, like southern Lower Manhattan on the harbor, was a Wappinger Confederation ceremonial and hunter reserve, as well as their strategic defensive positions to protect the (trade) interests crisscrossing the lower Hudson River valley.

During the post-Peachtree War years, say 1660, Nipinichsen, the Wappinger fort had been abandoned. The Dutch magistrate assumptive landowners became Jan Jopsten, Jan Broersen, and William Jansen, with farms surrounding the renamed Fort Prince Charles.

Still of significant strategic value one hundred years later, at the War of Independence onset, to the southwest, Cock Hill Fort was captured by the British. Additionally, within two miles due south, was Fort Tyron, and then came a later defense, as the point with a view from above the Hudson River, Fort George, which became Fort Washington. A third fort, again named George, was due east overlooking Harlem River, as well as sited to protect the gorge between the two ridges from a land invasion.

Except briefly during the War of 1812, the strategic defense importance was gone. Therefore, the northernmost hilly region was easily ignored. Because the War of Independence obliterated or removed the land boundaries and the loyalist had been displaced and replace with prominent Patroon or long-time Uptown landowning families. The easterly list includes, such names as:

  • Van Cortlandt
  • Beekman
  • Benson
  • Sickels
  • Delancey

Furthermore, the westerly tracts, were divided among many already large property owners nearby, for instance:

  • Bradhurst
  • Garvey
  • Benson
  • Bogardus
  • Myers
  • Dyckman Watkins

Murray

Then, because the commissioner’ Plan of 1811 did not take into account north of the city limit, West 155th Street, the property lines on the official John Randel Jr. Farm Maps were not (as) fastidiously marked, and the terrain went unchanged. Thereafter to the northernmost point, many estates and farms were estimated by miles, and the Kingsbridge Road serves as the best marker when defining the owners within the successive Upper Manhattan neighborhoods. Then, by neighborhood, the Significant Landowners of the Uptown, are:

Washington Heights.

Samuel Watkins, the first property owner beyond the city line, sited his “Dwelling House,” with its pump and a hen house, on Kingsbridge Road, although the property spread from river to river.

The next three parcels west of Kingsbridge Road were owned by, Ebenezer Burnall, with no dwelling or farm building on the property, and a narrow property, owned by Robert Dickey, with a stone dwelling, dairy, and barn.

The Heights.

Hannah Murray maintained one-third-mile-long tract on Kingsbridge Road, with a stone dwelling and barn; the north-westernmost pastures were held by Stephen Jumel; also, with a dwelling at the Kingsbridge Road as well as stretching to the Hudson River, was a narrow plot, (comparatively, that is), which remained within the Arden family.

Hudson Heights.

Blaze Moore owned a parcel atop the Hudson River bluff, running south-to-north, for one-half- mile.

Note: Before the Civil War, the northern strip’s improved streets evolved as the initial Washington Heights enclave.

  • Rosannah Bowers held the parcels surrounding Fort Washington;
  • Abraham Vermily owned a very narrow plot to the north;
  • Samuel Walkins possessed an extremely long, narrow, isolated lot—without obvious access to the Kingsbridge Road, as well as one-half-mile-long fallow tracts to the north;

A Beekman scion maintained a one-block-wide lot.

The expanse leading into the Inwood Valley pass belonged to Sickles and White families; surrounding Fort Tyron, from south-to-north, the owners were Samuel Watkins again, and John B. Coles.

Inwood.

The northern “commercial” district, Marble Hill, with bridge access to the mainland, was obliterated to make for a navigable waterway connecting the Hudson to Harlem Rivers. The landed heirs held fast to their waterfront property—at least until the Harlem River Ship Canal was widened, which forevermore altered northernmost Manhattan. Those owners surrounding Spuyten Duyvil, or Spitting Devil Creek, from west to east, were:

  • Henry and Issac Post, August Van Cortlandt, John Warner, Thomas

Buckley, and Jacob Hyatt, including the Fort Prince Charles remains, as country estates, and one flour mill;

  • John Bolton, Curtes Bolton, and George W. Hall, as a marble quarry, and with one dwelling;
  • The Jacobus Dyckman family settled in the area in 1661, along with Henry

Thisen, they enveloped the Cock Hill Fort site to the Hudson River;

  • Dennes and Henry Post, and Blaze Moore, along the Harlem River.

Fort George.

The farm parcels along the westerly ridge base were owned by Jacobus Dyckman, and James Beekman, however, atop the cliff the large and irregular farmlands leading south from Inwood Valley pass, running along the Harlem River, but not to the Kingsbridge Road, were the Beedle and Martin Wilkin and Sickles open farm fields. Then south, reaching from Kingsbridge Road to the Harlem River cliffs, and continuing south, as varying medium to large sizes, the owners were:

  • Molenaor
  • Appleby
  • Bradhurst
  • Martin Englehart (heirs)
  • Dominick Lynch
  • Rosannah Bowers

Garvey

  • Samson W. Benson
  • Myers
  • Robert Bogardus
  • Blaze Moore
  • Rosannah Bowers (not continuous)
  • Abraham Smedes

Jumel Terrace Historic District.

For one mile “down the road”, Stephen and Eliza Jumel preserved a three-quarter- to one-mile continuous working farm, which spread for 130 acres along the Kingsbridge Road, and east to the Harlem River. Previously, the couple held a country home and gardens, running from West 76th to 79th Street, between Bloomingdale Road and Amsterdam Avenue.

One south tract, still east of the Kingsbridge Road and perched on the ridge, had views overlooking the strategic Harlem River, to the northeast, as far as Connecticut, as well as south over the Harlem Plain to McGowan’s Pass, now within north Central Park.

The historic 1765 mansion, a landmarked site, now a museum, was George Washington’s headquarters temporarily. The Jumels purchased the house and farmlands, as a result of forfeiture by the tory loyalists, Roger and Mary Philipse Morris.