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.

Peter Stuyvesant establishing a Harlem Common, in 1658, gave rise to two settlements. A western Dutch community, between West 124th and 128th Streets surrounding an existing mid-island, Hudson River shoreline, Lenape trading post, which evolved into Harlem’s commercial shipping hub, as Manhattanville.

A second enclave evolved, between East 117th to 128th Streets, where three Native American trails coming from the south (Old Harlem Road, Harlem Bridge Road, and Eastern Post Road), converged.

Initially a Native American trading post, with canoes beached, then a ferry crossing the Harlem River, and where the Harlem Bridge connection to the Boston Post Road was built.

Then, by neighborhood, the Significant Landowners of the Uptown, are:

South Harlem.

The Harlem Common northern boundary was East to West 128th Street, and then south-southeast, on a diagonal boundary line, drawn from West 94th Street, at Eighth Avenue to East 72nd Street, at the East River. This southeast border was an important Kill and timber mill preparing shipments from New Amsterdam to Amsterdam.

The northern east-to-west line traced defensive, fortifiable positions through the rough terrain, such as West 107th Street, as the Kingsbridge Road connects Harlem Lane, to the north-northwest, and Harlem Bridge Road to the northeast, McGowan’s Pass, which the governor-general could protect.

The Harlem Lane (St. Nicholas Avenue), crossed West 110th Street at Sixth Avenue, and then Seventh Avenue at West 116th Street, as well as Eighth Avenue, at West 120th Street. The northeast-to-southwest oriented property owners, from south to north, were:

  • West 110th to 113th Streets, to Harlem Lane, Valentine Nutter;
  • West 111th to 114th Streets, to Harlem Lane, Colter;
  • West 112th to 116th Streets, to Harlem Lane, David Wood;
  • West 114th to 116th Streets, to Harlem Lane, Van Bramer;
  • West 114th to 118th Streets, unevenly to Sixth Avenue, Hunter;
  • West 113th to 119th Streets, unevenly to Seventh Avenue, Gerald de Peyster;  West 119th to 124th Streets, unevenly to Seventh Avenue, Kortwright.

East of St. Nicholas to Fifth Avenue, continuing the northeast and southwest property pattern, the parcel owners, from south to north, were:

West 109th Street to 112th Streets, James Beekman;

West 111th Street to 114th Streets, Valentine Nutter;

West 113th Street to 115th Streets, Mc Cormick;

West 114th Street to 116th Streets, Adolphus Bufsing;

West 116th Street to 117th Streets, John Bufsing;

  • West 116th Street to 118th Streets, William Zeis;
  • West 117 to 121st Street, Seventh to Sixth Avenues, Harlem Square;
  • West 122nd to 125th Street, and the remaining tracts to Fifth Avenue, Samson Benson.

East Harlem.

To East 110th Street’s north, the fork off Kingsbridge Road east was Old Harlem Road. Also coming east from the Old Middle Road, approximating Fifth Avenue, at East 94th Street, was the northeast headed Harlem Bridge Road.

Plus, the Boston Post Road, or Third Avenue, converged between East 117th and 128th Streets. Fifty odd-lot properties were in these blocks that led up to the Harlem Bridge. Additionally, Fifth Avenue, which divides east from west, terminates at West 143rd Street. Therefore, only a West Side exits to the north, and the mainland.

Along Harlem Creek, which runs as an East 109th Street, the northern Harlem Marsh boundary, to East 116th Street, the three-road convergence, the irregular property owners were:

  • Second to Third Avenues, Peter Benson;
  • Third to Fourth Avenues (here Middle Road), Benjamin Benson;
  • Fourth Avenue (following Old Harlem Road) to Fifth Avenue, Peter Van Arsdale;
  • Fifth Avenue (spreading irregularly from 109th to 120th Street) and Third Avenue, Samuel Benson.

NOTE: Samuel Benson owned from the East 127th Street Harlem Bridge west, following the Harlem Road to Eighth Avenue, and south to East 94th Street.

An irregular tract from West 118th to 122nd Street, and Fifth Avenue to the Harlem Bridge Road was owned by the heirs of Benjamin Vredenburgh. (This included an inset straddling East 121st Street, between Fifth and Fourth Avenues, owned by Thomas Emmet, a Fifth Avenue Hotel, at 23rd Street, landowning partner.)

In Addition, the Lawrence Benson holdings then continued south to 94th Street, between Fifth and Seventh Avenues. The large tract owners are on a steep diagonal, from the Harlem River to the west, and they were:

East 110th to 116th Streets, to First Avenue, James Roosevelt;

East 110th to 121st Streets, First to Third Avenue, Waldron;

East 114th to 122nd Street, to Second Avenue, Philip Milldoler;

East 115th 123rd Street, to Second Avenue, William Wood;

East 120th to 123rd Street, (isolated) Philip Milldoler;

  • East 116th to 125th Street, to the Village lots, James Bogert.

Central Harlem.

Already, at St. Nicholas Avenue’s east, as the Harlem River (naturally) terminated Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Following St. Nicholas Avenue’s path, between West 124th and 154th Streets (now tracing the regular south-to-north grid.)

The St. Nicholas Avenue roadbed continued beyond West 147th Street at Ninth Avenue, where Kingsbridge Road connected to the Bloomingdale Road, to West 155th Street, the designated city limit.

Starting at East 129th, north of the Harlem Bridge, then beyond East 136th Street where Fifth Avenue (naturally) terminated, to West 155th Street, the property boundaries ran northeast to southwest, and the owners were—

  • East 129th to West 125th Street, Harlem River to Harlem Road, Heirs of John S. Sickels; John Delancey;
  • East 131th to West 125th Street, Harlem River along Harlem Road, to Knightsbridge Road, Lawrence Benson;
  • East 132th to West 127th Street, Harlem River to Harlem Road, John Adriance;
  • East 134th to East 133rd Street, Harlem River to Kingsbridge Road, Gabriel

Furman (to Sixth Avenue), and then William Lawrence;

  • West 139th to 133rd Street, Harlem River to Kingsbridge Road, Meyer;
  • West 146th to 132nd Harlem River to Kingsbridge Road, John Delancey;
  • West 148th to 136th Street, Harlem River to Kingsbridge Road, Cadwallader D. Colden;
  • West 154th to 138th Street, Harlem River to Kingsbridge Road, Aaron Bufsing.

Manhattanville.

The properties, between West 124th and 134th Streets, surrounding the mid-island Hudson River enclave to the Bloomingdale Road, began as a riot of irregularity. Counterclockwise, from south to north, this region was the domains of:

  • West 124th to 129th Street, at Broadway’s west, Courtney;

West 126th to 129th Street, at Broadway’s west, Thomas Buckley,

West 127th to 130th Street, at Broadway’s east, Jacob Scheiffelin;

West 129th to 131st Street, at the pass, Joseph Byrd;

West 130th to 135th Street, at Broadway’s east, John Barrow; West 127th to 130th Street, at Broadway’s east, Jacob Scheiffelin;  West 126th to 136th Street, at Broadway’s west, John Lawrence.

The large property owners, from south to north, between St. Nicholas Avenue to the Hudson River, included—

  • West 129th to 146th Streets, unequally across the island, the Kingsbridge Road to the Hudson River, the Meyer family;
  • West 140th to 146th Streets, Kingsbridge Road to Bloomingdale Road, Elizabeth (nee Schuyler) and Alexander Hamilton;
  • West 134th to 150th Streets, irregularly from the Harlem River to the Hudson River, Samuel Bradhurst;
  • West 138th to 155th Streets, Kingsbridge Road, Aaron Bufsing;
  • West 148th to 154th Streets, irregular East River to Hudson River, the Beekman family;
  • West 153rd to 156th Street, Broadway to the Hudson River Lucy Audubon.

Audubon Park.

Note: At the northwest city limit, through thick and thin, Mrs. Lucy Audubon, tenaciously held onto their West 150s riverside homestead and raised her brood, for the most part, Lucy left her husband, John James, to the birds. With the “grid plan” looming and the Broadway-Seventh Avenue IRT line announced, the Audubon heirs (along with their neighbors) sold their pastoral tracts.