Part of Town

Prior to Central Park, from Broadway’s intercession into Eighth Avenue (the Great Circle), at West 59th Street (Central Park South), and spreading west to the Hudson River was the Bloomingdale District. The district ended at Bloomingdale Village, perched on a bluff above the Harlem Plain. Besides the entirely hilly and rocky terrain, there were intermittent streams, creeks, and marshes. The dominant feature, though, was abundant, colossal protrusions. For the Native people, at Reed Valley’s north and stretching until the Harlem flatlands, was Mannahatta: Amayah Kithakie—the island’s wasteland. The Upper West Side is narrow—truncated by two avenues for Central Park— which allows for one continuous neighborhood, with sections occupying a south-to-north corridor, or an east-to-west quarter.

What’s more, they fall within five sectors, as follows:

  • Southern, including Columbus Circle, at Eight Avenue, to the Hudson River, as well as stretching along Broadway, Columbus, and Amsterdam Avenues to West 66th Street, Lincoln Plaza’s northern border.
  • Central, the Schuyler District, covering West 72nd to 97th Streets, as well as Manhattan Valley, continuing north to West 110th Street, which encases west of Ninth to Broadway, and takes in Amsterdam Avenue throughout.
  • Northern, encompassing Ninth Avenue and west to the Hudson River, as Morningside Heights.

(Definitively at West 110th Street’s north, so technically in Harlem, however, there are three reasons to include here what had been the Bloomingdale Village: 1) It was a continuum of the colonial Bloomingdale District; 2) it is perched above Harlem Plains; 3) its institutions anchor a long-term notion of the Upper West Side as having an intellectual as well as a spiritual tradition. It is understood, furthermore, that to jump ahead to the next Part of Town—Uptown, starting on Page 185, will add definition to aspects about this southwestern-most Harlem neighborhood’s location.)

  • Easterly comprising Eighth Avenue (Central Park West) to the west of Ninth (Columbus) Avenue, as C.P.W., with a lower sector from West 60th to 72nd Streets, a middle portion to West 88th Street, and Upper Central Park West to 97th Street.
  • Westerly, Broadway to the Hudson River, and spanning the West Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties blocks, extending then to West 107th Street.

Abundant, Isolated and Natural Parklands

In addition to the rugged terrain and being configured as a long and narrow strip, the size and scope of its outdoor spaces, as well as remaining a series of tight-knit enclaves also define the Upper West Side. First then, throughout the 1800s, particularly the last quarter century, the value of outdoor spaces became widely known. Is there anywhere else in Manhattan where could this concept of public commons become better actualized? The timing was right, and the opportunities to isolate natural terrain warranted generous parks, in some cases demanded it. Even though Central Park absorbed Fifth to Eighth Avenues, and, as though Central Park wasn’t a unique enough border, along the entire western river’s shoreline was Riverside Park. In the northeast, at West 110th Street (Cathedral Parkway) to West 123rd Street, was Morningside Park—both conceived, designed and planted by Olmstead and Vaux. Of course, it is natural (and worthwhile) that you will take the opportunity to read further (begins with Residential Neighborhoods Pillars, page 75). As well and resembling their signature northern Central Park naturalistic design, each park included an integral bordering residential avenue, similar to Central Park West. The two additional and very similar park terrains, on the Upper West Side, are:

  • Riverside Park and Riverside Drive comprise a relatively narrow strip, which runs along the Hudson River for three miles. Beginning at West 72nd Street, they are endlessly curving, rising and falling as gently graded tiered slopes. The parkland promenade continues to Martin

Luther King Jr. Boulevard (West 125th Street). Conceived to conceal the New York Central tracks and authorized in 1872, however, it was completed 30 years later (with intermittent northern extensions). The designers used rocky precipices as a backdrop for elm tree groves with sylvan lawns, and esplanades to stroll. It was Olmsted who combined the park and avenue into a single design, creating a curving and meandering roadway and promenade, undulating atop the easterly bluff, and overlooking the landscaped hillside leading to the river’s (manmade) waterfront.

  • Morningside Park and Morningside Drive was conceived as an accommodation to the Commissioners’ 1811 Plan for this distinctly steep and particularly rugged terrain—a mass of impenetrable protrusions. In 1872, roughly 30 acres were designed in by the duo in collaboration with Jacob Wrey Mould. Vaux and Mould executed an altered plan, which was completed in 1885. Mould and Vaux collaborated previously on the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park’s Bethesda Plaza and the Bow Bridge. Years, closer to twenty, passed before Morningside Drive, as a Ninth Avenue continuation was perched on the winding western edge cliff, spanning Cathedral Parkway to West 122nd Street. And it includes Church of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which runs above on Amsterdam Avenue.

(The Dutch Colonial Heritage)

Harlem Common, according to Peter Stuyvesant’s degree, was defined explicitly as east to west along both the North and East Rivers, spanning (what would approximate) 72nd to 155th Street. This massive northern vastness, exclusive of the Harlem trading post and village, remained uninhabited, nonetheless. The first British governor, Richard Nicholls, granted a “Thousand Acre Tract”—a portion roughly inclusive of West 42nd Street to West 89th Streets—which benefitted an already empowered Dutch and English syndicate. The terrain accommodated a few sheep pastures, but negligible farmable acres. The homesteaders to stake out substantial portions were Dutch Reform and Quaker, or French Huguenot Protestants. Their 1700s estates, with glorious gardens galore, endured. In fact, British colonial merchant families, as well as each city mayor, established villas along this stagecoach route. Some landowners, though not many, were loyalists during the War of Independence. Consequentially, they lost their property by confiscation. Those country squires, by far, were centered near to the Great Circle.

Regardless, and all the while Lower Manhattan was developing, this fourmile stretch, between Great Circle and Bloomingdale Village, remained family property lines abutting one another. Some estates enveloped from Hudson River’s shore to mid-island Sixth Avenue— stretching for one mile. Alongside these gigantic country seats were few small tracts, some individual plots surrounding hamlets, each with a various denominational church. There were roadside private parks, as well as taverns (by the score), with beer gardens to lure the stagecoach day-trippers. Mostly, the West End flourished, while retaining a Quaker-like modesty. The mid-1850s Manhattan maps already show a robust Bloomingdale district, comprising: the One-Thousand Acre “Bloemendahl” communities, and extending to present-day Morningside Heights, on approximately West 108th Street. Over a century an insulated society evolved north of Saw-Kill, ending on the bluff above the Harlem Plain and Hudson River. This village was archetypal, with its dePeyster and Livingston and Rogers’ riverfront mansions. Other commodious villas were nestled near to St. Michael’s Church, at the village center. Furthermore, it was considered far (very far) away, and way (far way) north.

The Grid Plan Hits Rough Terrain

Until 1855, with Central Park’s construction begun, there were isolated patches where streets had been laid out, and those few stretches only had the easily managed obstructions. For example, in the low West Eighties blocks, and spanning from the proposed central parkland, including two avenues to the Boulevard, were three remote graded streets. Streetcar routes running along the park block opened during the mid-1860s, they reached to West 81st Street—still known as Eighth Avenue and Manhattan Square. Beyond, the erratic terrain became impassable. Huge outcroppings of rocks blocked any real progress: rocky hills, some as much as 100-feet high needed to be removed. That unpredictable process created enormous rock piles to be carted off.

It was a similar story everywhere. Between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, as another instance, the West Sixties’ rough terrain ended in a small valley, comprising West 67th to 74th Streets, the remaining West Seventies were far rougher going still. Then, beyond West 81st Street, the remaining West Eighties was somewhat less consistently rugged, not so above West 93rd Street, not to the north, not on the east or west. Meanwhile, the West End’s streets and avenues, as well as every would-be building lot, was piled skyhigh with rock, most as tall as the demolished hill. Mule-driven carts slowly rid the mid-block debris. Of course, only after a rock pile was removed could surveying and grading, subdividing and (down the road) selling, as standard city building lots, begin. City improvements and subsequent development did not move at an even pace, either. In reality, it proceeded irregularly, as follows:

  • 1812, Eighth Avenue to West 105th Street;
  • 1819, Tenth Avenue to West 70th Street;
  • 1837, Ninth Avenue to West 64th Street, as well as West 79th and 86th

Streets, between Ninth Avenue to Tenth Avenue’s west (at the Boulevard);

  • 1857, Ninth Avenue was completed to West 100th Street;
  • 1858, the West Eighties were begun, from Ninth Avenue to the Boulevard, and were completed in 1862;
  • 1859, the upper West Sixties were begun, and were completed in 1872;
  • 1869, the West Seventies, starting at Eighth and continuing to Tenth

Avenue, and were completed in 1874;

  • 1869, Riverside Drive was started, but continued in fits, and was completed over 30 years, throughout the 1890s;
  • 1872, West End Avenue (continuing Eleventh Avenue) was begun, and opened within two years;
  • 1877 through 1882, all the remaining West End streets were opened continuously.

Broadway’s Reach

Understanding the Upper West Side is to appreciate Broadway’s role in Manhattan’s Manifest Destiny. Since British control in the late 1600s, the city’s expansion began along Broad Way (Broadway) from behind the stockade (Wall Street), across Fresh Water Pond (Canal Street), and to Love Lane (at 21st Street). In the 1820s, an initial progress laying out the grid stalled at 21st Street, while post-Revolutionary War boundary disputes persisted, and while awaiting a completed Clinton survey and Randel Farm Maps of Manhattan to 125th Street. The 1820s economic boom and everexpanding commerce, concurrent with persistent epidemics and fires, first propelled the city’s middle classes northward. Before long, hordes had engulfed the semi-suburban central Bayard Estate, the easterly Bowery village and westerly Greenwich hamlet. This continuous migration set new northern limits (where civilized society would live), on and around Washington Square first; then, it was extended to between Fifth Avenue and Broadway surrounding the square; soon enough, along lower Fifth Avenue to Love Lane, too, was acceptable. For the most part, 40 years later in 1865, paving the Middle Road through to Central Park was completed; but not beyond. What was to become upper Fifth Avenue remained a mid-island, dirt path connecting to the Harlem Road and Bridge. However, a far more straightforward approach was via the eastern Boston Post Road, now Third Avenue.

As to the decided westerly roadway’s path: From Central Park South, West

59th Street, moving on a north-northwest trajectory, Broadway crosses: 1) Eighth Avenue—retitled Central Park West, in the 1880s; 2) Ninth Avenue— changed to Columbus Avenue, in 1896; and 3) Tenth Avenue—called Amsterdam Avenue, as of 1890. Then, resuming a due north path, Broadway fuses with 4) Eleventh Avenue—dubbed West End Avenue, on its 1872 opening. The three-way roadways converging, and forming four plazas, are:  (At Eighth Avenue), the Great Circle, between West 58th and 60th Streets, at the far south, bridges Midtown’s West Fifties and serves as the gateway to the Upper West Side.

  • (At Ninth Avenue), Lincoln Square, between West 63rd and 66th Streets, is the home of the Performing Arts Center and Richard Tucker Park as well as Fordham College’s Manhattan campus.
  • (At Tenth Avenue), Sherman Square, from West 70th to 72nd Street, and Verdi Park between West 72nd and 73rd Streets, once the notorious “Needle Park,” but that is now history.
  • (At Eleventh Avenue), Straus Park is encased by West 107th and 106th Streets (Duke Ellington Boulevard), as well as resting between Broadway and West End Avenue. Where three roadways merge, helped by minor alterations to Broadway’s path, a small triangular space formed: the Manhattan pocket park precursor.

(From the Onset)

Along with river ferry service, the initial Native peoples’ riverside paths and trails evolved into the settler’s cartways. One dirt path followed around the rocky hills, connecting the Dutch northwest community in Harlem Village. This widest trail over time became the Bloomingdale Road. As a stagecoach route, above West 60th to 115th Streets, the roadway became Western Boulevard. Somewhat later, as the Boulevard, it was extended to West 147th Street, where it connected with the Kingsbridge Road and Kings Bridge to the mainland. The road by any name and whenever renamed, was the districts’ lifeline, its heart and soul, and it remains its major thoroughfare. Along the Bloomingdale Road in 1825, the West 70th to 110th Street portion was Harsensville to the Bloomingdale Village gates. At one time and, say, for 150 years, the most exceptional of all the West End country seats, many with Hudson River frontage were owned by New York’s illustrious family names— nestled between were no mean estates either!

Western Boulevard roadway was scheduled to open (once again), in 1868. Beginning at Harsen’s Road, even un-level minds realized that suddenly the rugged terrain outcrops blocked where the roadway was meant to be. Beyond a series of high hills, there were shallow dales, and then steeper, crustier obstructions appeared. Cliffs best describe their abrupt descent. The ensuing saga began with William “Boss” Tweed. Implementing each grid section was viewed by his gang as, readymade to extract graft for their cronies—chief among them were city officials. Land speculators with ties to Tammany Hall, armed with insider information in advance of the progress, started purchasing lots at bargain prices. What’s more, it was risk-free and guaranteed to be profitable. Here’s one good reason, between 1843 and 1858 Manhattan’s land values doubled, (certain areas escalated far more, though hardly on an even keel or following a reliable path). However, nowhere throughout this craggy district had real-estate prices held their lofty increases: initial speculative values did rise with Central Park; then, they fell shortly, Kersplat! And remained there—stagnant, for decades.

The Tweed gang did exhibit foresight by abandoning a complex (though, potentially more profitable) route, and electing to opt for (restraint and follow) a more certain way forward— the naturally evolved and existing roadway. Tammany’s fall shortly after leveling began—at the least treacherous southernmost section—left Great Circle to West 70th Street, unpaved. Consequentially, the Boulevard turned into a foul-weather mud hole, prone to a cloud-spewing dust bowl otherwise. With the West End district’s lifeline hanging by a threat for 15 years in 1890, now renamed Broadway, leveling the rock was ordered by the city council; the roadway was expeditiously graded and paved to West 79th street. Again headway was discontinued. Progress was to resume as rapidly as development and building construction required only. The final far-north portion, linking West 155th Street, wasn’t completed until 1907.

First of all, focusing on the south, leading up to Sherman and Verdi Square are three turn-of-the-century, twelve-story apartment buildings—Dorilton, at West 71st Street (Janes & Leo, 1900-02); Embassy, at West 70th Street (Robert Maynicke, 1899-1900); and the Spencer Arms, at West 69th Street (Mulliken & Moeller, 1904-05). Of these buildings designed in the Beaux-Arts or neo-Renaissance style, and dating from 1904-07, of particular interest, is the latter two for an infrequent, one block harmony. Notably, they were built three years apart; subtly the taller apartment house, designed by a different architect, employs the same materials and similar design elements, reflecting the lower flats building and to the benefit of both. The duo squares’ northern portion, Verdi Square, from West 72nd to 73rd Streets, is more park-like than the southerly traffic hub, Sherman Square. It is encased within landmarks. The triangular Central Savings Bank, sitting at the northeast, is opposite 100year old, sister luxury-apartment-houses, Severn and Van Dyck, on the west, adds excellence to a historic backdrop, the Ansonia Hotel.

This renowned hotel’s erection began in 1899, and was completed in 1904. Along with the expected tearooms, restaurants, and a grand ballroom, the lobby fountain had live seals. The

Ansonia included many other firsts—for instance, Turkish baths and airconditioning, and the rooftop farm’s milking cows, six goats, 500 chickens as well as ducks providing fresh milk and eggs for the dining room’s hearty breakfast menu. Moreover, in the basement arcade, surpluses were sold cheaply to the public. Within three years, however, by order of the Department of Health, the animals were gone. The array of guests-inresidence remained, and they were important New York arts and letters luminary names—Theodor Dreiser, Elmer Rice, and W.L. Stoddard; Gustave Mahler, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Igor Stravinsky, Arturo Toscanini, Yehudi, Yehudi Menuhin, Lily Pons, Enrico Caruso, and Enzio Pinza; Sol Hurok, Florenz Ziegfeld, Sarah Bernhardt, and Billy Burke; and both Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey called Ansonia their home, and that, as a tradition, continued. In addition, one dozen grand 1900-11 Broadway Belles, in the Beaux-Arts or Classic Revival style—considered in their heyday to be the peak of chic— are scattered about to West 108th Street. These outstanding early apartment houses boasted their up-to-date conveniences, such as glass-lined refrigerators, long-distance telephone lines, porcelain tubs, basins and sinks, gas and electric fixtures, as well as fireproof doors and partitions—no trifling matter in an age of catastrophic fires erupting throughout Manhattan. Better than two dozen Belles lined Broadway, a baker’s dozen selection still standing, from south to north, are:

  • West 69th Street, Spenser Arms, completed in 1903;
  • West 70th Street, Embassy, completed in 1900;
  • West 71st Street, Dorilton, completed in 1902;
  • West 72nd-73rd Streets, Van Dyke and Severn, completed in 1911;
  • West 73rd Street, Ansonia, completed in 1904;
  • West 77th Street, Wellsmore, completed in 1910;
  • West 79th Street, Apthorp, completed in 1904;
  • West 84th-85th Streets, Euclid Hall, completed in 1903;
  • West 86th Street, Belnord, completed in 1908;
  • West 89th Street, Admaston, and completed in 1910;
  • West 90th Street, Cornwall, completed in 1909;
  • West 108th Street, Manchester, completed in 1910;
  • West 108th-109th Streets, Manhassett, which was completed in 1904.

Above West 72nd Street Broadway’s trajectory adjustment would remain steadily north through to West 109th Street. Therefore, one consistently parallel Broadway and West End Avenue to Riverside Drive ribbon is established. Also and essentially, they form one cohesive neighborhood. In many ways, Ansonia Station, a designated postal district, where Broadway crosses both West 72nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue, defines a core Upper West Side. The block fronts nearby—within the combined Riverside-West End historic districts—however, remained undeveloped long after other streets in the area. The cause: uncertainty surrounding the public transportation to be built there. It was a significant issue.

This section of Broadway did blossom finally, and into a true boulevard, in anticipation of the 1904 IRT subway. Once (eventually) completed beneath, a radius of three-and-a-half blocks, reaching as far west as Riverside Park, boasted significant buildings. There were few exceptions, and there were numerous opportunities for street-level shops, and some existing ground floors were converted to commerce. The Upper West Side, finally, had its commercial hub. For 40 years, despite such hiccups as the panic of 1901, which was caused by railroad stock manipulations and resulted in a stock market pandemonium; or, belches, like the panic of 1907, the banking crisis which resulting in the creation of the Federal Reserve System, nothing stymied the nuclear Ansonia Station development. The area operated under guiding star throughout and it thrived. The defining element, no matter the other influences was that the 7th Avenue-Broadway subway was on coming. It was true for the entire Upper West Side, too.

To Verdi Square’s north is a two-mile landmarked apartment house sweep and row-house strip. The low-rise, mid-block, single-family-home quarter, adjoining moderate-scale, apartment-house-lined avenues, continues uninterrupted to West 108th Street. Overall, fairly well protected as a patchwork of historic districts, this Upper West Side quadrant stands miraculously intact. An inestimable number of 1880-95 single-family homes, generous town houses, with a sprinkling of corner mansions, and a bevy of 1910-30 luxury apartment houses, still line Riverside Drive and West End Avenue and Broadway. There have been numerous community efforts to amalgamate the series of historic districts (to Broadway’s west), into one allencompassing, West 70th to 107th Street landmarked zone. It is an ongoing process. For instance, Pomander Walk, an enclave tucked in the West 94thto-95th-Street and Broadway-to-West-End-Avenue mid-blocks. This time-out, harmonious row of cottage-like houses exist without either a historic district designation or landmark protection. However, certain real-estate investment interests oppose keeping the status quo, curtailing further intervention there.

The Southern Corridor

Besides the key Corporation of the City of New York controlled tracts abutting Central Park, and its strategic Bloomingdale Road plots, the lower West Sixties bulk was owned by a row of Johns, namely, one Low, Bogart, Gottsberger and Talmman. To the immediate west, the majority was owned by a David Cargill. Even as early as the 1870s, the mid-block lots nearby the intersections were improved with respectable single-family, row houses. Soon, they too were gone—each and every one. By 1890, the sole remaining Civil War structure, the Twenty-Second Regiment of Engineers of the National Guard armory, was between West 67th and 68th streets to Broadway’s east. (The armory is virtually unrecognizable since reconfigured for commercial usage, in the 1960s.) The very oldest existing structure on Lincoln Square, in fact, dates back to 1923—the 12-story Empire Hotel. The initial tenements and then the flats buildings, on lower Central Park West, are virtually gone too. Along the park-facing avenue, two circa 1910 apartment houses remain, the neighboring Beaux-Arts, Second Empire influenced Prasada, which is also between West 64th and 65th Streets, was the epitome of luxury then, and it is much the same still.

Lincoln Square

From its most forlorn days (at a nadir following the 1929 stock market crash), and very slowly even after Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts was proposed for Broadway’s incursion through Columbus Avenue, the Lincoln Square rose like a phoenix from the ashes. This critical axis, which stretched west from Tenth Avenue to the Hudson River, received a fresh residential breadth. The evolution sprung forth around two extensive, 1950s housing projects—both rise within landscaped park-like settings. The two intact housing clusters are:

  • A city-sponsored, low-income housing effort, encapsulating West 61st to

64th Streets, between Amsterdam and West End Avenues, with two more recent, also middle-income apartment houses, adjoining the original buildings.

  • Lincoln Center Apartments, created as a middle-income planned community, spanning West 66th to 70th Streets, and running along West End Avenue and spreading east to Amsterdam Avenue. At one time, as rental units, the whole was owned by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, now the entirety is co-operatively co-owned.

In addition, the high-end-apartment-tower stretch, radiating from Lincoln Square, includes:

  • A Riverside Drive extension, Riverside Boulevard, overlooking Riverside Park South, atop the railroad yards, from West 61st to 72nd Streets;
  • An apartment house band, straddling West End Avenue and between

West 61st and 66th


  • The Amsterdam Avenue blocks, with sleek apartment towers, spanning

West 60th to

69th Streets;

  • The Amsterdam (inclusive of Columbus) Avenue to Broadway stretch, along West 60th through 63rd Streets, which surrounds Fordham College at Lincoln Center campus, too.

While to Lincoln Square west, little was salvageable, the surrounding easterly blocks remained buoyant and very upscale, through the lean midcentury years. The Central Park West and its adjacent West Sixties streets, running to Columbus Avenue and then on to Broadway, contain an array of Manhattan’s very special pre-war apartment houses. This includes the West

67th Street artist’s studio building, which line the Central-Park-West-toColumbus-Avenue block. Today, Central Park West remains a residential potpourri. Beginning at West 60th Street, the medley starts with No. One, a slick, glass-façade tower. Next along the way, an even more recent addition, is an homage to the avenue, and it fits nicely beside one iconic art deco, double-tower. Nearby is a remarkable turn-of-the-century row, as well as several multiple-denominational sanctuaries. Among the distinguished prewar apartment houses, one on West 69th Street is of particular note. This is the quintessential No. 88 CPW, where each unit overlooks the park as a 10room-duplex gem. Recently new-construction towers, with park views from the upper floors, have altered the skyline, by developers wedging them in this most exclusive, seven block triangle.

The Central Corridor

Schuyler District

Though no longer referred to other than as, “on the Upper West Side,” the West End midsection, inclusive of West 72nd to 90th Street, and encompassing Columbus (including Amsterdam) Avenue to Broadway. By the 1880s, progressive tenement apartment houses were built, and they soon lined every street above West 79th Street, as well as along both sides of Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues. Plus, Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues both evolved as a purveyors’ quarter, an invaluable resource for nearby Central Park and Broadway luxury apartment houses. It is also where the working class put down roots. Moreover, although the exalted Manhattan specialty shops never did open emporiums on Broadway, there was no better retail shopping—bar none, not for foodstuffs, household goods, jewelry and silver, linens or children’s clothes—than within this locality. The Schuyler section has two predominant late 1880s dwelling types, with blatant mid20th century additions, such as:

  • Mid-block, working-class, single-family row houses (some later converted to individual apartment units);
  • Tenement apartment house rows along Columbus and Amsterdam

Avenues, as well as clustered on the adjoining 25 cross streets;

  • Low-income housing projects, by the score, were sited from West 87th Street north, begun in the mid-1950s, and continued until practically every tenement house row had been bulldozed.

Manhattan Valley

The West Nineties, Manhattan Valley stretch along Central Park West and east to the Bloomingdale Road was Bloomingdale Farm. This northeast quarter between Central Park West and Broadway begins as a steep-pitch drop on West 93rd Street. Rising rapidly then, at West 110th Street, the northern valley wall becomes Morningside Park. On the valley floor, running from West 100th to 124th Street, in the Central-Park-West-to-ColumbusAvenue mid-block, is Manhattan Avenue. Moreover, here, Central Park West became a snapshot—as if stopped dead in its progression, by the Great Depression—of an evolving park-facing avenue.

As a 14-block-long collection of dwellings, they run the gamut—from turnof-the-century tenement apartments and apartment hotels, to Flats and French flats buildings, to classic 1920s luxury apartment houses, to a string of six-story façade renovations (presumably, once tenement-style), and one hospital-conversion-to-residential usage, at West 106th Street, Duke Ellington Boulevard. Significantly, West 104th to 106th Streets, along Manhattan Avenue, is a historic enclave. These brick-and-stonework row houses, with a stoop, enhanced by terra-cotta trim, or ironwork, or elaborate cornices, some with gargoyles, and others with sunburst motifs, are intact. The landmark cluster of row houses, begun in 1885, under the auspices of the city council, was completed over five years. The city’s prominent contributing architects were C.P.H. Gilbert, E.L. Angell, and J.M. Dunn. (1955-2005) In the early 1960s, the Columbus-to-Amsterdam-Avenues Schuyler District blocks were demolished. In place of the urban-blight tenement housing rose low-income, urban-renewal housing strips. Initially, the grouping touched West 94th Street, the band was extended to West 97th

Street—though, as middle-income housing. Thirty-five years passed, with

Park West Village standing quite isolated in their park-like setting, spanning

West 97th to 100th Streets and from Central Park West to Columbus Avenue. For blocks and blocks, these four immense apartment houses, (designed all in a row by Skidmore, Owen, Merrill), posed a buffer zone from Harlem. So things stood…then… finally on the Park West Village western edge, and bordering upper Columbus Avenue, Manhattan Valley’s 21st-century gentrification arrived. It is now an ultramodern, apartment-house ribbon, with a moderate-to-upscale retailing strip under the residential towers. Additionally, one rejuvenated stretch brought another, such as at the farther northwest, between West 97th and 100th Streets on Broadway, which has been developed—in baby-steps—with a string of glossy glass-and-steel towers, which coexist above early 1900s buildings and 1950s housing projects, and so, the entirety forms a glimpse of the new millennium skyline to come, perhaps. In any event, the northern Upper West Side is thriving again.

The Northern Corridor

Morningside Heights

From atop bluff rising on West 108th to 123rd Streets, at the Bloomingdale hamlet’s north, was the Dutch colonial-era Native people’s riverbank Harlem trading post. To the east was Muscoota, their historic migratory flatland farms. No longer a hamlet, Morningside Heights begins at West 110th Street (Cathedral Parkway) and Central Park West. In the east, the boundary now follows the irregular cliff edge (as Morningside Drive, West 110th to 122nd Streets). On the west, the community stretches from West 110th to 123rd Streets, from Amsterdam Avenue to the Hudson River’s Riverside Park.

The narrow hilltop, with a precipitous drop north and east and west, was a 1680-1880 powerhouse enclave—a faraway, all-but-forgotten, West End private reserve. At the hamlet’s southeast sector, abutting present-day Amsterdam Avenue were two venerable institutions—the New York Hospital’s Bloomingdale Insane Asylum grounds, and the Leake and Watts Orphan Asylum. With the surrounding half-dozen riverside estates, this quiet and understated community’s destiny led it to become an intellectual focal point, with Columbia University’s campus, as well as innumerable institutions of learning, schools, and colleges of the arts and sciences. Additionally, this halfmile square was preordained to be a spiritual center, encouraging copious religious bodies to put down roots.

When offered for sale, the latter sector appealed to Church of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, then seeking to build the city’s largest sanctuary. Construction on the Carrère and Hastings initial design began in 1892. It is omnipresent resting above the park; although, yet to be completed. Simultaneously, Columbia University purchased the hospital’s extensive tracts, which ran east to Broadway. These two highly-esteemed institutions came, built and dominated. Furthermore, schools for the arts and sciences as well as music and dance. The Episcopal Cathedral spurred theological studies, and religious institutions, such as Riverside Church and Union Theological Seminary, to name two.

Optimistic forecasts for the future neighborhood abound. Beforehand, in the late 1860s, however, the city engineers were stumped by a sheer schist protrusion to the east, below the proposed Amsterdam Avenue. Their expedient solution was a series of shoestring parklands, comprising the midisland portions that could not be surveyed, definitely were not gradable, and therefore could not be subdivided into standard city lots. When construction was announced for a Morningside Park, in 1882, it was an instantaneous magnate: a prosperous class flocked to the flats buildings build out along the eastern avenues. Each year, while the proposals were bantered back and forth, plus endless budget struggles, constraints, and delays—dozens more high-end flats building were developed on Manhattan and Morningside Avenues, as well as the cliff-hanging Morningside Drive, once carved out to overlook the park. One residential developer, therefore, outdid the next with the spacious layouts and innovative conveniences offered. By the early 20th century, the easterly portion hit its apex. Helpful too, will be the details of changes immigration waves brought, and the upper-middle-class shifts suited to them, that begins on page 180. And it will reward you by checking Landowner Digest, page 14, in order to have an all-around sense nothing will

be overlooked. (1905-10)

As Riverside Drive started two miles south, in 1869, little changed. But, as the parkland continued slowly, the adjacent lots trading started tepidly. By the 1890s, nearly 30 years later, when the Drive was nearing completion, the developer’s assemblages for luxury apartment houses were arranged. Therefore, more and more residential streets, between Broadway to Riverside Drive (surrounding where Grant’s Tomb rests), had been improved relatively early on. West One-Hundred-Tenth Street, Cathedral Parkway, as the first prominent crosstown street, set the tone for Upper Riverside Drive. On the southernmost Riverside Drive corner, the 192-unit anchoring apartment house, a mega-complex (for the era, anyway, as its eastern annex stretched to Broadway), and was fittingly called, the Henrick Hudson. The conspicuous, multi-winged rococo monument is a slice of early innovative residential architecture.

Next, on the northerly and equally significant West 116th Street, sits the no less colossal, curved Paterno, which accommodates the drive’s bend, rightfully named, the Coliseum. The historic Riverside Drive stretch is capped off by the Riverside Church, at West 122nd Street. The parkland, then, tapers and ends at the Henry Hudson highway.

One notable block is a half a block east of Riverside Drive. Claremont Avenue’s run is short, extending from West 116th and 123rd Streets. Moreover, it is somewhat tranquil and remains graced with several earlyperiod innovative apartment houses. They are interspersed alongside the Barnard College campus, which includes such classics as, the Sophomore at No. 15; Barnard Court, No. 21; Peter Minute, No. 25; and the Lincoln and Dacona, Nos. 130-136. Plus, there is a 1910 Italian-Renaissance-style duo, Nos. 29 and 35—Eton Hall adjoining Rugby Hall. The ground-breaking row became a Morningside Heights luxury, apartment-house design stable, consisting of white- and cream-color marble, as well as terra-cotta ornamentation, worked as an overlay, which is appliqued onto a glazed, white brick façade.

The Easterly Corridor

As Central Park construction began, the first wave of land speculation began. In the mid-1850s, the immediate focus were the blocks adjacent and southeast of the would-be park. However, lot improvement was not at all. Rather, through the latter 19th-century, the influences on development was a series of complex interrelationships unfolding. For instance, in mass transit innovations—a second speculative fever followed the Civil War, as urban stagecoach service was evolving beyond the former horse-drawn tram lines to coal-stoking locomotives. Then, a resurgence came with the “El” stations opening at West 59th Street, the Great Circle; West 66th Street, Lincoln Square; West 72nd; West 81st Street, Manhattan Square; as well as West 86th, 93rd, 99th and 104th Streets—all along (still) Ninth Avenue.

Also, erratic roadway openings were problematic. Delays paving and providing infrastructure—gas, water, and sewage—were ongoing, even after authorizing the streets west of Central Park lying out. And these were serious pauses. (Consult the roadway opening schedule, page 158, for a succinct recap.) In all fairness, nonetheless, the Upper West Side’s slow early development did begin in all earnestness, with the late 1870s “the El” announcement. With word that two abundant additional parklands were under way in the north and west, so every developer was preparing, each architect and all builders awaited a boom with baited breathe. However when the IRT line opened, in 1881, though it spit and spewed above, at the prestigious Manhattan Square’s West 81st Street station below, a mountain of rubble stood along Columbus Avenue still awaiting removal by donkey carts.

Moreover, the West End (referring to the entire Upper West Side), was disadvantaged by a less-than-agreeable rugged topography. Its remoteness from (“Fifth”) The Avenue, the historic high-end residential path was obvious, as well as lacking access to an analogous retail thoroughfare. Additionally, to dampen and impede the West End development further, the alternative Upper East Side, with its fiercely social Fifth-to-Third-Avenues sweep, proved too formidable competition for city financial reserves, not to mention, developers’ resources.

Beginning in the late 1860s and ending in 1873, localized real-estate speculation hiked land prices as much as 400 percent for park-side and adjacent block lots. Consecutive blows followed Civil War building material shortages, including, 1) the economic Panic of 1873, 2) the nefarious Tweed Ring systematic fraud, and 3) the speculative land bubble burst. These events scotched that initial development spark. On the other hand, with a decadelong roadway progress delay, here’s what the Tweed Ring’s demise had allowed, positively—

  • During the 1800’s first fifty years, the population of Manhattan, primarily through immigration, increased 58% per decade, not always evenly, though; plus, a prospering American-born generation, suddenly, a full-fledged, upper-middle-class society, emerged;
  • In the near north, Morningside Heights’ direction as a religious and humanities center, solidified;
  • Manhattan Valley as a residential enclave, extended along Manhattan Avenue and beyond the park’s West 110th Street boundary, was headed for West 123rd Street;
  • With Harlem’s incorporation into New York City, was geographically known and socially consolidating as well as its financial predicament (bankruptcy), resolved;
  • The Age of Invention, bringing such modernizations as electricity, telegraph transmission, followed by oral communication, the telephone, arrived;
  • The evolutionary bridge, from single-family homes to innovative apartment houses shaped a sophisticated multi-family dwelling for the privileged, by offering fire-proof flats buildings;
  • Elevators made 12-14 story luxury residential edifices commonplace;
  • Ten miles of broad residential avenues, (15 miles considering both sides of two avenues), were created to be developed as an ultra-modern Upper West Side lifestyle.

Residential construction activity awoke halfheartedly in 1880, with the elevated Ninth Avenue line coming. However, at the time, the low West Eighties’ structures included wood-frame houses, two churches one Public school, a coal yard, and silk ribbon mill. They were clustered near Ninth Avenue, now populated with exiles reshuffled from Eighth Avenue’s east, the displaced Central Park Seneca Village citizenry. Development pace picked up considerably as miles of graded streets appeared throughout the entire West End. The earliest phase, when opened, saw a burst of speculative-build row house and flats building construction—designed for the middle class. The seminal Dakota Apartments opened, in 1884, on West 72nd Street and alongside Central Park (still Eighth Avenue), was built for a decidedly uppercrust tenant roster. Then, the scattered population among the gigantic rock masses, occasionally topped by shanties or grazing goats’ glances, disappeared. As the sections were readied, substantial buildings, by the thousands, rose. Where rocky fields lay barren or with wildflowers, market gardens bloomed. Following 1886, the residential building boom’s pace increased and persisted, as never before.

Central Park West’s Reach

At Lincoln Square’s north, and then northeast to West 96th Street is one contiguous Upper West Side Historic District. This is among Manhattan’s most prestigious (and well-documented as), priciest properties. The sweep enjoys protective covenants from further development, which includes every avenue apartment house as well each adjacent street’s residential structure. These safeguards commence at West 69th Street and move westerly, end-toend in the Columbus-Avenue-to-Broadway blocks. The historic district includes architecturally significant row houses, through cross street intersections, and it extends west, though zigzagging, as East of Amsterdam Avenue through to West 88th Street. Thereafter north, the historic district border is east of Columbus Avenue.

Lower CPW

From Central Park West to Columbus Avenue, enveloping Columbus Circle to West 72nd Street, is between two iconic art deco towers, both designed by Irwin Chanin: the Century, (at Twenty-five CPW), spanning West 62nd to 63rd Street, and the Majestic, comprising West 71st to 72nd Street. They are considered among Manhattan’s smartest and most prominent addresses. One school, four religious institutions, four world-class pre-war luxury apartment houses, as well as the turn-of-the-century residences mentioned on page 146, complete Lower CPW. Between 1902 and 1929, contemporaneous with construction on the avenue, the park-side streets had erected no less than nine studio apartment buildings. The largest concentration was along West 67th Street, as:

  • Cooperative Studio Building, (1901) No. 23-27;
  • Central Park Studios, (1905) No. 11-15;
  • Atelier Building (1905) No. 29-33;
  • Hotel des Artists (1918) Number One.

Alongside the decidedly upscale, mid-block row houses, several blockending, multiple-family French flats buildings, on Columbus or Amsterdam Avenue corners, were designed with like side-street facades. This configuration boasted two street-oriented exposures, therefore, providing better light and ventilation.


Central Park West’s signature apartment house, One West 72nd Street, the Dakota, was designed by Henry J. Hardenbergh. The north German Renaissance character, echoing a Hanseatic town hall, included a large dining hall (meals were sent up by dumbwaiters), an in-house electricity power plant and central heating—each a first. Edward S. Clark, the Singer Sewing Machine founding partner, purchased the park front block and the contiguous lots from John Schiff, who thought it fool-hearty to build so far north, and surrounded by complete emptiness. To the contrary, when the landmark apartment house opened, in 1884, all 64 apartments were rented out beforehand. The Dakota tenants enjoyed private gardens, croquet lawns, and tennis courts, encompassing West 72nd to 73rd Street and one-half block toward Columbus Avenue.

Not to be denied either, is the Charles W. Clinton & William Hamilton Russell, 1906 Beaux-Arts, Langham Apartments, which spans the West-73rdto-74th-Streets park-fronting block. Or, additionally, the nearby Townsend, Steinle and Haskell 1908 Second Empire, Kenilworth Apartments, on West 75th Street and Central Park West. In many ways, the West 74th-to-75th

Street San Remo Towers stretch to the tri-wing, Beresford, at West 81 Street, both designed by Emory Roth, define this remarkable architectural Central Park West strip.

Prior to the mid-island site’s designation as Central Park, in 1858, Manhattan Square, West 77th to 81st streets, between Eighth to Ninth Avenue—in the mainly Corporation of New York City confiscated properties— was a very highly-prized residential location. The neighboring sector was stamped Planetarium Station, a postal name, was in deference to the Hayden Planetarium. Two important Upper West Side institutions, New-York Historical Society, at West 76th to 77th Streets, and American Museum of Natural History, north to West 81st Street, are the key institutions of

Manhattan Square today. One additional half-block long sanctuary on Central Park West is at West 76th Street, and around the corner on West 75th Street, at Columbus Avenue, is the lone attempt in the area of a luxury apartment house (in the flats building style). The Rochelle Apartments, designed by Lamb & Rich, and was completed in 1896.

Upper CPW

The West Eighties and Nineties is a majestic apartment house swath, with one row consisting of three park-facing houses, at West 85th Street. On the northwest corner of West 86th Street is the White House, a notable pre-war apartment house, as well as the West 89th Street gem, Saint Urban, built in 1906 and designed by Robert S. Lyons. Next is significant Art Deco Central Park West apartment houses designed by Emory Roth, and completed in the 1930s, first is Eldorado Towers (West 90th-to-91st Streets), and then, Ardsley (West 92nd Street). Included, too, are the staid Schwartz & Gross duo, as Nos. 315 and 336 (West 92nd and 94th Streets), In between on West 93rd Street, the Turin, is a 1909 Central Park West apartment house, built in the ItalianRenaissance-palazzo-style.

On West 96th Street, which is the northernmost boundary finishing up the premier Upper West Side residential stretch; there is a classic Rosario Candela pre-war apartment house. At the major cross street’s north, it is true that the 1903 Carrère and Hastings, First Church of Christ, Scientist, with its imperator, Baroque bell tower, was the symbolic end of the swells’ Sunday promenade, (much as the 1845 First Presbyterian Church, at 12th Street, did on lower Fifth Avenue.) Moreover, this landmark of landmarks (now,

Crenshaw Christian Center in New York City), is slated to become 261 Central Park West, a residential addition.

Row House Development—UWS-CPW Historic District


Earlier and more consistently, speculative single-family homes rose in rows along the adjacent park-side streets, far more so than the avenue’s luxury apartment houses. The avenue reconstituted itself often—going from tenements to French flats buildings to apartment hotel to the present luxury apartment house towers—whereas the 19th-century, speculative housing construction illustrates an enormous contribution to the city’s architectural heritage forged within the Upper West Side-Central Park West Historic District. It all began on West 73rd Street, off Central Park, when Henry J. UPPER WEST SIDE_________________________________________ 255

Hardenbergh, the Dakota Apartments’ eminent architect, was commissioned by its owner, Edward Clark, to build 28-row houses—remarkably, 18 have survived.

Two years after, home construction in the West 76th Street block started. Three years later an additional 44 customized row houses had been built in the West 76th Street block, off Central Park West, alone. (That particular Central-Park-West-to-Columbus-Avenue block, 125 years later, remains a Manhattan town-house block beautiful, because it still manages to feel like a lane.) This high concentrated development within a few blocks of Henry J. Hardenbergh’s beginnings on West 73rd Street demonstrated a vast range of styles, (other than the standby: Beaux- Arts, neo-Gothic, and Classical Revival), Each gem was expressed in either the Neo-Greco, Queen Anne,

Italianate, Renaissance or Romanesque, or Jacobean Revival vocabulary. Furthermore, generous stretches within the West Seventies’ tree-lined rowhouse blocks were built-out under a single architect’s oeuvre, creating a sphere of influence. For instance, Hardenbergh’s south-facing: 15A, 15-9, 419, 51-9, and 61-5, all on West 73rd Street. It is true as well for the Welch, Smith & Provot south-facing contributions: Nos. 3-11 West 73rd Street. Likewise, they make a statement on the block, though accomplish within a shorter expanse.

Twenty years later, the effect was aptly put on West 74th Street side-street block, with an extensive Anglophile Nash-inspired town house row, designed as a cohesive whole. Additionally, the entire neighborhood benefits from a cohesive continuity achieved by George M. Waigrove’s south-facing Nos. 3-9, and 21-9, 31-9, 41-7 as well as the north-facing 26-28—all on West 75th Street.

Moreover, one block north, the same architect, Waisgrove, was responsible for north-facing Nos. 27-9, 31-7, and south-facing, 40-8, and 50-6 West 76th Street. Equally credit-deserving for that very special urban streetscape is the Cleverdon & Putzel partnership’s north-facing Nos. 12-24 West 76th Street. The West Eighties park blocks, as well, were enthusiastically improved in the same 20-year span, as extended single-family rows, and designed by the era’s eminent architects, too. For example, Neville & Bagge’s work is seen concentrated primarily in the West 80th, 81st, and 88th Street mid-blocks. As well as, George F. Pelham’s houses found on many side streets; the firms of Gilbert A. Schellenger and Thorn & Wilson (the two most prolific on the Upper West Side) are located on virtually every historic district street. UPPER WEST SIDE_________________________________________ 256

Furthermore, George W. DaCunha, who had recently established himself among Manhattan’s architect pantheon with his 32 Gramercy Park East, designed several Queen Anne style rows of houses, which were constructed from 1884-6. They include north-facing Nos. 32-8, 40-4 and south-facing, 59 and 61-3 West 83rd Street.

The final, fine-fine, exemplary, block is the CPW-to-Columbus-Avenue row-house strip in West 95th Street, which includes James S. Post, represented by Nos. 40-4 West 95th Street. In addition are six distinctive McKim, Mead, and White designs, at Nos. 26-8 and 30-8 West 95th Street; and last, but not least, is the Carrère and Hastings abbreviated row of Nos. 46-50 West 95th Street. And that is as prominently designed as any northfacing historic district street gets—each and every one is a gem.

Row House Development—RSD-WEA Historic Districts


What also remains, as though encapsulated by time, is the westerly Upper West Side’s enormous ribbon of single-family homes. In general, the West End lot improvement pace lagged behind the Upper East Side but had picked up the pace by 1886. This corridor’s place was uniquely modern, first by having retained its 1700s rural ambiance as an amalgamation of private country seats through to the mid-1800s, and by developing into an urban residential quarter as late as the 1880s. The second element is a comparison, though not obvious at first. This block-long single-family expanse, from Broadway to Riverside Drive, yes, with West End Avenue between, is equally wide as from Central Park West to Columbus-Avenue—exactly. What’s more, especially above West 90th Street the shoreline and cliffs curve. While the obvious assets are Riverside Park and its Drive, the broad, prosperous-class West End Avenue was an essential element in establishing—and a key to achieving—the neighborhood’s exclusive image, as much as the district’s central nervous system, Broadway.

Keep in mind that the protracted financial panic of 1873, which ended in 1878, then required an additional five years to pass before city-wide realestate speculation recommenced. Slower still, not before 1886, the far West Seventies and Eighties did revive, but only as additional streets were leveled and paved. For example, in 1859, the West Sixties had been started but were completed in 1872. In 1869, the West Seventies, implementation started at

UPPER WEST SIDE_________________________________________ 257

Eighth Avenue, continuing to Tenth Avenue, but neither were completed by 1874. Also, Riverside Drive was officially started in 1869, and continued in fits; the parkland was completed over 30 years—the majority throughout the 1890s.

Contrariwise, relatively quickly as an Eleventh Avenue continuation, West End Avenue began, in 1872, and was opened two years later. After a short pause, between 1877 and 1882, all the remaining West End streets opened. With the street-level, horse-drawn-coach track conversion to electric power trams on the avenues and crisscrossing streets, residential construction renewed with vigor. Within 12 years, off Riverside Drive and West End Avenue single-family homes stretched as far north as West 105th and 106th Streets. Yet this rugged and isolated district, even with its decisive anchored Riverside Drive and West End Avenue—still awaited the social fabric for the Boulevard, therefore, its environs’ future remained uncertain. Three years later, as a very wide, and with landscaped malls, (now, as Broadway), the Boulevard finally opened properly. Paved, though, and of use must be differentiated from merely designated as opened. It would require resolving mass transit advances in order for the predestined changes throughout the West End to reach their logical conclusion.

However, the biggest development boost west of Broadway, prior to 1900, was the creation of Riverside Drive and Park. No less significant, or less substantial gain as Central Park West, were also achieved along the proposed river park. The proposal, first made in the late 1860s, as well as the approval stage, went smoothly, lasting from 1873-75; ditto for pre-planning, in 187580; however, not so for construction, there were later additions and extensive revisions. Opened to the public in 1880, the roadway above the park sat unfinished until the West 96th Street viaduct crossing Striker’s Bay was approved, and then, even more years for construction to begin again. Meanwhile, with construction on the Drive started, and with the public opening presumed to be at hand, in West 83rd and West 84th Streets (which had been open for 20 years), architects executed their brownstone singlefamily homes in Romanesque and Renaissance Revival designs.

Once underway, this early phase was exclusively speculatively built row houses, or, the very occasional rental flats building, designed for the middle and upper classes. West End Avenue was off to becoming a street of row houses for the prosperous, and with a decidedly expansive sense of

UPPER WEST SIDE_________________________________________ 258

architectural innovation, more so than practiced on any West End side street, or anywhere else in Manhattan, as a matter of fact. For example—

  1. McKim, Mead & White were engaged by the builder George W. Rogers, a known quantity in Manhattan speculation circles, and they filed plans for six-row houses, at the southwest corner of West 83rd Street—Nos. 300-08—with the last house only faced West End Avenue.
  2. Nearby, the Rogers Group executed homes with broad, sloping roofs of tile, and crow-stepped gables, suggesting both medieval and Flemish influences.
  3. The prolific George F. Pelham, along with other esteemed architects, combined different type and texture stones, highlighting harmonious brick shades, and adorning terra cotta or copper decorative elements, on consecutive houses.
  4. Alfred B. Ogden, the third example of a substantial and established, Manhattan architectural practice, was a father-and-son team specializing in Queen Anne, Romanesque and Renaissance Revival row house designs.
  5. In addition, Neville & Bragge erected row houses by the score, ranging in style, size and materials, in picturesque and eclectic variations of the popular neo-Greco and Beaux-Arts styles, which are found throughout the Riverside-West End quarter.

More so than in any other part of town, the West End has more extensive cohesively designed rows of homes. Here’s how it came about: When the initial gusto for speculative single-family, row-house construction sagged opposite the West End Collegiate Church excavation site, encompassing a full city block—along West 77th and 78th Streets and inclusive of the RiversideDrive-to- West-End-Avenue blocks—the elite Manhattan architect firms, chiefly among them, Lamb & Rich, in association with the likes of C.P.H. Gilbert and Clarence True, created a virtual array of Italian, French, and Flemish Renaissance jewels. The row house façades were conceived, designed, and executed to camouflage that these were not custom- build homes at all. As a marketing tool, it worked, and did, revitalize a slumping single-family housing market.

Simultaneously, a few blocks north, on West 81st Street, an architectbuilder, Charles Israels began five-row houses. He combined Romanesque and Renaissance Revival elements, to great effect. Two years later, in the abutting

West 80th Street, he repeated the row, using the same designs. Another UPPER WEST SIDE_________________________________________ 259

similar-façade scheme was successful on West 71st Street, in the West-EndAvenue-to-Riverside-Drive block. On this considerable cul-de-sac, 33-row houses in six groups, were erected with uniform Renaissance-inspired details, creating a cohesive whole.

Clarence True, a well-known architect, and inexhaustible 1890s developer practiced on the Upper West Side extensively. He is said (most often by himself) to have designed over 400 houses. It is true, however, that True was largely responsible for developing the southern end of Riverside Drive. As a smaller section, between West 72nd and 79th Street, was opened in l891, he started there and then on a nearby (low West Eighties) Riverside Drive block front. He cleverly designed and developed several town houses with connecting mansard roofs, which created the illusion of one mansion. (Indeed, the residents thought they lived in one too.) True purchased the available Drive lots south of West 84th Street, and he proceeded to design town houses for them. Many True houses, including nine located in the WestEnd Collegiate Historic District, were in his idiosyncratic, signature, Elizabethan Renaissance Revival style, based on English Renaissance prototypes. On the adjacent cross streets, he popularized the American basement row house. His Upper West Side-Central Park West Historic District apartment houses display elements of Renaissance, Romanesque, and Jacobean Revival styles. In addition, True designed one commercial building and a hotel. In 1899, True published “A True History of Riverside Drive” (by in large, a self-promotion real-estate catalog), envisioning the Drive lined with large, elegant town houses.

When development along the Drive’s length reached West 96th Street, another two-block inclusive row-house enclave was strung along the north and south sides in the West 105th Street as well as in West 106th Street, along the West-End-Avenue-to-Riverside-Drive span. Furthermore, the rows are punctuated by mansions and town houses sited on Riverside Drive. The entire enclave adheres to specific covenants ordered by the owner to Janus & Leo (of the Dorilton fame), and his architectural firm meticulously oversaw the builder, James A. Farley, and its execution. The architectural style was not specified. These single-family homes were to be of the highest quality materials, with similar architectural details, and in a suitable character, as would integrate with the neighborhood.

Startling results were evident shortly after construction began. At their UPPER WEST SIDE_________________________________________ 260

completion, the row houses featured lavish, Beaux-Arts limestone detailing, English basements, and each outlined covenant was fulfilled. Moreover, two river-facing mansions, at 330 and 331 Riverside Drive, as well as the adjacent town houses, 333-337 Riverside Drive, were designed by Robert Kohn—known for the New York Society for Ethical Culture building, at West 64th Street, on Central Park West. Each reflects perfectly, albeit exuberantly, the row houses along West 105th Street. Collectively, 100 years hence, the mansions and row house groupings were designated as one landmark district. An additional noteworthy example of this neighborly architectural harmony continuation is at West 107th Street, on Riverside Drive. Subsequently, in a similar but decidedly splashier, French Renaissance vocabulary, William Tuthill designed and built the Schinasi mansion there.

The Westerly Corridor

Single-family housing development progressed, and did accelerate through to the 1898 Spanish American War. Immediately following it, a renewed boom blasted off. (Whatever remaining West End Avenue town house construction from the era, are isolated near to West 86th Street; are clustered in the low West Nineties; additionally, Nos. 854, 856, and 858 are at West 102nd Street.) Genuine enthusiasm regarding West End Avenue’s apartment house improvements was curbed, in part due to expiring 20-year restrictive covenants already in place. The covenants were directives guiding Eleventh Avenue to be comprised of French flats buildings, those with ground-floor shops: it simply was not to be.

Moreover, that was about to change. The Citizens’ West Side Improvement Association, a real-estate lobbying group, founded in 1884, by William Earle Dodge Stokes (the Ansonia Hotel builder), with his active fellow developers, saw to it. Furthermore, there was stepped up activity by William B. Astor, who accumulated the land tracts put on the market; thereby, he extended his father’s already significant West End landholding legacy. Noteworthy is while John Jacob Astor hopped, skipped, and jumped over the Hopper’s West Fifties and the West Sixties’ Harsen domain, his son bought and his heirs built up the aristocratic Bloomingdale district landowners’ estates.

Abetted by the Citizens’ West Side Improvement Association efforts at the turn of the century, the development association focus shifted. Soon, at the UPPER WEST SIDE_________________________________________ 261

avenue corners, taller apartment hotels appeared which were gaining popularity with the up-and-coming affluent class. They, too, in a flash, would be demolished for deluxe, apartment houses (standing shoulder to shoulder, so to speak), which then defined West End Avenue and Riverside Drive. Even larger apartment buildings were necessary, as increasing construction costs ended row house building altogether, and, as the 1903 Seventh Avenue IRT was opening stations on Broadway, the West End was rapidly becoming more accessible to the city hub. A demand-driven wave, therefore, decimated the slow-starting, grand-scale, speculative row-house-construction boom which already slackened.

The 1901-16 zoning ordinances—controlling multiple-family dwelling safety, construction, and scale as well as zoning for elevators—each contributed to the remarkable West End Avenue, Riverside Drive, and West 72nd, 79th, and 86th Streets’ transformation. As the row houses and smaller buildings were being replaced, continuously, though seemingly at once, the graceful four-story single-family blocks were exchanged for seven-story, upscale-market French flats buildings—replete with a ground-floor shop or restaurant. Dominating the corner apartment house zoning, especially consistent heights, retained these avenues’ more personable scale.


It’s true, too, that abundant Upper West Side mass transportation evolved from meager beginnings. Forty years before urbanization, the stagecoach lines and Harlem River Rail Road were the only public transportation, and they only augmented Hudson River ferry services. Next amble horse-drawn trams lines evolved, they were replaced by steam engines, then electric power, and then the autobuses running north and south along every avenue, including Broadway. Soon, these routes were crisscrossing with the cross streets’ services. Moreover, the Riverside Drive bus connected Washington Square, running along Fifth Avenue, and connecting the ladies to their favorite shopping districts. Of course, it was the IRT Ninth Avenue Elevated Railroad when completed in 1891, which permanently changed the entire West End’s complexion. Furthermore, the IRT Broadway-Seventh Avenue underground line—begun in 1902, opening in stages, and completed in 1903— sealed the deal. Manhattan was to have a diverse, thriving Upper West Side. Beforehand, during the 1890s, as electric trolleys using overhead power lines, replaced horse-drawn cars with trackless coaches, the city was under UPPER WEST SIDE_________________________________________ 262

intense public pressure to provide better mass transportation. Boston was in a similar situation to New York City. Boston, in fact, funded America’s first subway excavation and construction. Their (M.T.A.) mass transportation attempt opened in 1897. New York’s first below-grade stretch opened, in 1902, and was a mere 9 miles long, including the 42nd Street spur. The New York City subway was wildly received, and additional tunnels were dug soon after its inception. By 1904, the IRT 7th Avenue-Broadway subway line was operational from New York City Hall Park, and the stations opened rapidly to West 145th Street.

About then, the better-suited term Upper West Side was being applied (as it is today). Changes in the demographics to the north and north-northeast played a major role, too. Beginning with the Ninth Avenue “El” and culminating with the subway system, the Hell’s Kitchen African-American community moved to Harlem’s Manhattanville, in order to live nearby the available factory jobs. This, then-considered social predicament redoubled in 1910, when a wave of eastern European Jews and southern Italian immigrants by-passing the traditional stopover on the Lower East Side, and instead, moved to southwest Harlem, near enough to Morningside Park.

This prompted the uptown middle classes, a quite social conscious bunch, to pack up. They moved south and occupied the up-to-date, well-appointed apartment houses rising along Riverside Drive and West End Avenue. In turn, developers were encouraged by the influx, enough to plan even more modern and commodious and luxuriously appointed apartment houses there; built to rival the grand, 1900-10 Beaux-Arts flats buildings, Classic Revival apartment hotels and up-to-the-minute apartment houses on Broadway, between West 71st and 108th Streets. The avenues of the West End joined Central Park West as the American Dream’s utmost rung, residing among the swells in a Manhattan multi-family building, and living in heaven on earth.

The cycle did not abate for better than four decades until every site possible had been assembled—many reassembled and several, several times over—through to the Great Depression, which all together squelched Upper West Side luxury housing construction entirely. In between time, grand, fullstaffed homes—with a factotum and scullery maid for the likes of William Randolph Hearst, who lived on West Eighty-Sixth Street at Riverside Drive, with Marion Davis, his mistress, was ensconced nearby, in her West 105th Street town house; moreover, the mythic Gish sisters as well as Bogart and UPPER WEST SIDE_________________________________________ 263

Bacall, who living together in a Pomander Walk cottage, epitomizing to live on the Upper West Side. (After all, both Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were products of the era’s Upper West Side upbringing; Betty Bacall still lives there, by the way.)

Riverside Drive’s Sway

No doubt that prior to 1900, at Broadway’s west as well as West 72nd Street’s north, the biggest residential housing development boost was Riverside Park and the Drive completion. The long-neglected, gigantic rock masses— occasionally topped with shanties, graced by grazing goats—disappeared. The Hudson River shoreline park project, instigated in the late 1860s, required 1873-5 for planning; 1875-79 for construction; and much longer, considering later additions, once breaching Striker’s Bay via the West 96th Street Viaduct. The park and drive were not officially completed until 1898, although a smaller section between West 72nd Street and 79th Streets, opened in 1891. With Olmsted’s broad esplanade design inserted below, the eastern bordering Riverside Drive was destined to evolve in a similar manner as Central Park West. Assumable, then, is that an equal, large-scale, apartment house swath would follow. Likewise, the Riverside-Drive-to-West-End-Avenue side streets would progress as a parallel high-end residential corridor, eventually reaching to West 110th Street.

Too true and as supposed; between West 72nd and 96th Street, eventually one remarkable 1910-30 residential streetscape, of staid, red-brick apartment houses—bespeaking the quiet, comfortable, and quite substantial families in residence—did dominate every Riverside Drive corner. As well, they were executed in illustrious designs by Gaetan Ajello, Rosario Candela, John Carpenter, Schwartz & Gross, George Pelham, Neville & Bagge, as well as McKim, Mead, and White. Other notable RSD facets include, after getting off to a good start, on West 72nd Street: First is a small footprint apartment house, at the Riverside Drive curve, designed by Gaetano Ajello. Sitting aside it is, a Cass Gilbert’s classy mansion, One Riverside Drive, and then on West 73rd Street’s southeast corner, sits a very respectable Art Deco gem. At the first major cross street, West 79th Street, Pelham George F. Pelham designed the 1905 Riverdale apartment house. It is worth a second look, always!

At the next cross street West 86th Street, two turn-of-the-century

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specimens, are: Dorchester, at West 85th Street, designed by Neville & Bagge, completed in 1909; and, Clarendon, a 12-story apartment house, designed by Charles E. Birge and built in 1906. (The expansive penthouse floor, with four exposures was occupied by, none other than, William Randolf Hearst; moreover, a red carpet was kept at ready for his every arrival and departure.) Across West 86th Street, and built full to West 87th Street in 1938, is an Art Deco jewel, the Normandy. This landmark 240-unit residence is divided into a north and south wing, separated by a glass-front lobby, which overlooks a planted garden on the Drive. It leads to separate elevator vestibules for quietude and privacy. A fitting continuation, spanning West 89th to 90th Streets, is a Riverside Drive fine “sister building” landmark, the sole West End contribution by J.E. Carpenter. Possibly the pre-war luxury apartment house prime innovator, Carpenter completed this Gothic Revival design, circa 1925.

The impact from every nuance that the experimental-minded, thoroughly modern 1909-29 West End Avenue society indulged in, reverberated throughout Manhattan, echoed across this country, and then was noticed around the world.

West End Avenue’s Influence

Each West Eighties block from Riverside Drive to West End Avenue is within the Riverside-West End Historic District and build-out between 1885 and 1900. While describing what lies on these 17 consecutive W.E.A. blocks would fill volumes, regardless, it is the remarkable calm created by such a breath of innocuous, but deceptively distinctive apartment-house- lined blocks. Yet as much as each accrues to the whole, in toto as well as individually, they prove just how remarkable West End Avenue actually is. And, in many ways, why this avenue sets the Upper West Side’s overall tenor.

In the West Seventies, where Broadway curves southeast, there, for instance, West End Avenue sets itself up as an unprecedented residential boulevard. There are five residential structures, which personifies the Avenue’s diverse and forward-leaning architectural legacy.

First, at West 79th Street, the Art Deco Wexford, No. 400, by Margon &

Holder, the firm collaborated with Emery Roth on the Eldorado, where Roth

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introduced to each tower’s design, already with similar bands, in addition to the iconic setback endings and top finials.

Second, the Clinton and Russell, Apthorp Apartments, built on an immense internal court. These eminent architects worked closely with the Astors (William B, J.J. III, and Vincent), on their Astor Hotel and Graham Court, Uptown’s grandest apartment complex.

Third, a classic avenue apartment house with a terra-cotta-colored-brick façade, designed in 1916, by Neville and Bagge (to update as well as contribute to the West End Collegiate Historic District’s character), is 325 West End Avenue, at West 75th Street.

Fourth, in the West 73rd Street block to Broadway, from West End Avenue, is first the Level Club, designed in 1927 by Clinton and Russell as a men’s club. It has flexibility in its background, as a hotel for 30 years, and a 196080 drug rehabilitation center, both were before its 1980s condominium conversion. The neo-Romanesque structure was typical of the era’s Masonic temple influence, which included secret symbols, and bronze filigreed globes atop its columns.

Fifth and finally—but never last—at Verdi Square, is the invincible Upper West Side iconic Ansonia Hotel, built to rival the Dakota and Osborne and Thirty-two Gramercy Park East, as early innovative apartment houses, as well as being molded after the Chelsea Hotel.

What is more, West End Avenue’s swath throughout the West Seventies, say nearby Verdi Square, at West 72nd Street and Broadway, contains a plethora of the era’s first-rate, corner, avenue apartment house examples, the significant turn-of-the-century tenement and luxurious flats-style buildings as well as apartment hotels and side-street apartment houses. The additional celebrated example highlights, include:

  • The 1903 Beaux-Arts, Red House, on West 85th Street, off Riverside Drive, which was the Harde & Short team’s earliest commission. (Harde worked with James E. Ware and Associates on several Upper East Side projects between 1895 and 1900, as well as on several Upper West Side tenement apartment houses, with Ralph Townsend. The two collaborated on a seven-story flats building design, at 425 West End Avenue, a few blocks south.
  • Surrounding West 86th Street, among Rosario Candela’s best 15-story Upper West Side designs are 325 and 334 West 86th Street as well as 522

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West End Avenue—all in the Renaissance Revival and Romanesque Revival styles, and each completed in 1923.

  • Next, Clarence True built one of several nearby West End Avenue apartment houses, on West 85th Street, 520 West End Avenue, which has been individually designated as a New York City Landmark.
  • Next, Schwartz & Gross developed five important West End Avenue corners between West 85th and 80th Streets; plus, an impressive number in prominent crosstown mid-blocks.
  • Next, merely at the halfway milestone, in the course of Gaetan Ajello’s nearly 20-year Manhattan architecture career, he designed more than 30 apartment buildings for several Upper West Side major developers, in particular, the Campagna brothers and the Paterno family; these included prominent West 83rd, 84th, and 85th Street corners.
  • Next, across West End Avenue, Neville & Bagge designed the adjacent West 83rd and 84th Streets corners.
  • Next, one block south, on West 82nd Street, Charles Birge designed the Selkirk, (a side-street, razor-thin or “sliver” building, of the time), originally an apartment hotel.
  • Next, the West Eighties concludes with two 1882 flats buildings, 410-12 West End Avenue, by Henry Andersen.
  • And finally, at 411 West End Avenue, on West 79th Street, is a complimentary dark-red brick flats building, with terra cotta accents, an early George F. Pelham, Jr. commission.

Boom-and-Bust Cycles’ Affect

The Great Depression-era brought a robust 40–year Upper West Side housing boom to its knees. And it remained at its nadir, until the late 1970s. Forty- five years after the stock market crash, not even Robert Moses’ massive, urban renewal projects, such for example as the Mitchell Lama housing development programs north of West 86th to 97th Streets, running along Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues; nor would the 1959 Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which dominates Lincoln Square, revive the moribund Upper West Side real-estate market. Almost universally, the area was thought to be the mid-1950s Broadway musical depiction, West Side Story.

Before the Upper West Side could regain a vestige of its former prestige, many spacious apartment house units had been subdivided, and their detailing removed by a tenant-to-owner co-ownership conversion—most of the new owners were without the means to move on, yet they had the budget UPPER WEST SIDE_________________________________________ 267

for modernizing. Well-appointed lobbies, relegated as things of the past as well, were replaced with less than appropriate refurbishing. Fortunately, the truly important apartment houses on the three residential avenues (though down on their heels), were not beyond restoration to their former selves. Throughout the mid-1930s to mid-1970s, the four Central Park West art deco twin-tower apartment houses held their own, too. For endless consecutive blocks, the West End Avenue and Riverside Drive and Broadway decorative (and obviously well-secured) façades fared fairly well: They retain their rich architectural beauty still. Although the upper-middle-class and fashionconscious residents had fled, meanwhile the intellectual and spiritual core Manhattanite, interested in the arts, as well as theater, concerts, and opera, stayed.

Gradually, beginning early in the 1970s, a more adventurous pioneer moved in. By the mid-1970s, an Upper East Side co-operative-conversion explosion overflowed to the Upper West Side, with young families taking advantage of the more reasonably priced, family-size apartments, and that trend continued unabated throughout the 1980s. The early 20th-century construction bonanza, however, had left too few prime sites available:

  • On Broadway, development was none existent between West 72nd to

86th Streets; and thereafter, limited to five building sites up to West

96th Street. They were less than enthusiastically developed and went slowly at that. So was the rental-to-condominium conversion of the Ansonia Hotel, and the commercial-to-residential-usage conversion of the landmark Dime Savings Bank site, across the way.

  • On Riverside Drive, from West 73rd to 74th Streets, the demolished Schwab mansion was developed as a red-brick 1960s complex. At West

78th Street, a white-brick, 21-story, post-war building went up, and the West 79th Street north corner, a six-story building received a facelift. Decades passed before another corner Riverside Drive site could be assembled—and then, it was in the West Nineties.

  • In West End Avenue, at West 81st Street, one post-war apartment house went up—but none other.
  • On Central Park West at West 68th Street, one rental apartment house was erected in the late 1960s.
  • Two Central Park West sites above West 88th Street were built out with a condominium building—but they took twenty years to coalesce.

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Two decades after Lincoln Center’s 1958 groundbreaking ceremony— steadily radiating south to Columbus Circle and north to Verdi Park—a bevy of Broadway apartment houses created two condominium tower canyons along Broadway, as well as between West 69th and 65th Streets, on Columbus Avenue. Picking up again on West 63rd and extending to 60th Street below

Lincoln Square. In ten additional years, a decade later, another consequential Upper West Side development site freed up to Lincoln Square’s west. It ran along the Hudson River and was above the West Side rail yard. Then, after a 25-year additional wait, the assemblage was complete for the last, prime, C.P.W. block where an exceptional apartment house could be developed. The

Mayflower Hotel occupied West 61st to 62nd Street, encompassing CentralPark West to Broadway. The hotel had a 100-year land lease. The expiration had to be waited out. (Meanwhile, on the Broadway frontage, a magnificent Beaux-Arts building was pulled down 30 years beforehand. What remained was a grey gravel lot surrounded by a 10-foot mesh storm fence where, once, a thriving music-publishing hub stood.)

The wait ended with a benefit because Robert A.M. Stern’s Fifteen Central Park West fit so well as a new southern anchor. Ten years more passed before several condominium towers (with rental apartment houses sprinkled here and there)—wherever residential real-estate developers could possibly assemble a building site to West 73rd Street’s north—were built gradually alongside Broadway’s venerable, grand belles. Further to the northnortheast, the late 1990s south Harlem revival brought a new influx of West Siders, without a preconceived notion of any prior social demarcation line. Not, anyway, as north of West 96th Street, extending from Central Park West to Riverside Drive; at least that distinction had been obliterated.