Historic Districts of the Upper West Side

The two eastern and five adjacent, western historic districts encompassing town houses and apartment houses, built in the late 1800s, where beforehand only rustic, rocky, rolling hills or sheer cliffs terrain existed.

These seven Upper West Side historic districts are within the Central Park West and Riverside Drive (the eastern and western corridor), with their adjacent blocks as two wide, protected landmark swath.

As a major portion of the Upper West Side, these residential areas capture Manhattan’s late nineteenth-century, upper-middle-class northward migration, which redefined the West End’s character and morphed into today’s social diverse Upper West Side.

A brief survey of the Upper West Side development as well as the social changes in Morningside Heights, the northernmost neighborhood, are contained as separate portions in Navigating Manhattan, a section of our Neighborhoods department and I’m Still Standing, the sales brochures of their day.

The economic cycles, public transportation, and great fires timelines, important elements in the migration north, is delineated in Timelines and Sidebars as well.

The West End area’s first town-house-building boom cycle, after the Civil War, had far-reaching effects for many Manhattan single-family-dwelling residents. Soon, they gave rise to the extensive variety within the town-house architectural vernacular of its day.

The grand avenue apartment houses, lining Central Park West, West End Avenue, and Riverside Drive following the even grander (and earlier) Broadway Beaux Arts-era innovative multiple-family dwellings, set a very high standard for other Manhattan neighborhoods.

Numerous developers hired Manhattan’s finest architects (Clarence True and C.P.H. Gilbert, to name two) to design their first-class single-dwelling housing projects, along the Central-Park-West-to-Columbus-Avenue, as well as the Riverside-Drive-to-West-EndAvenue block fronts.

These landmark buildings’ development is discussed within our Upper West Side town house survey in Navigating Manhattan galleries and text. The effect Central Park, the cornerstone of Manhattan neighborhoods and Riverside Park, another anchor, is discussed to a greater extent, too.

Furthermore, the five presently unattached Riverside-Drive—therefore, west-of-

Broadway—historic districts’ proposed extension to incorporate the entire West 70thStreet-to-West-107th-Street corridor as a contiguous preserve, is under review by the Landmark Commission, as “a distinct section of the city.”

As with the Central Park West Historic District, the plethora of simply significant singlefamily dwellings and the wealth of West End Avenue apartment houses, (also included are remarkable apartment house designs, by Gaetano Ajello, his disciple, Rosario Candella, George F. Pelham, Jr., and Boak & Paris), would be equally overwhelming to describe fully again here.

Though ownership of land parcels within the historic districts abutting Riverside Park were transferred throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, they continued in use as either country seats or farms until being conveyed during the 1850s and 1860s in smaller parcels and lots, but still largely remained farmland until 1880.

Our Upper West Side About Manhattan survey, however, does describe the West-EndAvenue-boom-to-bust cycles, between 1860 to its IRT-construction development phases (1904), which influenced the proposed inclusive Riverside Drive-West End Avenue Historic District development. Especially informative are the individual I’m Still Standing apartment house plans and rental brochures, between 1903 and 1923, for the Upper West Side and Broadway.

The present historic districts’ boundaries are, as follows:

At the eastern edge.

The Upper West Side-Central Park West Historic District spans Central Park West, from West 62nd to West 96th Street, to the east and, to the west, zigzagging between Central Park West and Broadway, then at 66th to 72nd Street, along Amsterdam Avenue, to 84th Street, and only in the Central-Park-West-to-the-Columbus-Avenue mid-block, from 87th to 96th Street

As well as 2,000 buildings, a vast majority dwellings, this historic district evokes the distinctive architectural qualities and enlivens the vibrant social character that is the Upper West Side,

By its inclusion of the four distinguished twin towers along Central Park West; and the Central-Park-West- to-Columbus Avenue block, encompassing an enormous residentialside-street architectural varieties, from 1910 to 1929; both Columbus and Amsterdam Avenue commercial strips; and, the grand avenue monuments through thoroughly modern multiple-family-dwelling types, which are juxtaposed to innovative apartment houses, create a mosaic that pinpoints this neighborhood’s development.

Upper West Side-Central Park West Map || Info (Vol. 1) || Info (Vol. 2)

The Manhattan Avenue Historic District tracks West 104th to West 106th Street, on the avenue’s west side, and West 105th and 106th only, on its east side

With its architectural harmony and modest scaled, Manhattan Avenue Historic District is a picture-perfect tableau vivant of yesteryear’s Upper West Side.

Speculative developers were contracted to build these brick-and-stone houses, which liberally borrowed several revival-style elements, such as terra-cotta-sunburst reliefs, and incorporating more common cornices, with metal bay windows, rusticated-stone stoops, and wrought-iron railings.

Manhattan Avenue Historic District Map || Info

At the western edge

West 71st Street Historic District, covering 71st Street, on the north and south sides, is accessed from West End Avenue and was only developed between 1893 and 1896, these 33-row houses, designed by four architectural, were built as a harmonious unit in six groups. Each house varies, though all within the Renaissance Revival style vocabulary. West 71st Street Map || Info

West End-Collegiate Historic District encompasses Riverside Drive, between West 74th to West 77th Streets, on the west, West End Avenue, along its west side, from West 75th to West 78th Street, and juts east, in the West-78th-Street-to-West-79th-Street midblock, and includes a major portion of West 74th Street, in the Riverside-Drive-to-WestEnd-Avenue mid-block, as well as West 76th to West 77th Streets, along the West-EndAvenue-to-Broadway block.

West End- Collegiate Map || Info

Riverside Drive-West 80th-to-81st Street Historic District extends along Riverside Drive, from the 79th-to-West-80th-Street mid-point, and then to 81st Street, and includes both Riverside-to-West-End-Avenue mid-blocks

Riverside Drive-West 80th-81st Street Map || Info

Riverside Drive-West End Historic District spans Riverside Drive, from 85th to 96th Street, to the west, and zigzagging between the West-End-Avenue-Broadway mid-block, from 87th Street to 94th Street, and again returning west to Riverside Drive.

Riverside-West End Map || Info

West 105th Street Historic District runs along Riverside Drive, from 105th to 106th

Street, and irregularly in the Riverside-Drive-to-West-End-Avenue mid-block, on both West 105th and West 106th Streets

Built under a covenant restricting the houses character, between 1899 and 1902, so that each improvement shall be of a suitable character, and such are a benefit to the neighborhood.

Together, the façades visual integrity, strong horizontal cornice lines, mansard roofs, wrought iron balconies, English basements, at street level, and bowed masonry bays create a gentle rhythm, as the street slopes down from West End Avenue to Riverside Drive.

The harmonious streetscape continues along Riverside Drive, and on 106th Street. Though generally larger and taller, these are only equally imposing, which was not accidental.

Riverside-West 105th Street Map || Info

Additional National Register Historic Districts

West 67th Street Artists’ Colony Historic District

Period of Significance: 1900-1924

1 to 39 and 40 to 50 West 67th Street

West 73rd-74th Street Historic District

Period of Significance: 1925-1949, 1900-1924, 1875-1899

73rd to 74th Street, at Columbus Avenue

Pomander Walk District

Period of Significance: 1925-1949

261-267 West 94th Street and 260-274 West 95th Street