When Audubon settled in Upper Manhattan

After Birds of America earned him success and money, ornithologist and painter John James Audubon bought an estate for himself and his family in 1842 roughly around today’s West 150s.

Nine miles north of the city center, he called it Minniesland, after his wife.

“Audubon’s original purchase was a fourteen-acre right triangle that began on the flat land at the crest of the Heights just north of Carmansville and slightly west of the Kingsbridge Road, at a point in the center of the intersection of present-day Amsterdam Avenue and 155th Street,” states the Audubon Park Historic District website.

It sounds like paradise, which makes it all the more unfortunate that after Audubon’s death in 1851, his widow was forced to sell the land.

In the 1850s, Minniesland (above, in 1864, from the Audubon Park Historic District website), was carved up into Audubon Park, a neighborhood of villas. At the turn of the century, row houses and apartment buildings came in. The Audubon house disappeared by the 1930s.

Today, the neighborhood “bears no resemblance to the wooded vale that John James Audubon bought in 1841 and deeded to his wife, Lucy,” reports the Audubon Park Historic District website.

“The ancient elms and oaks that towered above dogwood and tulip trees on the hillside and the tall pines nearer the water, the streams that flowed through ponds and over a waterfall before joining the river, the enclosures where deer and elk mingled with domestic animals are long gone, displaced in stages of development and progress that culminated in the cityscape that exists today.”

Upper Manhattan hasn’t forgotten its famous resident (at left). Audubon Avenue and Audubon Terrace memorialize him, and Audubon himself is buried in Trinity Cemetery at 155th Street.

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4 Responses to “When Audubon settled in Upper Manhattan”

  1. MSpady Says:

    Come back in just a few weeks and you can take a picture of the Audubon Park Historic District signs. (interesting bit of trivia: Audubon’s tomb on the eastern side of Trinity Cemetery lines up with Audubon Avenue, which ends 10 blocks north. The plan was to extend Audubon Avenue down to 155th so that it would begin at the tomb. Unfortunately, city financing didn’t materialize and that never happened.)

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    I will–and thank you for your very informative site about Audubon Park!

  3. Flooey Says:

    Another interesting bit of trivia, Audubon’s house was dismantled and moved to make way for further development of the area in 1931. From there, it disappeared, and nobody knows what happened to it.

  4. The uptown Museum Row no one knows about | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] the time, this area of Upper Manhattan, once part of the estate of artist James Audubon in the 1840s, was being developed into a residential […]

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