Archive for the ‘Upper East Side’ Category

Swingset and sandbox on the East River in 1901

July 17, 2014

Ashcan School painter Maurice Prendergast was known for his bold, colorful depictions of leisure and play in European and American cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This view of the East River looks like a tapestry or a mosaic.

Mauriceprendergasttheeastriver1

Is it showing Carl Schurz Park, on the Upper East Side? The way the land across the river looks, plus the small houses, could be Queens.

Update: David Patrick Columbia over at New York Social Diary took a look at the painting and wondering if this was Carl Schurz Park too. Here’s his investigation, with photos that seem to make the case.

East Side kid Harpo Marx recalls his tailor father

June 12, 2014

Young Groucho and Harpo Marx with a DogBefore he and his brothers hit comic paydirt, Adolph “Harpo” Marx (left, with Groucho) spent his early 1900s childhood in a tenement on East 93rd Street.

Though his family of 10 struggled, he credits his parents for not letting poverty make “any of us depressed or angry,” he wrote in 1961′s Harpo Speaks…about New York.

While his mother, Minnie, set out to make her boys stars, it was father Sam “Frenchie” Marx, an immigrant from Alsace-Lorraine, who helped keep the family together.

With Father’s Day approaching, here’s Harpo recalling his father’s warmth and magic in their tenement kitchen:

“Frenchie was the family housekeeper and cook. He was also the breadwinner. Frenchie was a tailor by trade. He was never able to own his own shop, and during the day his cutting table and sewing bench took up the whole dining room with lengths and scraps of materials overflowing in the kitchen.”

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“At six o’clock he quit whatever he was working on, in the middle of a stitch, and stashed his profession in the hall, materials, tools, tables and all, and turned to the task of making dinner for ten or eleven or sixteen people.”

Sammarxheadshot“With food he was a true magician. Given a couple of short ribs, a wilting cabbage, a handful of soup greens, a bag of chestnuts and a pinch of spices, he could conjure up miracles.”

“God, how fabulous the tenement smelled when Frenchie, chopping and ladling, sniffing and stirring and tasting, and forever smiling and humming to himself, got the kitchen up to full steam!”

Frenchie Marx (above in 1915, third from right) died in 1933 at age 73. He watched his sons become big stars, and he even had a cameo role in 1931′s Monkey Business.

Manhattan’s lonely little holdout buildings

May 31, 2014

These walkups were once the sought-after modern buildings of the block.

Now, they’re the holdouts—sometimes well-kept, often shabby reminders of an earlier New York that refuse to bow to the wrecking ball.

Holdoutswestmidtown

Without these low-rise survivors, many more city streets would be a boring canyon of uniform buildings.

The two tenement holdouts in the top photo, on West 36th Street, have had their side exteriors raked over by developers. Yet these 19th century stalwarts refuse to go.

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Nestled between two limestone apartment houses is this Upper Fifth Avenue beauty, holding its own across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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On Eighth Avenue at 39th Street is this blue former townhouse, now a commercial building. It makes the block resemble a gap-tooth smile.

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This three-story sliver on lower Seventh Avenue in Chelsea is a bit of a mystery. It’s architecturally the same as the building next door, which houses the Rubin Museum.

Yet it’s painted the same color as the former Loehmann’s store on the other side, being renovated into Barneys once again.

Check out more holdout buildings here, and of course, the most famous of all the holdouts—the one in the middle of Macy’s.

Is this the ugliest brownstone in Chelsea?

April 7, 2014

The iconic New York brownstone, with its high stoop and decorative cornice, made its appearance in the early 19th century and quickly became a stylish, single-family home favorite.

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Over the decades, some have been updated, their facades altered and made over to suit their owners’ tastes.

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There’s this Modernist example in Turtle Bay, the concrete grill townhouse in the East 60s, and the futuristic bubble-window brownstone in the East 70s.

But what explains the refrigerator unit-like redesign of this home, part of a beautiful stretch of three-story row houses dating back to the turn of the last century?

Perhaps its super comfy inside. And a garage—that can be convenient.

Here’s the price (and photos) of the upper duplex, courtesy of a Corcoran listing.

1970s city store signs that burst with color

March 24, 2014

Treat yourself to a Monday morning explosion of old-school color—courtesy of these New York store signs that give off a very 1970s vibe.

Acepumpsign

Ace Pump got its start in 1936, and still deals in engineering supplies on superluxe 21st Street in Chelsea.

20thcenturygaragesign

I’ve always loved the 20th Century Garage sign, as well as its name, which must have sounded very modern at one time. It’s near Tudor City on East 48th Street. It looks like it was made before the 1970s, no?

Jeromefloristsign

Jerome Florist, on 96th Street and Madison Avenue, has been selling arrangements to Upper East Siders (and the area’s abundance of hospitals) since 1929.

Capitalelectronicssign

Once known as Capital Audio & Electronics, this Duane Street shop took the electronics out of its name, perhaps to sound less 1970s-ish.

Vernonavepharmacysign

Pharmacy signs like this one in Queens—no-frills, no brand names, with a neighborhood vibe—have mostly disappeared from city streets.

The noisy sea lion kicked out of Central Park

September 23, 2013

SealionspoolvintageBy all accounts, Joe the sea lion was living the good life.

In 1935, he was the lone male bunking with four females at the Central Park Zoo.

This was the height of the Depression, but Joe had plenty of zookeeper-delivered fish to munch on.

The problem was, Joe was noisy. He barked a lot, and that riled up the female sea lions, so they barked too.

All this barking disturbed Joe’s rich Fifth Avenue human neighbors.

Centralparkzoosealions1940sZoo officials had to do something. “Wearied by the constant flow of complaints from apartment houses across Fifth Avenue and a little bored themselves at the recurrent barking under their windows, park officials in the Arsenal decided to see if the removal of the master would not have a quieting effect on the four females in the ‘seal’ pool,” wrote The New York Times on December 14, 1935.

It took an entire day, but the baited him with fish, trapped him in a box, and then headed for Brooklyn.

No word on whether he liked his new home at the Prospect Park Zoo, where Joe shared quarters with one female and another “equally big and imperious male.”

[Images are not of Joe but vintage snaps of the sea lion pool at Central Park; bottom from the City of New York Parks & Recreation Department]

Manhattan’s tiniest enchanting historic district

August 29, 2013

89thandlexsignAt the northwest corner of Lexington Avenue and 89th Street is a teeny stretch of landmarked homes.

It’s so quiet and under the radar, it’s not even marked by signs.

Designated 15 years ago, the Hardenbergh-Rhinelander Historic District is comprised of just seven Renaissance Revival–style houses completed in 1889.

89thandlexhistoric

Standing on the corner, you can imagine that the entire Carnegie Hill neighborhood once was lined with similarly lovely, ornate residences.

89thandlexcorner2“[The houses] are characteristic of the residential development of the Carnegie Hill-Yorkville area that had been spurred by transportation and street improvements in the late nineteenth century,” states the Friends of the Upper East Side website.

“Clad in red brick, brownstone and red terra cotta, the six houses form a picturesque yet symmetrical composition featuring a variety of window entrance enframements and a lively roofline composed of prominent pediments and modillioned cornices with pierced parapets and finials.

“The flats building located behind the houses and facing 89th Street, is clad in similar materials, has a complementary architectural vocabulary, and is dominated by a broken pediment/cornice surmounted by a pedimented window.”

89thandlexwindowOkay, so who were Hardenbergh and Rhinelander?

Henry Hardenbergh, who designed the homes, also designed the Dakota, the original Waldorf-Astoria on 34th Street, and many other beautiful late 19th century city buildings.

The Rhinelanders were an old New York family that owned vast amounts of real estate. Two Rhinelander enclaves in Greenwich Village, bulldozed decades ago, can be found here.

The tragedy of the “loveliest woman in America”

July 8, 2013

© Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporationIn 1923, Rosamond Pinchot was a 19-year-old with lots of opportunities in life.

Tall and golden-haired, she lived in a townhouse on East 81st Street and attended exclusive Miss Chapin’s School.

Then, on a ship, she had a fateful encounter. She was returning to New York from a trip to Europe with her mother when theater bigwig Max Reinhardt spotted her.

Reinhardt wanted her as the lead in a play he would be directing on Broadway, The Miracle, about a nun who leaves her convent.

With no dramatic experience, she accepted the offer, skipping her official debut into society in favor of the stage.

Later that year, the play opened at the Century Theater on Central Park West. Rosamond blew everyone away.

Dubbed the “loveliest woman in America,” Rosamond became an It Girl of the 1920s and the toast of Hollywood.

Rosamondpinchot2She played the part for three years and took roles in other productions, until 1926, when she quit acting to do “serious” work.

She tried her hand at a variety of things: She studied history in college, sold real estate, then returned to the stage several times and made her only film appearance in 1935′s The Three Musketeers.

She also got married in 1928 to the grandson of a former Massachusetts governor and had two sons.

The marriage didn’t last—and her separation from her husband in 1936 “deeply affected” her.

Rosamond made her last theatrical appearance in 1937. The next year, at age 33, she committed suicide by poisoning herself with carbon monoxide in her garage on her estate in Long Island.

A note was left behind, but the contents were never divulged.

The Gilded Age past of a Central Park gate

June 3, 2013

Central Park’s Conservatory Garden is a magical place. Divided into three separate gardens designed in Italian, French, and English styles, it’s a quiet zone with lovely walkways and fountains.

Conservatorygardengates

The main entrance to the garden on Fifth Avenue between 104th and 105th Streets, is through Vanderbilt Gate.

Impressive, right? Made in France, it’s “considered one of the finest examples of wrought iron work in New York City,” states centralparknyc.com.

CorneliusvanderbiltIImansion

It’s original home, however, wasn’t the Conservatory Garden. The gate was created to serve as the imposing front entrance to Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s magnificent mansion. (Not to be confused with another Vanderbilt house palace several blocks south.)

That mansion, the largest private residence ever built in New York City, stood at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street from 1883 to 1927, after which it was bulldozed to make way for Bergdorf Goodman.

Luckily the gate was repurposed and installed at the garden, a fitting entrance for an enchanting spot.

[Top photo: Central Park Conservatory]

Mysterious male names over tenement doorways

May 13, 2013

Ever notice that when a tenement building has a name, it tends to be female? Bertha, Florence, Rose, Sylvia—names popular at the turn of the last century, when so many tenements were built, are etched above doorways all over the city.

But a handful of tenements buck the trend and appear to be named for a man. Is it the developer himself, or just a random name that happen to appeal to circa-1900 ears?

Jerometenementname

I wonder if that’s the case with Jerome. It’s the name of a tenement in Morningside Heights, perhaps a nod to Leonard Jerome, a flashy 19th century financier whose name still graces a park and thoroughfare in the Bronx? He’s also the grandfather of Winston Churchill.

Theodoretenementname

Theodore, on the Upper East Side, could be a tribute to Theodore Roosevelt. Or the builder’s son or brother?

Rogertenementname

The Roger, on 160th Street and Edgecombe Avenue in Washington Heights, is named for Roger Morris, a British army colonel who fought in the French and Indian War.

In the 1760s, he retired to an Upper Manhattan estate (now known as the Morris-Jumel Mansion) that still stands today.

Edgarcourttenementname

I don’t know who Edgar was or why a tenement on West 125th Street was named for him. But instead of the name being carved above the door, it’s laid in tile on the floor.


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