Manhattan’s long-gone San Juan Hill

Before Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant became the largest African-American communities in the city, there was San Juan Hill. Centered around Amsterdam Avenue and 62nd Street, it was home to thousands of working-class and poor black New Yorkers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The neighborhood’s name supposedly came from an all-black cavalry unit that fought at the battle of San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. These photos were taken in the 1940s:

Like most parts of the city then, San Juan Hill’s streets were lined with tenements. There was a vibrant jazz scene, but also racial tension at the turn of the century with whites on the east side of Amsterdam.

As a June 1905 New York Times headline put it: “Black and White War in Crowded District: West Side Blocks Under Nightstick Law for Hours.” The article implies that this happened frequently back then.

San Juan Hill met its demise after World War II. First, several blocks were demolished to make way for the Amsterdam Houses, a pretty typical red-brick, high-rise public housing complex.

Then, in the 1950s, much of the neighborhood was deemed a slum, and it was torn down to make way for Lincoln Center.

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100 Responses to “Manhattan’s long-gone San Juan Hill”

  1. Joe R Says:

    You can see the remnants of that neighborhood in the film version of “West Side Story”. The Jets and Sharks did their thing there just before the houses were demolished for Lincoln Center.

  2. Nicholas West Says:

    Probably the most famous resident of San Juan Hill was jazz musician Thelonious Monk, who moved to the area when he was a child in 1924. He lived at 243 W 63rd St between 10th & 11th Ave his entire life until his death in 1982.

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  4. kasha Says:

    Thelonius Monk lived at 110th and Edgecomb and played nightly at Mittens playhouse. The home he lived in upstairs was also where my grandad lived they played together

  5. mat Says:

    there is no such place as 110th and edgecomb – where did you get that one?

  6. Joe R Says:

    Mat is right about the address. Edgecombe Avenue starts somewhere in the 140’s, just north of CCNY. Also, there’s a great documentary about Monk called “Straight No Chaser”. It shows scenes of Monk walking around his neighborhood – the area just west of Lincoln Center. That little dead-end piece of W 63rd is actually renamed after Thelonius Sphere Monk.
    Kasha may be partly right as Edgecombe Avenue goes through the Harlem area known as Sugar Hill. Many prominent jazz musicians have lived in this area, and perhaps Monk rode uptown (taking the A train, of course) to visit or jam with his fellow musicians there.

  7. What’s in a Name (or a Neighborhood)? Says:

    […] a new name. Usually, neighborhoods don’t simply appear, but they have been known to disappear. San Juan Hill was once the name of a thriving working class neighborhood on Manhattan’s west side; it was […]

  8. Marsha Says:

    The Monk lived on the Upper West Side in what was then called Old San Juan Hill. There are still a few old timers in the now ‘glitzed up’ neighborhood who can give you an oral history and recount seeing him around here. The landlords haven’t run all of us out yet.

  9. Sandra Says:

    I remember it when it was being torn to build Lincoln Center. I still have some old photo’s. I grew up in that neighborhood, actually, in the projects that is Amsterdam Housing Projects… Now you can’t even see Central Park from any of the Windows like we used to. So many buildings, so many old ones torn down….

  10. CLAIREMONT HENRY Says:

    I grew up on W. 64 ST.at 218 then we moved to 226 until 1940 when all the houses were condemed except the Phipps houses, to build the Amsteredam Houses.I knew Monk personally Monk lived at 243 W. 63 ST. in the Phipps houses ,which are still there today. the Phipps buildings were four buildings in W. 63 st and four buildings in 64 st.,back to back with a court between them.

  11. mattucee Says:

    As Joe R. mentioned you can see remnants of San Juan Hill in the movie version of “West Side Story.” In fact, the musical was actually based on this neighborhood!

  12. Bill Pace Says:

    The 243 W 63 folks are right. Just found him on the nearly released 1940 Census records. He, his mother, and sister are listed, he at 28 with musician as occupation and dancehalls as place of business. The Enumerated Number, which is needed for the search is 31-621 (they’re on page 16 of the 44 in that file.)

  13. r. matos Says:

    I lived on 63rd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues just east of the half way mark of that street. I can recall a Fire Station which was relocated to Amsterdam Avenue when Lincoln Center was being built. My parents owned the grocery store across the street from the old fire station. This was back in the 50’s. I remember the triangle park across from the Hotel Empire where my father worked. He also has a picture of him and my older brother in that park. These were wonderful times until being displaced just prior to the construction of Lincoln Center. Everyone knew each other and looked out for each other. The firemen would allow the kids to climb the fire trucks and even slide down the pole. There was no internet or color tvs back then but we had lots of fun.

    • Vicente Velez Says:

      Matos comments bring back long lost memories. I Iived next door to his fathers grocery store ,and remember his father when he attended the store .We lived in 263 in front of the fire house.,played stick ball in front of the store. My parents name were Julia & Gonzalo .my brothers were Hector And Gonzy>our apt was on the fourth floor right side.The Bar mentioned in other comments was the “Capo Bar’.my mother often baby sit for some of the girls who worked there. Matos ” Hay que vivir la vida Para recordarla”

  14. T-Up2 Says:

    What’s really missing is the feeling and the emotion of the neighborhood, which r. matos described so well.

    I remember the corner pharmacy, Broadway & 60th–it’s now a Starbucks! Go figure. They had everything.

    There was also a great bar a few doors down, can’t remember the name, though, but it was a great neighborhood bar to enjoy a Reingold & have a sandwich. We used to call it the “Workingman’s Bar” because of the many construction workers building Lincoln Center who’d drop by for a quick “POP.” “A Little Nip,” as we’d say back in the day. And you could actually smoke a cigarette!

    Gone are all the old places & neighborhoods–those things that made the city great …. I won’t even go into TRUPM–the rump–Towers or International, or the Plaza’s Oyster Bar…. Hey, times change. Time waits for no man. All I can say is, ya shoulda been there.

  15. dan leddy Says:

    lived at 216 w. 62nd st, apt.4-a, up to age 10, left approx 1956 or 1957. great neighborhood, great neighbors and great memories.

    • Michael Meehan Says:

      Do you remember the Jennings family, the Burkes, the Downeys, the Gallaghers, the Lutz families? They all lived in 62nd St. near where you say you lived.

      I lived around the corner at 67 Amsterdam Ave till the wrecking ball started swinging. Would still be there had it not been for the demands of the gentry. They did not want to hear our voices and pleas. So, now, they have their way and listen to the voices of the Opera Companys. It is nice to know how much compassion exist in the art World. Very little.

      • Dan leddy Says:

        Hi Michael. I don’t recognize any of those names. The only names I do recall lived at 216; the Murray’s, Dugan,s, Collier,s and trematozzi,s (probably butchered that spelling.). I remember Amsterdam Ave. as a thriving shopping area. There was a bar on the corner of Amsterdam and 62nd called the green something or other and a whole line of retail stores down the whole block.

      • Pat Pyke Harris (westsidegirl) Says:

        Dan (and Michael M.),

        I’m familiar with the names Lutz and Burke but I’m not sure if they came from 62nd or 63rd. My family moved in 1959. At the time my sister Anne was 15 and my little brother Tommy was 10. We lived on 65th and Amsterdam (174 West 65 Street, right across the street from Commerce High School).

        It’s sad to drive past the old neighborhood and see little, if anything, left of my childhood memories.

      • Michael Meehan Says:

        Yes, it is sad to remember what we once had. Life has been good to me so I guess it has been a good trade off. We don’t know what we might have missed and perhaps we are fortunate we did miss some aspects of living in that neighborhood. I did have some rather unsavory events happen and those memories are embedded in my mind.

        I remember your sister, Anne, very well. I had a crush on her. She and Eileen Sullivan 69 Amsterdam Ave. were BFF. We all graduated in 1958 from St. Paul The Apostle. Best school and best teachers (Holy Cross Nuns) in the solar system.

        I had a bunch of first cousins in 63rd St. a few years older than me. The Edwards family …eventually grew to be 14 kids in the family.

        Has Muffie Meyer of MiddleMarch films contacted you? She is looking for old pictures and memories of the neighborhood. I was asked to participate in her Documentary. Stood on the plaza of Lincoln Center at 62nd street and was asked a slew of questions pertaining to the time before Lincoln Center was built.

        Presently I live in Toms River. A 55 plus community…enhhh !!!!

        Mickey Meehan

      • Pats Optimum Email Says:

        Michael,

        I so enjoyed your comments, especially about my beautiful little sister, Anne. Unfortunately, my sister passed away in June of 2013. She was still beautiful and it was a great loss. Eileen often visited Anne and the family after they moved to Long Island in 1959. I had already married in 1956 and moved to New Jersey. I married Jack Harris. He was born and raised on 60th Street (also a St. Paul’s boy). We were married for 55 years until he passed away in 2011.

        I remember the Edwards family mostly because they had do many kids. I also remember the Griffins, Eddie, Tommy, and their older brother Joey. There were several families in the neighborhood with large families back in the day. But there were only three of us, Anne, Tommy, and I.

        I haven’t been contacted by any film maker but I certainly have a wealth of memories. Mine go back much further than yours as I was 8 years older than Anne, having been born in 1936.

        It’s been a pleasure hearing your memories and your thoughts on growing up in Manhattan, especially since you knew my beautiful sister.

        Sent from my iPad

        >

      • Michael Meehan Says:

        I think I remember you. There was Charlie’s Soda shop and the Chinese Laundry right there. Opposite from you was the
        Ever Ready Warehouse. The Matassa family lived o the ground floor. The Reid family was 1 or 2 doors up towards Columbus Ave. I graduated from St. Paul’s in 1958. Passed the test to go to Power Memorial but did not have enough confidence in myself. It was a great neighborhood. The Green Gables BAR was at the corner. The men in there were always buying soda for the kids in the neighborhood. They were from the depression era and never forgot what that was like. And of course the men and women who served in jWWII were great people. All my uncles served in the war and lived very patriotic and grateful lives afterwards.

  16. Cheryl Says:

    Academics and other people who weren’t there, squeeze the life out of things. Slum misrepresents. I came to in the City (from NJ) in the ’70s. It wasn’t clean and homogenized. It was better. Infinitely so. Unique, human, real, sophisticated & edgy. And a cultural mix – that mixed. I dug around enough to know I wish I could have seen San Juan Hill in the ’40s & ’50s . That must have been a time.

  17. I. Hawkins Says:

    Was St. Cyprians Chapel, where my parents were married in 1916 torn down or repurposed?

  18. Vicente Velez Says:

    Read R Matos comments I too lived next to his fathers grocery store [263 63rd st in front of the fire house, one of the firemen lived in 264. this was back in the early fifties.His comments bring back a lot of memories . His mother and father often attended the grocery atore We lived on the right side of the fourth floor> My Parents name were Julia & Gonzalo

  19. Tony Says:

    I grew up there at 15 west 65th street; 1950 to 1967. A group of decrepit brownstones on the doorstep of the well-to-do west side. Great proximity to Central Park which as I remember was pretty much unused back then so it was a sanctuary for me from the hovels. My best memories are the boyhood adventures I had in the park with my friends; fishing in the lake.

  20. Steve Smith Says:

    The Fordham University Annex must occupy a portion of this old neighborhood as well.

    • nestor cataquer Says:

      i was a teen when MY hood was destroyed for the construction of lincohn ctr. i remember the joy we had of playing stickball along 65 st and against the high school wall, the skating on four wheel skates, going to the ymca in the winter,swimming on one of its two pools n coming out with our heads wet, it was fun. we were spread all over the five boros, lost all my friends n things were never the same. i attended ps 94, ps 17 and ps 44 schools. the only thing still standing is a church on 66 street

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  23. nila_roldan@yahoo.com Says:

    before lincohn ctr we lived on the south side of 65 st. there were a lot of brownstone buildings n a few regulars ones,an irish pub, a puerto rican restaurant (160 w 65 st.) n a candy store.on the southeast corner of amsterdan n 65 st there was a bodega. on broadway 64 n 65 sts there was a one floor movie house were spanish films were shown. on the north side of 65 st there was commercial high school where we played stickball against the wall we frequented the community ctr on the amsterdan houses (64 st).This was to keep teens off gangs This is the hood where i opened my eyes.:skating, bicycling n swimming on the dirty waters of the hudson river (59 st.) we would go to the tivoli n chelsea theaters n watch thee movies for 25 cents n three cartoons. .where are my friends? alex elsa elsie , huito ernesto guillermo angel n others After we were moved or thrown out I returned n saw the demolition going on n it was really sad for me.does this rings a bell out there? my name is cataquet

    .

  24. Pat Pyke Harris Says:

    I love everyone’s memories. I lived at 174 west 65 Street. Our front room (living room) faced Amsterdm Avenue. Our entrance was across from Commerce High School. I went to P.S. 94 on west 68 Street. Across the street (on Amsterdam was a restaurant called the Roxy. On the same side was Ederle’s pork store, a butcher, Fred’s groceries , a shoe store called Larry’s and a bar on the corner of 64th Street and Amsterdam. I loved the old neighborhood. We had very little in the way of material things but I was happy and didn’t have a clue that we were poor. I wouldn’t change a thing. Thank God for our memories.

    • Michael Meehan Says:

      The bar at the corner of 64th St. was McGuirs, there was another at the north west corner named Lawlors. Those places were the Internet of their time. Then there was the annual Italian Feast on 67th St. the library on 68th. and the Police Station (18th pct ?) on 68 between Amsterdam and Broadway. My family, both my mother’s and my father’s were born and lived in that neighborhood and all went to St Paul The Apostle.

  25. Maureen Says:

    Born and raised 208 west 60th street. I remember when Fordham University was built.

  26. Pat Pyke Harris Says:

    Maureen, my husband, Jack Harris, was born and raised in 147 West 60 Street. He went to St. Paul the Apostle grammar school which was across the street from his house and around the corner from the church.

  27. Enid Gonzalez Says:

    I lived in 40 Amsterdam. I also attended St. Paul’s the Apostle. I also come out in the BEATLES ANTHOLOGY since the people in charge of filming the Beatles were not allowed on The Ed Sullivan show due to union issues. So they had to find a home that was going to be watching The Beatles for their first appearance in the US. So they showed up at the Amsterdam projects. Go to youtube and key in Eva and Enid Gonzalez. It would be “live in the living room”. I LOVE THAT NEIGHBORHOOD. I live in Puerto Rico.

  28. Pat Pyke Harris Says:

    Enid, what a great experience for you and your family. I watched the video, it’s terrific, something you’ll never forget. My mother’s best friend, Peggy Walsh, lived in 70 Amsterdam Avenue in the projects. Her daughters were Donna and Sherry Walsh, they also went to St. Paul’s.

  29. Jim S. Says:

    Jim says he played roller hockey with the Black Hawks in the projects in the early 60’s. Went to Power Memorial.

  30. Dore Says:

    I grew up at 100 West 71st and went to PS 94. I think I was in the last class to graduate from there before they tore that down too. My mom graduated from there too. I miss my old neighborhood. We all knew eachother.

  31. Tony B Says:

    I went to grammar school for 8 yrs. at Blessed Sacrament on 70th and B’way. I grew up on 65th street between Central Pk West and Columbus Ave between 1950 and 1964. I have been searching for photos of that street during that time period but so far no luck. If anyone could point me in the right direction I I would really appreciate it. Thanks.

  32. Tiny Says:

    I grew up on 66th street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue in a four story walk-up between the St. Nicholas Arena and what is now ABC studios. I attended PS 94 and JHS 44. My school chorus attended the ground breaking for Lincoln Center. I attended Blessed Sacrament Church on 70th street. Yes, the neighborhood was wonderful. We were displaced so that ABC could expand.

    Re: Thelonius Monk- yes at some point he lived in the Phipps houses behind the Amsterdam houses.

    I enjoyed finding and reading the comments on this blog.

  33. Anne Marie Fox-Cody Says:

    Pat Pyke,,,I knew Peggy Walsh, she was a sister in law to my uncle. I grew up with Donna and Sherry. I lived @ 67 Amsterdam Ave til the age of 8. That was when our entire neighborhood was forced to move due to construction of Lincoln Ctr. My entire extended family lived within two blocks of one another. I have been doing some research on trying to find some “true” pictures of the area. The ones that are featured at the top of this blog do not depict the area of the west side where I lived or where Lincoln Center was built. I too went to St. Paul the Apostle as did my father and my three older brothers. My great grandparents lived on W 62nd, between Amsterdam and 9th when they emigrated to USA from Ireland. Their children, grand children ad great grandchildren all lived within two blocks. Lincoln Center did not only tear apart a neighborhood, it tore apart generations of families

  34. Pat Pyke Harris Says:

    Anne Marie, so happy to see your comment. Peggy, who,lived with Ken Walsh and her family at 70 Amsterdam was my mother’s closest friend. I remember pushing Donna and Sherry in their baby carriages. I think Sherry was my brother Tommy’s age. They were a great family. Peggy and Ken visited my husband Jack and I when we were married and lived in New Jersey, but after my mother passed, we lost touch. I lived at 174 West 65 Street right across the street from Commerce High School. I swam in the 59th Street pool and went to basketball games at Haaren High (now part of John Jay College). My husband, Jack, grew up at 147 West 60 Street, he went to St. Paul’s, the church where he and I were married. In fact, we had our wedding reception at the Empire Hotel on Columbus and 63 Street. I remember the RKO Colonial on 63 Street and the Lowes Lincoln Squre on 65 th and Broadway. also the Alden on 67th, which later became the Regency. Unfortunately it’s been torn to to,make way for a new movie complex. I knew several families whose last name was Fox. We had an older woman who lived at 174″ her name was Nanny Fox, I never knew her first name. We just called her Nanny. I love hearing from people who actually came from the old neighborhood. Thanks for sharing your memories, Anne Marie, I look forward to hearing more about your family’s life on the old West Side. Sincerely, Pat Pyke Harris

    • Anne Marie Fox-Cody Says:

      Pat Pyke…”Nanny Fox” was my great grandmother. Her name was Mary, She was married to my paternal great grandfather. Nanny was a young widow left with two sons and a daughter to raise. I have recently started research on Ancestry and I found her application for naturalization and her picture was on the application. Nanny passed before we left the west side.

      My uncle by marriage is Kens brother. I am in touch with Donna and David Walsh via FB.

      Before the construction of Lincoln Center we lived @ 67 Amsterdam, between 61st and 62nd. My father John was born and raised on 61st between 9th and 10th. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins all lived on the block. I remember the 59th Street Pool. Rudleys Luncheonette on Columbus, Grace Institute where my mom worked, trips to Guggenheim Dental School (not one of my favorite memories) and many other spots that are no longer. I remember the walks up the avenue to go to the movies @ The Beacon. A couple of years ago I went to a concert @ The Beacon. It was so strange sitting there and remembering seeing Disney movies there when younger. Many fond memories of my time there and feeling safe walking out my door because all of my family was there and neighbors looked out for everyone. Many broken hearts when Lincoln Center came in.

      Your husband may have known my older brother Johnny. He graduated Paulist Fathers in ’57, my brother Tommy in ’58. My third brother graduated in ’60. I went there until third grade. If he did not know my brother I am sure there are many names/families that we have in common.

      My finding this site proves what a small world it is…..Anne Marie

  35. Pat Pyke Harris Says:

    Anne Marie, so happy to hear your wonderful memories. My family lived in the same building as Nanny. She was wonderful, so sweet. I would often go into her apartment and listen to the radio with her when I was a little girl. My husband, Jack, passed away almost four years ago. We were married for 55 years. I’m much older than you are so I would not know your brothers (I’ll be 79 in May). You talk about the Beacon Theater, my husband and I went there often, as well as to the RKO Colonial on 63thd Street and the Loew’s Lincoln Square which was up the street from the building I lived in (174). As I said, Donna’s mom, Peggy, was my mother, Eleanor’s, close friend. I loved Peggy, I even remember Peggy’s brother and her mom. Please let Donna know that I read a comment she left on a site devoted to the Amsterdam Housing. I left her a message but I don’t know if she ever saw it. I’m not on Facebook or I would give you my information. I so enjoy your comments, they bring back so many wonderful memories of the West Side that was such a part of our individual stories.

  36. Anne Marie Fox-Cody Says:

    Pat I sent your regards to Donna and gave her the link to this page….Anne Marie

  37. Anne Marie Fox-Cody Says:

    It made my heart warm thinking of “Nanny” sitting by the radio, You must have crossed paths with my oldest brother who is 10 years my senior, He spent a good amount of time @ Nanny’s apartment with her. My mom and dad took care of Nanny in her final days and she passed in our apartment. I was maybe 5 years old then. My three older brothers share more memories of her than I.

    • Pat Pyke Harris Says:

      That’s a lovely thought, Anne Marie. To me, I thought of Nanny as an extra grandmother, even though my grandmother lived with us. In our building there were four apartments on each of four floors. I was always in and out of neighbors’ apartments. This was pretty common at the time. I May have seen your older brother at one time or another but I don’t have any specific memories. Mostly I was busy with my roller skates, key hanging on a string around my neck, skating up and down 65th Street, or playing skully, which you may not recall. Life was simple in those days. Everyone knew everyone else. At night I would walk up the corner to Broadway with my mother to buy the next day’s Daily News And Mirror (my father’s two favorite newspapers). I went to grammar school at P.S. 94 on West 68th Street (although my sister, Anne, born in 1944, went to St. Paul’s as did my little brother, Tommy, who was born in 1948). I went to Julia Richman High and graduated in 1954. My family moved to Long Island in 1959 (I was already married and living in New Jersey). Unfortunately my mother passed the same year. I’m in the city often enough and whenever I drive up Amsterdam Avenue, memories of growing up in the neighborhood are so vivid.

  38. Donna Says:

    Hi Pat so nice to talk to you. I did see your comment on the other site but did not know how to reach you. I remember your mom and tommy very well. I think Sherry and Tommy had a crush on each other. I remember your mom giving me an embroidery kit for either Christmas or my birthday, don’t remember which. She also had this dark green wallet which I loved and she eventually gave me. The first time Elvis was on the Ed Sullivan show, we watched it in your apartment. How is Tommy. Sherry lives up near Utica NY, she is a teacher still. I live on Long Island now and have 6 grandchildren. Where are you living?

    • Pat Pyke Harris Says:

      Donna, I’m so very happy to hear from you. My first thought was of your mother, whom I loved. I remember you and Sherry. I used to push Sherry and Tommy in a baby carriage. I remember your apartment in 70 Amsterdam and I even remember your grandmother (your mom’s mother). I’m so sorry that I lost touch with your mom and dad. The last time I saw them they had come to visit my husband and I after my mother passed away in 1959. I live in Nutley, NJ. My husband of 55 years, Jack, passed away four years ago this coming September. I have two children, Patti Ann a has one son, Zach. She lives in Nutley, too. My son, Jack, lives in Monroe, NY, and also has a son. I have a million memories of your mother and mine and you and Sherry. My brother Tommy lives in NC for the past 14 years but before that he lived on Long Island. I can’t wait to tell him about you and Sherry. When I think of your mother I always see her smiling and laughing. She loved music and she and my mother used to make me sing all,of Dean Martin’s hit songs. I guess they both had crushes on him. I’m going to give you my gmail address. It’s patjack1956@gmail.com. I’m so happy to make contact with you and so very happy to know about you and Sherry. I,look forward to hearing from you, Pat

  39. Thomas Pyke Says:

    Ann Marie Fox I definitely remember your name I’m not sure but I think you lived or your family lived in the same building Eileen and Mary Sullivan lived in maybe the Corrigans also anyway my name is Tommy Pyke And I also had a friend and we called him Dapper I think he lived on 59st and Amsterdam.

  40. Anne Marie Fox-Cody Says:

    Thomas, we lived in the building next to the Sullivans…Eileen (Leeny) Jimmy and Mary. Mary and I were friends. Mary’s last name was Knight, although she is sister to Eileen and Jimmy. Leeny and Jimmy were closer in age to my three older brother’s ages. I will have to ask my brother Johnny if he remembers the Pyke name. He is like a west side historian. He has many tales to tell of growing up on the west side and remembers so many more names than I do. Nice meeting others on here that remember what the area that is no longer was truly like and not the one portrayed in pic at top of this post. Where we lived was far from a slum as stated in caption.

  41. Anne Marie Fox-Cody Says:

    P.S. in our building was Thomas “Boy-Boy” and Walter Trax, Billy and Micky Meehan, and I believe the Hickeys were in our building also.

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  43. nestor cataquet Says:

    where r my buddies from west 65 st before lincoln center destroy our hood; angel alex encarnacion molina n sisters elsy n elsa am sure their mother isabel is gone, .guillermo martinez n brother ernestor, norberto n sister, herman robles n sis doris, wito cortez, the greek man married to a p. rican woman that many children n his brother. Nereida’s mother ran after us when we took a dime to our dream girl. i’m cataquet n waiting for those of us who r still in this beautiful world

  44. nestor cataquet Says:

    when i ,we, were teens on west 65 st (amsterdam n broadway) we didn’t know it was san juan hill. I think we just knew it as the neiborhood or, the place we’re living on. I lost track of the hood for many years, but didn’t forget about it. We would open the pump
    .on a steaming summer day n ran when we saw the police. I remember a kid being hit by a car when the spurt of the pump water pushed him out . we played scummy, kick the can n, on the roof top, spin the the bottle, Yes, those were the days my friends
    1954 55 56 57 I went tops 94 ps 17 n ps44. I still think there are more of us out there. my name is Cataquet n hoping to find some

    • Tony B Says:

      Wow! I remember the day that kid got hit by a car while playing in the street in the water. The water came out of the pump with a lot of force. I’m surprised more of us didn’t meet with a similar fate. As I remember, miraculously, the boy survived without serious injury.

      We used to get empty beer cans and cut out the ends. Then take turns diverting the water stream from the pump toward passing cars and buses. You could only hold on for a few seconds before the can went flying off. Felt so good getting soaking wet.

      I lived in one of the tenements, 15 west 65th. I went to catholic school on 70th, Blessed Sacrament. I believe its still there.

      Tony

  45. nestor cataquet Says:

    Talking about the kid that got hit by a car while bathing on the rushing water of the hydrant on west 65 st.,( in1955 or 66), I was almost bump by a car as well because w 65 st ran from east to west n I was’nt accustum to the change. I think this change of the route was due to the new passageway thru central park. We sold chocolate candy bars in order to join the boys scouts, in the Amsterdam projects n the headquarters were on the little church on west 66 street n still have a picture. My # was 554. We were taking to 1000 steps on the other side of the G Washington bridge for camping. Yes, those were the days my friend n it wasn’t on a tavern
    It was on a beautiful former neighborhood were I learn the tricks of life. I’m hoping that some of r still out there. I was always called by my last name. Cataquet. Thank U n waiting for something positive

  46. Enid Gonzalez Says:

    Such wonderful memories of OUR TIMES in that wonderful neighborhood. So many stories within a 5 block radius. I loved it and I love reading all the stories. I am also in the AMSTERDAM PROJECT FACEBOOK PAGE as well as THE ST. PAUL’S THE APOSTLE FACEBOOK PAGE. I love reading all the responses and stories.

  47. nestor cataquet Says:

    we lived in 160 west 65 st on the third floor. my sisters Carmen r, maria l , and our mother nila. my best friend was lily (alex encarnacion Molina), his sisters were elsa n elsy n their mother Isabel,lived in 162 west 65 st. we all attended ps 17 n were giving a break to go to religious classes every Thursday at 2 pm at st pauls the apostle church .When ps 44 was opened we were thansffer to that school. A modern n beautiful schl with a huge yard n a handball court. the lunchroom was very accommodating, as well .We were forced out because the old shacks were no longer acceptable. n “progress” was on its way. n our lives were shatter, moving to a new hood, n meet new people. It was never the same. I did go to Hoboken to see my best friend once or twice but he was using drugs with others from 65 st that moved there, so I lost track of them.
    ,but I yearn to see some of them again to reminist . Thank u for sharing

    • Pat Pyke Harris Says:

      Nestor,

      I lived at 174 until I got married in 1956 so I don’t really know any of the people you mentioned. I do, however, know the Greek family you mentioned in another post. Their name was Megaloutis. There was Helen, Demos, and Stevie. Helen was a very close friend of mine. Demos married a girl from Puerto Rico. I think her name was Maria but I’m not sure. 65th was a great block because there was only only housing on one side of the street. The other side was Commerce High School and Loew’s Lincoln Square theater. So there was always some game going on, or boys playing stickball in the street, and lots of kids roller skating. It was a great time and a great place to be kids.

      It’s somewhat sad to drive up Amsterdam Avenue, past the old neighborhood where everything but the Amsterdam Housing is gone. All that’s left are memories.of happy yesterdays.

      I think we’ve all benefitted from growing up in such a special neighborhood,

      • Michael Meehan Says:

        I remember Anne Pyke. She lived on 65th and went to St Paul The Apostle School on 60th St. Graduated in 1958. I remember her and Eileen Sullivan being best buds and
        classmates.

  48. nestor cataquet Says:

    on the small lobby of 174 w 65 there was once a mature caucasian woman dressed with a skirt n very drunk, without a panty. we saw her nude lying there n some of the boys had never seen THAT before n were laughing. It was no surprise for me because I used to peep on my grandmother from underneath the house in Puerto rico. I don’t know who she was. I think the greek man n his p.rican wife lived in that building. We forgot to mention that there were some Chinese living on west 65 st ,as well. I enjoy reading your memories from our past.n exercising our minds. Thank u.

  49. Nancy Garlick Says:

    Hi… I am doing research on my family who lived in New York City in the 1900’s. Specifically I found that my grandmother who was a single mom supporting three children in the depression got a job at a WPA something in 1939. The street location was 70 Columbus Avenue, I think it says Manhattan? Does anyone know what that could have been? I understand she was once worked in the cafeteria at a New York school? Could this have been that school?

    • Michael Meehan Says:

      70 Columbus Ave. was the Dept of Immigration and Naturalization Building. I remember it well. I used to wait outside of the building to open the door of taxi cabs hoping to get a tip. I was 10-11-12 years old a the time. But remember it as though it was yesterday.

      I was standing on that very spot just the other day. I was being interviewed by a filmmaker doing a documentary about the old neighborhood. There were so many memories that I failed to mention as the filming was time constricted and it was rainy. I loved that neighborhood although there were some memories that were not exactly very good. However , I must say growing up in that neighborhood and witnessing all the changes was great preparation for life. Lots of hard working, good people.

  50. nestor Says:

    Thank you Pat Pyke Harris since I didn`t know their surname. I read all the comments again n it`s wonderfully refreshing. the Greek fellow married to the Pto.Rican, was taller than Stevie, and a funny character. I don`t recall his sister Helen. We were teens n skinny as slim can go n he`d tease us by saying out loud that we were masturbating n laugh about it. He would gester with his right hand n I`d blush thinking that my mother was looking out the window. I remembered that Stevie was in love with this Pto Rican girl closer to Broadway but, I heard, his mom didn`t accepted. I attend the stic kball that go on at 111st but can`t come across those people from those days

    • Pats Optimum Email Says:

      This was a response that as posted on Ephemeral NY and directed more or less to me. You’d have to back read the comments to get Nestor’s interesting tales of the old neighborhood..

      Sent from my iPad

      >

  51. Joe Willett Says:

    My aunt would like to know if anybody remembers her. She lives upstate now and does not own a computor. Her name is madaline willett. She came from a family of 6 children. They lived on west 66th. street between amsterdam ave. and west end ave. She lived there thru the late 40’s and mid 50’s. Please get back to me if you knew her or any of her siblings. Thanks

    • Nestor cataquet Says:

      We teens were always on the go n on our way to Central Park n just before getting to Central Park West Ave there was this hispanic man w these bulging eyes n I’d stare at him ’cause it seem so awe to us. ( TonyB). Maybe he didn’t like it but. ..Yes there aren’t many pics of our Westside but Sandra ( March 8 2011 said that she has some. Between w 65 n w 66 strts Ámsterdam n West End aves there were these huge gas tanks that were regulated ( shorten ) at times. I don’t recalled when they were demolished ( Joe Willet) but maybe u r aunt does. I’m 72 n a haft years old n going down. Please keep on remembering n replying

      • Tony Balecha Says:

        Hey Nestor. Yes I do remember the man with the big bulging eyes.He lived in one of the basement apts on 65th st. I lived in a tenement a few up from him on 65th (1949-1967). I sure would love any copies of photos of 65th street.

  52. nestor cataquet Says:

    On west 65 st (Broadway n Amsterdam), lived a friend of my sis named Nancy. This teen’s residence was between 160 west 65 st n Amsterdam ave , that’s what my sister says. Nancy was tall, a little on the chubby side with a long thick beautiful plait (tress). My sis remembers that Nancy showed her how to ride a bike. Nancy must have been Irish, Italian or Greek n my sibling wonders what ever became of her. Fond memories from that community. There was also another pal of my sis living on the same block n her name was Penny. long black hair, slim n Greek. We’re looking for photos from that neighborhood ,as well, n maybe one of my sisters have some stached somewhere.

  53. joe willett Says:

    My aunt and her family lived at 132 w 66th. street. My mother wilma and her brother walter lived down the block. She remembers a man called andre matias who lived on the block and they use to call him cano. she also is looking to find information out but it is kind of hard. Thanks nestor…any further info appreciated.

  54. joe Says:

    Did anybody live on west 66th street between Broadway and West end ave in the 40’s until mid 50’s?

  55. “Pig Foot Mary – Food Tells a Story Says:

    […] Harris arrived in 1901, the neighborhood probably didn’t look much different than it did in this photo from the early […]

  56. Richard Brennan Says:

    I remember the neighborhood as Irish, Italian, German, Greek,and Puerto Rican with Blacks on West 61st and West 62nd and Whites on the Avenue. I grew up at 183 Amsterdam Avenue at 68th Street, in the 40s and 50s.
    Ederle’s meat market was owned by the family of Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel.
    My father, Richie Brennan was the bartender at McGirr’s in late 40s and early 50s. He was friends with Joey LaGrey, an ex-boxer who owned an Italian restaurant and pizzeria on Amsterdam Avenue.
    I attended both PS94 and Blessed Sacrament in the 40s. My guys and I played stickball on West 68th Street between Amsterdam and West End and roller hockey on West 69th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam. Great family neighorhood. My family were the Brennans and Puglieses. Other families in my building were the Farinas and Connettas and the Valenzanos and Poveromos. These were extended mother and daughter families all in the same building.
    20th Precinct was on 68th Street. My guys and I played PAL baseball. Local cop Pete Cox enlisted our help in trying to find Elmer Burke, who had shot and killed his buddy Poochy Walsh.
    What a time! What a place!

    • Michael Meehan Says:

      I remember Richie Brennan. He and my father were buddies. My father was Cuff (Buddy) Meehan who died in 1952. Years later your father came to visit us in Staten Island. So did Tilly Martin wife of Flat nose Martin a former pug. Lots of pugs in that neighborhood…Joey Archer came from 63rd St. Boxing was very popular and for lots of guys it was a means of supporting their families. I had 30 professional fights…then I won one.

  57. Pat Pyke Harris Says:

    Your memories are wonderful. I remember Joey LaGrey’s place on Amsterdam and I very well remember Ederles’s. it was directly across the street from where I lived (174 West 65 Street). In the building next to Ederle’s lived Sonny Volpe. Sonny was a middleweight boxer who fought in St. Nicholas Arena as well as other local venues. At the time he was well known, especially in our neighborhood. I also went to P. S. 94 on West 68th and my cousin lived down the block at 219 West 68th. I remember the police station because it had a very active PAL. I’m also very familiar with Blessed Sacrament as I made my Communion and Confirmation there. Also my best friend, Pat Held, went to grammar and high school there. Life was quite different in the late 40s and early 50s. I remember walking with my mother up to Broadway in the evening to pick up the following morning editions of the Daily News and the Daily Mirror. I loved movies and luckily we had the Loew’s Lincoln Square right up the block and the RKO Colonial on 63rd. And there was always the Alden near 67th and Broadway, if you were in the mood for an old film. Recently my daughter and I stayed at the Empire Hotel near Lincoln Center and spent a great deal of time walking around what used to be my old neighborhood. It was great fun because the Empire Hotel was where my husband, Jack Harris, and I had our wedding reception in 1956. Thanks for sharing your great memories.

  58. Michael Meehan Says:

    Joey LaGrey had the best pizza in the whole world. My mom often took us (my brother Billy) to LaGreys on a Friday night for a small pie and some orange soda, orange soda was very popular back then, I had plenty of them. My cousin Walter was a great singer, He and I as kids about 8-12 would go into any one of the neighborhood bars; Walter would sing he’d get money (tips) for his singing and I’d get all the orange soda I could handle. The bars were for neighborhood patrons who always watched out for the kids. Everyone knew whose kid was whose and the neighborhood stuck together. Too bad they could not stop the wrecking ball. It was not a slum, it was filled with hard working blue collar families. Tough people who survived the depression and served in the military to rescue the world from tyranny during WWII : my father, his two brothers, and a sister -in-law plus my mother’s brother all fought in the war. And fortunately theall came home…Uncle Willie was a POW. When he came home he was so skinny you could slide him under the door.

  59. Pat Pyke Harris Says:

    Michael, I also remember great pizza at Joey LaGrey’s. Also, I recall the old-timers saying that Joey was good friends with the comic actor, Fred Allen, and that the actor was often seen at Joey’s. I don’t know if that was a fact or a myth. Either way, it’s a fun story.
    You must have had some great times with your singing cousin and your experiences boxing. My husband, Jack, had a friend, Jimmy Maloney, who was a Golden Gloves boxer. (Jimmy was a wire lather like my husband). I have many happy memories of growing up on the West Side. Roller skating with my key on a string around my neck ((Chicago roller skates, of course). The 59th Street pool was a summer staple. We practically lived there. Life was not so complicated in those days.

    • Michael Meehan Says:

      I heard the name Fred Allen several times and the name Perry Como attending mass at St Paul The Apostle. My Boxing career was intended as a joke as I said I had 30 fights before winning one. Although there were lots of boxers back then. I too worked with the Wire Lathers and the Steel Carriers. Many guys from that neighborhood worked on the re-enforcing of buildings and bridges of NYC.
      In my building ,67 Amst Ave,, of the eight families 4 worked with the wire lathers. At 65 Amsterdam Ave the Hickey family had five sons, all Steel Carriers (Wire Lather Laborers) and one sister Mary became a Nun. The Proveromo sisters (5) lived at 73 Amsterdam. The Corrigans family of 10 Amsterdam Ave. had five sons and loads of cousins who were Wire Lathers…the Business Agents of the Wire Lather Union all came from our neighborhood. Two of my class mates from St Paul became Business agents for the wire lathers. The book and movie “On the Waterfront’ was based on the residents of our neighborhood. Loads of Teamsters too. It was a tough place with lots of good people. I do believe had it not been for the influence of the Church and its school a heck of lot more trouble would have emanated from there. I loved it but may have been too timid.
      My cousin Billy Bennett lived nest door to us before joining the Navy, he graduated form Power Memorial. Another great school with the Irish Christian Brothers who really were dedicated to teaching its students. i had passed the entrance exam but lack confidence…established bad habits at an early age.

      Michael (Mickey) Meehan

      Meehan5173@aol.com

  60. Pat Pyke Harris Says:

    I knew the Corrigans, especially, Jimmy and Tommy, who were wire lathers and friends of my husband, Jack. You’re right, many lathers came from the neighborhood. A very close friend of ours, Billy Cashman, was from the West Side and also a lather. Billy was one of the heroes of Flight 93, who lost his life on 9/11. Billy was a good friend, a good man, and a good American.

    • Michael Meehan Says:

      i worked with Jimmy and Tommy Corrigan. Billy Corrigan and I were BF’s and we both graduated from St. Paul’s with your sister Anne.

  61. nestor cataque Says:

    As I said in another post, and I want to add some more: we would go to the YMCA’S pool regularly, put our cloths in lockers n go to the diving board, jump n swam nude. The lifeguard was a tall slim black man. I think his name was Mr Reed. This man also coached us at the Community Ctr (Amsterdam Projects on 64street, Amsterdam n Westend Aves). When we return to our block (65St) we had a habit of swinging on the Irish pub awning tubes all the time. I guess the owner of the bar got fed up with us, n on one ocassion I was the first one to jump on the tubes n I paid the price ‘case I fell very hard on the sidewalk n it took me a while to get up. The owner had greased the bar n I slipped n crashed down terribly. None of my buddies laughed because they felted it. Luckily I didn’t break a any bone. This was our hoods good n bad experiences.Thank-u for sharing

    • Michael Meehan Says:

      I remember Herman Reed very well. I bumped int him years later after San Jaun Hill was hit by the wrecking ball. I had forgotten how dedicated Herman Reed was to the kids in that neighborhood. i hope he is still alive I’d like to shak his hand and say thanks for all he did for the us. The Y and the Community Center were great places to go for a lot of kids. Am sure it saved a lot of kids from making poor choices. Thanks Herman. and thank you to Ronald Roper who worked at the Community and the Y. Bob LaSalle was another good guy who gave good advice.

      Growing up in San Juan Hill was an experience that prepared us to know and respect everybody.

      • nestor cataque Says:

        Yes, Herman was his name, Herman Reed. I vaguely remember the others at the Community Center, maybe ’cause Herman was the kindest to us. At the Y I recall that we played ping pong n other light games, like cards on the first floor or lobby. There was this other compartment or room and we would open the door to see what was inside n discovered these beautiful, gorgeous n very well dressed women, wow, that I was amazed . Nothing last for ever, what a pity !!! Thank-u all for reminiscing

  62. nestor cataquet Says:

    For those of us who went to ps 94 (there’s a scene of this schl on a pic on the film west side story, actors dancing) , there was something peculiar about the auditorium. I think it was on the fourth, (fourth floor !!??) n to make it into an assembly we had to push huge doors to make an auditorium. I don’t recall how the stage was configured, but it’s been on my mind all the time. So if anyone remembers I’d like to hear (read) it.(ps 94 on the northwest corner of amsterdam ave n 68 str). Thank -u in advanced

    • Pat a Pyke Harris Says:

      The auditorium in P. S. 94 was on the top floor. The school was a large building and you’re right, it’s clearly visible in a West Side Story dance number. Also visible is a sign for St. Matthews, which was a small, lovely Catholic Church. I remember that it had a beautiful courtyard. St. Matthews was also know for their feasts, where the street (I think the front of the church was on 67th Street) was closed off and you could find great Italian food and lots of games of chance. Down the block from the school was a candy store, Harrington’s was its name. I remember spending lots of time there. On the corner of 69th and Amsterdam Avenue was the public library, where I also spent a lot of time. My cousin, Joan, lived in 219 West 68th, almost next to the candy store, which was a favorite spot for all the kids.

  63. nestor cataquet Says:

    I forgot to mention that the auditorium were four classrooms divided by these huge doors n they had to be pushed to expose the seats that would make it into an assembly. Now I’m more specific!!!!

  64. enid Says:

    I loved that library!!! I lived in the Amsterdam projects. Wonderful memories.

  65. nestor cataquet Says:

    Yes, 65 st ( Ámsterdam n Bdy ) was unique ’cause only one side had tenements n playing stickball n other games was better n safer. Our landlord owned the two brownstones where we lived on- and we moved from one to the other-. He would pay me a quarter to sweep both, n on some ocassions. He had a lot of junk in the cellar n we went thru it. He lifted me up n put my head on the toilet bowl when I was naughty. Years after the neighborhood was demolished we recognized each other on Broadway n 72 st, and he commended me on how well I spoke the language n how tall I was. (Actually I have an accent n can’t verbalize as well) He was a short Jewish man from Eastern Europe and lived on West End Ave. So that the hood had many people from differentes nationalities. Blessing to all.

  66. Robert Says:

    My grandparents lived at 219 and 214 West 60th Street.

  67. Pat Pyke Harris Says:

    Michael,

    The documentary about Lincoln Center that you posted about, will be shown there on October 1, 2017. My daughter, my niece (my sister Anne’s daughter) and I will be going to the 6:30 show.

    It should be fun so I’m happy that my daughter ordered the tickets. I hope you get an opportunity to see it, too.

    Sincerely,

    Pat Pyke Harris

    • Michael Meehan Says:

      Hi Pat,
      I did commit to going but with second thought “it is a big trip for me from Toms River. The bus schedule is limited and if I don’t get on the last bus I’ll be stuck for 8 hours. I could drive in but night driving is not my favorite past time. Trying to figure something out for transportation.
      Glad to hear you are going. I would guess that there will be others from our time and era who also are going to attend. have fun.

      Michael Meehan

      • Pat Pyke Harris Says:

        Michael,
        I’m sorry that you won’t be able to go to the screening but I certainly understand. Tom’s River is quite a hike and public transportation in New Jersey leaves a lot to be desired. If at any time you want to contact me, here’s my email: pbaharris@optonline.net. (I love that you knew my sister, Anne, and would love to hear anything you remember about her. Unfortunately, she passed in 2013). Hope all is well.
        Sincerely,
        Pat

  68. Anne Marie Cody Says:

    My older brother and I were also contacted re: documentary. I had a couple of phone conversations with a person involved in the project. Was never contacted again re: meeting up. I would be interested in knowing if the documentary let the falsehoods about the neighborhood continue on. I got the impression from questions posed to me that there was not much interest in what the neighborhood was truly like. I could not substantiate the lies of NYC, or the likes Robert Moses. I told the person on the phone who was questioning me…”If we or any of my extended family that lived within those blocks were poor, I never new it. I was not raised in a slum, nor was any family member”

    Mickey, I would think that since you participated in this documentary provisions would be made by the production company for you to attend. IMO, it would be the decent thing to do.

    Hope all is well with you, Mickey……..Anne Marie (the little girl who lived on the second floor of 67 Amsterdam Ave…:) )

  69. Pat Pyke Harris Says:

    Anne Marie,

    I was never contacted re the documentary but my sentiments, as my memories, are the same as yours.

    My daughter saw the ad in the Times and bought tickets, I didn’t even know about it.

    The true stories of our neighborhood would not be too different from the stories of any other community.

    Anne Marie, I always look forward to your interesting and well said comments. It’s nice to hear from all our friends and neighbors from so long ago.

    Sincerely,

    Pat

    • Anne Marie Cody Says:

      Pat,

      I will look forward to your take on the documentary. It amazes me that so many articles, documentaries, etc. have been written by journalist or filmed by people that have absolutely no idea, other than what they have read, what our “neighborhood” was like. I have seen many articles written by many that probably did not even grow up in NYC to know what a NYC neighborhood was all about.

      I am in the city often. I no longer get a sense of any “neighborhoods.” It is sad. I count myself fortunate to have known NYC when it was overlapping neighborhoods, parishes and schools. A time when if someone was in your business, it was out of concern for a neighbor.

      Enjoy your evening out. Remember when viewing all of us that once played hop-scotch, jump rope, stick ball and ring-a-lario within those streets. Think of all the moms and grandmother’s that kept a watchful eye on the neighborhood from the “front room” window sill perched on a pillow…:)

      Best wishes, Anne Marie, still a proud westsider, pre-Lincoln Center.

      P.S. I ran into Donna Walsh this past April @ Stevie Nicks concert @ Nassau Coliseum…small world!

  70. nestor cataqut Says:

    When i was on the forth grade @ p.s 94, i was playing with this taller fellow-or annoying him- n he punched me on the face n the teacher was gonna send him to the principal n i ask her not to do it. I don’t know what happened after that but animosities went away. Those were the days…

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