The female names carved into tenements

Used to be that ships and hurricanes were typically named after women.

And it seems that tenement and prewar developers used the same tradition when they named New York’s residential buildings.

The surviving monikers are a glimpse into the favored female names of the era.

The Sylvia is a six-story building at 59 West 76th Street. So who was Sylvia?

No one knows for sure, but one theory is that the name comes from Shakespeare’s heroine in “Two Gentlemen of Verona.”

Anastasia Court, built in 1926, is on Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge.

The Florence is another old-world beauty out in Bay Ridge. It’s not the only Florence in the city.

There’s a Florence walk-up tenement at 128 Second Avenue at St. Marks Place and another on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

And this Morningside Heights tenement, The Bertha, isn’t the only Bertha in Manhattan. There’s another in Harlem.

Bertha and Florence: Clearly two very popular chick names back in 1900!

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10 Responses to “The female names carved into tenements”

  1. Alma Carey Says:

    Question: Is there a way to post this blog on Facebook? I love it!! Alma Carey..

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thank you! We’re on Facebook:

  3. Lady G. Says:

    How lovely! It’s funny, when I saw the title to this post I was thinking of some grimy old tenements with the obscure names of ‘notorious’ women haphazardly carved around the buildings like a High school bathroom! LOL

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    Ooh, I like that–old-school graffiti, bad girls of another era!

  5. Mark Says:

    My grandmother’s name was Florence and her older sister was Bertha. Florence was born in 1887.

  6. nabeguy Says:

    Any particular reason they put THE in front of the name?

  7. Bob_in_MA Says:

    There were two buildings near the Plaza in Brooklyn named Margaret and Elizabeth built by William H. Reynolds ca. 1900. I’m pretty sure they were named for his daughters. I would imagine most of these were named for some family member of the builders.

  8. Joe R Says:

    I recall, when I was a student at CCNY, I used to pass a row of several houses on W 135th Street, east of Broadway, where each house had a girl’s name. The only one I still remember is “Corinne”.

  9. Some mysterious names carved into tenements « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Helen Court sounds like a soft, peaceful tenement. It’s in Harlem near 125th Street. Helen was a popular name about a century ago. Who was Helen—the developer’s wife or daughter? […]

  10. Mysterious male names over tenement doorways | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] 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 […]

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