A settlement of shacks on upper Fifth Avenue

Recognize this block, which is less of a block and more of a hilly, rocky lot?

It’s Fifth Avenue at 101st Street in 1894, when this stretch of the future Museum Mile was still the province of the poor and vulnerable.


“A semi-rural hilly area with modest row houses and shanties at the end of the 19th century, Carnegie Hill was really discovered by the industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who purchased land on Fifth Avenue around 90th Street in 1898 and built a 64-room mansion,” states the New York Times in a 1994 article.

A Times article from 1905 appears to describe one of these shanties.


“Within a stone’s throw of Andrew Carnegie’s mansion . . . stands a gabled shanty within 20 feet of Fifth Avenue of such scant dimensions and poverty-stricken appearance that it would be despised among the hovels that house some of the poorest of the city’s residents.”

Upperfifthave2015Shanty settlements like these seemed to dot Fifth Avenue farther north, like the ones seen in this photo, dated 1895.

A cross street is not listed on the photo, unfortunately. But note the lamppost; it wouldn’t be long before developers rush in, ushering in an upper Fifth Avenue of hospital buildings and stately apartment residences that still exist today.

[Top two photos: MCNY]

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4 Responses to “A settlement of shacks on upper Fifth Avenue”

  1. Violet Says:

    Despite being tightly clustered and small (especially in comparison to Carnegie’s mansion, which I can’t imagine anyone failing to feel embarrassed to erect mere feet from such a little town), the houses visible in the second photo look sound – good roofs, straight walls. The first ones, not so much. Makes you wonder what happened to all the folks living on these plots of land that were soon gobbled up by the uber-rich.

  2. The Hatching Cat Says:

    And let’s not forget all the goats that lived among these shanty-towns.

    During the 1800s, the Upper West Side of Manhattan from about 59th Street to Harlem was known as Goat Town or Goatville. Before the extension of the Eighth Avenue elevated railroad prompted new housing construction above Central Park, there was an estimated 15,000 goats in Goat Town.

    There were also many goats roaming free on the Upper East Side, especially before some well-to-do residents of Yorkville and East Harlem formed the Anti-Goat Protective Association to expel the goats in 1884. (Like Violet wonders, I’m also not sure what happened when the people were expelled, too.)

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thanks HC. In addition to the goats, don’t forget all the pigs roaming around the streets of lower and then upper Manhattan. New York had its share of animal life back then.

  4. Linkage: The Secrets of Hell Gate Bridge; HFZ Buys Historic Belnord - Hudson Real EstateHudson Real Estate Says:

    […] Community College [NYT] · This Automat doc has almost reached its Kickstarter goal [KS] · A rural village of shacks on Fifth Avenue, 1894 [ENY] · This map won a …read more Via:: Curbed New […]

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