The twin wood houses time forgot in Turtle Bay

It’s 1866 in the Turtle Bay neighborhood in Manhattan.

What was once verdant farmland bisected by Eastern Post Road far from the city center was now humming with new houses and industry. Soon, the Second Avenue Elevated would start clanging nearby on enormous iron trestles.

And two men listed as “builder-carpenters” decided to build twin clapboard houses on the old Eastern Post roadbed, getting these wood frame homes up at today’s 312 and 314 East 53rd Street just before the city passed a law banning wood houses up to 86th Street.

(Wood tended to go up in flames, and fire was a major concern of the 19th century city, of course.)

Amazingly, these wood homes have remained here for 152 years, as Turtle Bay shifted from a mixed-use neighborhood with factories, tenements, and slaughterhouses to one with lots of quiet enclaves and posh residences.

From the outside, these sister houses are like the homes time forgot. Built in the French Empire style (very fashionable after the Civil War), they feature mansard roofs, bracketed cornices, and round-hooded dormer windows.

While they match each other nicely, they’re startling to see on the block—it’s like coming across a country house in the middle of the city.

Brooklyn has its share of wood houses, especially in Brooklyn Heights. But these simple beauties are two of just a handful surviving in Manhattan, like this one in the West Village and this farmhouse wedged into 29th Street.

“Relatively few wooden buildings survive in Manhattan, and the majority are found in the neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan, particularly in Greenwich Village,” states the Landmarks Preservation Committee Report from 2000.

“The Upper West Side has only one frame building, and no. 314 East 53rd Street and its twin, no. 312, are among only seven frame houses of note on the East Side.”

The interior isn’t quite as shabby chic. Check out these photos from a recent Streeteasy listing at no. 312.

[Second photo: MCNY; 33.173.350; Third photo: NYPL]

Tags: , , , , , , ,

14 Responses to “The twin wood houses time forgot in Turtle Bay”

  1. petey Says:

    interesting – this helps to date the wood-frame house at 85th and 1st.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I love that one on 85th.

  3. Untapped Staff Reads: Twin Wood Houses Time Forgot, Robot Workers to Fix Subway Hell | Untapped Cities Says:

    […] The twin wood houses time forgot in Turtle Bay [Ephemeral NY]: What was once verdant farmland bisected by Eastern Post Road far from the city center was now humming with new houses and industry. Soon, the Second Avenue Elevated would start clanging nearby on enormous iron trestles. […]

  4. Zoé Says:

    These had been my favourite wooden houses in Manhattan for ages! I think I even asked if anyone knew their exact address in another Ephemeral post thread. I’m so glad you wrote about them!

    I did not realise this was still Turtle Bay. I would see them when I was walking west to east from the Park (Plaza) to Grand Central etc. I always wondered about them. How old they were & who built them & how they’d survived the modern buildings surrounding them.

    They are so amazing in their contemporary setting. Thank you!

  5. Ricky Says:

    Hey eStar, you take one, I’ll take the other!

  6. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Then we could really be neighbors!

    • Zoé Says:

      Can I come in to clean both your houses then? (Perhaps the only way I would probably get to see the inside of one of these astronomically priced antique gems).

  7. David H Lippman Says:

    29th Street….I have to see these houses! Wonderful!

  8. Tradition- The Latest Catholic Journals, Articles, And Books Of Interest | Traditional Catholics Emerge Says:

    […] https://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/2018/03/12/the-twin-wood-houses-time-forgot-in-turtle-bay/ […]

  9. Lynne DeThample Says:

    I would take either one. I live in Kansas and I can’t imagine anything in the entire state would rent for $8,900 a month!!!! Your pay scale must be way higher than ours. They are beautiful though and the history!!! If the walls could talk…..

  10. The fence post turtles adorning East 49th Street | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Turtle Bay is one of the most enchantingly named neighborhoods in Manhattan. […]

  11. The fence post turtles adorning East 49th Street ⋆ New York city blog Says:

    […] Turtle Bay is one of the most enchantingly named neighborhoods in Manhattan. […]

  12. The fence post turtles adorning East 49th Street | Real Estate Marketplace Says:

    […] Turtle Bay is one of the most enchantingly named neighborhoods in Manhattan. […]

  13. The fence post turtles adorning East 49th Street | News for New Yorkers Says:

    […] Turtle Bay is one of the most enchantingly named neighborhoods in Manhattan. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: