The pretty country house on a 75th Street estate

Today’s 75th Street and Third Avenue is an unbroken stretch of postwar apartment houses and turn of the century tenements.


Now imagine this intersection 150 years ago—when it was the site of a three-story, clapboard-windowed country house surrounded by a wooden picket fence and acres of green grass and trees.

This was the Grenseback Estate, and an 1866 illustration (at top) from Valentine’s Manual captured the pretty scene that resembles something out of the antebellum South.

(At left, a 1935 painting of the estate house by Helen Miller from the National Gallery of Art—perhaps painted from the 1866 image?)

Who were the Grensebacks, and how did they come to own such a spectacular estate? That’s something of a mystery.

Books and newspapers from 19th century New York City mention members of the family and refer to the estate, which was apparently near “two separate Schermerhorn houses” situated “near the East River and about four miles from the City Hall.”

The Riker house, the estate home of another old New York family, was also close, as was Mount Pleasant, the Beekman family mansion on 50th Street and today’s Beekman Place.

These large homes amid the fields and forests of primeval Manhattan almost entirely vanished by the turn of the century. But how lovely it must have been in the 1800s to enjoy clean fresh air away from the city center!

[First image: NYPL; second image, National Gallery of Art]

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3 Responses to “The pretty country house on a 75th Street estate”

  1. thekeystonegirlblogs Says:

    How things have changed! When Charles Dickens first came to New York in the mid-1800s, he found part a virtual green oasis, and vastly different to old London town. Thanks for this.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Dickens was also appropriately horrified by the city center, with its Five Points slum and free roaming pigs in the streets!

  3. The most famous summer house in Manhattan | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] in the post-colonial New York of the early 19th century, the house stood out among the other posh summer estates built in the bucolic countryside of today’s […]

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