Picture today’s Upper West Side as it was in the late 18th century, when it was known as the rural village of Bloomingdale and filled with acres of meadows, streams, and wildflowers.
And towering over the landscape on a hill near Columbus Avenue and 91st street was the Apthorp Mansion (below, how it looked in 1790, according to a 1907 drawing).
Constructed in 1764 by wealthy Loyalist Charles Apthorp, the mansion, called Elmwood for its gorgeous trees, was conceded to be “the finest house on the island,” writes Peter Salwen in Upper West Side Story.
A newspaper ad for the property from 1780, reprinted in Upper West Side Story, reveals its loveliness:
“…about 300 acres of choice rich land, chiefly meadow, in good order, on which are two very fine orchards of the best fruit. . . . An exceedingly good house, elegantly furnished, commanding beautiful prospects of the East and North-Rivers, on the latter of which the estate is bounded.”
The house survived the Revolutionary War (it was in the middle of a battleground, after all) and Apthorp was charged with treason. After his 1797 death, his 10 children divided and sold off the land.
In the 19th century, some of the grounds became a popular picnic area called Elm Park. Finally the house itself met its end in 1891 (above), torn down to make way for 91st Street, as the village of Bloomingdale became part of the modern city.
The mansion is commemorated by the beautiful circa-1909 apartment building the Apthorp, on Broadway between 78th and 79th Streets.