When ground broke for Tudor City in the 1920s, the idea was to create a modern and pretty mini-city at the foot of a rocky projection at 42nd Street known in Revolutionary War times as Prospect Hill.
But before they could build apartment towers and gardens, the developers had to do something about the unsavory occupants of this far East Side neighborhood—a former 19th century gang hideout called Corcoran’s Roost (also known as Dutch Hill) and even then a major Manhattan industrial zone.
“The view of even 75 years ago is no more,” stated the New York Times in a 1926 article about Tudor City and the area’s history. “Swaying tree tops made way for factory roofs with their black smoking chimneys.”
“Seventy feet below the crest of the hill, running parallel with the river and lying directly under the overhanging cliff, is First Avenue with its lumber and coal yards, its slaughter and packing houses, its poor dwelling places, and with the great Edison power plant occupying four blocks of the waterfront.”
By the time the first apartment houses of a scaled-down Tudor City opened—with all the decorative bells and whistles of the English Tudor era, which was fashionable at the time—developers had bulldozed blocks of rowhouse slums.
But there wasn’t much they could do immediately about the factories and power plant along the river below.
The solution? Construct attractive apartment towers that turn their backs on the waterfront, literally.
Only very small apartment windows in Tudor City’s residential buildings open onto the East River. This way, the well-heeled residents wouldn’t be put off by the noise and stench of industry.
[Top photo: MCNY, 1935, X2010.7.2.6334; third photo: unknown]