Posts Tagged ‘morthern Manhattan estates’

When Audubon settled in Upper Manhattan

August 8, 2011

After Birds of America earned him success and money, ornithologist and painter John James Audubon bought an estate for himself and his family in 1842 roughly around today’s West 150s.

Nine miles north of the city center, he called it Minniesland, after his wife.

“Audubon’s original purchase was a fourteen-acre right triangle that began on the flat land at the crest of the Heights just north of Carmansville and slightly west of the Kingsbridge Road, at a point in the center of the intersection of present-day Amsterdam Avenue and 155th Street,” states the Audubon Park Historic District website.

It sounds like paradise, which makes it all the more unfortunate that after Audubon’s death in 1851, his widow was forced to sell the land.

In the 1850s, Minniesland (above, in 1864, from the Audubon Park Historic District website), was carved up into Audubon Park, a neighborhood of villas. At the turn of the century, row houses and apartment buildings came in. The Audubon house disappeared by the 1930s.

Today, the neighborhood “bears no resemblance to the wooded vale that John James Audubon bought in 1841 and deeded to his wife, Lucy,” reports the Audubon Park Historic District website.

“The ancient elms and oaks that towered above dogwood and tulip trees on the hillside and the tall pines nearer the water, the streams that flowed through ponds and over a waterfall before joining the river, the enclosures where deer and elk mingled with domestic animals are long gone, displaced in stages of development and progress that culminated in the cityscape that exists today.”

Upper Manhattan hasn’t forgotten its famous resident (at left). Audubon Avenue and Audubon Terrace memorialize him, and Audubon himself is buried in Trinity Cemetery at 155th Street.