Posts Tagged ‘Tudor City’

When New Yorkers went to roofs to sunbathe

July 16, 2018

Here’s an old-school New York City summer pastime you don’t see very much anymore: rooftop sunbathers.

These UV fiends are soaking up the rays on Prospect Tower at Tudor City in 1943—and I have a feeling not one of them is using any kind of sunblock.

Tudor City’s rooftop is clearly designed to host residents. What did New Yorkers do if they lived in a building without an official rooftop? Tar beach, of course!

[Photo: Wurts Brothers, MCNY, X2010.7.1.8408]

A Revolutionary War sword turns up in Tudor City

February 20, 2017

hessianswordkipsbaylandingshipsTombstones, wooden ships, mastodon teeth and bones—construction crews over the years have come upon some pretty wild artifacts while digging into the ground beneath New York City.

But here’s a fascinating relic uncovered in 1929, when excavation was underway for the apartment buildings on the far East Side that would eventually become Tudor City.

It’s a Hessian sword, described as a “slightly curved, single-edged iron blade” with a wooden grip and “helmet-shaped iron pommel” by the New-York Historical Society, which has the sword in its collection.

hessianswordstainedglass2hessianswordtudorcitystainedglassHow did it end up underneath Tudor City? The story begins back in 1776. New York was a Revolutionary War battleground, and mercenary German soldiers were paid to fight alongside the British.

That September, thousands of British and Hessian soldiers sailed across the East River and invaded Manhattan at the shores of Kip’s Bay.


Watching from a fortification at about today’s 42nd Street, George Washington and his army fled across Manhattan to Harlem Heights.

Eventually the Americans were driven out of Manhattan (temporarily, of course)—and at some point, a Hessian soldier must have dropped his sword, where it remained buried for 153 years.


Fred French, the developer of Tudor City, donated the sword to the New-York Historical Society.

[First image: Wikipedia; second image: Tudor City Confidential; third image: Wikipedia; fourth image: NYPL]

What Tudor City tells us about an older East Side

January 2, 2017

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.

tudorcityad“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]

The criminal “roosts” of 19th century Manhattan

October 2, 2010

Where Tudor City is now, overlooking the bluffs of the East River, was once a squalid, lawless neighborhood called Dutch Hill.

That was the home base for Corcoran’s Roost—the headquarters of a fierce gang of thieves led in the mid-1800s by Irish immigrant and notorious thug Jimmy Corcoran.

That wasn’t the only roost in 19th century New York. Another was Bandit’s Roost, a grubby alley at 591/2 Mulberry Street.

Journalist and social reformer Jacob Riis took this photo of a group of men hanging out in Bandit’s Roost. They’re a menacing-looking lot.

Bandit’s Roost must have been bad. Responding to a 1911 article about a notorious Paris slum, a New York Times letter writer states, “The nearest approach in this city to that foul quarter in Paris was the Bandit’s Roost, near the Five Points, and that was wiped out nearly 20 years ago.”

From filthy slum to Tudor City

August 18, 2008

Nineteenth century New York had plenty of poor neighborhoods. But one of the worst was Dutch Hill, a shantytown of squatters and rag-pickers near 42nd and Second Avenue. This undated illustration gives the general idea:


In the 1870s the city razed the shacks and constructed tenements and brownstones. The housing improved, but it was still a poverty-stricken, predominantly Irish area ruled by gangs and composed of unpleasant industries like tanneries, breweries, and slaughterhouses. And the Second Avenue elevated train roared ahead all day and night.

But not for long. In the mid-20s the huge Tudor City complex was built on the site. A dozen apartment houses with more than 3,000 residences, plus shops, a hotel, and landscaped parks sprang up, all in the English tudor style popular in the 1920s. Tudor City was kind of a suburb within the city, and today, it’s a pretty, tranquil, non-trendy enclave.

There’s a good reason the apartments feature very few window facing East. Developers didn’t want prospective residents turned off by the nasty sight and smell of the factories along the East River that still existed when Tudor City was completed.

For more information on Dutch Hill and Tudor City, click here.