Posts Tagged ‘Upper East Side history’

An Upper East Side enclave called Hellgate Hill

June 4, 2012

Most New Yorkers know Hell Gate as the treacherous part of the East River south of Ward’s Island off Astoria and Manhattan’s East 90s.

Here, a confluence of rocks and rough currents once made it a graveyard of ships.

But Hellgate, spelled as one word, used to be a distinct neighborhood too, often called Hellgate Hill.

It was a tiny stretch between 94th and 96th Streets and Lexington and Third Avenues of lovely uniterrupted brownstones.

“The area was named after George Ehret’s Hell Gate Brewery, established in 1866 on East 92nd and 93rd streets between Second and Third avenues,” states a 2011 article in DNAinfo.

“The block was developed in 1878 by Michael Duffy, an alderman in the Tammany Hall era of graft who was indicted for bribery in 1886 but got off for being an informant.”

In 2010, 132 years later, community leaders proposed that Hellgate Hill be granted landmark status, giving this forgotten Upper East Side enclave more visibility.

[Top photo: Lexington and 94th Street in 1911, from the NYPL Digital Collection; bottom photo: DNAinfo.com]

Central Park: almost built on the Upper East Side

April 26, 2010

They would have had to call it something besides Central Park, of course.

But the great new park planned for the city in the middle of the 19th century came pretty close to being created on the Upper East Side.

The idea of a park was first suggested in the 1840s, and by 1851, one site seriously considered was Jones’ Wood, 150 acres of dense forest overlooking the East River (above sketch from the NYPL).

Once a summer retreat for New York’s wealthy, Jones’ Wood was being used as a sort of amusement area for working-class residents, featuring beer gardens and dancing.

City authorities thought it would make an ideal retreat from the ills of urban life. But others, anticipating the city’s growth northward, realized it was better to put the new park in a central location.

Though the city approved both sites in 1853, only Central Park was developed, opening in 1859.

Jones’ Wood was slowly parceled out and turned into a residential and commercial area, with the remaining land falling victim to a fire in 1894.

It’s now the location of Upper East Side neighborhoods Lenox Hill and Yorkville.