Posts Tagged ‘Upper East Side Holdout Buildings’

The stories of 4 holdout buildings that refused to bow to the wrecking ball

May 22, 2023

It’s hard not to cheer on a New York City holdout building.

You know holdouts: smaller walkup buildings, usually one-time residences, that somehow managed to remain intact over the past century or so in a city filled with developers who would love to get their hands on them—or at least the land they occupy.

Some holdouts are in beautiful shape, a testament to former and current owners who had the means and the will to maintain their original loveliness. This French Renaissance-style holdout, at 612 West 116th Street, began its life in 1906 as the Delta Phi fraternity house for the Columbia University chapter, according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission report for the Morningside Heights Historic District.

Today, it’s part of the Columbia campus and houses Casa Hispanica.

In somewhat shabbier shape is this handsome holdout (second image) at 18 East 33rd Street. Today the ground floor is occupied by a bar and restaurant; it’s surrounded by a new glass tower and an early 1900s loft building in a decidedly commercial Murray Hill.

Back in the 1870s, however, it was part of an elite residential row in stylish Murray Hill, home to New York’s upper echelon and steps from Mrs. Astor’s brownstone mansion at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. It might be in this photo from 1885 showing President Grant’s funeral procession.

A New York Daily Herald ad from 1874 describes it as a “first class four story brown stone house, well arranged and in good order.” If only the ad told us what it was selling for!

On Riverside Drive between 75th and 76th Streets stand two eclectic row houses. Both Number 35 and 36 were completed in 1889 by the architectural firm Lamb & Rich, according to the LPC report for the West End-Collegiate Historic District.

These two fanciful homes would have housed one family in each; they were early arrivals on the new “millionaire’s row” of Riverside Drive, which was supposed to overtake Fifth Avenue as the city’s wealthiest avenue. Originally there were four row houses, but only two remain, replaced by the 1922 tower next door.

Another Queen Anne-style stunner between Park and Madison Avenues also went up in the 1880s. Number 72 East 86th Street changed hands often during the first decades of its existence.

Built as a single-family home, it was increasingly crowded out by the new elegant apartment towers going up on the Upper East Side. Perhaps the trend toward apartment living was what prompted its owners in the early 1920s to convert it into apartments.

Two rooms and a bath for $75 a month? That was pricey in 1922, when this ad appeared in the New York Herald!

[Third photo: NYPL Digital Collections; sixth image: New York Herald]