Posts Tagged ‘Upper East Side’

The mystery “miracle tree” of East 71st Street

February 5, 2012

It started out as a mystery: In the 1980s or early 1990s, a six-inch ivory statue of the Virgin Mary suddenly appeared from a tree on 71st Street between First and York Avenues—probably the middle one below, which is boxed off.

One account has it that the statue popped out after a truck knocked a limb down during a construction project. Another says that it materialized while workers were trimming branches.

Upon seeing the little statue, the workers refused to cut anymore. Within days, “the tree was enshrined by the faithful, who came to honor the Virgin and leave behind objects of devotion,” reports a New York Times FYI piece from 1998.

So was the statue’s appearance a miracle? Apparently not. A letter to the Times explained that the a nearby shop sold religious objects, and the owner would hang some from the tree.

A statue hung close to the trunk was soon entombed by growing bark—then uncovered years later. Today, the only objects of devotion left near the tree are empty bottles and food wrappers.

A few signs of an old Czech neighborhood

February 28, 2009

Most New Yorkers know that the East 80s and 90s were home to a large German community through most of the 20th century. But just below in the far East 70s, a Czech neighborhood thrived as well.

There’s not much left now; the tens and thousands of Czechs who once lived there have died or moved on. But a few signs of their old community still exist, such as Bohemian National Hall on East 73rd between First and Second Avenues.


Built in 1897, it featured a ballroom, bar, dance hall, and small bowling alley. It recently reopened after an extensive renovation.


The Czech Gymnastic Association built this 2-story building on East 71st Street in 1896.


In a 1900 article about the neighborhood, The New York Times wrote:

“The large hall is the pride of the gymnasts, for here, when the hall is not otherwise engaged, the trapeze, rings, and bars are used by the juvenile and adult classes of both sexes, who train under the direction of Ferdinand Martyny. the Bohemians are renowned all over the European continent as gymnasts.”

The uptown stretch of Avenue A

February 10, 2009

As the carved stone sign on this school building on 78th Street shows, Avenue A—long associated with the East Village—used to exist on the Upper East Side as well. The uptown branch started up again at 53rd Street. 

79thstavenueasign1 So why the name change? In 1928, most of Avenue A north of 59th Street was renamed York Avenue in honor of World War I hero Alvin York, a Tennessee native awarded the Medal of Honor in 1918.

The portion between 53rd an 59th Street had previously been recast as Sutton Place, after developer Effingham B. Sutton, in the late 19th century.

Here’s more on Alvin York and what he did to win the Medal of Honor.

An obsolete sign on the Upper East Side

December 9, 2008

Spotted on Fifth Avenue in the 70s. Perhaps the Department of Transportation should take it down, since instructions aren’t really necessary—it’s been years since New York City had a traffic sign that actually spelled out the words Walk and Don’t Walk.


“Swinging, exclusively single social events”

October 24, 2008

In 1970, the whole idea of a singles scene was still pretty new. The first bar officially known as a singles bar—a T.G.I. Friday’s on East 63rd Street and First Avenue—opened in 1965, packing in young unmarried professionals and turning First and Second Avenues uptown into a singles zone in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Soon ads like these, from the March 28, 1970 issue of Cue magazine, began springing up, hoping to attract New Yorkers looking for a mate. And the era of the desperate, Looking for Mr. Goodbar single was born.

Considering that they make a point of accepting anyone 18 to 50, this social events group doesn’t look especially promising. I wonder just how “elegant” the “swinging night clubs” Plaza 9, Act 1, and The Roundtable really were!

The Upper East Side “Girl Ghetto”

May 3, 2008

A fashion magazine published an article in 1966 calling the far Upper East Side “the domain of the single girl.” I doubt anyone considers it the “swingiest” square mile in Manhattan anymore…if they ever really did. And about those “banjo and beer saloons?” In 2008, it’s more like sports bars.

Swingy or not, it’s safe to say the nabe east of Lexington is still a holding pen for recent female grads.


Beauty on the Upper East Side

April 29, 2008

A rare clapboard house in the East 90s. Wood-frame structures were banned by the city in the 1830s because they had a penchant for going up in flames. A dozen or so survive downtown, but many more still stand in Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, and Brooklyn Heights.