Think wistfully about the Upper West Side of the past, and enormous rent-stabilized apartments, independent bookstores, and grittier streets might come to mind.
But for the members of a group called Ye Olde Settlers’ Association of Ye West Side, the neighborhood they mourned was a bucolic one of farms and country estates.
The 80 founders had lived in small villages like Bloomingdale and Harsenville in the 19th century. As the city’s population ballooned, they watched their stretch of Manhattan get carved up, paved over, and urbanized—all within a few decades.
And just like longtime New Yorkers do today, these senior citizens enjoyed getting together to talk about the good old days in the ‘hood.
“Once a year that young but thoroughly New York organization known as Ye Olde Settlers’ Association of Ye West Side holds a dinner and induces many of its members to give reminiscences of the days when houses were few, apartments were none, and transportation on the West Side was chiefly accomplished by old-fashioned horse cars on Eighth Avenue…” wrote the New York Times in January 1915.
What exactly did they gather to remember? The Apthorp farm for one, with its stately mansion. In 1908, the Apthorp apartment residence replaced the farm on West End Avenue and 78th Street.
They also recalled Manhattan Square (created before Central Park at 77th Street, now the site of the Museum of Natural History), mayor Fernando Wood’s estate (Broadway at 76th Street), and the Furniss estate (Riverside Drive and 100th Street).
Formed in 1911, Ye Olde Settlers published yearbooks (with some fascinating historical tidbits) into the 1920s. But like the West Side of old, the group died out without ceremony.
[Top photo: Furniss Estate, MCNY, x2010.11.14452; second image: New York Times, March 24, 1912; third image: Apthorp Mansion, MCNY, x2010.11.6201; fourth image: New York Times, January 24, 1915; sixth image: Ye Old Settlers’ yearbook, 1921]