Posts Tagged ‘Upper West Side history’

Before the Majestic went up on Central Park West

July 4, 2013

Central Park West is lined with incredible apartment buildings with Art Deco touches. One of the loveliest and most renowned is the Majestic, the 29-story, circa-1931 residence at 72nd Street.


But before that Majestic blew New Yorkers away with its style, another Majestic occupied the site: the equally as sumptuous Hotel Majestic.

Themajestic1931Built in 1894 when Central Park West was still a low-rise thoroughfare dominated by the Dakota up the block, the Hotel Majestic “had private bowling alleys, a grand lobby, horse-drawn carriages out front, and a rooftop garden,” writes Kevin C. Fitzpatrick in A Journey Into Dorothy Parker’s New York.

Parker lived there with her widowed father as a teenager—along with Gustav Mahler, Edna Ferber, and other celebs of the Gilded Age.

Luxury goes in and out of style, and by the 1920s, the first Hotel Majestic just wasn’t cutting it.

Faded ads towering over West 75th Street

March 29, 2012

An Ephemeral reader sent in this photo of side-by-side faded ads between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.

They’re tricky to make out, but it looks like “Sherman Square Motors Corp” on the right. Sherman Square—the little park down the street on 70th Street.

As for the ad on the left, this online collection of faded ads revealed it: “Livingston Automobile Radiators.”

A museum goes up on the Upper West Side

June 15, 2011

When the American Museum of Natural History was created in 1869, its home was the Central Park Arsenal.

By 1862, it had outgrown that space. So museum bigwigs obtained land called Manhattan Square across Central Park West from 77th to 81st Streets. Plans for a grand, world-class natural history museum were drawn up.

The first building, above, opened in 1877. It sure looks lonely all by itself out there on the empty and untamed–looking Upper West Side, doesn’t it? (photo from the Museum of the City of New York)

Piece by piece, the rest of the museum came together, until finally the Beaux-Arts Central Park West entrance was completed in 1936.

Where was Manhattan’s lost town of Carmanville?

January 3, 2011

Carmanville was just another little hamlet, like Harsenville and the Piggery District, thriving on Manhattan’s West Side in the 19th century.

Named after its founder, a wealthy contractor named Richard Carman, Carmanville’s exact boundaries are a little unclear.

According to Phelps’ New-York City Guide, published in 1853:

“This is a pleasant village, situated upon the rising ground, on the Hudson River, in the vicinity of Fort Washington.”

Another reference, The Tree Bore Fruit, about nearby Manhattan College and published in 1953, puts Carmenville a good 28 blocks south at 155th Street.

[NYPL postcard of 155th and Amsterdam Avenue in 1917—the remains of Carmanville?]

And according to a 1914 New York Times article, a Carmanville Park once was located at Amsterdam Avenue and 152nd Street.

Still another Times article, published in 2004 to commemorate the opening of the New York City subway, has Carmanville at 125th Street.

New York City’s tobacco-producing past

November 1, 2010

Tobacco has a rep as a crop grown only in the South. But tobacco farming was big business in the 17th and 18th centuries in a nascent New York City.

Dutch colonists grew it in New Amsterdam, and settlers occupying farms from Greenwich Village to the village of Bloomingdale (today’s Morningside Heights, roughly) produced it as well.

In fact, the native name for Greenwich Village, Sapokanikan, supposedly translates into “tobacco fields. Hey, who knows?

The fields and farms eventually disappeared—replaced by tobacco manufacturers like Goodwin & Company, headquartered in Manhattan, who created this seductive late 19th–century ad (from the NYPL digital collection).

West 72nd Street before the Dakota

October 22, 2010

It was one of the first apartment houses in the city, a Gothic, Victorian, French Renaissance–inspired mix of lovely gables, dormers, railings, and moldings.

And if you were lucky enough to be able to afford a flat in the Dakota around 1884, the year the building opened, here’s what the view outside your window would have be like.

This 1890 photograph, published in New York: An Illustrated History, looks south from Central Park West and 72nd Street.

It’s an amazing contrast: the Dakota, an example of Gilded Age opulence, vs. the shacks and shanties of the surrounding blocks.

It wouldn’t look this way for much longer. The Upper West Side was fast transitioning from a collection of villages such as Harsenville and Bloomingdale into a neighborhood of brownstones and apartment houses.

New York City’s first-ever taxi crash victim

September 10, 2010

Poor Henry Bliss. The Upper West Side real estate man and a ladyfriend were getting off a trolley at West 74th Street and Central Park West on September 13, 1899.

Suddenly, he was hit by a vehicle described in a next-day New York Times article as an electric taxi. It may have looked something like this cab, from an 1896 New York Public Library photo.

Two wheels of the taxi crushed Bliss’ skull and chest. He was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, where he died.

This unfortunate incident marks the first time a pedestrian was fatally struck by an automobile. Not just in New York, but the entire country. 

“The place where the accident happened is known to the motormen on the trolley line as ‘dangerous stretch,’ on account of the many accidents which have occurred there this past summer,” the Times article adds.

The taxi driver was charged with manslaughter but acquitted.

A day at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument

July 13, 2010

Looks like a peaceful and pleasant Sunday on Riverside Drive in this turn-of-the-century penny postcard. 

I can’t quite make out what game the girls in the center are playing. Leap frog?