Thursday, January 29, 2015

Upper West Side Country - The slowly disappearing vestiges of rural life.

This is a section of one of the plates that comprise the Dripps Map of 1868.   It is based on the Commissioners Plan of 1811 map.  The map that did not take in the topography of this rock we call Manhattan.  It includes the old farm names, property owners, the structures that were present on the blocks created by the Grid and shows the old lanes and the route of the 1842 Croton Aqueduct.  The future road called Broadway is indicated to the left of the Bloomingdale Road.  Edge Hill is a name not used for way over a century for the area surrounding 112th Street and Riverside Drive.  Just above that the name Andrew Carrigan appears, a name that is associated with the creation of a bank and laws protecting newly arrived immigrants from the machinations of con men (and woman).  Looking at the larger triangle created when the Bloomingdale Road crosses 11th Avenue the name M.T. Brennan appears, as does the house he owns.  Matthew Brennan was a Tammany Hall connected former volunteer fireman who had moved up in the world. Eventually he sold the house to Isidore and Ida Straus who eventually booked passage on the Titanic.  The house, which had the first cast iron bathtub in the United States was torn down soon after the tragedy and 924 West End Avenue rose in its place.  On top of all this, the map shows us a "Burying Ground" at what is now 110th Street and Columbus Avenue.  The map also serves to solve the orientation of the following photos. 

I know that people have found this picture out there before.  I have never been able to find a photographer's name attached to it.  However every source declares that this picture is of the David Knapp house on West 105th Street near 10th Avenue and dates from 1875.  But which way are we looking?  North west. Those telephone poles in the distance, serving to bring lower Manhattan to the sticks, quite possibly could be on Broadway.

The orientation here is facing north east.  And like the photo above this one, 1875 is the date and West 105th Street is the location.  For this photo, one more piece of information was given; the large white house on the right was known as the David Gorham House in 1875.  On the map The David Knapp house is to the west of the David Gorham house.  On the map above, the Gorham house was owned by S.A. King.  This view is from the south west looking north east.  The road on the right is possibly the end of Clendening Lane. 
John Clendening was a landowner in the area, and this would have been, over 30 years earlier, the north west corner of the property.  The lane served as a boundary line as well as a lane.
This is Clendening's house.  Clendening lived on his rural estate for many years, but in 1836 he lost most of his money when President Andrew Jackson refused to renew the charter of the United States Bank, in which Clendening was a major stockholder. The estate was sold in 1845 as forty lots for a total of $4500.

 Although the mansion was torn down the area was known as Clendening Valley well into the post civil war 19th century New York.  On the site where Clendening's house one stood, the Clendening Hotel (left and below) rose in its place on the west side of Amsterdam Avenue at 103rd street.  The Hotel survived until 1965 when it was torn down for furthest west building of the Douglas Houses complex.
The house called "Woodlawn", on the block bordered by 106th and 107th, Riverside Drive and West End Avenue, was owned by the Rogers family.  Their property ran east along 103rd Street from Riverside Drive, around a little piece owned by the Furniss family, who owned a once upon a time very large estate. By the late 19th century all that was left was the house and the land around it - 99th Street to 100th street, Riverside Drive to West End Avenue.  The house was called "The Colonial White House" and was famous enough to have it's own postcard.

This is The Colonial White House.  The name came from the 
columns and the fleeting resemblance to the real Executive Mansion.

The Rogers' property then ran over to the Bloomingdale Road just south of the Downes Boulevard Hotel at 103rd and then followed the western edge of the Clendening Lane up to the south side of 105th street between 9th and 10th Avenues.  Then over to 8th Avenue and up to 107th street where the boundary ran a non - conforming to the grid straight line over to Riverside.  Big piece of land once upon a time,  but it was starting to shrink.

The building in the left background is referred to as "The Ward School" on the map above.  The white fence surrounding it separates the school from the vacant lot, indicated on the map, just uptown of the school.  So given the location of the houses and the position of the school on the map, we can say that this photo, probably taken from the Gorham House, is looking southwest towards 104th street.  What appears to be a road in the foreground, running at an odd angle, is the route of the Croton Aqueduct.  The houses in the background above the Knapp house are on 10th Avenue.  To the right of the cupola on the roof of the Knapp house, off in the distance is what I am fairly certain is the house that once stood on the site occupied by 895 West End Avenue.  In a little over 20 years, this area will be unrecognizable.  I always wondered if they removed the bodies from the "Burying Ground" on 110th Street . . . I have always felt a chill there.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

This is the end . . . does this really need to happen?

 Streit's Matzo's back in a funkier era.  And soon it will join the ranks of the "used - to - be's".

When I was at P.S. 145 on the upper west side back in the late '60's, a forward thinking teacher took us on a tour of the Streit's Matzo factory.  Yes, they really gave tours of this place.  Although they probably had tried it before and did not realize it, half the kids didn't know what a matzo was but all where intrigued and moved by this tour.  Why? The very simple theme of immigration.  It was the theme about immigrants, coming here from wherever, and putting down roots. They were able to do this, build a life, because of the steady employment offered to the newly arrived.  One group after another, and not just in matzo factories but this was the one field trip that hit home with so many of my classmates, in a great many cases the first English speakers in a household.  They saw themselves, their parents, on this tour.  The tour spoke volumes to them, more history that could ever be gotten out of a book - because they felt it.  This is a loss on so many levels, the educational value alone is worth more than what ever glass and steal box will net a developer.  Not to mention how many of us grew up with a box of this on the table at Passover and Rosh Hashanah?  When will this city learn?  Maybe never but I still love this dirty town. 

Click here for more of the story, a trailer for a documentary and more pictures.