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Copyright, 1915, 


The Fifth Avenue Bank of New York 



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Photographs copyrighted, 1915, by Perry Walton 

Written, designed and printed under direction of the 
Walton Advertising and Printing Company 
Boston, Mass. 


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Inasmuch as the existence of The Fifth Avenue Bank of New York 
has been contemporaneous with the remarkable growth and develop- 
ment of Fifth Avenue during the past twoscore years, the Bank 
deems it appropriate to commemorate its fortieth anniversary on 
October 13, 1915, by issuing this brief history of Fifth Avenue. While 
a complete story would fill volumes, the Bank has gathered within these 
pages the most essential and interesting facts relating to the Avenue’s 
origin and development. So far as can be learned, this is the first at- 
tempt to tell the story of Fifth Avenue. There are few, even among 
those familiar with New York, who know how interesting Fifth 
Avenue is. 

Original authorities, histories, newspapers and magazines have been 
freely consulted. A list will be found at the end of the narrative. 
Many persons, whose experience has given them a wide knowledge 
of the Avenue, have also been interviewed. The Bank desires par- 
ticularly to acknowledge its indebtedness to Messrs. Edward N. 
Tailer, Gardner Wetherbee, John D. Crimmins, Robert Weeks de 
Forest, Amos F. Eno, Percy R. Pyne, 2nd, J. Clarence Davies, S. B. 
Altmayer, JohnT. Mills, Jr., Francis Jordan Bell, Francis T. L. Lane, 
Charles White, George Schmelzel, Frederick T. van Beuren, Jr., 
J. H. Jordan, Robert Fridenberg, Max Williams, A. M. Chase, 
Stewart Burchard, A. T. Thomas, Mrs. J. J. Blodgett, Lawson Purdy, 
President of the Board of Commissioners, Department of Taxes and 
Assessments of the City of New York, officials of the New York Public 
Library, New York Historical Society, American Geographical So- 
ciety, and others, for their courtesy and for the valuable information 
they have supplied. 



Richard M. Hunt Memorial on the west side of Fifth Avenue between 70th and 71st Streets. 

IFTH AVENUE is one of the world’s famous streets. 
What Regent and Bond Streets are to London, the Rue 
de la Paix to Paris, the Unter den Linden to Berlin, the 
Ringstrasse to Vienna, Fifth Avenue is to New York. It 
is the most aesthetic expression of the material side of the 
metropolis. A noted English author has characterized it as “architec- 
turally the finest street in the world.’’ Its general aspect is one of 
great beauty, but its details present surprising contrasts and a few 
ugly extremes. Long famous for the beauty of its residences, churches 
and hotels, it is now rapidly becoming a great business street of pala- 
tial shops. Close inspection shows that it has a manufacturing centre 
and also a tenement quarter. Few, even of its residents, know the 
Avenue in all its phases^ 

It is difficult to imagine the contrasts which may be drawn along 
the Avenue. At one end is venerable Washington Square, the beautiful 
Washington Arch, and the dignified homes of some of New York’s 
oldest families. At the other end, 143rd Street and the Harlem River, 
is a quasi-public dump littered with unsightly v debris. Within the 
seven miles that lie between, may be found some of the most beautiful 
homes in the world and unkempt double-decker tenements; building 
after building given to the manufacture of wearing apparel, or con- 
taining the headquarters or agencies of almost every known industry; 
luxurious and expensive hotels, and some of the most beautiful churches 
and clubs in this country. Elbowing the churches and the clubs, 
and pushing up to the very doors of the stately residences, are some 
of the finest shops and art galleries in the world. 

1 — This Avenue, the centre of fashion, wealth, society and trade — 
where many of the leading business men of America make their home, 
and the n\art which attracts the most expensive products of America, 
Europe, Asia and Africa — changes so rapidly that after an absence of 
twenty-five years a former resident would hardly recognize it.^To 
realize what changes have taken place let us fix in our minds the general 

Centre of 
Society and 




aspect of the Avenue as it now is, sketch its rural aspect a century ago, 
and then traverse it leisurely, stopping here and there to catch a. 
glimpse of its interesting past. 




Trade In- 

Section in 
the World 

and Open 



The earliest residential part of Fifth Avenue, below 12th Street, 
is to-day much as St was between 1830 and 1840, when the square, 
homelike, brownstone ;uid brick houses — the first Fifth Avenu^ resi- 
dences — were builtv Trade has left this section untouched, because 
the descendants of the old families, some of whom still live in this 
locality, have refused to sell; but it has laid an iconoclastic hand upon 
the rest of the Avenue below 59th Street. Between 12th and 23rd 
Streets the wholesale trade and makers of wearing apparel are en- 
trenched; no less than 491 garment factories, employing 51,476 
hands, were estimated to be on Fifth Avenue in April 1915. 

The Avenue^-from 23rd to 34th Streets is mainly devotetUto retail 
specialty shops; while from 34th to 59th Streets, department stores 
and exclusive shops now predominate, having either swept away or 
flowed around churches, clubs, hotels and residences. Jewelry 
shops rivalling those of the famous Rue de la Paix; art galleries which 
exhibit wonderful collections of world-famous pictures by old and 
modern masters; antique and furniture shops, department stores and 
other establishments wherein may be found products of the greatest 
ancient and modern artisans make this part of Fifth Avenue one of 
the most magnificent streets in the world, v 

From 60th to 90th Streets is the line of beautiful residences 
popularly known as “Millionaires’ Rojv.” This mile and a half of 
Avenue — probably the most valuable residential section on the globe 
- — has a total assessed valuation of $71,319,000. Protected here on 
one side by Central Park, the Avenue seems to offer effectual resistance 
to business. - - — ■ — 

Onward from Carnegie Hill, at 91st Street, the Avenue rapidly 
degenerates into a tenement section with many opeudots, fenced with 
billboards, and with saloons and refreshment stands on some of the 
corners. Beyond Mount Morris Park (120th to 124th Streets) for 
several blocks it rises to the dignity of small brownstone or brick dwell- 
ings, but quickly drops to the tenement level again. From 127th to 
139th Streets it swarms with foreigners and negroes. Beyond, the 
Avenue loses its identity in a rutted dirt road bordered by unsightly 
open lots, until, at 143rd Street, it comes to a degenerate end in the 
slimy waters of the Harlem River. 


We need turn Jback the hands of time less than a hundred years to 
find almost virgip country where this wonderful Avenue now extends. 
Prior to 1824 Fifth Avenue had no existence save upon the Commis- 

sioners’ Map of 1811. During the first quarter of the nineteenth Rural 
century the line which Fifth Avenue follows to-day wandered over Aspect One 
“the hills and valleys, dales and fields” of a picturesque countryside, Hundred 
where trout, mink, otter and muskrat swam in the brooks and pools;^ ears $9° 
brant, black duck and yellow leg splashed in the marshes; the fox, 
rabbit, woodcock and partridge found covert in the thickets covering 
the rough, rocky hills which characterized the upper part of New 
York. A few scattered farms lay about, while the City proper, with a 
population of less than 100,000, was still below Canal Street. 


Tepared for the City in 1819-1820, by John Randel, Jr. Showing the farms superimposed upon 
the Commissioners’ Map of 1811. 


F I F T H A V E N U E 



Brooks , 
Ponds and 
Swam ps 

on the 

Beginning at what is now Washington Square, then Potter’s Field, 
the line of what afterward became Fifth Avenue left “the Road over the 
Sand Hills” or the “Zantberg” of the Dutch, later called Art Street, 
and now gone from the map, and went northerly across the estate of 
Robert Richard Randall, the founder of Sailors’ Snug Harbor. This 
estate extended to about 9th Street, in the valley of the beautiful 
brook which the Dutch called Bestavaer’s Rivulet, and the English, 
Manetta Water. This sparkling stream, once filled with trout, rose 
in the high ground above 21st Street, flowed southeasterly to Fifth 
Avenue at 9th Street, thence to midway between the present 8th 
Street and Waverly Place, where it swung southwesterly and flowed 
into the Hudson River -near Charlton Street. After Fifth Avenue 
was built up it frequently flooded cellars and weakened foundations, 
and even yet, despite the great sewers which now give it an outlet, 
causes trouble at this part of Fifth Avenue after very heavy rains. 

After leaving the Randall property the line of the Avenue crossed 
the meadow and marshland of what had been Henry Brevoort’s 
farm, which stretched from 9th to 18th Streets, and had in 1714 been 
bought by an ancestor for £400. At 12th Street it met the east 
branch of the Manetta Water, which flowed into the main stream 
between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. In the centre of the line of the 
Avenue, and midway between 13th and 14th Streets, lay a small pond. 
Low and level land, with swamp and marsh at Union Square, extended 
from 13th Street to Love’s Lane, now 21st Street. Isaac Varian owned 
the land from 18th to 20th Streets, and Gilbert Coutant from 20th 
to 21st Streets. From 21st Street to Madison Square at 23rd Street, 
John Horn, John Watts and others had possession. At 23rd Street, 
as at present, Fifth Avenue met the old Bloomingdale Road (now 
Broadway), the highway to Kingsbridge. From 23rd to 34th Streets 
stretched the Common Lands that later became the Parade Ground. 

The tract of Common Lands from 28th to 32nd Streets, throi 
which the Avenue was later projected, was part of the thirty-seven 
acre farm which Caspar Samler bought in various pieces, from the 
City, between 1780 and 1799 for $12,100. On the Eastern Ppst-Road 
side of the Parade Ground, from 1794 to 1797, was the City’s Potter’s 
Field, which later was removed to Washington Square. At 32 
Street a small brook crossed Fifth Avenue, which flowed into Sun Fisn 
Pond, between 31st and 32nd Streets on Madison Avenue. At this 
point it is interesting to note that within the lifetime of men still living 
snipe were shot about where the Waldorf-Astoria now stands. 

The land rose rapidly from the northerly boundary of the Parade 
Ground at 34th Street, reaching the summit of the steep slope of 
“Inclenburg” (now Murray Hill) at about 38th Street. In the early 
days, this hill was used for signal fires, and was known as Beacon Hill. 
From 34th to 36th Streets the land belonged to the City, and from 
35th and 37th Streets was the property of John Murray, Jr., whose 
house stood between 36th and 37th Streets, on land which later became 
Fifth Avenue. The property from 37th to 40th Streets belonged to 




a number of small farmers, and from 40th to 48th Streets to the City 
of New York. .. 

There was a small pond at the northeast corner of what is now 46th Ponds at 
Street and Fifth Avenue, fed by a little brook which flowed across MAh and 
the line of the Avenue. From Inclenburg the land fell gradually 59th Streets 
until it reached 59th Street. At this point, on the sites of the Plaza 
and Savoy Hotels, were ponds fed by a stream which flowed easterly 
through 59th Street. 

The land ascended from 59th Street, marked by abrupt rises and Other Brooks 
descents, and crossed by brooks at 64th, 74th and 83rd Streets, until and Creeks 
its greatest height was reached between 90th and 91st Streets, 114 and Observa- 
feet above sea level, about where Mr. Andrew Carnegie’s mansion tory Ilill 
now stands. This was later known as Observatory Hill, and near here, 
because of the elevation, was subsequently constructed the Croton 
storage reservoir in Central Park. "From 87th to 96th Streets were 
the Harlem Commons. At 91st Street the height fell away until 
Benson’s Mill Creek, or Harlem Creek, was reached, now the Harlem 
Mere at the northerly end of Central Park. The Benson Farm 
extended along the line of Fifth Avenue from 96th to 121st Streets. 

Harlem Creek, which was the largest stream that touched Fifth Rowing and 
Avenue, rose in the neighborhood of Tenth Avenue and 123rd Street, Fishing on 
flowed to Fifth Avenue at 116th Street, and swung southerly along Fifth 
the Avenue almost to 106th Street, whence it flowed into the Harlem -4 venue 
Riverj^ Mr. S. B. Altmayer, an elderly gentleman, whose life has been 
spent in the upper part of Manhattan, as a boy often rowed from the 
Harlem River up this creek, and fished where it crossed the line of 
Fifth Avenue. 

Traversing the land of Benjamin Vredenburg and Thomas Addis 
Emmet, the Irish patriot, who in 1812 was Attorney-General of the 
State of New York, Fifth Avenue reached, at 120th Street, the rocky 
. Jof Mount Morris, called by the Dutch, Slangberg,or Snake Hill, from 
the numerous rattlesnakes found there. This height was never cut 
through. Beginning at 124th Street the Avenue continued over the 
lowlands to the Harlem River. 


4'TThe first appearance of a plan of Fifth Avenue is on the Com- 
missioners’ Map of 1811, made in accordance with an act of the 
Legislature of April 3, 1807, appointing three Commissioners — 
Gouverneur Morris, Simeon De Witt and John Rutherford — to lay 
out the City above Houston Street. Under their direction John 
Randel, Jr., surveyed the island and planned the streets and avenues 
in parallelograms. In the Commissioners’ Report and the Map, 
published by William Bridges, March 22, 1811, appears for the first 
time the name “Fifth Avenue.” 

The street was not opened, however, until many years later and 
then only in sections. From Waverly Place to 13th Street was 


of Fifth 
Avenue on 

Map of 1811 

Opening of 
the A ven ue 



of the Avenue 

Square and 

opened in August 1824; 13th to 21st Streets, in May 1830; 21st to 
42nd Streets, in October 1837; 42nd Street to 90th Street, in April 
1838; 90th Street to 106th Street, in August 1828; 106th to 120th 
Streets, in April 1838. The grading and paving were not done in 
some cases until long after the section was declared open. As late 
as 1869 the Avenue at 59th Street is described as “a muddy dirt 
road which ran alongside a bog.” Few/Streets in New York have 
required more grading and filling. 

As at first laid out the Avenue was one hundred feet wide, providing 
for a roadway of sixty feet and sidewalks of twenty; but in 1833 and 
1844 the City gave property owners permission to encroach fifteen feet 
for stoops, courtyards and porticoes. As traffic grew congestion 
increased, and the City advocated taking the full roadway. This led to 
emphatic protest from the owners of private and business buildings, 
in behalf of their ornamental entrances, stoops, and areas. However, 
in April 1908 the Board of Estimate and Apportionment ordered all 
the encroachments removed. 

In addition to the Parade Ground, which, as first planned, extended 
from 23rd to 34th Streets, two large squares on the upper part of 
Fifth Avenue were projected by the Commissioners. One was 
Hamilton Square, bounded by Fourth and Fifth Avenues, 66th and 
67th Streets, comprising about twenty acres. Here on October 19, 
1847, the Washington Monument Association laid the corner-stone of 
a shaft 400 feet high to be known as the Washington Monument, a 
subscription list to raise the necessary money having been opened at 
the Merchants’ Exchange. The monument, however, was not carried 
beyond the laying of the corner-stone, and the square itself was finally 
closed in 1867. The other square, called Observatory Place, was to 
have been between 89th and 94th Streets, Fourth and Fifth Avenues, 
but was never laid out. 

land Values past and present 

Fifth Avenue, which a century ago presented so rough and so un- 
promising an aspect, is to-day assessed at $440,336,900. The most 
valuable piece of property is the Altman site, at 34th Street, the 
total assessed value of which is $13,800,000; diagonally opposite is 
the Waldorf-Astoria site, assessed at $12,125,000, the next most 
valuable parcel. The average assessed value per block front is 
$1,495,627, while each twenty-five foot lot has an average assessed 
value of $186,953. This is the more astonishing when one learns 
from musty real estate records that early in the nineteenth century 
property including Fifth Avenue frontage was sold at valuations 
which made twenty-five foot Avenue lots then worth about $15. 

Elgin On August 6, 1804 Dr. David Hosack acquired title to four plots 
Garden of the common land, or 256 city lots, extending from 47th to 51st 
Tract Streets, Fifth to Sixth Avenues, at a price of $4,807.36 and a yearly 
quit-rent of sixteen bushels of good merchantable wheat or its equiva- 



lent in gold or silver coin. To-day this tract, where he laid out the 
Elgin Botanical Garden, is assessed for $30,370,000. 

One of the first important transfers of Fifth Avenue realty was the Early 
sale in April 1836 of the estate of John Cowman, comprising the Important 
block between 16th and 17th Streets, Fifth Avenue and Union Scjuare. Transfer of 
The twenty-eight lots brought $197,000, of which the seven Fifth l ’j^! Avenue 
Avenue lots brought $57,200. Ilea tty 

iyln 1850 lots at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street, where the Cornelius Corner 
Vanderbilt house stands, brought from $520 to $710 each. Sixty-five Valuations 
years ago, so little value had 57th Street corners of Fifth Avenue that in 1850 
a twenty-five by one hundred foot lot sold for $1,025. Three lots 
in 45th Street near Fifth Avenue brought $500 apiece at the same 
time, while the corner of Fifth Avenue and 46th Street brought $1,300. 

Below 34th Street, prices were better, a Fifth Avenue lot near 27th 
Street bringing $4,500. On October 12, 1858 A. J. Bleecker & Sons Values in 
sold at auction lots on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 46th Streets 1858 
for $6,500 to $7,000 and upwards; Fifth Avenue, 48th and 51st Streets, 

$6,000; 52nd and 58th Streets on the Avenue, $5,000. Lots on 59th 
Street and Fifth A venue brought $7,000; Fifth Avenue corners at 
106th Street brought $2,500; ancT at 109th Street, $1,600. Inside 
lots were as low as $1,025. The prices decreased from this point until 
between the north side of Central Park and the south side of Mount 
Morris Park, lots 25 x 100 feet were sold for as little as $385. 


Having taken a bird’s-eye view of the early topography of the 
Avenue, learned something about its origin, and delved into its land 
values, let us, starting at Washington Square, stroll up this remarkable 
thoroughfare, stopping here and there to learn what fact and romance, 
time has woven into the Avenue’s story. 

Little known is the fact that at the very beginning of this patrician Washington 
avenue once lay a paupers’ burying ground. Three other Potter’s Fields Square a 
were located, at one time or another, along Fifth Avenue. Although the Totter s 
one we here encounter is the farthest south, it was not the earliest. 

As epidemic after epidemic of yellow fever, at the close of the eigh- 
teenth century, swept the young City of New York, the need became 
imperative for a new Potter's Field to succeed the one then at 
Madison Square, and, accordingly, the swamp and waste land, on the 
site of Washington Square, was bought by the City for £1,800 
on April 10, 1797. The land then formed part of the farm of Elbert 
Herring, an old resident of wealth and consequence in the New York 
of his day, and one from whom many prominent families are descended. 

The plot purchased consisted of ninety lots, “bounded on the road 
leading from the Bowery Lane at the two-mile stone to Greenwich.” 

Here were buried, during the yellow fever epidemics of the early part 
of the nineteenth century, thousands of bodies, many of which still lie 
under the soil of Washington Square. 



llcm ini.'!- “I remember when heavy guns were drawn over the Square, after 
cences of an ft became a parade ground, that the weight broke through the ground 
Old Rest- trenches in which the dead were buried and crushed the tops 

dent oj the some G f the coffins,” said Mr. E. N. Tailer, an elderly gentleman 
7 who lives at 11 Washington Square North, and who has kept a careful 
J record of the City for almost three-quarters of a century. “At one 
time near 4th and Thompson Streets I saw a vault under the sidewalk 
opened and the body found there was still wrapped in the yellow sheet 
in which the yellow fever victims were buried.” 

In an address before the Historical Society in 1857 Dr. John W. 
Francis said that the last tombstone to be removed from Washington 
Square was that of Benjamin Perkins, a “charlatan believer in 
mesmeric influence who used this specific in his own ailment — yellow 
fever — and his temerity terminated his life after three days’ illness.” 
The site was also used for the town gallows. Rose Butler, a young 
negress, who had maliciously set fire to combustible material under 
a stairway, was hanged there in July 1819, before a large crowd which 
included many young children. The Potter’s Field was levelled, 
filled in and abandoned in 1823. 

Washington Washington Square contains in all about nine and three-quarters 
Parade acre s, of which six and one-half was the Potter’s Field. The additional 
Ground j an( j was bought for $78,000 in 1827, when the Square was fenced 
" with wood at a cost of $3,000, walks laid out and trees planted. It 
Cutters' was th en called the Washington Parade Ground. Here in 1834 oc- 
l>; llf eurred the “stone cutters’ riot,” which began as a protest against 
Sing Sing convicts cutting stone for the New York University Build- 
ing, then in process of erection on the east side of the Square. The 
angry stone-masons held a meeting and paraded to the building, but 
were dispersed by the 27th Regiment of the New York Militia, now 
the 7th Regiment. The regiment was on guard at the Parade Ground 
for four days and four nights. 

Washington The City had hardly levelled Potter’s Field when Washington Square 
Square a became a fashionable neighborhood. Society, driven successively from 
Society j3 ow bng Green, Broad and Wall Streets, St. John’s Park, Lafayette 
' ; Place, Bond and Bleecker Streets, found here an abiding place for al- 
most a century. Among the well-known merchants who built along the 
upper side of the Square in 1831 were Thomas Suffern, John Johnston, 
George Griswold, Saul Alley, James Boorman and William C. Rhine- 
lander. /About the Square sprang up houses, some of which to-day have 
a beauty of line and color and dignity of aspect unsurpassed in the City. 
On the east side of the Square stood until 1894 the old white castellated 
stone building of New York University which was opened in 1837. This 
has been replaced by a large modern building, which contains important 
branches of the University. The rest of the University has been re- 
moved to a commanding site on the banks of the Harlem River. 
Washington Square North is the only section which still preserves 
unaltered the characteristics of early days. Some of the houses are 
still tenanted by descendants of the original occupants. 



From, a photograph. Collection of Frank Cousins. 


At the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Washington Square North. 

Mrs. Emily Johnston de Forest in her interesting life of her grand- Life in the 
father, John Johnston, describes the beautiful gardens of these houses “How as 
and charmingly portrays the delightful yet simple life and society of <-rtheil hy 
this aristocratic part of New York from 1833 to 1842. “The houses f ' 

in the ‘Row,’ as this part of Washington Square was called, all had 
beautiful gardens in the rear about ninety feet deep, surrounded by 
white, grape covered trellises, with rounded arches at intervals and 
lovely borders full of old-fashioned flowers.” Some of these gardens 
may still be seen from Fifth Avenue. Although some of the Row 
had cisterns, all the residents went for their washing water because of 
its softness to “tue pump with a long handle” that stood in the Square. 

Concerning this pump Mrs. de Forest tells the following amusing 
story. One of her grandfather’s neighbors requested his coachman 
to fetch a couple of pails of water for Mary, the laundress. The 
coachman said that this was not his business, and upon being asked 
what his business was, replied, “To harness the horses and drive 
them.” Thereupon he was requested to bring the carriage to the 
door. His employer then invited the laundress with her two pails to 


F I F Tf H A V E N U E 

step in and bade the coachman drive her to the pump. There was no 
further trouble with the coachman. The Square and its environs have 
been the scene of many incidents in novels written about New York, 
and is to-day, with its studios and population of artists and writers, 
the nearest approach to “Bohemia” to be found in the Metropolis. 

Washington At the entrance to Fifth Avenue stands the Washington Arch, one 
Arch of the most beautiful monuments of its kind in America. It was 
originally a temporary structure erected by the architects, McKim, 
Mead and White, at the expense of William Rhinelander Stewart 
and other residents of Washington Square, for the centennial cele- 
bration on April 30 and May l, x 1889, of the inauguration of Wash- 
ington as President. So beautiful was the temporary structure that 
steps were taken, through popular subscription, to make it permanent. 
In May 189*2 this stately gateway to the Avenue was completed. 

Story of the Part of Fifth Avenue between Waverly Place and 9th Street 
Sailors' traverses the Sailors’ Snug Harbor property. About this tract hangs 
Snug Harbor a- romantic story. Robert Richard Randall, the donor of the twenty- 
Property one acres “seeded to grass,” which were valued at Randall's death 
at $25,000, and are now worth twice as many millions, was the son of 
Captain Thomas Randall, a freebooter of the seas, who commanded 
the “Fox” and sailed for years in and out of New Orleans, where he 
sold the proceeds of his voyages or captures. 

After Robert Randall was born, Cap’n Tom, with fat coffers, settled 
down and became a respectable merchant at 10 Hanover Street. He 
was coxswain of the barge crew of thirteen ships’ captains who rowed 
General Washington from Elizabethtown Point to New York, on 
the way to the first inauguration. Robert, who inherited the bulk 
of his father’s estate, added to his holdings by the purchase of “Minto,” 
a farm in the Seventh Ward of New York. While dying, in 1801, 
propped up in bed, he dictated his will. After making bequests to 
relatives and servants, he whispered to his lawyer: “My father was a 
mariner, his fortune was made at sea. There is no snug harbor for 
worn-out sailors. I would like to do something for them.” Thus 
came into being the Sailors’ Snug Harbor estate, on the Fifth Avenue 
portion of which, between 1830 and 1840, the wealthiest families of 
New York settled. 

Misses The Misses Green's School, conducted at No. 1 Fifth Avenue, by 
Greens Lucy M. and Mary Green, sisters of Andrew H. Green, “the father 
School and of Greater New York,” was, for years before and after the Civil 
-Senator \y ar, one of the most fashionable and select schools of its day. Later 
R° ot it was carried on by the Misses Graham. Here were educated the 
daughters of the commercial and social leaders of New York. Among 
the pupils were Fanny and Jennie Jerome, the latter now Lady 
Randolph Churchill, mother of Winston Churchill, recently the First 
Lord of the British Admiralty. The Honorable Elihu Root, ex- 
Secretary of State and Senator from New York, taught here, at 
such an early age that Miss Lucy Green, a martinet for social proprie- 
ties, thought it best to frequent his classes. Here also the Honorable 



From a photograph. Collection of Frank Cousins. 


Formerly the home of Henry Brevoort, Jr. One of the most typical early Fifth Avenue homes. 

John Bigelow taught botany and charmed the young ladies of Washing- 
ton Square because he was “so handsome.” 

On the northeast corner of 8th Street, where it has stood for many Brevoort 
years, is the Brevoort House. The family from which the hotel takes Family 
its name is descended from Hendrick Van Brevoort, who had served 
Haarlem as constable and overseer, and later “emigrated” to New [ 
York, where he was an alderman from 1702 to 1713. His farm v 
adjoined the Randall farm and ran northeasterly to about 14th Street 
and Fourth Avenue. Later, one of his descendants, Henry Brevoort, 
whose farmhouse was on the west side of Fourth Avenue, stood in 
his doorway with a blunderbuss, so tradition says, and defied the 
Commissioners to lay 11th Street through his homestead. It is a 
fact that, although in maps of 1807 11th Street runs through Bre- 
voort’s homestead, and in 1836 and 1849 the city aldermen passed 
ordinances cutting the street through, such respect was paid to the 


F I F T H A V E X U E 

opposition of the doughty old burgher, that to this day 11th Street 
has never been cut through; nor is it likely to be, for Grace Church, 
its rectory and garden, cover the site of old Henry Brevoort’s home- 
stead. One of the most palatial early homes on Fifth Avenue was 
the residence, at No. 24, of another Henry Brevoort of the same 
family. It was sold in 1850 to Henry de Rham for $57,000, and is 
now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Charles de Rham. Brevoort’s only 
daughter married James Renwick, whose son, James Renwick, Jr., 
was the architect of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Grace Church. 

Romance A romantic tale is told of the first masked ball given in New York, 
of New which was held in 1840 in the Brevoort house. It was popularly 
}orks hirst S p 0 k en G f as “an imported amusement.” Among those who attended 
' in fancy dress, domino and mask, was Miss Matilda Barclay, the 
beautiful and charming daughter of Anthony Barclay, the British 
Consul, who was later dismissed for raising recruits during the 
Crimean War. Another guest was a young South Carolinian named 
Burgwyne, who, in spite of the opposition of her parents, had won Miss 
Barclay’s heart. She went as Lalla Rookh and he as Feramorz. At 
four o’clock, without changing their costumes, they left the ball and 
were married before breakfast. This incident brought masked 
balls into such odium that it was many years before another was 
attempted in New York. 

Early On lower Fifth Avenue are two of New York’s earliest churches. 
( hurches o?i The Episcopal Church of the Ascension, standing at the northwest 
corner of 10th Street, of which the Rev. Percy Stickney Grant is 
now rector, was built in 1840 and consecrated November 5, 1841. 
The First Presbyterian Church, between 11th and 12th Streets, built 
in 1845, was opened for worship January 11, 1846. Its present pastor 
is the Rev. Howard Duffield. 

Fifth Avenue to 12th Street, which we have just traversed, has 
scarcely changed in appearance since 1845. - On an avenue lined 
with trees and dotted here and there with front-yard grass plots, 
many of the old houses still stand unchanged. Save for one or two 
business offices, recently opened, and several large apartments, it is 
the Fifth Avenue of seventy years ago. “Business has never been 
able to get a hold below 12th Street,” said Mr. Amos F. Eno, who 
lives at No. 32, “because most of the residents think too much of their 
old homesteads to sell.” 

But at 12th Street a change so sudden as to be almost startling 
presents itself. There begins tlje portion of Fifth Avenv** which 
trade has so radically altered. At the northwest corner stands an 
eighteen-story office building, a threatening outpost of approaching 
business. Opposite, on the west side of the Avenue, Nos. 60 and 62, 
until recently the last survivors, north of 12th Street, of the early 
homes, are now being razed. No trees are to be seen from this point 
northward. Immediately above, as far as 23rd Street, is the section 
of large office buildings given almost exclusively to the manufacturing 
and wholesale trade. 

From photographs. , Copyright, 1915, by Perry Walton. 


On the left the Church of the Ascension, northwest corner of 10th Street. On the right the First Presbyterian Church, northwest corner of 11th Street. 



F I F T H A V E N U E 

From a painting by W. R. Miller in 1848. Collection of New York Historical Society. 


Shown on the Damage Map of 14th Street (1828) as standing about in the centre of the street. 

Near its site now stands the old Van Beuren house. 

Story of the At 14th Street and Fifth Avenue was the Spingler market garden 
Spingler farm of about twenty-two acres. Long before New York had stretched 
and I an above City Hall Park, John Smith, a wealthy slave-holder, bought of 
Beuren £b as Brevoort^in 1762, part of the Brevoort farm about 14th Street 
and Fifth Avenue. On the choicest site, now the centre of 14th Street, 
just west of Fifth Avenue, he built his country residence. His widow 
continued to live in it until 1788, when James Duane, Mayor of the 
City, and others, executors of Smith’s will, sold the estate to Henry 
Spingler for about $4,750. Here Spingler lived until his death in 1813. 
His barn stood on the southwest corner of 14th Street and Fifth 
Avenue. Most of the property was inherited by Mrs. Mary S. Van 
Beuren, Spingler’s granddaughter. She built the Van Beuren brown- 
stone front house on 14th Street and lived there for years, maintain- 
ing a little garden, with flowers and vegetables, a cow and chickens. 
Spingler’s estate, valued in 1845 at $200,000, eventually found its 
way into the possession of many well-known New Yorkers. Moses 
H. Grinnell of the firm of Grinnell, Minturn & Co., the famous mer- 
chants of the clipper ship days, had his beautiful home at the northeast 
corner of 14th Street and Fifth Avenue. Later the house was leased 
to the Delmonicos until they moved in 1876 to 26th Street and Fifth 




Prepared for the City in 1819-1820, by John Randel, Jr. Showing the farms superimposed 
upon the Commissioners’ Map of 1811, the 23rd Street part of the Parade Ground, Bloomingdale 
Road, and the Eastern Post-Road. 

As we go up the Avenue from 15th to 18th Streets we pass 
across what was the farm of Thomas and Edward Burling, rela- 
tives of those old merchants James and John Burling, whose name 
was given to Burling Slip, part of the East River front, and also 
over the farm owned until 1836 by John Cowman. Jhe stretch 
from 18th to 21st Streets was part of the farm sold in 1791 to 
Isaac Varian for $3,000, by the heirs of Sir Peter Warren. The 
property formed part of the complimentary tract of land granted 
by the corporation of the City in 1744 to C aptain, afterward Admiral, 

traversed by 
the Line of 
F ifth 



From a photograph. Collection of J. Clarence Davies. 


Northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 18th Street. 

Just before demolition in 1894-95. 

Sir Peter Warren, in commemoration of “Singular and Imminent 
Services done and perfformed by him Not Only for the Kingdom 
of Great Brittain in Generali, but for this City and Colony in par- 
ticular.” A valiant character was Sir Peter Warren, who in 1743 
was Commodore of the English Squadron off the Port of New 

Prominent Worth noting are the names of prominent New Yorkers who, during 
Early the fifties, lived on Fifth Avenue between Washington Square and 
Residents 21st Street. Among them are Lispenard Stewart, Thomas Eggleson, 
Silas Wood, Henry C. de Rham, Thomas F. Woodruff, Francis Cottinet, 
David S. Kennedy, James Donaldson, Dr. J. Kearney Rodgers, C. N. 
Talbot, N. H. Wolfe, James McBride, Charles M. Parker, L. M. 
Hoffman, August Belmont, Benjamin Ay mar, Henry C. Winthrop, 
Eugene Scliiff, Captain Lorillard Spencer, Moses Taylor, John H. Cos- 
ter, Henry A. Coster, Sidney Mason, Marshall O. Roberts, Robert L. 
Cutting, Gordon W. Burnham, Robert C. Townsend, George Opdyke, 
Robert L. Stuart, whose magnificent art collection was given to the 
Lenox Library, and James Lenox, the founder of the Lenox Library. 
The fortunes of these gentlemen, as recorded in “Wealth and Biog- 
raphy of the Wealthy Citizens of New York,” averaged between 
$100,000 and $300,000. One of the richest men in New York at that 
time was James Lenox, who had inherited the then huge fortune of 
$3,000,000; another large fortune was that of James McBride, es- 
timated at $700,000. 



t'ror. - print. Collection of S. B. Altmayer. 


Northwest corner of 21st Street and Fifth Avenue. 

As early as 1855 clubs had begun to elbow themselves into Fifth First Clubs 
Avenue, and one of the first to intrude among the residences was on Fifth 
the Union Club, organized in 1836 with four hundred of the City’s Avenue 
most distinguished citizens as members. In 1855 it moved from Broad- 
way near 4th Street into a new club house on the northwest corner of 
21st Street and Fifth Avenue, described at the time as “a superb 
brownstone structure which cost $300,000,” and which was the first 
house erected in New York solely for club purposes. In 1859 the Athe- 
neum established itself at the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 
16th Street. The Manhattan Club, in 1876, when August Belmont 
was president, occupied the former home of Charles M. Parker at the 
southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 15th Street. The Lotos Club 
in 1888 had its home opposite the Union Club at the northeast corner 
of 21st Street. The Travellers’ Club occupied the large residence 
that had belonged to Gordon W. Burnham, at the southwest corner of 
18th Street and Fifth Avenue. The Arcadian Club, for promoting fellow- 
ship among journalists, artists, musicians, literary and theatrical men, 
was at 146 Fifth Avenue between 19th and 20th Streets. In 1874 the 
New York Club, which had been formed in 1846 by a number of young 
literary and professional men and “men about town,” moved from its 
location at 15th Street and Fifth Avenue to a building which faced the 
Worth Monument at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 25th Street. The 
Knickerbocker Club, organized in 1871 and composed of descendants of 
the first settlers of New York, bought from William Butler Duncan his 
residence on the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 28th Street for 
$180,000 and fitted it up as a commodious and elegantly appointed club 


F I F T H A V E N U E 

From a photograph. Collection of Amos F. Eno. 


house. On the northwest corner of 18th Street and Fifth Avenue, 
opposite the former home of Gordon W. Burnham, in later years stood 
Chickering Hall, famous in its day as a musical and social centre. 
Earliest As the residences drew the clubs to Fifth Avenue, so even earlier 
Fifth they attracted the churches. The Church of the Ascension, at 10th 
Avenue Street, and the First Presbyterian Church, at 11th Street, have been 
Churches mentioned. The South Dutch Reformed Church was built in 1850 
at the southwest corner of 21st Street, and the Fifth Avenue Presby- 
terian Church was built at the corner of 19th Street and Fifth Avenue 
in 1853. At the northwest corner of 29th Street stands the Marble 



From a lithograph by T. S. Berry. Collection of J. Clarence Davies. 


23rd Street and Fifth Avenue in 1853. - — . 

Collegiate Church. The corner-stone was laid November 26, 1851, 
and the church was opened for worship October 11, 1854. This 
massive building of Hq^ijngs marble houses the oldest ecclesiastical 
organization in New York, the congregation having been formed in 
1628. For years the Rev. Theodore Cuyler, D.D., was pastor, and 
later the Rev. Henry C. Van Dyke, D.D., now United States Minister 
to The Netherlands. In 1878 was held here the celebration of the 
two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Collegiate Church. The 
bell which stands in the churchyard bears an inscription showing 
that it was cast in 1768 at Amsterdam. 

Twenty-third Street and Fifth Avenue is an interesting spot in 
our antiquarian journey along the Avenue. Back in 1670 Sir Edmund 
Andros, Governor of the Province, granted to Solomon Peters, a 
free negro, thirty acres of land from 21st to 26th Streets, between 
Broadway (Bloomingdale Road) and Seventh Avenue. Solomon's 
descendants sold the tract in 1716 to John Horn and Cornelius Web- 
ber, and in 1815 it became vested in John Horn the second. The 
Horn farmhouse stood near the centre of Fifth Avenue south of 23rd 
Street, and was later occupied by Christopher Mildenberger, who 
married Horn’s daughter. 

When Fifth Avenue was cut through at 23rd Street, in 1837, the 
Common Council allowed the old farmhouse to remain where it was 
until 1839 when it was removed to the present site of the Fifth Avenue 
Building, the northwest corner of 23rd Street and Broadway. Here it 

Fa r m of 
Peters, a 
Free Negro 

Cottage at 
23rd Street 








W etherbee' s 
of the 
Prince of 
Visit to 
New York 

became a road-house known as the “Madison Cottage,” whose sign 
was a huge pair of antlers and whose proprietor was Corporal Thomp- 
son. This was a famous resort of the riders and drivers from the City, 
still some miles south, and was also a post tavern in the coaching days. 

Madison Cottage was torn down to make room for Franconi’s 
Hippodrome, opened May 2, 1853. The Hippodrome was built by a 
syndicate of eight American showmen, among whom were Avery 
Smith, Richard Sands, and Seth B. Howe. It was seven hundred feet 
in circumference; of brick, two stories high, with an ova) ring in 
the centre two hundred feet wide by three hundred feet long. The 
arena was covered with canvas and seated about six thousand people, 
with standing room for almost one-half as many more. Although 
the circus presented here compared very favorably with perform- 
ances later given at Madison Square Garden, the venture was 
not a success, and after two years of losses the Hippodrome gave 
way to the Fifth Avenue Hotel (first called the Mount Vernon Hotel). 
The property was bought by Amos R. Eno, a New Englander who 
had made a fortune in New York. Many predicted that a hotel so 
far up town would not pay. In fact, John Brougham, the actor, in 
his reminiscences speaks of “shooting birds where the Fifth Avenue 
Hotel now stands,” and playing cricket in a field near 35th Street as 
late as the forties. The hotel was opened in September 1859 under 
the control of Colonel Paran Stevens. It fronted 23rd Street, Broad- 
way, Fifth Avenue and 24th Street, was six stories high, built of 
white marble, and had every convenience then known, including the first 
passenger elevator (called a “Vertical Railroad”) ever installed. This 
hostelry accommodated one thousand guests, and the rates, including 
room and board, were $2.50 a day. Under the management of A."B. 
Darling, a native of Burke, Vt., and Hiram Hitchcock, of Claremont, 
N.H., who had both gained great popularity while running well-known 
Southern hotels, the house filled with a large Southern patronage and 
soon became one of the famous hotels of the world. Well-known men 
from all over America and from Europe were its guests. Here the 
Prince of Wales, later Edward the Seventh, was entertained when 
he came to America in 1860. 

“I remember the Prince of Wales’ visit well,” said Mr. Gardner 
Wetherbee, who was a clerk at the hotel and who later became one of 
New York’s most successful hotel proprietors. “He had the suite 
on the first floor 23rd Street side, and was pretty much bored, as a 
jolly youth of nineteen might well be, by the ceremony he was obliged 
to face from the time he set foot in New York. So great was his 
relief to escape to the privacy of his suite that he and his imme- 
diate companions engaged in an enthusiastic game of leap-frog in 
the corridor. 

“At the time of the draft riots in 1863 when the rioters, after burning 
the Orphan Asylum at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue, came down 
Broadway to burn the hotel, we put up the iron shutters for protec- 
tion. A United States officer who was at the hotel told Mr. Hitchcock 


Showing the Fifth Avenue Hotel on the left, the old horse-car lines and Fifth Avenue stages. 

F I F T FI A V F: N U E 


From an old print , Charles Magnus , publisher. Collection of J . Clarence Davies. 


that if he could borrow a pistol he would turn back the rioters. He 
met them at the corner of 25th Street and succeeded in diverting them 
up Broadway. At 27th Street they burned the draft offices.” 

Emperor Dom Pedro, of Brazil, and the Empress, stayed at the 
hotel in 1876. Presidents Lincoln and Grant, senators, congressmen, 
governors, judges, generals, admirals, ambassadors, actors and 
actresses stopped at the Fifth Avenue. Here for years lived General 
W. T. Sherman, William J. Florence, the actor, and ex-Senator 
Thomas C. Platt, the Republican boss. Senator Platt’s ‘‘Amen 
Corner,” where weekly political conferences were held in a corner 
of the corridor, made and unmade presidents, governors, senators, 
and congressmen, as well as lesser political officials. The old hostelry 
was razed in 1908 to make room for the present Fifth Avenue Building, 
occupied by stores and offices, and the Aldine Club, an organization 
of advertising men, publishers, authors and artists. 

Whtj the When Fifth Avenue was carried through to 23rd Street, where it 
Flatiron intersects Broadway there was formed a triangular plot with a base 
Building of eighty-five feet on 22nd Street and an apex at 23rd Street. On 
has an Apex the 22nd Street side of the plot formerly stood the St. Germaine 
Hotel. The Fuller Building, popularly called the Flatiron Building, 
now occupies the entire triangle. 

Madison As originally laid down on the Commissioners’ Map of 1811, the 
Square, Parade Ground, extending from 23rd to 34th Streets, and bounded 
formerly the on the east by the Eastern Post-Road and on the west by the 
Parade Bloomingdale Road (now Broadway), was largely common land be- 
Ground longing to the City. Fifth Avenue, as at first planned, did not bisect 
the Parade Ground but was continued northward at 34th Street. 



From. Valentine's Manual. Collection of Perry Walton. 


The remodelled United States Arsenal building, which stood on a site now part of Madison 


NeaF the lower end stood an old United States Arsenal; to the 
northeast was a Potter’s Field; while to the west was the land of 
General Theodorus Bailey, the City Postmaster; and at the north, 
the farm of Caspar Samler. The Arsenal was erected in 1808, (at 
the junction of the Eastern Post-Road and the Bloomingdale Road, 
near where the Farragut Statue now stands, on land sold to the 
Government in 1807 by the City. A powder magazine stood here 
as early as 1785. In 1823 “the barracks,” as the Arsenal was 
called, were abandoned, and the following year the building and 
land were sold, for $6,000, to the Society for the Reformation of 
Juvenile Delinquents, the first society in America organized to 
care for and reform youthful offenders. The remodelled edifice, the 
first House of Refuge in New York City, was opened with six boys 
and three girls. In 1839 it was destroyed by fire, and the institution 
was transferred to the foot of East 23rd Street, where it remained 
until its removal, about 1854, to Randall’s Island. 

At the southern end of the Parade Ground, on the Eastern Post- 
Road, a Potter’s Field was opened in 1794, in which the dead of the 
almshouse and victims of the yellow fever epidemics were interred 
until the new Potter’s Field was established at Washington Square, in 
1797. In 1837 the Parade Ground, called “a public place,” was reduced 
to the present dimensions of Madison Square (6.84 acres), and in 1844 
the Eastern Post-Road, which traversed the Square, was closed. 
The course of this old road may be still traced by the double row of 
trees that runs northeast toward Madison Square Garden. Madison 
Square, named after President Madison, was formally opened as a 

U nited 



and the 



and the 
Opening of 



Lithograph by A. Weingartner. Collection of Amos F. Eno. 

The houses in the background are typical of the buildings which then surrounded Madison Square. 

of Madison 

of the 

park in June 1847. During the Civil War the Square was used as 
a camp for recruits. 

The migration of society to Madison Square began soon after the 
opening of the Square in 1847, during the mayoralty of James Harper, 
of the well-known publishing firm of Harper & Brothers. From 1853 
until after the Civil War, Madison Square was the social centre of 
the City. William Allen Butler's poem, “Miss Flora McFlimsey of 
Madison Square,” characterizes the frivolity of certain phases of 
society at that time. The poem was published in Harpers Weekly, 
which w T as owned by the firm whose head was then Mayor of 
the City. Among those who lived in this vicinity were Leonard 
W. Jerome, and his elder brother, Addison G. Jerome, who, with 
William R. Travers, were social leaders and prominent Wall Street 
brokers; James Stokes, w r ho, in 1851, built at No. 37 Madison 
Square East, the first residence on Madison Square, and whose 
wife was a daughter of Anson G. Phelps; John David Wolfe, whose 
daughter, Catherine Lorillard Wolfe, gave her magnificent art collec- 
tion to the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Frank Work, William and 
John O’Brien, Henry M. Schieffelin, James L. Schieffelin, Samuel B. 
Schieffelin, Benjamin H. Field, Peter Ronalds and William Lane. 

The triangular piece of ground bounded by Broadway and Fifth 
Avenue, 24th and 25th Streets, w 7 as set apart by order of the Com- 
mon Council, December 5, 1854, for the erection of a monument 
dedicated to the memory of Major-General William J. Worth, of 



From, a photograph. Collection of J . Clarence Dames. 


Showing Grant’s funeral procession, August 8, 1885. On the right-hand side are the residences 
of John Jacob and William B. Astor, now the site of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. 

Mexican War fame, who died at San Antonio, Texas, June 7, 1849. 
On November 25, 1857, when the monument was dedicated, with a 
parade and a review, General Worth’s remains were interred under 
its south side. 

Within the confines of the old Caspar Sander farm, which comprised 
the greater part of Fifth Avenue from Madison Square to 31st Street, 
have stood some well-known buildings. Among them were the old 
Brunswick Hotel, at the northeast corner of 26th Street, once famous 
as the headquarters of the Coaching Club, now replaced by a modern 
office building, and the Victoria Hotel, at the southwest corner of 27th 
Street, patronized at one time by Grover Cleveland, and recently de- 
molished to make way for a twenty-story business structure. The 
Marble Collegiate Church at 29th Street and the Holland House at 
30th Street also stand on sites once part of the Sander farm. 

North of the Caspar Sander farm, extending on Fifth Avenue from 
near 32nd almost to 36th Streets, were the twenty acres of land bought 
in 1799 by John Thompson for £482 10*“. In 1827 William B. Astor 
bought a half interest, including Fifth Avenue from 32nd to 35th 
Streets, for $20,500. He built an unpretentious square red brick 
house on the southwest corner of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, while 
John Jacob Astor erected a home at the northwest corner of 33rd 

Sites on the 
Old Samler 


bought by 
William B. 



Street. The Waldorf Hotel, named after the little town of Waldorf, 
Germany, the Asters’ ancestral home, occupies the former site of John 
Jacob Astor’s house, and was opened for business March 14, 1893. The 
Astoria, named after Astoria, Ore., founded by John Jacob Astor, Sr., 
in 1811, stands on the site of William B. Astor’s house. It was opened 
November 1, 1897. The two hotels, under one management, are now 
called the Waldorf-Astoria. 

On a site which was also part of the Thompson farm, at the north- 
west corner of 34th Street, stood, at the beginning of the Civil War, 
the residence of “Dr.” Samuel P. Townsend, known as “Sarsaparilla” 
Townsend. Townsend, who had been a contractor, made his money 
by successfully advertising Townsend’s Sarsaparilla. His house, 




House and 
the A. T. 
Ma nsion 

From a photograph. Copyright , 1915, by Perry Walton. 


Showing the Waldorf-Astoria, and the Columbia Trust Company building on the site of the 
Townsend and Stewart mansions. 



on the 
Site of the 
' Block 

From, an old print. Putnam's Magazine. 


Northwest corner of 37th Street and Fifth Avenue. Now the site of the Brick 
Presbyterian Church. 

which cost about $100,000, was one of the wonders of the City. He 
sold it in 1862 to Dr. Gorham D. Abbott, uncle of Dr. Lyman Abbott 
of The Outlook, and here Dr. Gorham D. Abbott, who had been princi- 
pal of the Spingler Institute on Union Square, conducted a school 
until the site was sold to A. T. Stewart, the famous merchant. Stewart, 
as a lad, came to America from Belfast in 1818; began life as a school 
teacher; opened a small shop for trimmings; entered the dry-goods 
business; and wdien he died in 1876, left an estate worth $40,000,000. 
The estate included the Italian marble palace which he had built at 
the corner of 34th Street at a cost of $2,000,000. His widow occupied 
it until her death in 1886, after which the Manhattan Club leased the 
property. It was later torn down to make room for the building of 
the Columbia Trust Company. 

As remarkable a transformation as may be found anywhere on 
Fifth Avenue is the development of the section in the neighborhood of 
34th Street and Fifth Avenue. Within the span of a lifetime it has 
changed from a rural district into the most exclusive residential locality 
in the City, and, finally, into the notable business section which it now 
is. Benson J. Lossing, the historian, writes that in 1845 he and a com- 
panion, while strolling up the country lane then known as the Middle 
Road, picked blackberries at what is now the corner of 35th Street 
and Madison Avenue — the northeast corner of the Altman block. 



From a photograph. Copyright, 1915 , by Perry Walton. 


37th Street and Fifth Avenue. 

Showing the remarkable transformation of the Waddell site since 1845. 

The Middle Road, then a typical country thoroughfare, ran north- 
westerly from the Eastern Post-Road (at about Fourth Avenue and 
28th Street) and intersected Fifth Avenue at 41st Street. This road 
was the eastern boundary of the Thompson farm, portions of which 
have become the two most valuable parcels on Fifth Avenue, namely, 
the Altman and Waldorf-Astoria properties. 

The block from 37th to 38th Streets, betw r een Fifth and Sixth Coventry 
Avenues, was the country-seat of W. Coventry H. Waddell, a close Waddell 
friend of President Andrew Jackson. Waddell’s fortune sprang from the Mansion at 
services he rendered as financial representative of Jackson’s Adminis- 37th Street 
tration. His villa stood on the site of the Brick Presbyterian Church, 
at the northwest corner of 37th Street. In 1845, when Mr. Waddell 
went “into the wilderness” to build, Fifth Avenue above Madison 
Square was a country road lined with farms, and while Mr. Waddell 



From a photograph. Copyright, 1915, by Perry Walton. 


Northeast corner 39th Street and Fifth Avenue, once the site of Dickel’s Riding Academy. 

was bargaining for the land his wife sat under an apple-tree in a neigh- 
boring orchard. He paid $9,150 for the tract, which was sold ten 
years later for $80,000, and for part of which in 1856 the Brick Church 
paid $58,000. His villa was of yellowish gray stucco with brownstone 
trim, Gothic in style, and had so many towers, oriels and gables, 
that when Waddell’s brother saw it and was asked what he would 
call it, replied, “Waddell’s Caster; here is a mustard pot, there is a 
pepper bottle and there is a vinegar cruet.” The house stood con- 
siderably above the street level upon grounds which descended by 
sloping grass banks to the street. It was elegantly furnished and had 
a large conservatory and picture gallery. From a broad marble 
hall a winding staircase led to a tower, from which a charming view was 
obtained of both the East and Hudson Rivers, the intervening semi- 
rural landscape, and the approaching city. Mr. and Mrs. Waddell 
were noted for princely hospitality, and among their frequent guests 




From, a photograph. 


Northwest corner of 39th Street and Fifth Avenue. 

Copyright, igij, by Perry Walton. 

were the social, political and literary celebrities of the time. Having 
lost his fortune in the financial crash of 1857, Mr. Waddell was obliged 
to sacrifice his estate. The grounds were levelled to make way for 
the growing city, and the villa, after standing less than a dozen years, 
was torn down. 

At the northeast corner of 39th Street and Fifth Avenue is the 
home of the Union League Club, built at a cost of $400,000 in 1879- 
1880. The interior decorations are the work of Louis Tiffany, John 
La Farge and Franklin Smith. The club, organized in 1863, “to 
oppose disloyalty to the Union, to promote good Government, and 
to elevate American citizenship,” had been housed from 1868 until 
it moved into its present quarters, in the former Jerome residence on 
Madison Square. 

Opposite the Union League Club, on the northwest corner of 39th 
Street, with a yard along Fifth Avenue, guarded by a high board 
fence, is an old-fashioned brick and brownstone house, dating back 
to 1856. Three elderly sisters of the late John Gottlieb Wendel live 
there amid surroundings which recall the simple days of fifty years ago. 




The Wendel 
House and 
its Story 



From, Valentine’s Manual, 1865. Collection of J. Clarence Davies. 


Southeast corner of 40th Street and Fifth Avenue. 

and Putnam 
save the 
at Murray 

These three women, with a married sister, are the sole heirs of the 
$80,000,000 in real estate left by their brother. The Wendel name is of 
Revolutionary fame, a direct ancestor, General David Wendel, known 
as “Fighting Dave,” having fought in the War of Independence. The 
fortune, like that of the Astors’, began with a furrier who bought and 
sold real estate, the original John G. Wendel (great-great-grandfather 
of the late John G. Wendel). He and the original John Jacob Astor 
were partners in the fur business in a little house that stood on Maiden 
Lane. They married sisters, and both the Astors and the Wendels 
have since continued to buy and hold real estate. The passion for 
holding became so great with the late John G. Wendel, that he would 
never sell, and before he died his holdings, which were second only 
to the Astors’, extended all over the City. He collected his own 
rents, would not lease to a saloon, gave only three-year leases, and 
was characterized as “one of the squarest landlords in the City.” He 
lived with his three sisters in the most simple manner in a house 
assessed at $5,000, on a site valued at $1,897,000. 

Fifth Avenue, from 34th to 42nd Streets, was once part of “Inclen- 
burg,” the estate of Robert Murray, a Quaker. The entire estate 
extended from Broadway to Fourth Avenue. At the manor house, 
which stood near Park Avenue and 37th Street, Mrs. Murray enter- 
tained British officers so hospitably with her fine old Madeira, on 
Sunday morning, September 15, 1776, that Washington and Putnam 
had time to rally the Continental troops. The Continentals had 
been routed at Kip’s Bay (the foot of East 34th Street), and panic- 
stricken soldiers filled the farms and fields in the neighborhood of 
Murray Hill. General Washington strove so desperately to stop the 
panic, that General Greene subsequently remarked, “He sought 



From a photograph. Collection of New York Historical Society. 


41st to 42nd Streets on the east side of Fifth Avenue. 

death rather than life.” On Lowe’s Lane, an old road crossing Fifth 
Avenue at 42nd Street, and in The field now occupied by the Library 
and Bryant Park, Washington and Putnam stopped the rout and 
withdrew their troops to Harlem Heights, where the battle was fought 
which enabled the Continentals to escape to White Plains. 

In 1804 John Murray, Jr., a son of Robert, and the brother of 
Lindley Murray, the famous grammarian, bought a tract of five acres 
between 35th and 37th Streets, for $5,000, and built a large square 
mansion a short distance from the Middle Road, directly in the 
line of Fifth Avenue between 36th and 37th Streets. Murray, who 
was a brewer and wealthy philanthropist, helped to establish public 
schools in New York and to organize the American Academy of Fine 
Arts; he was also one of the first commissioners of the State Prison. 
His ample grounds were bordered by a sparkling brook, and the mansion 
house is shown on the Colton Map of 1836 in the midst of a beautiful 
formal garden and screened from the road by a row of trees. 

At the southeast corner of 40th Street and Fifth Avenue, in 1854, 
stood a small country tavern known as the Croton Cottage, which 
took its name from the Croton Reservoir, located diagonally opposite 
on the Avenue. It was built of wood, painted yellow, and surrounded 
by trees and shrubbery, and here ice-cream and refreshments were 
served to those who came to view the City from the top of the reservoir 
walls. The cottage was burned down during the draft riots in 1863, 
and on this site later lived William H. Vanderbilt, who bought it in 

House in 
the Middle 
of Fifth 

The Croton 
Cottage and 
the Old 
William U. 


r wm£ m 

Collection of J . Clarence Davies. Copyright, 1904, by Max Williams. 


Looking south from 42nd Street. Croton Reservoir on the right. From a photograph in 1879 

by John Bachman. 

Collection of J. Clarence Davies. Copyright, 1904, by Max Williams. 


Looking north from 42nd Street. Temple Emanu-El, 43rd Street and Fifth Avenue, in the 
foreground; St. Patrick’s Cathedral, before its spires were raised, in the background. 

From a photograph in 1879 by John Bachman. 

From a photograph. Collection of J . Clarence Davies. 


As it appeared when the work of demolition began in 1900. 

From a photograph. 

Copyright, 1915, by Perry Walton. 


Occupying the site of the old Croton Reservoir, Fifth Avenue, 40th to 42nd Streets. 



Field at 
Park and 
the Old 
Re ’-servoir 

College and 
“ The 
House of 

From an old engraving by Capewell & Kimmel. Collection of John D. Crimmins. 


The Crystal Palace was erected at the rear of the Reservoir, on the site which subsequently 
became Bryant Park. 

1866 for $80,000. Mr. Vanderbilt left the house to his son, Frederick 
W. Vanderbilt, and it was only recently demolished to make room for 
the new Arnold, Constable & Co. building. 

The land between 40th and 42nd Streets, Fifth and Sixth Avenues, 
now covered by Bryant Park and the Library, was used as a Potter’s 
Field from 1822 to 1825. Later, on the eastern part of this ground, 
was erected the distributing reservoir of the Croton Water system, 
which was opened with impressive ceremonies October 14, 1842. 
The reservoir, which occupied more than four acres, was divided into 
two basins by a partition wall. In appearance its exterior was like an 
Egyptian temple. The enclosing walls had an average height of forty- 
four and one-half feet and were constructed of granite. It was thirty 
feet deep and contained 20,000,000 gallons of water. The introduction 
of Croton water had the immediate effect of reducing insurance rates 
forty cents on one hundred dollars. The reservoir was demolished in 
1900, to make way for the New York Public Library, a consolidation 
of the Lenox, Astor and Tilden Foundations, which was opened May 
23, 1911. The Library, constructed of Vermont marble, cost about 
$9,000,000 and is one of the most beautiful buildings on Fifth Avenue. 

Opposite the reservoir on Fifth Avenue, between 41st and 42nd 
Streets, was located for years Rutgers Female College. This institu- 
tion occupied the buildings known as “The House of Mansions” or 
“The Spanish Row.” They were erected about 1855 by George 
Higgins, who thought “that eleven dwellings, uniform in size, price 
and amount of accommodation, of durable fire-brick, and of a chosen 

o J> 



M. Dripps, publisher; John M. Harrison, surveyor. Collection of New York Geographical Society. 


Showing the cattle-yards on Fifth Avenue, from 44th to 46th Streets. 

cheerful tint of color and variegated architecture,” would suit the 
most fastidious home-seeker. He notified the public in his prospectus 
that the view from the windows was unrivalled, as it commanded 
the whole island with its surroundings. The project was not, how- 
ever, a success, and, later, most of the block was occupied by Rutgers 
Female College. This institution was first opened in the spring of 
1839, on ground given it by William B. Crosby, at 262-264-266 
Madison Street, which had been part of the estate of Colonel Henry 



Rutgers, a distinguished Revolutionary officer after whom the col- 
lege was named. It was the first seminary for the higher education 
of young ladies in the City. Dr. Isaac Ferris, long chancellor of the 
University of New York, was the first president. In 1860, after 
the institution had been in existence over twenty years, it moved to 
the Fifth Avenue location. Here it conducted a complete college 
course for young ladies. The encroachments of business soon drove 
it from Fifth Avenue to a site farther up town. On the south half of 
the block now stands the new Rogers Peet Company building. 

On land immediately west of the reservoir, from 1853 to 1858, ( rystal 
stood the Crystal Palace, opened by President Franklin Pierce, July 14, Palace and 
1853, as a World’s Fair for the exhibition of the arts and industries 
of all nations. The building, w T hich cost $650,000, was constructed 
in the shape of a Greek cross, of glass and iron, with a graceful dome, 
arched naves and broad aisles. Its prototype was the famous Crystal 
Palace of London. Here in 1858 an ovation was given to Cyrus W. 

Field upon the completion of the Atlantic cable. As a place of exhibit 
the palace was not a financial success. It was burned, October 5, 

1858, burying in its ruins the rich collection of the American Institute 
Fair. The site of the Crystal Palace, used as an encampment for Union 
troops in 1862, was laid out into what was known as “Reservoir Park” 
in 1871. In 1884 the name was changed to Bryant Park. 

On 43rd Street with an entrance on 42nd Street, opposite the Crystal Latting 
Palace, was the famous Latting Tower, an observatory, which, with its Tower 
flagstaff, was three hundred and fifty feet high. From the summit a mag- 
nificent view of New Y 7 ork and the country about could be obtained. It 
was designed by Warren Latting, and cost $100,000. The tower was an 
octagon seventy-five feet across the base, built of timber, well braced 
with iron and anchored at each of the eight angles with about forty tons 
of stone and timber. There was a refreshment room immediately over 
the first story, and an opening one hundred and twenty -five feet from the 
ground, whence one obtained the first view of New York. An elevator 
ran as far as the second landing. The highest landing was three hundred 
feet from the base, or one hundred and seventy feet higher than the 
topmost window in St. Paul’s spire. At each landing there were tele- 
scopes and maps. The proprietors took a ten-year lease of the ground, 
and hoped to reap a fortune from those who would pay an admission 
to view New York and the surrounding country. The venture was 
a failure, however, and the structure was sold under execution. It 
was destroyed by fire August 30, 1856. 

The land on the east side of Fifth Avenue, from 42nd almost to Interesting 
44th Streets, about 1825 was the property of Isaac Burr, whose estate Sites about 
extended along the Middle Road which here coincided with Fifth Street 
Avenue. On the Burr property, at the northeast corner of 42nd 
Street, in 1889 was the Hamilton Hotel, later the site of ex-Governor 
Levi P. Morton’s home, and now the Seymour Building. Of interest 
is the fact that the immediate predecessor of Governor Morton, ex- 
Governor Roswell P. Flower, lived on Fifth Avenue, at No. 597, and 




From an old print. Collection of S. B. Altmayer. 

44th Street and Fifth Avenue. 

Edwin D. Morgan, also a former Governor of the State, lived at the 
corner of 37th Street and Fifth Avenue. At No. 511 Fifth Avenue, 
near the corner of 43rd Street, stood the former residence of “Boss 
Bill” Tweed, sold later to R. T. Wilson for $1,200,000, and recently 
demolished to make way for a business structure. From this houSe 
Tweed made his escape after his arrest for robbing the City. Having 
secured permission to return to his home for clothes, he escaped by 
a rear alley, while policemen were on guard at the front door, and 
made his way to his yacht, which lay with steam up, in the East River. 
He fled to Spain, whence he was extradited. 

Across the Avenue, on the northwest corner of 42nd Street, stood 
a small tavern before the Civil War. On the lot next to it was the 
garden of William H. Webb, the shipbuilder, who lived at No. 504 
Fifth Avenue. On this corner later stood the Hotel Bristol, which 
has been transformed into an office building. No. 506 Fifth Avenue, 
on the same block, was once the home of Mr. and Mrs. Russell Sage. 

' Temple The Temple Emanu-El has stood at the northeast corner of Fifth 
Emanu-El Avenue and 43rd Street since 1868, when it was completed at a cost 
of $600,000. It was designed by Leopold Eidlitz, and is considered 
one of the finest examples of Moorish architecture in the country. 
The congregation was organized by a combination of the reformed 
congregation of the Rev. Leo Merzbacher with an association of 
young Hebrews who had organized a Kultur Verein. The congrega- 
tion thus formed has widespread influence in reformed Judaism. 
Rev. Samuel Adler, father of Felix Adler, was for years Rabbi of 
the Temple. The present Rabbi is the Rev. Joseph Silverman. 



The block between 43rd and 44th Streets, on the west side of Fifth Colored 
Avenue, was the scene on July 13, 1863, of the burning of the Colored Orphan 
Orphan Asylum during the terrible Draft Riots. This asylum, which Asylum 
stood a short distance back from Fifth Avenue, was under the man- 
agement of the Association for the Benefit of Colored Orphans, or- 
ganized in 1836 by Miss Anna Shotwell, Miss Mary Murray, and 
twenty other ladies. The Association received from the City in 1842 
twenty-tw T o lots on Fifth Avenue between 43rd and 44th Streets, and 
there the building was erected which contained two hundred and 
thirty-three children at the time of the riot. The asylum was not 
only a place of refuge for colored children, but here they w T ere taught 
trades so that they could earn their living. 

The riot was precipitated by the conscription law passed by Con- The Draft 
gress, which forced over 30,000 reluctant men from New York into Riots of 
the ranks of the army. The names of those first drafted were an- 1863 
nounced in the evening papers of Saturday, July 11th, and all that 
night and Sunday the City was a cauldron of excitement. On 
Monday morning the rioters found a leader in a Southerner, 
under whose command the worst elements of the city ranged ' 
themselves. A mob surrounded the draft offices, and at eleven 
o’clock, as the name of Z. Shay, 633 West 42nd Street, was called, a 
stone was thrown through the window of the drafting-room. The 
crowd poured into the room, the furniture was shattered, and the 
officers barely escaped with their lives. The rioters then set fire to 
the building, cut telegraph wires and successfully routed the police. 

A squad of soldiers sent to the assistance of the police were set upon 
after they had fired a blank volley, were disarmed, routed and many 
of them horribly beaten. The mob pillaged the home of \\ illiam 
Turner on Lexington Avenue, destroying the furniture and valuable 
paintings, and burned it to the ground. Bull's Head Hotel on 44th 
Street was set on fire. Croton Cottage met the same fate. A whole 
row of stores and the Provost Marshal’s office at 1148 Broadway were 
plundered. About three o'clock a party attacked an arms factory on 
Seventh Avenue and 21st Street, which was partially owned by Mayor 
Opdyke. After stealing the arms they burned the place and killed a 
number of people. 

The Colored Orphan Asylum was then attacked, but before the Burning 
rioters arrived the children were taken to the Police Station and later of the 
conducted under guard to the Almshouse on Blackwell s Island. Colored 
When the mob reached the Asylum they pillaged and burned it to Orphan 
the ground. Here and there they overtook colored men and sum- Asylum 
marily hanged them to the nearest trees or lamp-posts. The Arsenal 
on Seventh Avenue was threatened, but troops sent from Fort 
Hamilton and Governor’s Island saved it. After having destroyed 
over half a million dollars’ worth of property, which the City had 
to make good, the rioters were finally put down by troops from the 
front under General Wood and General Sanford. 

The property of the old Asylum was sold by its proprietors in 1866 






Tree Inn 

of One who 
lived there 

From, a photograph. Collection of J. Clarence Davies. 


Southeast corner of 44th Street and Fifth Avenue, now the site of the American Real 
Estate Co.’s building. 

for $170,000, and a lot was bought at Amsterdam Avenue and 143rd 
Street, where a new building was erected. Since 1907 the asylum has 
been located at Riverdale, N.Y. Part of the site of the Colored 
Orphan Asylum is now occupied by Sherry’s. 

At the time of the riot there stood near the southeast corner of 
Fifth Avenue and 44th Street a little frame cottage, named from the 
willow tree which stood in front of it, the Willow Tree Inn. At 
one time this was run by Tom Hyer, the noted pugilist. According 
to Mr. John T. Mills, Jr., whose father owned the cottage, the draft 
rioters made it their headquarters during the riot. “My mother 
planted the old willow tree,” said Mr. Mills, “and I remember dis- 
tinctly the Orphan Asylum fire. The only reason our home was not 
destroyed was that father ran the Bull’s Head stages which carried 
people down town for three cents, and the ruffians did not care to 
destroy the means of transportation. There were many vacant lots 
in this section of Fifth Avenue at the time of the Civil War, and a 
small shanty below the Willow Cottage was the only building that 
stood between Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue. On the north- 
west corner of Fifth Avenue and 45th Street, then considered far 



north, stood a three-story brick building. The stockyards were be- 
tween Fifth Avenue and Fourth Avenue from 44th to 46th Streets, 
and Madison Avenue was not then cut through. The stockyards 
were divided into pens of fifty by one hundred feet into which the 
cattle were driven from runs between the yards. On the east side 
of Fifth Avenue, just above 42nd Street, stood four high brownstone 
front houses, the first to be built in this neighborhood. In the rear 
of these were stables that had entrances on Fifth Avenue.” 

The Willow Tree Inn corner illustrates the appreciation of Fifth Apprecia- 
Avenue real estate. In 1853 this corner was the extreme southwest tl01 ‘ °f ^ ie 
angle of the Fair and Lockwood farm, and was sold for $8,500. Here I ^ 0l . r 
in 1905 a twelve-story office building was erected, replacing Tyson’s 
meat market and the old Willow Tree Inn. The corner was then 
held at $2,000,000. The property was bought in 1909 for $1,900,000 
by the American Real Estate Company. 

At the northeast corner of 44th Street, where Delmonico’s now 
stands, was located, from 1846 to 1865, the Washington Hotel, also 
called “ Allerton’s,” a low white frame building surrounded by a plot 
of grass. The rest of the block was a drove-yard. In 1836 Thomas 
Darling bought the entire block for $88,000 and leased it to George 
W. Archibald, M. and David Allerton. The latter ran the tavern 
during the Civil War. After the cattle-yards were removed to 40th 
Street and Eleventh Avenue, Allerton’s was discontinued. John H. 

Sherwood bought the site after the war and erected the Sherwood 
House, a well-known family hotel. Mr. Sherwood was a promi- 
nent builder who, as a pioneer in the erection of high-class resi- 
dences north of 42nd Street, materially assisted in establishing 
upper Fifth Avenue as a residential part of the City. 

It was in the basement of the old Sherwood House, at No. 531, Story of 
that The Fifth Avenue Bank of New York first opened for business. The Fifth 
The Bank was founded by John H. Sherwood, William H. Lee, " 

Philip Van Volkenburgh and others, to furnish a place of deposit 
for those who resided or did business in this part of the City. There 
was no other bank in the vicinity, and it was estimated that there 
were at least fifty thousand people in the neighborhood without 
banking facilities. The Bank was organized October 7, and com- 
menced doing business October 13, 1875. Philip Van Volkenburgh 
was president, John H. Sherwood, vice-president, and A. S. Frissell, 
cashier; comprising the board of directors, were the officers and 
James Buell, John B. Cornell, Jonathan Thorne, Gardner Wetherbee, 

William H. Lee, Russell Sage, Webster Wagner, Joseph S. Lowery, 

Charles S. Smith and Joseph Thompson, many of whom were Fifth 
Avenue residents. The original minute book of the Bank furnishes 
an interesting record of early Fifth Avenue rental values. The 
Bank’s offices in the basement of the Sherwood House were secured 
“at a rental of $2,600 per year, said rental to include the gas used, and 
the heating of the rooms.” The Bank moved to the northwest corner 
of Fifth Avenue and 44th Street in April 1890, to the house of 

From Valentine's Manual. Collection of John D. Crimmins. 


From a photograph. Collection of The Fifth Avenue Bank. 


Northeast corner 44th Street and Fifth Avenue. The first offices of The Fifth Avenue Bank are 

shown in the basement. 

Collection, of The Fifth Avenue Bank. Collection of The Fifth Avenue Bank. 


Cornell house on the corner, and Marble residence adjoining, before they 44th Street and Fifth Avenue. Showing the Cornell and Marble residences 
became the home of The Fifth Avenue Bank. as now occupied by the Bank. 



Hank's Site John B. Cornell, which had been built in I860. Later, it bought the 
Transferred adjoining residence of Manton Marble, former editor of the World, 
but Four j n t] iese quarters it has been ever since. From the day in 1626, 
when Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island from the Indians for 
about $24 in cheap trinkets, to the present, there have been but four 
from the transfers of the corner on which the Bank stands. It became the 
Indians property of the City under the liberal Dongan Charter on April 27, 
1686, which granted to the corporation all the vacant, waste and un- 
appropriated lands of the island. The plot, fifty by one hundred feet, 
on the northwest corner of 44th Street, was sold by the City in 1848 
to Samuel White for $3,850. White sold it to Amos R. Eno in 1862 
for $15,000. Eno sold it to John B. Cornell in 1865 for $40,000, and 
on April 22, 1889, the executors of John B. Cornell sold to the Bank 
for $232,066, the corner lot, No. 530, with a frontage of thirty feet on 
the Avenue, together with No. 1 West 44th Street. The adjoining 
Avenue lot, No. 532, twenty feet wide, was sold by Cornell, in Janu- 
ary 1867, to Matthew Byrnes, a builder, for $21,540. Byrnes sold 
the property, November 6, 1868, to Manton Marble for $85,000. 
The Bank acquired the property on March 5, 1897 for $125,000. 
From the time of its organization the Bank has given especial atten- 
tion to personal and family accounts, of which it has a great number. 
So many prominent bank officials have received their training in 
its employ that it is often referred to as the “Kindergarten of 

Buchanan s On the east side of Fifth Avenue, extending from 45th almost to 
Fifth Avenue 48th Street, was a portion of the fifty-five acre estate which Thomas 
hstate Buchanan bought between 1803 and 1807 from the City, which was 
then disposing of its common land, for the ridiculously low sum of 
$7,537. This property is now worth over $20,000,000. Buchanan, 
after being educated at the University of Glasgow, came to America 
when but nineteen, and soon took prominent part in the business 
activity of early New York. In 1800 he purchased real estate in 
Wall Street which became the site of the United States Custom House, 
and later the National City Bank. He also purchased for his coun- 
try-seat a beautiful tract of ground on the East River between 54th 
and 57th Streets. Buchanan died in 1815, leaving his real estate to 
his widow and eight children. A daughter, Almy, married Peter 
Goelet, and another daughter, Margaret, married Peter’s brother, 
Robert Ratzer Goelet; thus the Goelets inherited much of their 
Fifth Avenue holdings. 

Church On Fifth Avenue near 45th Street stands the Church of the 
of the Heavenly Rest, noted for its stained glass windows and wood carv- 
Ileavenly j n g The Windsor Hotel formerly stood at 46th and 47th Streets on 
the east side of Fifth Avenue. Under the management of Hawk & 
Windsor Wetherbee it long enjoyed a patronage as distinguished as that of 
Hotel the Fifth Avenue Hotel. It was, after Mr. Wetherbee had retired 
from its management, the scene of one of the most tragic fires in 
the history of New York, when many guests were fatally burned 



From, a •photograph. Collection of J. Clarence Davies. 


or injured by leaping from the windows of the burning structure. 
In 1869 part of the block later occupied by the Windsor was a 
small skating pond. On the north half of the block now stands the 
palatial building of W. & J. Sloane. 

The story of the Elgin Botanical Gardens which occupied the tract 
from 47th to 51st Streets between Fifth and Sixth Avenues begins in 
1793 in the garden of Professor Hamilton near Edinburgh, where 
Dr. David Hosack, a young American, who was studying with the 
professor, was much mortified by his ignorance of botany, with which 
subject the other guests were familiar. Hosack took up the study 
of botany so diligently that in 1795 he was made professor of botany 
at Columbia College, and in 1797 held the Chair of Materia Medica. 
He resigned to take a similar professorship in the College of Physicians 
and Surgeons, where he remained until 1826. For over twenty years 
he was one of the leading physicians of New York, bore a conspicuous 
part in all movements connected with art, drama, literature, city or 
state affairs, and was frequently mentioned as being, with Clinton 
and Hobart, “one of the tripods upon which the City stood.” He 
was one of the physicians who attended Alexander Hamilton after 
his fatal duel with Burr. While professor of botany at Columbia he 
endeavored to interest the State in establishing a botanical exhibit 
for students of medicine, but failing to accomplish this he acquired 





of Dr. 







From Valentine’s Manual. Collection of New York Historical Society. 


Between 50th and 51st Streets, and Fifth and Sixth Avenues, 1825. 

given to 

of St. 

from the City, in 1801, the plot mentioned above, for the purpose of 
establishing a botanical garden. In 1804 the Elgin Botanical Gardens 
were opened. By 1806 two thousand species of plants with one 
spacious green-house and two hot-houses, having a frontage of one 
hundred and eighty feet, occupied what to-day is one of the most 
valuable real estate sites in New York, the tract being now valued 
without buildings at over $30,000,000. 

The financial burden of maintaining the garden was more than 
the doctor could carry, and he appealed to the Legislature for sup- 
port. Finally on March 12, 1810, a bill was passed authorizing the 
State, for the purpose of promoting medical science, to buy the 
garden. The doctor sold it for $74,268.75, which was $28,000 less 
than he had spent on it. The State finally conveyed the grounds 
in 1814 to Columbia College, and this property, part of which the 
College still holds, has largely contributed to the wealth of this great 

The Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, a Dutch Reformed Church, 
dedicated in 1872, is located at the northwest corner of 48th Street, 
on part of the Elgin Garden site. In the tower hangs a bell, cast in 
Amsterdam in 1731, which for years hung in the Middle Dutch Church 
on Nassau Street, where the Mutual Life Building is now situated. 
This bell was taken down and secreted while the British held New 
York. In the Consistory of the Church of St. Nicholas are portraits 
in oil of all its ministers from Dominie Du Bois, who in 1699 preached 
in the old Church in the Fort, to the present. 

In the centre of the block between 51st and 52nd Streets, on the 
west side of Fifth Avenue, there stood back from the street in 1868 a 



Drawn and engraved by M. Osborne. Collection of New York Historical Society. 


Between 49th and 50th Streets, near Madison Avenue. Later occupied by Columbia College. 

small three-story frame house kept by Isaiah Keyser, whose vegetable 
garden supplied the residents along lower Fifth Avenue, and who 
also dealt in ice and cattle. Occupying this block are the famous 
Vanderbilt “twin mansions,” handsome brownstone structures prac- 
tically identical in design. They were built in 1882 by William H. 
Vanderbilt, the 51st Street house for himself, and the 52nd Street 
house for his daughter. They stand now, island homes in a flood 
of business, and it is probable that before long they too will be 
engulfed, despite the fact that the Vanderbilts spent several mill- 
ions in purchasing property to protect themselves against business 

The east side of Fifth Avenue, from 48th to 53rd Streets, and 
the west side, from 54th to 55th Streets, were long used for philan- 
thropic and religious purposes. Between 48th and 50th Streets and 
Fourth and Fifth Avenues stood the New York Institute for the 
Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb. The Asylum was incorporated 
in 1817 and occupied a room in the almshouse then on Chambers 
Street. The corner-stone of the 50th Street building was laid October 
19, 1827, and the new quarters opened in 1829. It was one hundred 
and ten feet long, sixty feet wide, four stories high, with a beautiful 
colonnade fifty feet long in front. The Asylum stood on one acre of 
ground donated by the City, from which the directors leased nine 
adjoining acres. They had also a donation from the State of a per- 
centage of the tax on lotteries. The grounds were beautifully laid 
out in lawns and gardens, planted with trees and shrubbery. There 
were workshops in which tailoring, shoemaking, cabinet-making, 
gardening and other trades were taught. Girls were instructed in 

Keyser s 
51st and 
52nd Streets 

Deaf and 
East 48th 
and East 
50th Streets 

From a photograph. Copyright, IQ15 , by Perry Walton. 

51st and 52nd Streets. 

“ Island Homes in a Flood of Business.” 

From an old print of about 1858. Collection of S. B. Altmayer. 


The two houses in the left foreground were occupied by the school of the Rev. C. H. Gardner; 
in the background are the Cathedral, the site of the twin Vanderbilt houses, and St. Thomas’ 

From a photograph. Copyright , 7p/5* by Ferry Walton . 


Fifth Avenue, 50th to 51st Streets. 




Field at 
50th Street 
near Fifth 

The Site of 
St. Patrick's 

New York 

Steps in 
the Cathedral 

Church of 
St. John the 

needlework and other useful occupations. In 1853 the Asylum 
sold the property and moved to Washington Heights between 162nd 
and 165th Streets. The Buckingham Hotel and National Democratic 
Club for many years have stood on part of the land of the Deaf and 
Dumb Asylum. 

Somewhat east of Fifth Avenue, with irregular boundaries from 
48th to 50th Streets, was a Potter’s Field. Speaking of this Potter’s 
Field, Mr. John D. Crimmins recalls that when excavations were 
made for the Women's Hospital on the eastern side of the land wide 
trenches were found into which many bodies had been thrown without 
having been enclosed in coffins. Hundreds of barrels of bones were 
removed from the field to Hart’s Island. 

The property on which St. Patrick’s Cathedral stands, between 
50th and 51st Streets, was originally part of the Common Lands of 
the City. It was sold to Robert Lylburn in 1799 for £405 and an 
annual quit rent of “four bushels of good merchantable wheat, or 
the value thereof in gold or silver coin.” Lylburn, w T ho was a 
merchant at No. 8 Garden Street, now Exchange Place, sold the 
property to Francis Thompson and Thomas Cadle for $9,000, and they 
in turn conveyed it to Andrew Morris and Cornelius Heeney for 
$11,000. In describing a part of the purchase, Cardinal Farley, in 
his history of the Cathedral, says, “a mansion on the property was 
occupied by the Jesuit Fathers as a school known as the New York 
Literary Institution which had been transferred from its original 
location opposite old St. Patrick’s (on Mulberry Street). In the 
summer of 1813 the New York Literary Institution was closed. The 
title to the property remained with the Jesuits. The price they 
paid for it above the mortgage was $1,300. In 1814 the Trappist 
Monks occupied the building and conducted an orphan asylum. 
They left New York in the autumn of that year, and their 
work disappeared with them.” The New York Literary Institu- 
tion, referred to by Cardinal Farley, was started by Father 
Kohlmann. It was so successful on Mulberry Street that Father 
Kohlmann bought for it the site on upper Fifth Avenue, but in 
the new situation it was maintained with difficulty, although it 
possessed such an excellent teacher as Professor James Wallace, the 
distinguished writer on astronomy. In 1813 the college sold the 
property to the diocese for $3,000. 

Subsequently the remainder of the land bought by Morris and 
Heeney was mortgaged to the Eagle Fire Company, and under fore- 
closure sale in 1828, was acquired for $5,550, by Francis Cooper, act- 
ing in behalf of the trustees of St. Peter’s Church, on Barclay Street, 
and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, on Mulberry Street. These churches had 
contemplated establishing a new burying-ground, but found the Fifth 
Avenue land, on account of its rocky nature, unsuited for the purpose. 
In 1842 the trustees of the two churches conveyed about one hun- 
dred feet square on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 50th 
Street to the Church of St. John the Evangelist. A little frame church 






J?rom a ptioloyraph. Collection oj Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum, Bronx. 


51st Street and Fifth Avenue. 

was erected on the site, and the old mansion of the Literary Institu- 
tion used as a rectory. The church was later moved from this site 
to a position east of Madison Avenue (then not cut through), between 
50th and 51st Streets. Two of the well-known pastors of this little 
church w r ere Fathers Larkin and McMahon. The church was burned 
while the Cathedral was being erected, but was immediately rebuilt 
and used until the Cathedral was occupied. 

A partition suit brought in 1852 by St. Peter's and St. Patrick’s 
Churches finally vested the title in St. Patrick’s upon the payment 
of $59,500 to St. Peter’s for its share. In 1853 Archbishop Hughes, 
acting for the trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, acquired the corner 
belonging to the Church of St. John the Evangelist. Thus the entire 
cathedral site came into the hands of the trustees of St. Patrick's 

The idea of the Cathedral had originated in 1850 in the mind of 
Archbishop John Hughes, of the diocese of New York, who planned 
a cathedral to cost $867,000. He announced that one hundred and 
three persons, including two Protestants, had started a subscription 
of $1,000 each to help defray the cost. James Renwick, Jr., who 
designed Grace Church, was selected as the architect. Archbishop 
Hughes died in 1864. The work was in turn carried on by Cardinal 
McCloskey, Archbishop Corrigan and Cardinal Farley. After 
years of effort to obtain the means to build this magnificent edifice 
— the ultimate cost of which was $4,000,000 — the Cathedral was 
formally opened and blessed on May 25, 1879, and dedicated on 
October 5, 1910. 

of the 




Northwest corner Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street. Showing the results of a heavy 
snowstorm, April 2, 1915. 

Roman North of the Cathedral, between 51st and 52nd Streets, on the 
Catholic east side of Fifth Avenue, stood the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum, 
Orphan which was organized in 1817 as the Roman Catholic Benevolent 
Asylum Society, and first established at Prince and Mulberry Streets. The 
number of inmates, only thirty at first, so increased that a new 
building was taken on Prince Street, which later had to be enlarged. 
Finally the property on Fifth Avenue was occupied in 1852. The 
first building had accommodations for five hundred boys, and a wing 
built in 1893, as a trade school, accommodated two hundred more. 
The girls’ wing, completed in 1890, held eight hundred. There was 
every facility for religious, moral and social training. The asylum 
is now located at Sedgwick Avenue and Kingsbridge Road. At the 
northeast corner of 51st Street since 1903 has stood the Union Club, 
on land once part of the Orphan Asylum site. 

St. Thomas' St. Thomas’ Church, at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 
Church 53rd Street, one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture 
in this country, was organized in 1823. The first church stood at 
Broadway and Houston Street, then a rural community. Later, the 
need of a building farther up town was felt, and in 1870 an imposing 
structure of brownstone was built, the work of Richard Upjohn, 
who regarded it as one of his masterpieces. It was decorated by 



From a photograph. Collection of The Fifth Avenue Bank. 


The dwelling on the left is No. 4 West 54th Street, now the home of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., 
and on the right is St. Luke’s Hospital, now the site of the University Club and the Hotel 

La Farge and Saint-Gaudens, and with its rectory cost about 
$1,000,000. It was burned in 1906, and the present structure has 
but recently been erected. 

A landmark gone from Fifth Avenue is St. Luke’s Hospital, which 
occupied the block on the west side between 54th and 55th Streets, 
where now is the home of the University Club, and near which stood 
until 1861 the Public Pound. St. Luke’s Hospital, built of red brick, 
faced south, and consisted of a central edifice with towers. It was 
opened, with three “Sister Nurses’’ and nine patients, May 13, 1858, 
having cost $225,000. St. Luke’s was the idea of the Rev. W. A. 
Muhlenberg, D.D., Rector of the Church of the Holy Communion, 
who had organized in 1845 the “Sisters of the Holy Communion,” 
the first organization of Protestant Sisters of Charity in America. 
He incorporated the hospital in 1850, with thirteen managers, and 
opened beds in a house adjoining the Church of the Holy Communion 
on Sixth Avenue and 21st Street. Here more than two hundred 
patients were received prior to the erection of the Fifth Avenue build- 
ing. The funds for the new hospital were raised by public subscrip- 
tion. The hospital accommodated about two hundred patients. 
The corner-stone of its present buildings, opposite the Cathedral of 
St. John the Divine, on Morningside Heights, was laid May 6, 1893. 

The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, long known as Dr. John 
Hall’s Church, has stood at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 
55th Street since 1875, at which time it moved from its old location at 
19th Street and Fifth Avenue. Diagonally opposite, on the southeast 
corner of 55th Street and Fifth Avenue, stands the St. Regis Hotel. 

The block from 57th to 58th Streets, on the east side of the Avenue, 
was known for years as the “Marble Row.” The row was built by 
Mrs. Mary Mason Jones, daughter of John Mason, a former president 

St. Luke's 
and its 

Avenue Site 





Romance of 
the “ Marble 
Row ” 



From a photograph. Copyright, iqi 5, by Perry Walton. 



Part of the Estate of John Mason, from which the Joneses, Iselins, and the Hamersleys inherited 
their Fifth Avenue holdings. 

of the Chemical National Bank, from whom she inherited the site. 
Mason, who was long prominent in business and social circles early 
in the nineteenth century, invested largely in real estate. Among 
the parcels he purchased, most of which were Common Lands of the 
City, were sixteen blocks from Park to Fifth Avenues, and from 54th 
to 63rd Streets, excepting the block from 56th to 57th Streets on 
Fifth Avenue. The tract between 57th and 58th Streets, Fourth 
and Fifth Avenues, he bought from the City in 1825 for $1,500. Mason 
died in 1839, leaving a will in which he cut off w T ith a small annuity 
both his son, James Mason, who had married Emma Wheatley, a 
famous actress of 1838, and his daughter, Helen, who also had married 
against his wishes. The will was set aside, and in the division of 
the estate the block from 57th to 58th Streets became the property 
of Mrs. Mary Mason Jones, who in 1871 built the Marble Row. The 
erection of these houses, built of white marble, and in a style of archi- 
tecture unlike anything heretofore seen on Fifth Avenue, marked the 
passing of the era of long-fashionable brownstone fronts. On the 
57th Street corner lived Mrs. Mary Mason Jones, at one time a 
New York social leader, and later, Mrs. Paran Stevens, also promi- 



From, a lithograph, Currier & Ives, 1869. Collection of Perry Walton. 


(Sketched from life by T. Worth in 1869.) 

nent in society. Most of the houses of the Marble Row have been 
altered or torn down to make room for business buildings. 

Although in 1869 Fifth Avenue below 59th Street was an almost Invasion of 

unbroken row of brownstone mansions, as early as 1882 trade had Trade as 

invaded the Avenue as far north as Central Park. Between 34th and ' ^ a,s 
59th Streets are now established many of the foremost jewellers, art 
dealers, publishers and high-class shops. 

Not until 1847 was Fifth Avenue lighted with gas as far as 18th Lighting the 
Street, and not until 1850 as far as 30th Street; about 1870 gas was Avenue 
carried as far as 59th Street. As early as 1869 the Sunday parade The Sunday 

of fashion on Fifth Avenue had become a feature of New \ork life. Parade and 

The Easter Parade still continues, but the fine equipages, with spirited Driving in 
horses and uniformed footmen, have given way to the automobile. Central 
Another notable feature of former days was the driving in Central Park 
Park. Here might be seen old Commodore \ anderbilt, driving his 
famous trotter, “Dexter ’; Robert Bonner, speeding “Maud S. ; 

Thomas Kilpatrick, Frank Work, Russell Sage, and other horsemen 
driving to their private quarter- or half- mile courses in Harlem ; leaders 
of society and dowagers in their gilded coaches; and even maidens 
of the “Four Hundred” driving their phaetons. 

John D. Crimmins, most of whose long life has been spent in New Recollections 
York, gives an interesting picture of Fifth Avenue before the war. of John D. 
His father was a contractor, who, before entering business, had been Jrimmins 
employed by Thomas Addis Emmet as a gardener. 1 he Emmet coun- 
try-seat was on the Boston Post-Road in the vicinity of 59th Street, 

of Old Fifth 

near Fifth 

l mprove- 
ments on 
Fifth Avenue 


F I F T H A V E N U E 

then designated as Mount Vernon, from the tavern and race-track of 
that name kept at one time on the East River shore. 

“ In the immediate vicinity were the country-seats of other prominent 
New Yorkers, such as the Buchanans, who were the forebears of the 
Goelets, the Adriance, Jones, and Beekman families, the Schermerhorns, 
Hulls, Setons, Towles, Willets, Lenoxes, Delafields, Primes, Rhine- 
landers, Lefferts, Hobbs, Rikers, Lawrences, and others,” writes Mr. 
Crimmins. “A little further to the north were the country-seats of 
the Goelets, Gracies, and the elder John Jacob Astor. With all these 
people, who were practically the commercial founders of our city, my 
father had an acquaintance. 

“The wealthy merchants of New York at that period frequently 
invested their surplus in outlying property and left its care largely 
in the hands of my father, who opened up estates, as he did the Anson 
Phelps place in the vicinity of 30th Street, which ran north and ex- 
tended from the East River to Third Avenue. He also opened up 
the Cutting and other large estates. When a lad, as I was the oldest 
son, > my father would take me with him to the residences of these 
gentlemen, several of whom had their permanent homes on Fifth 
Avenue or in the vicinity. At that period, these wealthy citizens con- 
ducted much of their business at their homes. James Lenox had his 
office in the basement of his house at 12th Street and Fifth Avenue. 
R. L. Stuart attended to much of his business at his residence, 20th 
Street and Fifth Avenue, and the same may be said of the Costers, 
Moses Taylor and others. These men had no hesitation in receiving 
in their homes after business hours the people whom they employed. 
I remember distinctly before gas was generally introduced, how very 
economical in its use those who had it were. In the absence of the 
butler, the gentleman of the house would often walk to the door with 
his visitor and then lower the gas. 

“The estates of many of these wealthy merchants were rented to 
market gardeners. And it was not an unusual sight to see a merchant 
drive in his carriage to the vegetable garden, select his vegetables 
and carry them to his table, showing the economy and simple man- 
ners of the people of that older day as compared with our present 

“After the Board of Aldermen had acceded to the petition of the 
residents of Fifth Avenue for permission to enclose a part of the road- 
way in a closed yard or area, it was not an uncommon sight to see 
many of the older men standing at their gates, in high stocks, white 
cravats, cutaway coats with brass buttons, greeting their neighbors 
as they passed along the Avenue — a custom which survived to about 
1870 when the white cravat, too, passed into history. 

“The improvement of Fifth Avenue, north of 34th Street, began 
with the erection of the Townsend house, which was a feature of the 
City and shown to visitors. The location was the foot of a high hill. 

I recall very vividly the old Waddell mansion. I was taken into it 
iby my father the day they began to dismantle it, and remember very 



distinctly the courteous manner in which we were received by Mrs. 
Waddell, and how r she regretted the destruction of her home. 

“At that time the Reservoir was an attraction for the view it fur- 
nished. There were no buildings high enough to interfere, and visi- 
tors could get a bird’s-eye view of the entire City and the Palisades. 
The neighborhood at that time is well illustrated in the old New York 
print showing the Reservoir and the Crystal Palace, 1855. There 
were no pretentious houses north of 42nd Street. It was interesting 
to see the drovers, — tall men, with staffs in their hands, herding eight, 
ten, or twenty cattle, — driving the cattle to market, generally on 
Sunday, as Monday was market day. 

“On the corner of Fifth Avenue and 50th Street, where the Cathedral 
now stands, stood the frame church, thirty by seventy feet, in which 
I was baptized in May, 1844. A path and a road led to the Post Road 
which ran east of the church and bordered the Potter's Field. To 
the north was the Orphan Asylum, and further on was another cattle 
yard, Waltemeir’s, a family well known to cattle men. From 50th 
Street to St. Luke’s Hospital at 54th Street, there were a few frame 
houses, and the ground extending to Sixth Avenue was used for 
market gardens. Old maps of New York show r the lanes crossing this 
section at the time, much like the country roads we see to-day thirty 
or forty miles distant from the City. Walls ran along these roads 
with an occasional house with its gable of the old Dutch type. Mr. 
Keyser, who dealt in ice gathered from ponds, and slaughtered cattle, 
occupied the site of the present Vanderbilt houses, 51st to 52nd Streets. 
The Decker house of Dutch architecture occupied the block between 
Fourth and Fifth Avenues, 56th to 57th Streets. 

“Peter and Robert Goelet I recall very well. Those who called 
on Peter Goelet would find him in a jumper, bluish in color, such 
as we see mechanics wear, with pockets in front. He loved to be 
occupied and always had a rule and other articles in his pockets. 
His brother, Robert, was the grandfather of the present Goelets; 
Peter was the elder and a bachelor. Robert lived a few blocks 
below him in 17th Street, the northwest corner. They accompanied 
each other on walks, Peter, the more active of the two, in front, 
and Robert a pace behind. They dealt directly with their tenants 
and those whom they employed in taking care of their properties. 
I can recall them coming on foot to my father to have him repair a 
sidewalk or a fence. I doubt if these men in their day, except for 
ordinary living expenses, spent five thousand dollars a year. They 
were simple in their manners and tastes. 

“The older generation was noted for industry, thrift and economy. 
An old merchant, an executor of the Burr estate which owned property 
opposite the new Public Library, extending to Fourth Avenue, once 
stated that no man who had a million dollars invested, could spend 
his income in a year. This was a frank statement from an impor- 
tant man, made in his office where I visited him many times. Money 
at that time brought 7% per annum. The contents of his office 

seeing from 


cences of the 



Ways and 
Habits of 
Peter arid 



S imple 
Customs of 

tion before 
the War 



possibly did not exceed in cost fifty dollars, a pine desk and table, 
a few chairs and no carpets or rugs, but everything neat and clean 
and sufficient furniture to transact business. The men of that day 
wrote their own letters. I have many letters of James Lenox, James 
H. T itus, Robert L. Stuart and others. There were no stenographers, 
and typewriters were unknown. 

“I met practically all the noted merchants of that day as at the 
age of fourteen I became my father’s clerk, made out bills and col- 
lected them, often working after dinner. These old merchants at- 
tended to their own personal accounts, drew their own checks, and 
occasionally corrected errors in my accounts. They w T ere always will- 
ing to give advice, particularly to a lad. I recall very well Mr. Has- 
sard, who established the Hassard Powder Company, a man at that 
time more than eighty years of age. He told my father, in my 
presence, how, before the introduction of gutta percha fuses for 
exploding powder in blasts, he sold straw fuses. He spoke of his early 
determination to become a business man and not to work for a salary, 
and that whatever he manufactured must be of the best. 

“Transportation was principally by stage. There were car lines on 
Second, Third, Sixth and Eighth Avenues. The gentlemen who kept 
carriages were few and they generally lived in Harlem or Manhattan- 
ville. Occasionally smart four-in-hands were seen, and I recall 
Madam Jumel driving to town and how we boys would run to the 
side of the road to see her coach pass. Many business men would 
go to the city driving a rockaway with a single horse. Few of the 
streets w T ere paved, and there were but two classes of pavements, 
macadam and cobblestones. Where streets were not paved, the 
sidewalks were in bad condition. In some places the high banks of 
earth on either side of the street were washed down by heavy rains 
and deposited on the sidewalks. 

“Oil lamps were in general use as street lights, and the light was 
easily blown out by the wind. The lamplighter was usually a tall 
man, a character, and his position was considered an important one. 
Politics affected the general administration much more than is the 
case to-day, and people were obliged to protect themselves. Con- 
ditions to-day are better in many respects and I believe that the moral 
tone of the people is better. 

“Fifth Avenue, north of 59th Street, remained undeveloped for 
years and it was not until sometime in the 70’s that my father and I 
finished grading upper Fifth Avenue. Sixty years ago saw the be- 
ginning of the substantial situation we have to-day. On both sides 
of Fifth A venue were stone walls where there were deep depressions. 
There was no traffic except drovers coming down to market with 
cattle. There were but two main thoroughfares, Boston Post-Road 
on the East side, and Bloomingdale Road on the West side. From 
the Boston Post-Road, long lanes led to the residences of gentlemen 
who had country-seats on the East River, and similar lanes led from the 
old Bloomingdale Road to the country-seats on the Hudson River.” 



From an oil painting executed for John D. Crimmins. 

Collection of John D. Crimmins. 

At 59th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues. 

The sites of the Plaza, the Savoy and the Netherland Hotels at 
59th Street and Fifth Avenue were once rocky knolls. A brook which 
came down 59th Street here formed several shallow ponds which re- 
mained for a number of years after the Civil War. A large pond 
where the Plaza now stands was turned into a skating rink, from 
which the owner, ^ Tphi^ ^MrtHhefl, gained a respectable livelihood. 
There was another pond at 58th Street, extending to 59th Street, 
across Madison Avenue, made by this same stream, where the New 
York Skating Club had its quarters. An old ledger owned by Mr. 
Crimmins shows that many well-known residents of the City paid 
annual subscriptions of $10 for the privilege of belonging to the Club. 
In 1859 at the northeast corner of 59th Street, now the site of the 
Hotel Netherland, stood Disbrow’s Riding Academy. The original 
Plaza Hotel, which occupied the site of the present one, on the 
block from 58th to 59th Streets, west of the Plaza, was built in 1890; 
the Savoy in 1892; and the Netherland in 1893. 

Before Central Park was laid out, 59th Street was the dividing 
line between the most exclusive section of New York and the most 
promiscuous. Below 59th Street was the centre of fashion and 
wealth; while above, along the country road which was then Fifth 
Avenue and throughout the unsightly waste land taken later for 
the Park, lay what was jeeringly termed “Squatters’ Sovereignty’’ 
section. It extended almost to Mount Morris Park. Here lived 
over five thousand as poverty-stricken and disreputable people as 
could be seen anywhere. The squatters’ settlements in the Park 
were surrounded by swamps, and overgrown with briers, vines and 
thickets. The soil that covered the rocky surface was unfit for 
cultivation. Here and there were stone quarries and stagnant ponds. 

Ponds at 
the Plaza 
and Savoy 


“ Squatters ” 
of Central 
Park and 

From a print. Collection of J . Clarence Davies. 


Fifth Avenue is the roadway on the left. 

No. 1. Columbia College, Madison Avenue near 49th Street. No. 2. Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum at 51st Street. No. 3. St. Luke’s Hospital, 

54th Street. No. 4. Crystal Palace, 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue. 



In this wilderness lived the squatters, in little shanties and huts 
made of boards picked up along the river fronts and often pieced 
out with sheets of tin, obtained by flattening cans. Some occupants 
paid $10 to $25 rent, but the majority paid nothing. Three stone 
buildings, two brick buildings, eighty-five or ninety frame houses, 
one rope- walk and about two hundred shanties, barns, stables, pig- 
geries and bone factories, appear in a census made just before Central 
Park was begun. Some of the shanties were dugouts, and most had 
dirt floors. In this manner lived, in a state of loose morality, Amer- 
icans, Germans, Irish, Negroes, and Indians. Some were honest and 
some were not; many were roughs and crooks. Much of their food 
was refuse, which they procured in the lower portion of the City, and 
carried along Fifth Avenue to their homes in small carts drawn by 
dogs. The mongrel dogs were a remarkable feature of squatter 
life, and it is said that the Park area contained no less than one 
hundred thousand “curs of low degree,” which, with cows, pigs, cats, 
goats, geese and chickens, roamed at will, and lived upon the refuse, 
which was everywhere. In the neighborhood of these squatter settle- 
ments, of which one of the largest was Seneca Village, near 79th 
Street, the swamps had become cesspools and the air was odoriferous 
and sickening. 

The largest building on the site of Central Park was the Arsenal, 
on the Fifth Avenue side at 64th Street. Completed by the State 
in 1848 at a cost of $30,000, it was then the largest arsenal in the 
State. In the rear of the main building was a small magazine. 
The building was two hundred feet long by fifty feet deep, eighty- 
two feet high and had towers at each angle. The basement was 
used for heavy cannon and ball; the second story for gun-carriages, 
and the third for small arms. It was sold to the City in 1857 for 
$275,000, and became a museum and office of the Park Department. 
The basement for a time was used as a menagerie. The top floor 
has long been used as a weather observatory, in which accurate 
records have been kept since 1869. 

McGowan’s Pass Tavern, about which the tide of war ebbed and 
flowed during the Revolution, had in 1847 after various vicissitudes 
come into the possession of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de 
Paul, who paid $6,000 for a plot of nearly seven acres. They opened the 
academy and convent of Mount St. Vincent. When Mount St. Vincent 
became Central Park property, the sisters looked elsewhere for a 
site, and in 1856 bought the estate of Edwin Forrest, the actor, 
known as Font Hill, now Mount St. Vincent-on-the-Hudson. The 
last commencement was held in the Central Park building in 1858. 
During the Civil War, the government used old Mount St. Vin- 
cent as a hospital, where the sisters gave noble service until the 
close of the war. Mount St. Vincent reverted in 1866 to its old 
use by becoming a tavern under a lease granted by the Park Com- 
missioners; the chapel, however, was used as a museum. In 1881 
both the museum and the tavern were burned. Owing to protest 

and Huts 
on Upper 




St. Vincent 

From prints. j Collection of J. Clarence Davies. 


The upper view shows Central Park before it was laid out. The lower is the Martel view of the 
completed Park. A lithograph by Henry C. Eno in 1864. 



against the use of the land for other than park purposes, the site 
was cleared, but finally in 1883 another refreshment house was built 

The idea of creating a central park came first from the imaginative Andrew J. 
brain of Andrew J. Downing, a landscape architect, who, while abroad. Downing 
studied the great parks of the world and wrote a series of eloquent suggests a 
letters upon the need of a central park for the increasing population Central 
of New York. These letters were published in The Horticulturist ar ^ 
and created wide comment. Mayor Ambrose C. Kingsland took the 
project up, and in 1851 commended it to the attention of the Board 
of Aldermen. This action finally led to the introduction and passage 
by the legislature, July 21, 1853, of the bill creating Central Park. Bill 
Eleven commissioners were appointed to construct the Park, and creating 
Andrew H. Green was made comptroller of the work. The com- Central 
missioners in 1858 offered prizes for the best design, and of the Park 
thirty-three submitted, that of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert 
Vaux was selected, and the Park was built in accordance with their 
plans. Richard M. Hunt was the architect. 

The original boundaries of the Park were 59th and 106th Streets, Boundaries 
Fifth and Eighth Avenues. It contained seven hundred and seventy- and Titles 
six acres, but later when the Park was extended to 110th Street it 
included eight hundred and forty-three acres. Traversed by a rocky 
backbone, diversified by streams and ponds and natural gorges, 
the land lent itself to picturesque landscape work. Roads, walks, 
terraces, ponds and bridle-paths were built, and no less than half a 
million trees, shrubs and vines were set out. The Park was not 
finally completed until 1876. Taking the land for Central Park 
involved searching the titles of, and buying, seven thousand lots on 
the borders of a rapidly growing city, the adjustment of many claims 
and the payment of $5,069,693.70 in awards, of which $1,667,590 
was assessed upon the adjacent owners who were to derive benefit 
from the increase in value of their property. The era of speculation 
which followed the passage of the law creating the Park showed the 
justice of the assessment, for a tract from 69th Street to 78th Street, 

Fifth Avenue to Madison Avenue, which was sold in 1852 for $3,000, 
brought $40,000 in 1857; twelve years later William H. Vanderbilt 
offered in vain $1,250,000 for it. 

The development of Fifth Avenue above 59th Street, begun shortly Completion 
before the completion of Central Park, has continued ever since, and of Central 
now Fifth Avenue from the Plaza and entrance to Central Park, Park 
to Mount Sinai Hospital is the site of the most costly residences ^ 0,1 } s 
in America. Numerous magnificent houses, the homes of some 
of the wealthiest and most representative New York families, ' / 
extend in an unbroken line north of 60th Street. At the north- 
east corner of Fifth Avenue and 60th Street stands the Metro- 
politan Club, a palace of white marble, built in 1903. Among its 
members are so many men of great wealth that it is called the 

“Millionaires’ Club.” 

<m 3 



The “ Lennox 
Farm ” and 
“ the 
Village ” 

The Lenox 

From a photograph. Copyright, igi$, by Perry Walton. 


Occupying the site of the Lenox Library, between 70th and 71st Streets. At the left is Mr. 
Frick’s art gallery, which contains one of the finest private art collections in the world. 

At the corner of 68th Street begins what in 1839 was the farm of 
Robert Lenox, whose uncle was a British commissary during the Revo- 
lution. This farm extended from 68th to 73rd Streets, from Fifth to 
Madison Avenues. The land value of the farm, which was bought some 
time prior to 1829 by Robert Lenox for about $40,000, is now over 
$9,000,000. Lenox was wiser than his generation, for when he bought 
his farm at the five-mile stone, he was strongly of the opinion that the 
growing city would greatly increase land values, even so far out in the 
country. Under the various sections of his will which bear the dates 
of 1829, 1832 and 1839, he devised his farm to his only son, James 
“Lennox" (then spelled with two n’s), with his stock of horses, cattle, 
and farming utensils, during the term of his life and after his death 
to James’ heirs forever. The farm then comprised about thirty acres. 
The will reads: “My motive for so leaving this property is a firm 
persuasion that it may, at no distant date, be the site of a village, and 
as it cost me more than its present worth, from circumstances known 
to my family, I will to cherish that belief that it may be realized to 
them. At all events, I want the experiment made by keeping the 
property from being sold." Under a clause in the will dated 1832, 
however, he withdrew the restriction covering the sale of the farm, 
but, nevertheless, urged his son not to sell it, as he was still of the 
firm conviction that some day there would be a village near by, and 
the property would appreciate. 

On the lot between 70th and 71st Streets, now occupied by the 
home of Mr. H. C. Frick, was opened in 1877 the Lenox Library, 
which owed its creation to the generosity and love of books of James 
Lenox. This library was completed in 1875, a solid and graceful 
structure with two projecting w T ings of white stone, designed by 



From a photograph. Copyright, 1915, by Perry Walton. 


View southward from 84th Street and Fifth Avenue. 

Richard M. Hunt. Here was housed, until the building was torn 
down, a collection of priceless paintings, masterpieces of ancient and 
modern literature, sculpture, missals, bibles, incunabula Americana, 
autographs, ceramics, the Drexel musical collection, and other treas- 
ures now in the New York Public Library. 

The Temple Beth-El, which stands at the southeast corner of 
Fifth Avenue and 76th Street, is a magnificent synagogue, built of 
Indiana limestone. It was completed in 1891. The congregation is 
a consolidation of the congregations Anshi-Chesed and Adas-Jesurun, 
and represents the first German-Jewish congregation in this country, 
dating back to 1826. 

On the site formerly called Deer Park, in Central Park, near 82nd 
Street, is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which, from small be- 
ginnings, has grown until it has become one of the great art museums of 
the world. It sprang from a meeting of the art committee of the Union 
League Club in 1869, which purchased an art collection and exhibited 
it at 681 Fifth Avenue. The committee rented a house at 126 West 
14th Street in which it kept the exhibition for a while, but in 1872, 
having purchased the antiquities unearthed in Cyprus by General 
L. P. di Cesnola, it applied to the Park Commissioners for a site in 
Central Park. Here in 1880 the first wing of the Museum was opened. 

Where now are some of the most beautiful homes in the world 
about 1836 on the north side of 88th Street near Fifth Avenue, stood 
the New York Magdalen Benevolent Society, an institution for the 
reformation of fallen women. This Society occupied a plot of ground 
containing twelve city lots and an old frame building, which was 



tan Museum 
oj Art 

New York 

From, a photograph. Collection of J . Clarence Davies. 


Showing the small frame houses which stood here prior to the erection of an ultra-luxurious apart- 
ment house, the first to be erected in this exclusive section of Fifth Avenue. 

From an old print. Collection of John D. Crimmins. 


Fifth Avenue and 88th Street. 



From a photograph. Copyright, 1915, by Perry Walton. 


Showing at the right the tiny frame house of Mrs. Hicks Arnold. 

purchased for $4,000. After occupying the building for almost twenty 
years, the ladies who managed the institution erected a fine three-story 
brick building, which cost about $30,000, and which fronted on 88th 
Street near Fifth Avenue. In this institution, which could accommo- 
date about one hundred women, the inmates were trained in useful 
occupations and given religious instruction. 

On the block where squatters long held sway, between 90th and The 
91st Streets, is now the beautiful house and grounds of Mr. Andrew j Carnegie 
Carnegie. So well have the architect and the landscape gardener Home 
co-operated, that this mansion and its surroundings have already the 
dignity and picturesqueness which age alone can give, although the 
building is of comparatively recent date. It is the only house on all 
,Fifth Avenue which looks as if it might have been transplanted from 
historic old England. 

> Mount Sinai Hospital, originally known as the “Jewish Hospital Mount 
in the City of New York,” occupies the whole block on Fifth Avenue Sinai 
between 100th and 101st Streets. The hospital, which was opened on Hospital 
Fifth Avenue March 15, 1904, was founded in 1852 by a num- ! ts 
ber of benevolent Hebrews headed by Samson Simpson, who gave " 
land on 28th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, where the 
hospital remained until 1871 when it was moved to buildings on Lex- 
ington Avenue between 66th and 67th Streets. From there it moved 
to its Fifth Avenue location. 

From a photograph. Collection of J . Clarence Davies. 


From a photograph. Copyright, IQ15, by Perry Walton. 


90th to 91st Streets on Fifth Avenue. 



Another philanthropic institution, opened between Fourth and Leake and 
Fifth Avenues, 111th to 112th Streets, in 1843, was known as the Watts 
Leake and Watts Orphan Asylum. This institution was established Orphan 
by a legacy left in 1827 by John G. Leake, a wealthy lawyer, and Asylum 
added to by his friend and executor John Watts, who was a noted 
philanthropist, Recorder of the City, and Speaker of the Assembly 
from 1791-1794. A building two hundred feet in length, fronting 
toward the south and with two wings, was erected on twenty-six 
acres of land purchased with income from the estate. The insti- 
tution accommodated two hundred children and commanded a wide 
view of the surrounding country. It later moved to the present 
site of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. 

The land now covered by Fifth Avenue and the adjacent streets Fifth 
north of Mount Sinai Hospital, was, during the Revolutionary days. Avenue's 
the scene of much marching and counter-marching by troops of both Days of 
the American and the British armies, for a part of the Avenue ^ ar 
is on the line of the old road leading to McGowan’s Pass Tavern, 
where, during the Revolution, both Americans and British built 

Extending from 96th Street, as far north as the Harlem Mill Creek A Colored 
at 106th Street, was the estate of Laurence Benson, the ancestor of Womans 
many well-known New Yorkers. The creek and meadow extended Small 
from 106th to 109th Streets, where an old road crossed upon a bridge. Fifth 
This was a famous resort for sportsmen, for the marshes, creeks and .!" 
the pond, known as Harlem Mere, were favorite haunts of duck and 1 arin 
snipe, which were once numerous in the streams and ponds about 
New York. North of the bridge, where tenements now line Fifth 
Avenue, was one of the smallest, yet most picturesque, of the early 
Harlem farms. It was four acres in extent and skirted the creek. 

It was bought for eighteen pounds in 1793 by Lanaw Benson, a 
colored woman, who had once been a slave of the Benson family 
and whose name she had taken. On Fifth Avenue, north of Mount 
Sinai Hospital to 110th Street, are many vacant lots, and a few 
tenement houses. At 110th Street, the northerly end of Central 
Park, is another plaza, quite different in appearance, however, from 
the one at 59th Street. In place of stately residences, beautiful hotels 
and luxurious clubs, are saloons, moving picture theatres and crowded 

That part of Fifth Avenue immediately to the south of Mount Mount 
Morris Park ran through the Vredenburg farm. Later Thomas Morris 
Addis Emmet acquired a strip directly south of the hill for a coun- Parle and 
try home. To the east of the hill stretched Harlem Village. Mount Fifth 
Morris Park has always been an abrupt, rocky knoll, heavily wooded. Avenue 
During the Revolution there was an American battery upon its sum- 
mit, succeeded in 1776 by a Hessian battery, which commanded the 
Harlem River. And here for years was a fire tower, which was used 
to call together the volunteer fire department of Harlem. Some say 
the hill was named after Lewis Morris, a resident of Harlem, who 

Two Old 

End of the 


From a photograph. Collection of J . Clarence Davies. 


Fifth Avenue is the street shown on the left, with Mount Morris Park in the distance. 

took an active part in obtaining the passage of the bill to secure the 
land for the Park, and others that it took the name of Robert H. 
Morris, mayor of New York City in 1841 and 1844, during whose 
administration this Park was laid out. The City acquired title to 
the property in 1839, paying $40,000 for it, and it has ever since been 
maintained as a public park. It extends from 120th to 124th Streets, 
directly in the line of Fifth Avenue, which has never been cut through 
but is continued above the Park at 124th Street. 

Beyond Mount Morris Park Fifth Avenue passed through the 
old village of Harlem, which long maintained its corporate entity 
distinct from the growing City of New York. In the middle of the 
block on the west side of Fifth Avenue, between 126th and 127th 
Streets, is Mount Morris Baptist Church. On the northeast corner of 
Fifth Avenue and 127th Street is St. Andrew’s Protestant Episcopal 
Church, which goes back to the early days of this Republic. Among 
the vestrymen were Aaron Clark, mayor of the City from 1837 to 
1839, Lewis Morris, Edward Prime, Jacob Lorillard, Colonel James 
Monroe, Archibald Watts, and members of the Blount, Sands, Ray, 
Wilmerding, Slidell and Anderson families. In the vicinity of these 
two churches clustered all the social life of Harlem, evidences of 
which may still be seen in the fine old brownstone houses of earlier 

Beyond these churches and private dwellings, Fifth Avenue con- 
tinues among squalid surroundings for a few blocks to its end in the 
made land which now covers the marshy meadows along the Harlem 



From a photograph. Copyright, 1915, by Perry Walton. 


A story of Fifth Avenue would not be complete without referring 
to the many great parades of which it has been the scene. Within 
the past fifty years more processions, pageants and parades have 
marched along Fifth Avenue than on any other street in America, 
not excepting even Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington, D.C. 
During gala celebrations commemorating historical events, or on 
occasions when the country has been steeped in sorrow, Fifth Avenue 
has been fittingly chosen as the scene for public exhibition of the 
Nation's emotions. Among the most noteworthy events were the 
Evacuation Day parade in 1883; the vast parade in 1889 at the Cen- 
tennial of Washington’s Inauguration; the series of pageants in 1892 
celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the Discovery of America; the 
Dewey Celebration; the Hudson-Fulton parades; Lincoln's and 
Grant’s funeral processions, and those of Horace Greeley and General 
Sherman. An endless number of political, police and firemen's 
parades, and other exhibitions of local importance, have also taken 
place on Fifth Avenue. 

From an obscure beginning to a position of world-wide importance, 
from a country road to the Nation’s greatest street — within the span 
of a single century — this is the remarkable transformation of Fifth 
Avenue. Unparalleled in progress and achievement, held in high 
esteem for its historic associations and present importance, who 
can foretell to what higher plane destiny may lift this marvellous 
thoroughfare ? 

x V- 

The Scene 
of Many 


Among the authorities consulted in the preparation of this brochure, 
and to whom the author desires to acknowledge his indebtedness, are 
the following: 

History of the City of New York, by Mrs. Martha J. Lamb (1877). 

History of the City of New York, by Benson J. Lossing (1884). 

Reminiscences of New York by an Octogenarian, by Charles H. Haswell (1896). 

Phelps' New York City Guide (1854). 

Miller's New York as It Is (1876). 

Francis' Handbook of New York (1853). 

.4 Pen and Ink Panorama of New York City, by Cornelius Mathews (1853). 

Manual of the Common Council of the City of New York, ed. by D. T. Valentine (1857). 
New York Illustrated, pub. by D. Appleton & Co. (1869). 

New York by Sunlight and Gaslight (1882). 

King's Handbook of New York City, pul), by Moses King (1893). 

Historical Guide to the City of New York, by F. B. Kelley (1909). 

History of the Metropolitan Museum, by Winifred E. Howe (1913). 

Minutes of the Common Council (unpublished). 

Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York, ed. by John Hardy (1870). 

Redfield's Traveler's Guide to the City of New York, by J. S. Redfield (1871). 

New York and Its Institutions, by J. F. Richmond (1872). 

History of and How to See New York, by Robert Macoy (1875). 

Historical Sketch of Madison Square, pub. by the Meriden Britannia Co. 

New York in a Nutshell, by Frederick Saunders (1853). 

Phelps' New York City Guide (1857). 

Old New York, by Dr. Francis (1866). 

Glimpses of New York City, by a South Carolinian (1852). 

The Citizens and Strangers’ Pictorial and Business Directory of the City of New York (1853). 
Reminiscences of a Hotel Man, by Henry S. Mower (1912). 

The City of New York, pub. by Taintor Bros. (1867). 

Wealth and Biography of Wealthy Citizens (1845). 

The Stranger’s Hand-Book (1853). 

Backward Glances, by Thomas Floyd Jones (1914). 

.4 History of the Churches of New York, Jonathan Greenleaf (1846). 

The Earliest Churches of New York, by Gabriel Poillon Disosway (1865). 

“New York in 1870” in Belgravia Magazine, October, 1870. 

.4 Manual of the Reformed Church in America, by Rev. Edw. T. Corwin (1902). 

“Clubs” in The Galaxy (1876). 

The Diary of Philip Hone, ed. by Bayard Tuckerman (1889). 

How to Know New York, by Moses F. Sweetser (1888). 

Elite Directory. 

A Description of the City of New York, ed. by O. L. Holley (1847). 

History of the City of New York, by Mary L. Booth (1867). 

Guide to the Central Park, by T. Addison Richards, pub. by James Miller (1866). 

The Island of Manhattan, by Felix Oldboy (J. F. Mines) (1890). 

History of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, by the Most Rev. John M. Farley, D.D. (1908). 

The Old Merchants of New York, by Walter Barrett (1863). 

The Wealthy Citizens of the City of New York (1855). 

Old Streets of New York City, by John J. Post (1882). 

Queens of American Society, by Mrs. E. F. Ellet (1867). 

The Elgin Botanical Gardens, by Judge Addison Brown, in Bulletin of the New York 
Botanical Gardens, Yol. 5, No. 18. 

“Value of Real Estate, New York,” by a retired merchant, from Evening Post. 

The Memorial History of the City of New York, ed. by James Grant Wilson (1892-93). 
Life of John Johnston, by Mrs. Robert Weeks de Forest. 

Deeds in Register’s Office, magazine articles in Century, Harper’s. Putnam’s, Scribner's, 
Magazine of American History, Architectural Review, and many old maps and plans.