Friday, May 27, 2011
When Did New York Become New York? The Apartment Building
I'm gonna try to do a series of posts about NY-in no particular order many of which will be illustrated with images I took. They are sort of meditations and not fully supported with links--however the general facts are mostly right.
Many, or most would say that New York was destined by history and geography to be a great city--but at various points decisions were made about how land was used; space was organised that affected every aspect of it's history.
Early New York was very much a port and manufacturing city--insanely dense, dirty, overcrowded yet filled with opportunity. In 1857, Central Park was laid out--in what was at the time a fairly remote northern stretch of land. Soon, the elaborate mansions and townhouses of America's richest families, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Whitney, Frick, Duke, lined Fifth and Park Avenues.
Just judging from the ones left, the area must have been very beautiful. Then in a period of often not much more than 20 years, the very wealthy folks who had spent so much cash and care on these homes decided--to tear them down, or in some cases donate them to create museums or schools. The motivation of course, was largely about making more money-not that they needed it. Most could have stayed and resisted the northern progress of the city upward as the subway lines were built-instead they saw the market for a new type of building--the elaborate, elegant building types that line Park and Fifth Ave today, offering a luxuriant but practical lifestyle to a larger group of the aspiring rich and upper class. Similar neighborhoods developed along the upper west side--creating the density to support great shopping streets--and the cosmopolitan, businesslike character we now associate with NY.
In the years afterward, when NY was physically assaulted and undermined by bad planners--this large group of New Yorkers-largely stayed in the city.