Stretching from scenic East River to Fifth Avenue - Central Park, the Upper East Side once known as the Silk Stocking District, aptly refers to one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the Big Apple.
Speaking of affluent, the neighborhood over the years has been home to the creme de le creme of Hollywood and beyond. The Astors, Rockefellers, Kennedys, Whitneys, Roosevelts and more, it is till date a neighborhood with eclectic mix of ethnicities, cultures and socioeconomic groups that have made the Upper East Side, home.
Back in the day before the Europeans arrived, it was the home of Native American fishing camps, which changed in due course, around 1837, when the New York and Harlem Railroad brought with it a ton of new commercial developments. At the time the only functioning station in the area was on 86th Street, which eventually became the hub of German Yorkville.
With tides of change, came the extension of the neighborhood to what it is today, and preserving its rich history, architecture, and glorious past, is a non-profit organization called “Friends of the Upper East Side”.
Founded in 1982, this group of people have dedicated their time and efforts to preserving the architectural legacy of the Upper East Side. Since, they have been an active part of public decisions concerning the history and culture of the neighborhood. In their efforts to spread the work, they hold lectures, sponsor walks, give out annual awards for community service, and offer educational programs for 1st through 5th graders, aimed at creating a sense of pride and awareness about the community.
History runs deep in this neighborhood, which is home to six historic districts and 128 individual landmarks, within its boundaries extending from 59th Street to 96th Street, with premium zip codes that include 10021, 10022, 10028, 10075, 10128, 10029 and 10065.
Carnegie Hill is the first of its historic districts, that runs along 86th to 98th Street on the East side, from Lexington to Fifth Avenues. Named true to its topography, that sits on a hill, the area is inclusive of 400 buildings with a distinct character, that dates back to its early development in the late 1800’s and early 1930’s, with several brick and brownstone townhouses, including several free-standing townhouses and mansions, and large apartment buildings from the years following the First World War. As for its name, it dates back to the early twentieth century, when Andrew Carnegie constructed his mansion on Fifth Avenue and 91st Street, on a piece of land that was referred to as “Prospect Hill”. It was after Andrew’s mansion that the area took shape into this luxury oasis of premium apartments, coexisting with a mix of neo-grec and romanesque revival row houses, neoclassical and neo-federal style houses, dating to the early twentieth century.
Known to be one of New York’s oldest historic districts is the Treadwell Farm District, designated in 1967, envelopes East 61st and East 62nd Streets between Second and Third Avenues. Named after the Treadwell family, who owned the land in the area back in 1815, the neighborhood mostly consisted of four-story houses constructed between 1868 and 1875. Its distinctive character, is its aesthetic design and understated elegance of the early 1900’s. Iron areaway railings, window boxes with blooms, pedimented arch doorways, and framed windows, are some of the features of the row houses of that era. Its glorious history has always had the bigwigs in the world of journalism, politics, architecture, publishing and showbiz; like Kim Novak, Clift Eleanor Roosevelt, Paul Gallico, and Walter Lippmann, among others who have called Treadwell Farm District, home.
One of the most picturesque neighborhoods of the Upper East Side, Henderson Place, is an architectural gem tucked away in Yorkville close to the East River. This planned neighborhood with 24 homes, was given character by architects Lamb & Rich, in 1880. The brick homes built in Queen Anne style, with details like Flemish, Elizabethan, and classical detailing, constructed with steep slate roofs, tall chimneys, and double-hung windows, truly represents the era it belonged to. Spread over a tiny one block area on East 86th and 87th streets, between York and East End Avenues, the homes were built for the simple living style of those with moderate incomes.
Another tiny little stretch hidden amid the soaring high rises that crowd that Upper East Side, is the Hardenbergh/Rhinelander Historic District, that comprises of six row houses and one “French Flats” building constructed in 1888-89, for William C.Rhinelander, in Northern Renaissance Revival style designs of architect J.Hardenbergh. The Rhinelanders family were at the top of the real estate game in Manhattan at the time, through their company Rhinelander Real Estate Co., and took charge of the historic district until 1948. Red brick and brownstone buildings, with a mix of terra cotta, the row of six houses, made for a picturesque symmetry featuring beautiful framed window, a roofline with prominent pediments and cornices. Today, thanks to the Landmarks Preservation Society, this little enclave of homes have been retained, keeping the legacy of the Rhinelanders alive.
Enveloping one of the largest chunks of the Upper East Side, is the Upper East Side Historic District, that spans a good 20 blocks, all the way from 59th Street to 78th Street, along Fifth Avenue. A neighborhood known to be synonymous with the wealthy and the sociable, has rightly-so been home to the upper crust of the society. Its elegant mansions, imposing apartments, brownstones, and more, have long been one of the finest examples of architecture in all of New York City.
Weaving the historic district of the Upper East Side in a harmonious symphony is the iconic Metropolitan Museum Historic District. An architectural delight, combining styles from the late 19th century and the mid-20th century apartment buildings, the Metropolitan Museum Historic District that runs along Fifth and Madison Avenues from 78th to 86th Streets, is home to the most swanky Italianate style brownstones on 78th to 81st Streets, ornate mansions on Fifth Avenue, and the newer Beaux-Arts and neo-Renaissance style homes. Designed by several architects including McKim Mead & White, Calvert Vaux, Richard Morris Hunt and Kevin Roche, between 1864 and 1990, its splendid architectural details, make the Metropolitan Museum of Art an individual landmark as well. Beyond the artistic alleys of the museum itself, the neighborhood is strewn with several art galleries that sprung during the artsy era of the 60’s and 70’s, where most galleries were housed in former townhouses and mansions. Evidence lies in the public art piece on the Alexander Calder Sidewalk, designed of course by Calder, featuring black and white lines and crescents.
Historic districts aside, the Upper East Side has her hat gleaming with individual buildings that have been landmarked, among which the Duke Residence at 1009 Fifth Avenue, Archibald Gracie Mansion on East 88th Street, Edward S and Mary Stillman Harkness House on 1 East 75th Street, and Felix Mansion on 1109 Fifth Avenue are among the list of 128 landmarks in the neighborhood.
Felix Warburg Mansion, 1109 Fifth Avenue
This slice of New York, famously safe, beautiful, green, and charming, is truly an epitome of art, architecture, and a quintessential part of the city’s diverse culture.
“Every happy ending is just a new beginning, because in the Upper East Side, the good times lasts forever “- Unknown