Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Building building building

Looking southwest across Central Park from the Carlyle Hotel on 76th Street and Madison Avenue. 11:00 AM. Photo: JH
Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Yesterday was bright and sunny in New York with temps hovering around 80 and not humid, as it was on this past weekend. Beautiful weather all around.

Building building building. Here on East End Avenue on Sunday, usually an almost quiet-as-the-countryside weekend in this part of Manhattan, we had local Construction Fest – something that can be found any weekday in almost (or every) part of the city. 

It began with the extra-long flatbed trucks arriving on Sunday morning as dawn was breaking. The Brearley School, as you may have read on these pages before, is building another building – fourteen stories – on the southwest corner of 83rd Street and East End Avenue. The school is expanding its presence from one block east on 83rd Street by the river.
This crane (white and black) was parked by a piece of the major crane (red) right across the street from me.
This is a very annoying process for us neighbors in many ways, not the least of which is the extraordinary amount of dust, grit and dirt that finds its ways into our apartments even with the doors and windows shut. It’s in the air. Period. Secondly is the noise.

Nevertheless, those are the elements of construction of any edifice as everyone knows. But this is New York which is an ongoing phenomenon in many ways and lives. Since I have lived here in my apartment there have been five major demolitions and constructions in a six block area from 80th Street to 87th – and all on the west side of the avenue.  Two of them, besides Brearley’s, are still in process. Or progress, as some would call it.
The crane lifted the above mentioned piece so that it could be aligned to another piece (the trees are masking some of it from view) which would be connected by large long black spikes holding them together.
Here you see part from the piece in the first photo being lifted by the white and black crane so that it could be aligned with the part in the photo above.
Sunday was the day of the Big Crane, arriving in very long pieces on the flatbeds, covering a two block area, and all directly in front of my windows. An annoying idea for an early Sunday morning but also a neighborhood sightseeing experience that is compelling to the watchers (of which I am avid).

The avenue was first divided by those plastic/rubber fencing, making room from very long tractor trailers carrying massive pieces of a crane to park before they were assembled before us, and then lifted into a vertical position so that it could lift very large and obviously heavy pieces of metal objects to the top of the fourteenth story of the new building.
This is the cabin of what will be the completed crane. The alignment has already been completed here (it took about two and half hours to complete the connecting before ...
... the completed crane could be sent up about fifteen or sixteen stories (that’s what you’re looking at – hanging over 80 East End Avenue on the other west corner of the avenue across 83rd Street from the building in construction). That white “line” in the sky  is coincidental – a chemtrail presumably.
About four o’clock in the afternoon, the heavy lifting of machinery for the building completed, the deconstruction of the red crane has begun. The piece you’re looking at is in the process of folding up (think: lobster claw) until it will all rest on the back of another flatbed trailer which will take it away subsequently.
At the same time, the piece that you saw in the first photograph is being lifted back onto the flatbed it came on by the crane. Within an hour from the beginning of the deconstruction of the roadway was completely cleared as if nothing had happened.  In this photo you can also see the ongoing (it’s been years) construction at the Chapin School, which is on the 84th Street corner of the avenue. Its base is the beautiful, classic Delano & Aldrich original building that several years ago was besmirched by some architect who couldn’t resist dominating the old structure with something that makes no sense aesthetically but evidently was great for somebody’s ego. The Chapin School is now at it again (I don’t know about the besmirching part this time) adding more floors to the school.
Coincidentally, yesterday morning I received a (regular) email from the website Ephemeral New York (“chronically an ever-changing city through fabled and forgotten artifacts”) about this area of Manhattan (the Upper East Side) that led me to a series of photos that were taken from the roof of the home of a brewer named George Ehret.

These photos are part of a series taken by a photographer named Peter Baab 136 years ago in the winter of 1882-83. The area then was known as Prospect Hill (and today it is known as “Carnegie Hill”). They give a 360 degree panoramic view from Park Avenue and 94th Street at that time (literally where JH and his wife Danielle live today).
Peter Baab, Photographic series from the roof of George Ehret’s home at Park Avenue and 94th Street, 1882–83 Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Mrs. Carl Eggers, 2003.26.3

This photograph documents the newly completed boulevard along Fourth Avenue (now Park Avenue). From the 1830s to the 1870s, the New York and Harlem Railroad ran along Fourth Avenue in an open channel. Beginning in the 1840s, Irish immigrants established squatter homes along the rail line; breweries and factories followed in the 1860s. The neighborhood began to change in 1872, when under public pressure, the railroad president, Cornelius Vanderbilt, sank the tracks below ground from 56th to 96th Street.

In order to accommodate underground tracks, Fourth Avenue was widened to 140 feet and landscaped with a central mall that contained a series of ventilation openings, visible in the photograph. The new avenue did not immediately attract real estate speculators: the Panic of 1873 set off a decade-long recession. But by 1882–83, when Baab photographed the area, Fourth Avenue was beginning to attract residential construction, large mansions, and new institutions. With its new design, the boulevard became known as Park Avenue, a title the city made official in 1888.
The brick mansion of banker George F. Baker was designed by Delano & Aldrich (who designed the original Chapin School on East End Avenue), built by a man named Francis Palmer in 1918 on 93rd Street and Park Avenue. Back when it was still Fourth Avenue, the two-story white house on the corner lot (seen in the previous Baab photograph) had been built by Civil War general George McClellan although he never lived in it. When that house was demolished Mr. Palmer bought it, tore it down and built what became known as the Baker house.
The photos are part of the collection of the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY), which is a treasure trove of information and historical photographs of New York City. This group of photos was the gift of Mrs. Carl Eggers in 1966, and what a treasure they are for the imagination as well as the historian. Many of the captions for these photos are from MCNY as well, which poignantly point out everything of note.

Baab was a Bavarian born photographer. Ehret was a German immigrant who made his fortune brewing beer for the large German immigrant population in this area which was then known (well into the 20th century) as “Germantown.” He built his mansion in 1878. This part of the island of Manhattan was then a mainly barren, hilly landscape. Ehret was one of the first to move into the area.
This view faces southwest, toward Central Park. Baab’s panorama portrays the spotted development of the city, as new structures slowly filled in the landscape. Baab’s southwestern view shows mostly detached buildings. The large house in the foreground, The Hermitage, recalls a bygone era of estates, while behind it the four-story sliver of an apartment building signals the coming era of urbanization.
This view faces west, toward Central Park. The Central Park reservoir (now the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir) appears in the distance as well as an empty Fifth Avenue along its border. Although many land speculators invested in the land along Fifth Avenue after the creation of Central Park, believing it would become a fashionable neighborhood, Baab’s photograph shows how slowly the area took off. The only grand mansion in sight, on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 93rd Street, was built by Jacob Ruppert, Ehret’s friend and brewing competitor, in 1881. The small white building on the northeast corner of 94th Street and Fifth Avenue is the Eagle Hotel.
Baab was photographing a transforming area, an oncoming "march of improvement where new row houses and speculative development overran the old factories, squatter shanties and farmhouses that had dominated the the area." In the beginning of the 19th century, a man named DeWitt Clinton had the foresight to lay out The Grid of streets and avenues that made New York what it became in the 20th century. The grid in the last three decades has been fiddled with precariously by people who believed they had a better idea.

Within a few short years after these photos were taken it would be transformed by the New York Central railroad tracks and the Grid which cut the area into blocks providing a framework for development which – as we recorded at the beginning of this Diary – continues to be ongoing.
This view faces northwest, at the intersection of 95th Street and Park Avenue. The tracks of the New York and Harlem Railroad reemerge above ground at 96th Street. Madison Avenue, to the left at a higher grade, had also been recently extended.
This view faces north, with 95th Street in the foreground. Baab’s photograph displays the squatter homes, rugged terrain, and factory buildings that flanked Fourth Avenue before its transformation. Ninety-fourth Street has been cut through and graded. The car barn for the Third Avenue El, where streetcars were stored and repaired, looms in the distance, and the railroad tracks that emerged from the underground tunnel at 96th Street are visible at left.
This view faces southeast, at the intersection of 93rd Street and Lexington Avenue. The white wood-frame house with a porch and mansard roof in the center of the block (128 East 93rd Street) was designed by Edmund Waring and built in 1866 for Henry W. Shaw, a maker of artificial limbs. It was later owned by Edwin Henis, who worked for the brewer George Ehret. His daughter, Caroline Eggers, donated this set of Baab’s panoramic photographs to the Museum of the City of New York in 1966.
JH took this photo just yesterday of 128 East 93rd Street, 152 years since it was originally constructed!
This view faces south, with 92nd Street in the foreground and Park Avenue at right. In the 1880s, most of the buildings near Fourth Avenue were tenements erected by speculators for the city’s burgeoning population of German, Italian, and Jewish immigrants, who moved uptown to escape the overcrowded Lower East Side. Speculative masonry apartment buildings surround four older wooden houses on East 92nd Street. The two joined frame houses, each three stories tall, still stand today: no. 122, on the left, was built in 1859, and its taller neighbor, no. 120, in 1871. During the second half of the 19th century, building codes caused a shift from frame to masonry construction; the erection of wooden buildings was outlawed south of 86th Street in 1866 and south of 155th Street in 1888.
Amazingly, both 122 and 120 East 92nd Street still preside on 92nd Street.
Here's a closer look of these two survivors.
This view faces northeast, toward the East River and Ward’s Island. It encompasses a mix of the old and new features of the neighborhood: speculative apartment buildings, factories, vacant lots, and farmland. The tracks of the Second and Third Avenue elevated railroad lines are visible in the distance.
This view faces east, with 94th Street at left. From his house, George Ehret had a view of his own Hell Gate Brewery, the largest beer venture in the country. The building’s tall clock tower can be seen in the distance, piercing the horizon. Ehret established the venture in 1866, nine years after immigrating to New York from Germany, and he selected East 93rd Street because it was, at the time, far from the built-up portion of the city.

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