Written by Pam Tice, Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group Planning Committee member
Here is a second post in my series exploring Bloomingdale in Colonial times and after the Revolution.
Colonial New York
New York City’s colonial history provides a context for Bloomingdale’s history before the American Revolution. The City became an economic powerhouse in the 18th Century after Queen Anne’s War ended in 1717. The development of the plantations in the British West Indies to meet the rising demand for sugar drove the New England and the Middle Colonies to become the suppliers of food and other essential supplies for the plantations. New York became, in that time, one of the imperial centers of the British North American empire, the others being Jamaica in the West Indies, and Halifax in Canada.
New York City began to lose its original Dutch cultural heritage as the British economic and cultural practices prevailed. Merchants in New York were drawn into the slave trade as slaves were needed to labor on the farms surrounding the city, as well as to work in building ships, handling cargo, and even the day-to-day work of operating businesses. Some slaves also worked as domestic servants. While we don’t have actual headcounts of enslaved people in Bloomingdale until the 1790 federal census, we can be quite sure that many slaves labored for their masters here. An enslaved population was one of the major features of New York City life in the 18th Century. Another blog post in this series will provide more details about slavery in New York City and the details found about enslaved people in Bloomingdale.
Written by Pam Tice, member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group planning committee.
A few months ago, a new website developed by John Jay College caught my attention. Like many institutions of higher education, the College was exploring the link between slavery and the famous man whose name adorns it. One of the resources used was the 1790 federal Census. I looked up Charles Ward Apthorp, whom I had written about previously, one of the colonial property owners in our Bloomingdale neighborhood. He owned eight slaves.
That got me thinking: who were the other people in this census? How was the Bloomingdale neighborhood settled in the era before the Revolution? What was Bloomingdale like after the Revolution and in the early 1900s? I started to dig a bit deeper into the Bloomingdale history, beyond the work of numerous local historians who write about a particular property owner and the history of a mansion house, as I myself had done in writing about Apthorp’s mansion that became Elm Park.
The Bloomingdale Road, authorized in 1703, and laid out in 1707, was key to the area’s development; Bloomingdale became more like a suburb of the city than what we call a neighborhood today. I am especially grateful to my colleague at the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group, Gil Tauber, for his help on the details of the Bloomingdale Road history.
As we begin a new year, we're excited to share with you our new publication. We hope you'll enjoy this and future issues of the Bloomindale Bulletin, which will feature program listings, historical sketches, book suggestions, and other content that highlights our unique community.
Please download the file below and let us know what you think here.
Thanks and happy reading!
BNHG Planning Group.
Prohibition in Bloomingdale
Spanish Flu in Bloomingdale: A Search for How Our Neighborhood Coped in 1918
Growing Old in Bloomingdale: Nineteenth Century Homes for the Aged, Part 1
Growing Old in Bloomingdale: Nineteenth Century Homes for the Aged, Part 2
Growing Old in Bloomingdale: Nineteenth Century Homes for the Aged, Part 3
Our Bloomingdale Wall
1917 New York Military Census
Bloomingdale Neighborhood Stores, Part Two
Provisioning Bloomingdale: Stores that fed the residents of Bloomingdale
The 10 Best Web Resources about New York City History
The 25 best books about the history of New York City's boroughs and neighborhoods
Dr. William Seraile's BNHG Presentation: New York's Colored Orphan Asylum
Park West Village: History of a Diverse Community
The 25 Best Books about New York City
Bloomingdale’s Finest Mansion: From Elmwood to Elm Park, 1764-1891
Daniel Wakin's Presentation on The Man With the Sawed-off Leg 1/17/18
Northern Exposure: Sara Cedar Miller’s Presentation 11/24/17
Bloomingdale's West 96th Street Was the Focus of the 1925 Solar Eclipse
How to Uncover the History of Your NYC Apartment Building
City of Tenants
¡Unidad Latina! — Political Activism on the UWS in the 1960s and 70s
Little Coney Island on West 110th Street
Making Music in Bloomingdale
The Home for the Relief of the Destitute Blind
The Bloomingdale Insane Asylum
The New York Pasteur Institute on Central Park West at 97th Street
John Clendening, Esquire, and his Bloomingdale Estate
Dining Out in Bloomingdale
The Lion Brewery, the Lion Park, and the Lion Palace
Bloomingdale/Manhattan Valley Chronology /
Battle of Harlem Heights
Measure of Manhattan
The Old Community on West 98th and 99th Streets
The Ninth Avenue El
The Story of 891 Amsterdam Avenue and How It Became a New York City Landmark
Neighborhood Nomenclature: Bloomingdale, the West End and Manhattan Valley
Upper West Side History: the Rise and Tragic Fall of a Model Who Broke the Rules
Bloomingdale History Map
January 17, 2020 was the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Prohibition era. I’d planned to write a blog post about that era in our neighborhood, especially since we were the site of the Lion Brewery on Columbus Avenue at 107th Street. The 2020 Pandemic intervened and I diverted to the 1918 Flu Pandemic. Now I’m returning to Prohibition in Bloomingdale.
Since so much about this time involved illegal activity, it took more digging than usual to find places in our neighborhood where the 1920s era played out.
What I found may be merely the tip of an iceberg, revealing only those places that were reported in the newspapers because they were caught breaking the law. If you are reading this and know of a speakeasy operating in our neighborhood in the 1920s, please do let us know! My sources, listed below, include books by historians who have looked at this era, particularly in Manhattan; the newspapers reporting day-to-day enforcement and political activity, and online resources covering Prohibition.
This post was written by Pam Tice, a member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group Planning Committee
I had a little bird, Its name was Enza, I opened the window, And in-flu-enza.
Children’s Rhyme, 1918
As our 2020 Pandemic Spring unrolled over the past few months, there have been numerous articles reaching back to 1918 when the “Spanish Flu Epidemic” spread across the United States. On the 100th anniversary in 2018 historians looked back on that time, most not imagining that we would be re-living this type of historic event just two years later. As I get ready to upload this post in mid-May 2020, New York’s City’s 20,000 + deaths from the Covid-19 Flu are close to matching the number of deaths in the fall of 1918.
Back in March when New York went on “pause” I decided to learn about the 1918 flu epidemic in New York City, and then learn how the illness may have played out in the Bloomingdale neighborhood on the Upper West Side. I wanted to understand what local life would have been like at that time.
I started with the articles about 1918, focusing particularly on New York City. I looked in the academic journals, and searched the newspapers. My search was all online, of course, as all archives are currently closed. I read all the contemporary pieces where the historians discuss 1918 in light of today’s ongoing event. Nothing I found (almost) related directly to Bloomingdale. Nevertheless, I learned a lot about New York City in 1918. I decided to share what I’ve learned—about the flu epidemic, about the public health and the nursing profession, and about World War l in New York City—and how all of these things might have touched the lives of those living in Bloomingdale.
This is the third post of a three-part series on the history of homes for the aged in the Bloomingdale neighborhood written by Pam Tice, member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group planning committee.
The Home for Old Men and Aged Couples and St. Luke’s Home for Indigent Females
Both of these homes, developed by New York’s Protestant Episcopal Church, were in Morningside Heights, to the north of our Bloomingdale neighborhood. They were both founded by The Reverend Dr. Isaac Tuttle, Rector of St. Luke’s Church. He first established a home for women in 1852 at 543 Hudson Street, for “gentlewomen in reduced circumstance.” When larger space was needed in 1859, the women were moved to a house next to the church at 487 Hudson Street. The congregation of the church and their friends supplied all the needs of the home.
By 1872, the home for women was relocated to Madison Avenue and 89th Street. Meanwhile, seeing the need for care developing for elderly men, Rev. Tuttle formed the Home for Aged Men and Aged Couples in the building at 487 Hudson Street. The men were “rescued from lonely want and suffering” and aged couples were “saved from the bitterness of separation.”
When the Cathedral of St. John the Divine construction began in the 1890s, the Episcopal Church moved both homes to the Morningside Heights neighborhood. The Home for Old Men and Aged Couples was moved into a new five-story building at Amsterdam Avenue and 112th Street, on the northwest corner, across the street from the Cathedral. The land was purchased in 1897 and the home opened the following year. The St. Luke’s Home for Aged Women was built in 1899 at 2914 Broadway, at 114th Street. The Home for Old Men and Aged Couples had a “Board of Lady Associates” in addition to its regular Board.
This post and the two that follow on the same topic are written by Pam Tice, member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group planning committee.
In the early days of the nineteenth century as the population of New York City expanded, how to care for elderly citizens, particularly the poor, became a problem. Until then, old people were cared for by their families, or taken into the home of a friend. Poor people who ended up in the City’s Poor House were not differentiated from the mentally ill or dissolute people who were unable to care for themselves.
One of the West Side’s historic organizations, the Association for the Relief of Respectable Aged Indigent Females, was formed in 1814 to deal with the problem of poor elderly women. The history of their Home at 891 Amsterdam Avenue has been covered in an earlier post but will be described here again, with new information recovered from a trove of their Annual reports discovered at the New York Public Library.
Five other homes were in close proximity, starting in the late 19th century and into the early days of the 20th century, some lasting until the 1970s when everything changed with new Federal programs. This three-part article covers the history of caring for the aged in our neighborhood at these institutions and two others from more modern times, covered in Part 3:
The Methodist Episcopal Home for the Aged at 673 Amsterdam Avenue, between West 92nd and West 93rd Street
The Home for Aged Hebrews, originally located at 121 West 105th Street
The Old Age Home operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor, at 135 West 106th Street
Across 110th Street in the Morningside Heights neighborhood:
The Home for Old Men and Aged Couples at 1060 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street
The St. Luke’s Home for Aged Women at 2914 Broadway at 114th Street
Civil engineer Egbert L. Viele wrote about the area: There is no dampness here on the west side. There is a dry tonic atmosphere which is not felt elsewhere in the city. It is more healthy than elsewhere. Elderly people like it here much better and with excellent reason.
This is the second post of a three part series written by Pam Tice, member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group planning committee.
The Association for the Relief of Respectable Aged indigent Females
Since the 2013 post (linked in Part 1) on the history of the organization and its homes for elderly women, the Annual Reports from 1814 to 1924 for the Association were discovered at the New York Public Library. This historical review includes several insights discovered in those reports.
The women who founded the Association were profoundly religious in their mission but were not from any particular Protestant church. In their first Annual Report their purpose is stated “God in his religious providence has reduced many respectable aged females to want. We feel it is our duty and esteem it a privilege to administer to them in comfort.” The women were the wives of merchants of the City, comfortable in their own lives. Nearly all of them were married and typically held positions on the Board. Many served for a lengthy time.
In their first three years, the Board met at the Brick Presbyterian Church on Beekman Street, and then moved to private homes until they built their first Home on 20th Street, between Second and Third Avenues, after which all meetings were held there. Until the Home opened, the women collected funds and dispersed them to worthy recipients. A Visiting Committee was charged with using “the utmost endeavor to ascertain the real character of every person they visited, closely questioning them and inquiring the surrounding neighbors.” By 1818, they were concerned that “a great number of aged poor are constantly immigrating from Europe” and made a rule that, to receive their help, someone must be a resident of New York City for three years.
By the early 1830s, the Association began a process to build an Asylum. The minister of the Church of the Ascension, then on Canal Street, preached a supportive sermon one Sunday, resulting in Mrs. Peter Stuyvesant convincing her husband to donate land on 20th Street. John Jacob Astor donated $5,000 provided the women could raise the remaining $20,000. And they did! These two leading New York City citizens gave the Association a social boost, and the Board became one that socially-connected women would spend their time.
When the Home was opened on 20th Street, daily prayer and Sunday services were an integral part of the operation. The students at the nearby Episcopal Seminary helped staff the Chapel. The Home was expanded in the 1840s, and William B. Astor contributed another $3,000. They bought land in Yorkville in the 1850s to move uptown and build a larger home, but the Civil War, followed by the 1870s recession, held back their expansion.
By the time the Association bought their land in Bloomingdale, Mrs. Edward Morgan was the “First Directress.” As the wife of ex-Senator and ex-Governor Edward Morgan, she also had the social aspects of her husband’s public life to handle. In 1877 the Morgans hosted a party at their Fifth Avenue mansion for President Rutherford Hayes.
Engaging the well-established American architect Richard Morris Hunt to design their new home on Amsterdam Avenue at 104th Street gave the Association’s project the feature that has kept the building standing today. Hunt had designed an earlier version of the Asylum, when the Board thought they would be building on Fourth (Park) Avenue, but later found that the trains would be too close. When it was time to design the building for Amsterdam Avenue, Hunt may have simply dusted off his earlier plans. He was also busy then with the design of the base of the Statue of Liberty and William K. Vanderbilt’s home on Fifth Avenue. A “Committee of Gentlemen,” Headed by Edward Morgan, helped the women with their real estate dealings.
Written by Pam Tice, member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group’s Planning Committee
Once we had a wall running right through our Bloomingdale neighborhood. Only it wasn’t called a wall; it was the Clendening Bridge, a portion of the Croton Aqueduct, the city’s first major infrastructure project to address the problem of getting clean water to New York City. Thanks to a young engineer named Fayette Bartholomew Tower, we have this drawing of our Clendening Bridge, published in his 1843 book after the Croton Aqueduct was finished. Even though the Bridge remained in place until the 1870s, no photograph has been found (yet).
The Croton Aqueduct, including the Clendening Bridge, ran through our neighborhood about 100 feet west of Columbus Avenue. It came down Amsterdam Avenue and swung over at an angle toward Columbus Avenue, straightening out at 105-104 Streets to head downtown in a straight line. Of course these avenues were Tenth and Ninth then, and not the roadways they are today. Much of the entire Croton Aqueduct was an above-ground “horse-shoe shaped brick tunnel 8.5 feet high by 7.5 feet wide, set on a stone foundation and protected by an earthen cover and stone facing at the embankment walls” according to a description by the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct.