Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group
Compiled by Gil Tauber 2001 for the Columbus Amsterdam Business Improvement District
1600s Manhattan Island inhabited by Lenape Indians. There is no evidence of permanent settlement in the high rocky Manhattan Valley area, but it was almost certainly used as a hunting ground by Indians living on the Harlem flats to the east.
1625 Dutch West India Company establishes New Amsterdam at the southern tip of Manhattan.
1664 British seize New Amsterdam, renaming it New York. Within a few years the Upper West Side is parceled out in land grants, but there is no significant settlement.
1708 Bloomingdale Road is built, roughly along the lines of present Broadway. The newly accessible Upper West Side becomes an area of farms and country estates.
1811 The Commissioner’s Plan is adopted, laying out Manhattan’s system of streets and avenues. However, it will be decades before most of these streets are anything more than lines on a map.
1821 The Bloomingdale Insane Asylum is opened on what is now the site of Columbia University. In 1834 an unused part of the Asylum property is transferred to the Leake and Watts Orphan Asylum, now the site of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
1838 The Croton Aqueduct is built along Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues. It includes the Clendenning Valley aqueduct bridge, up to fifty feet above ground level, extending from 102nd to 95th streets. The massive stone structure has only three openings for future cross-town streets.
1856 New York City acquires the land for Central Park.
1868 Broadway is opened, replacing the Old Bloomingdale Road.
1871 Manhattan Avenue is opened.
1872-78 Sewers and water mains are laid in most of the streets east of Broadway. Underground pipes replace the above ground aqueduct.
1870s-80s Improved city services and low land costs attract major charitable institutions including the Hebrew Home for the Aged, the Catholic Old Age Home, and the Home for Aged Indigent Respectable Females.
1879 The Ninth Avenue Elevated Railway, powered by steam locomotives, is built along Columbus Avenue with stations at 99th and 104th Streets. It is followed by the first distinctly urban tenements along Columbus Avenue and row houses along the nearby side streets.
1880s-90s Several new churches and schools are built to serve the growing residential population mainly on or near Amsterdam Avenue.
1903 Following electrification of the Ninth Avenue El, a station is opened at 100thStreet and Manhattan Avenue. Elevators lift passengers to platforms five stories above the street. Nearby vacant lots are rapidly filled with apartment buildings.
1904 The IRT subway is opened on Broadway, spurring construction of more – and larger – apartment buildings.
1932 Eighth Avenue subway line opens along Central Park West.
1940 The Ninth Avenue El is closed and torn down.
1950s Fourteen city blocks are demolished and replaced by Frederick Douglass Houses and Park West Village. Scandals in connection with the latter project lead to the downfall of Robert Moses.
1970s City fiscal crisis. Drugs, crime, deterioration and the abandonment of buildings beset the neighborhood.
1979 Community leaders organize Valley Restoration Local Development Corporation. It sponsors housing rehabilitation projects as well as programs to improve security and assist local businesses.
1990s The area attracts new businesses and private investment in housing rehabilitation.