by Pam Tice, member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group Planning Committee
The Upper West Side, a suburb in the early to mid-19th century, provided an excellent location for an orphanage. Land was cheap, the neighborhood’s country-like setting provided the fresh air children needed, and there was even space to grow food.
New York’s increasing immigration in the 19th century expanded both poverty and disease in the city, leaving many parents unable to cope with caring for their children. The children of the poor who were left to fend for themselves were viewed by the City’s reformers as a threat to civic stability. In his 1872 book about the city’s many benevolent institutions, the Reverend J. F. Richmond wrote: “Every great city contains a large floating population, whose indolence, prodigality, and intemperance are proverbial, culminating in great domestic and social evil. From these discordant circles spring an army of neglected or ill-trained children, devoted to vagrancy and crime, who early find their way into the almshouse or prison, and continue a life-long burden upon the community.” A Police Chief called them “vagrant, vicious and idle children.” The descriptive language used reflected the general outlook of New Yorkers toward the thousands of immigrants who came to the New York City in the 19th century and the moralistic tone of the Victorian age.
Religious institutions became the caretakers for many of these orphaned children. Starting in 1850, Catholic children were cared for in orphanages on Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue in mid-town, and later moved to the Bronx. In 1860 the Hebrew Orphan Asylum was founded at Amsterdam Avenue at 137th Street. In 1837, the Colored Children’s Orphanage was built at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. This one became famous when it was burned during the draft riots of 1863. It moved to Amsterdam Avenue and 143 Street, and later to Riverdale.
South of our Bloomingdale neighborhood was the New York Orphan Asylum Society, organized by Isabella Graham in 1806. Initially, the group had an asylum in Greenwich Village. Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, recently widowed, was an early supporter. By 1839, the Society relocated to a large facility at Riverside Drive at 73rd Street where they stayed until the end of the 19th Century. The organization relocated to Hastings-on-Hudson where they are still in operation today as Graham Windham. Their property on Riverside Drive was purchased by Charles Schwab, who built his French Chateau on the site.
Series on Bloomingdale in the 18th Century:
Post #1: Bloomingdale: Colonial Times and after the Revolutionary War
Post #2: 18th Century Bloomingdale residents before the American Revolution
Post #3: The Revolutionary War in Bloomingdale
Post #4: Enslaved African Americans in Bloomingdale
Post #5: Bloomingdale Grows and Prospers 1790-1820
Post #6: Along the Bloomingdale Road After the Revolution: Taverns and Tavernkeepers
Post #7 Bloomingdale Goes to School 1790s and early 1800s
Series on Growing Old in Bloomingdale:
Nineteenth Century Homes for the Aged, Part 1
Nineteenth Century Homes for the Aged, Part 2
Nineteenth Century Homes for the Aged, Part 3
Series on Bloomingdale Stores
Provisioning Bloomingdale: Stores that fed the residents of Bloomingdale
Bloomingdale Neighborhood Stores, Part Two
Orphan Houses of the Upper West Side
Bloomingdale Neighbor Augusta Stetson and the Church at 96th Street and Central Park West.
Prohibition in Bloomingdale
Spanish Flu in Bloomingdale: A Search for How Our Neighborhood Coped in 1918
Our Bloomingdale Wall
1917 New York Military Census
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
Written by Pam Tice, member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group planning committee.
The First Church of Christ Scientist, at 96th Street and Central Park West, will soon become the home of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. Recent announcements of the conversion led me to look at the history of this imposing granite structure. It is a tale of two (or maybe three) women seeking power in the public sphere as they struggled to dominate in a new American religion, Christian Science. The church was the project of Augusta Stetson, who came to New York City in 1886 to establish the Christian Science church here, working at the behest of Mary Baker Eddy, the Bostonian founder.
Augusta Emma Simmons Stetson was born in 1842 in Maine and raised in a strict Methodist home. When she was 22 years old, she married Captain Frederick J. Stetson, a veteran of the Civil War, and a shipbuilder with an association with a company in London. The couple left the United States to live in London, and then in Bombay, India, and in Akyab, in British Burma, for a number of years.
The Stetsons returned to Boston in the 1880s when Mr. Stetson’s health declined. Augusta enrolled in the Blish School of Oratory with the idea she could earn money to support the couple by giving public lectures. She sought to become an elocutionist at a time when the public lecture circuit was popular. For her to consider entering the public sphere during Victorian times—when women were expected to stay confined to home duties—speaks to Stetson’s drive to become a public figure and a leader. She is described in many biographies as tall, elegant in appearance, with a charismatic personality and a resonant voice.
This is the seventh and last (for a while) in this series exploring colonial and post-Revolution Bloomingdale written by Pam Tice, Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group Planning Committee member.
As parents cope with educating their children in this complicated time, it’s been interesting to look back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries when schooling was handled quite differently. It was not until 1842 that the Board of Education was formed, bringing the schools closer to what we have today. This post looks at how children were educated before the emergence of a “school system.”
When New Amsterdam was founded, schooling children was the responsibility of the Dutch Reformed Church. When the British took over the colony in 1664, they kept the same practice, keeping the Dutch Reformed Church schools and adding the Church of England’s Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts to oversee education. In 1709, Trinity School, a Bloomingdale School of today, was founded by Trinity Church, the Anglican church in downtown Manhattan.
After the War of Independence, the New York Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves established the African Free School for the children of slaves and former slaves; by 1827, that system had grown to seven schools.
This is the sixth post exploring colonial and post-Revolution Bloomingdale written by Pam Tice, Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group Planning Committee member.
New York City had a “tavern culture” starting in Colonial times. Taverns came in every shape and size and were owned by a range of residents, both elites and non-elites. The City profited from the licenses granted to tavernkeepers, issuing 314 in 1761. Taverns were male bastions where heavy eating, drinking and singing songs took place. Taverns provided a convenient place for politics and even government meetings. Horses and even slaves were advertised for sale through tavern owners. Fox hunts were organized by tavernkeepers in rural settings, like Bloomingdale.
The tavernkeepers and their taverns described here were found in newspaper articles from the time after the Revolutionary War to the early decades of the 19th Century.
This is the fifth post on colonial and post-Revolution Bloomingdale written by Pam Tice, member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group.
New York City had to recover from the Revolutionary War after George Washington marched back to downtown Manhattan in November1783. The city became the United States Capital until 1790, when it moved to Philadelphia. Population growth was strong from 1790 to 1820 when Manhattan’s population grew from 33,131 to 123,706, and doubled again by 1830.
Bloomingdale grew and changed during this time also. The first census in 1790 shows the property owners: the de Peyster brothers, near where Columbia University is now, the Striker family at 96th Street, Charles Apthorp in the West 90s, the Harsens, Somerindykes and Cozine further south. Moses Oakley and Benjamin Stout, both designated slave owners, are also in the early censuses. My research shows them to be tavern owners, which I’ll cover in a separate essay. The large estates of the Bloomingdale property owners may have had estate managers or workers who were not enslaved, since there are other names listed in the early censuses. These people must have led quiet lives, as there are no newspaper articles or other records that would allow the researcher to identify them.
This is a fourth post on 18th century Bloomingdale written by Pam Tice, member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group.
Now that I’ve written three posts about Bloomingdale in the 18th Century, I’m turning to the topic that caught my interest initially: slavery in Bloomingdale. As those who research family history know, finding details about African American ancestors is difficult. I had the same problem in trying to find factual information about slavery in Bloomingdale. Census information is available, and I’ll share what I found. Newspaper advertisements for runaway slaves or attempting to sell enslaved people are another source. Church records have some detail. I looked at all of these. I also looked for evidence of African American burial grounds.
First, though, I had to understand the history of slavery as it played out in New York City. Scholars have explored the institution of slavery in New York City in recent years in great detail, producing a great number of books and articles. The discovery of the African American Burial Ground in lower Manhattan in the early 1990s encouraged many scholars to pursue the detailed research which has amplified the experience and historical identity of African Americans in our city. Of the books I read on this topic, I found Thelma Wills Foote’s book, listed below, of particular interest.
The enslavement of African Americans was prevalent in colonial New York, where 40% of Europeans owned slaves, averaging 2.4 per household. By the 1720s, there were 5740 slaves in New York City, the greatest number of urban slaves outside the South. In 2015, the City recognized this part of its history by installing signage downtown at Wall and Water Streets to mark the 18th Century slave auction block.
Under the Dutch West India Company, the first slaves arrived in 1626 and were put to work building the company’s infrastructure and working on the farms that grew the local food supply. Dutch merchants and artisans taught slaves how to handle their businesses, a practice that continued when the British took over the city in 1664. The Dutch extended some leniency: allowing some enslaved people to negotiate their freedom, and to own property. This image of Dutch New York pictures the enslaved people of that era.
This is the third post about 18th Century Bloomingdale, written by Pam Tice, member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group Planning Committee.
So many historians have written about the Battle of Harlem Heights on September 16, 1776, that I do not need to re-tell the story here. Jim Mackin presented a program about the Battle, centered around the Jones and Hooglandt farms, one evening back in 2019. Jim summarized his program in a post here. There’s a much more detailed description of the Battle here: http://www.revolutionarywarjournal.com/battle-of-harlem-heights/
I’m focusing here on observations about Bloomingdale leading up to the Battle, and the seven years following, when the British had taken over New York City and imposed military rule.
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.