D. T. Valentine's History of Broadway Pre: 1865 Part VIII

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Broadway From Twentieth Street To Fortieth Street  Pages: 652-655

Abingdon road was the name of a pleasant cross road connecting Greenwich with the Great Post road, which branched off eastward from the present Broadway near Madison square. The "Post-road," or " Boston road " as it was originally called, was the first highway laid out through the length of the island : and the Bloomingdale road was a local thoroughfare leading to the hamlet of that name. This road, was widened in 176O, above Abingdon road, to about Fortieth street, to the width of four rods, in which condition it remained until the improvement of Broadway.

The topographical character of the island in this vicinity was of a broken and rocky character, diversified with swamps and a briery growth, with but slight attractions to the agriculturist ; hence but a small portion was taken up by Bettlers prior to the City Charter of 1786, which granted to the City Corporation all the waste, vacant, and unpatented lands on the island. The earlier inhabitants in that vicinity were mechanics, tavern-keepers, &c., who found business occupations from travelers. John Horn, a wheelwright, accumulated a considerable property in this vicinity, a large part of which remained in the family of that name until comparatively recent years. A portion of his property, situated along the west side of the present Broadway, from Twenty-first, to Twenty-sixth street, was originally patented, in 1670, to Solomon Peters, a free negro. Horn established his wheelwright business in this vicinity, about 1736, on an acre of land leased to him by the Corporation.

South of the cross-road referred to was a swampy piece of laud, containing about eleven acres, which belonged to the City Corporation, and by them was presented to Sir Peter Warren, in 1745, as a free gift. It was subsequently purchased by Henry Gage, who, after the Revolution (having returned to England), sold to Isaac Varian for six hundred pounds. Mr. Varian also owned a considerable tract, situated on the west side of Broadway, between Twenty-sixth and Thirty-first streets, containing about fifteen acres, which he bought from the family of John De Witt, in 1787, at the price of twelve hundred and eighty pound. Mr. Varķan also pursued the avocation of a farmer, and resided in his old homestead until his death. A view of this building, which has only been demolished within the past few years, presents the most suggestive idea of the condition of
Broadway in early times which can be produced.

On the east side of the present Broadway, from Fourteenth street to Nineteenth street, and covering some eight or ten blocks, including part of union square, was the estate of Tiebout Williams, next adjoining which was the Krom-Messie property, running back to near the Second avenue, in about the centre of which Gramercy park is now situated. Adjoining this estate, and extending around the Post-road, was the property of John Watts, a leading citizen of New York. The streets from Twenty-first to Twenty-sixth street, and also Madison and Fourth avenues, cross this property.

At the junction of the old Post- road and the Bloomingdale road was a piece of land belonging to the Corporation, which for many years was used as a Potter's field. In 1806, at which period measures for the defense of the city were in progress, this locality was ceded to the United States Government for the site of an arsenal, for which purpose it was occupied for some years. In 1823 a society was organized, composed of several public-spirited citizens (among those of whom now living may be mentioned the names of James W. Gerard, Hiram Ketchum, and Daniel Lord), who procured an act of incorporation under the name of "The Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquent." Having obtained possession of the arsenal grounds, they erected a House of Refuge, which was opened January 1, 1825, with nine inmates (six boys and three girls). The two stone buildings which were erected were each one hundred and fifty feet in length and thirty-eight in breadth, one being appropriated for boys and the other for girls. The grounds were enclosed within stone walls seventeen feet in height, but within the enclosure the appearance of the place was made to some extent attractive by handsome shrubbery and high cultivation. This establishment was destroyed by fire in 1888, and a few years afterward Madison square, which now adorns that vicinity, was projected.

Adjoining Madison square, on the east and north sides, Caspar Samler owned the lauds covering eight or ten blocks, his fronts lying on the east side of Broadway and on the north side of the old Post- road. The present Fifth and Madison avenues, and the streets from Twenty-sixth to Thirty-third street, cross this property.

The diagram annexed, illustrating this portion of the street, shows its condition at the period when the plan of the city
was established under the Act of 1807. The time may be stated as between 1810 and 1820.

With respect to the more recent history of this portion of Broadway, as well as of that still further toward the suburbs, the
compiler has not thought it properly within the limits of this article, as the buildings now existing are those originally built on the street, and have no past history beyond the remembrance and notice of the present generation.

This completes the transcribing of the article Broadway, D.T. Valentine


Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: D.T. Valentine's History of Broadway Pre: 1865 Part VIII
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From My Collection of Books: Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York by D.T. Valentine 1865
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