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JULY 15, 1911
EVOLUTION OF A FASHIONABLE SHOPPING STREET.
Fifth Avenue's Rise From a Country Road to One of the World's Foremost Retail
Trade Centers Is a Matter k Hardly More Than a Generation—High-Priced Sites.
THE evolution'o£ Fifth avenue from a
counlry road to one of the world's
foremost retail shopping thoroughfares, is
a matter of hardly more than a genera¬
tion. Originally devoted exclusively to res¬
idences, the avenue has to-day not a
single block from 1-ith to 50th street that
is not given over almost wholly to mer¬
cantile uses, while heyond 50th .street, as
far north as 5S)th street, few blocks are
entirely unoccupied by trade.
Wlien the avenue was planned in ISOi
the only north and south Ihoroughfare
then existing between Bloomingdale road
(now Broadway), and the Eastern Post
road, was the Middle Road, wliich ran
from a point which is now Fourtli avenue
and 29th street, northwesterly through
has been due mainly to the rapid building
up of Broadway and 23d street. Within a
few years some apartment houses have
been "built south of lith street and re¬
cently a large business building has been
projected on the site of one of the old
mansions there, but modern improve-
menis are rarely encountered and there
is almost no demand for property. The
average price for single inside lots is ifOO,-
000, and a fair price for corners would
be $125,000. Close to 14th street, prop¬
erty would probably run about 10% above
Between 14l.h and 23d street the ave¬
nue has been almost entirely rebuilt. Un¬
like the section immediately north of 23d
street, this part passed in its reconstruc-
obtained for their garments by virtue of
their "made on Fifth Avenue" tags. So
numerous have the workers become that"
the idle throngs at the noon hour, loiter¬
ing on the street, have become a serious
obstacle to free travel and the problem of
relieving this congestion has been taken
up by the merchants' associations and the
city authorities. Cooperation between the
(-mployers, the police and the workers
themselves is somewhat bettering the con¬
The solution of this ciuestion presents a
very interesting pha:se of the congestion
problem which New Tork, in its rapid
growth, is so often called upon to face.
The self-same cause which has driven the
millionaire residents to the other end of
(1) LOOKING SOUTH FROM 3iST ST., 1S5S.
(2) CORNER OF 23D ST., 1853.
(3) CORNER OF 23D ST., 1911.
(4) LOOKING NORTH FROM 24TH ST., 1911.
IVIurray Hill to Lowes lane, now 42d
street. The lane joined the Bloomingdale
road with the Post road and ran directly
through the old Burr farm. Under the
street plan 0," 1S07 the Middle Road was
abolished and a nortli and south avenue
was laid out from Lowes lane to Wash¬
ington Square. Fifth avenue sites had
but little value, except just nortli of
Washington Square, until about the middle
of the century. It was only when Cen¬
tral Park was planned that the residen¬
tial possibilities of the avenue rose above
the commonplace. The transformation of
a rough tract of land into a city kept
park, assured for residences on its bor¬
ders permanent light and air and a good
BELOW 14th STREET.
The avenue, between Washington
Square and 14th street was the first to
be built up with residences and it has
been the last to change. Its land values
have increased less than those of any
other section, south of 96th street. This
tion directly from a private house neigh¬
borhood to a wholesale mercantile center,
the stage of small retail shops whicli
usually intervenes' being largely missing
in this district. The first of the really
modern loft buildings were erected here
and the piano manufacturers made this
their headquarters for many years.
This part of the avenue had its boom in
\alues some years ago, and since then
trading has been very quiet due mainly
lo the decided change in tenancy, which
has recently taken place.
"MADE ON FIFTH AVENUE."
One does not ordinarily think of Fifth
avenue as a manufacturing street, but
such it has become in tnis part, in recent
years. Many East Side clothing makers,
who have been legislated out of their old
haunts by new sanitary laws, have lo¬
cated in the big loft buildings and have
turned them into factories. The higher
rents which they have been obliged to pay
have been more than offset by the better
working quarters and the higher prices
the street now seriously affects the very
people that drove them there. Mean¬
while, the effect has been to check any
rise in values, and property has failed to
show an increase in the last three years.-
As this class of tenantry has apparently
come to stay, and as wholesale merchants,
especially in the silk and woolen trades,
have moved to Fourth avenue, this prop¬
erty is not looked upon with favor by
the operators, and therefore no enhance¬
ment of values is to be expected. Single
lots are worth about $0,000 a front foot,
and corner lots about $175,000 a piece.
Few parcels are to be had and no buyer
would be interested in any-but large space.
NORTH OF MADISON SQUARE.
The changes in the street have been
spectacular in the extreme. Once the
avenue from 26th to 34th street was lined
with handsome brownstone mansions and
less pretentious red brlcli dwellings, all
having an air of wealth and eminent re¬
spectability. To-day, the only landmark
remaining intact is the church at the