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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 18, no. 449: October 21, 1876

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Real Estate Record AND BUILDERS^ GUIDE. Vol. XVIII. NEW YORK, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 21, 1876. No. 449 Published Weekly by TEEMS. OSTE YEAR, in advance....$10.00. Communications should be addressed to C. W. SWEET, Nos. 345 AND 347 Broadway. FASHION AS AN ELEMENT OF VALUE. In no city in the world, perhaps, does fash¬ ion enter more largely as an element in the calculation of the value of land, than in New York City. From the time when the Bowling Green was the center of fashionable life, and the representative wealth of the city was contained within its small compass, up to the present day, this element has been a mai-ked feature in the history of our real estate, and has asserted its arbitrary limita¬ tions, and fixed its transient values as in no other recorded instance. In other cities, both in our own country and abroad, fashion¬ able localities are known to exist, but so far as our knowledge extends these localities are so numerous, varied and scattered that they fail to have any concentrated effect. It is remarkable in our own city to note, that a locality once abandoned by fashion is for¬ saken forever, and is never reclaimed as a place of fashionable residence. All attempts to retrace the steps of departure have been utter failures, and the belated and persistent occupants of these obsolete localities have been held up as examples of stubborness and quixotic devotion to old associations. With¬ in the memory of living people this movable quantity in our real estate values has passed from Bowhng Green, along Broadway, through Murray and Chamber streets, with a slight diversion in the Seventh Ward, to St. John's square, Washington square and Union square. Each, in its time, has been respectively prominent as a fashionable lo¬ cality. Bleecker and Fourth streets, Wash¬ ington and Waverly places, are names that were, not many years ago, redolent of wealth and culture. Second avenue and Stuy¬ vesant square, under the patronage of the great family whose name it bears, essay¬ ed to claim a share of this remarkable quiality without any notable success. Final¬ ly, by a common movement and by uni¬ versal suffrage the pre-eminent distinc¬ tion was conferred on Fifth avenue, and its adjacent streets within very narrow limits. From that time to this, fashion has successively asserted its despotic sway over continuous districts of a mile in length from the Square to the Park. Washington square and Madison square were the boundai-ies within which the fashionable "ro-orld of twenty years ago confined itself, At a later time this district became obsolescent, and again the limits were established between Twenty- third street and Forty-second street. With¬ in the past decade of years the growing fashionable quarter has been clearly mark¬ ed again, and shows the further advance of a mUe along this favored thoroughfare; so that now, within tho limits of Forty- second street and Fifty-ninth street, and of Fourth and Sixth avenues, this peripatetic Mecca of fashion is re-established. In defining what is at present considered the growing fashionable quarter of our city, we simply state a fact which, we think, cannot be gainsaid. It is well known that in this quarter the most costly structures, public and private, have been erected. The churches built therein comprise representatives of all the leading denominations, are of the most costly styles of architectiu-e, and in their congregations embrace exponents of the most substantial wealth of our city. Within these precincts also, the most expensive pri¬ vate residences can be found, furnished and appointed with regal magnificence. It is noteworthy that real estate within the sharp boundaries prescribed by fashion, has always commanded prices that transcend those of similar classes of property wherever else located. Despite the hard times, dwell¬ ing-houses in this quarter have met with reasonably ready sale since the panic, at prices which would have been deemed wild and extravagant twenty years ago, and the vacant land therein is held to-day at prices approximating the highest that were ever realized. Such are the facts presented to our con¬ templation in a study of the present situa¬ tion. The important questions to be decided are: whether these sharp limits of fashion¬ able residence are to be maintained in the future—^whether the body of our wealthy citizens are Hkely to transfer their residences from this, the latest quarter, to another yet to be chosen; whether this quarter, like the others, having already seen its early bloom and its rapid adolescence, will pass very shortly into the decrepitude of old age, and be forsaken and discarded. If the process, which has obtained in the past, is to be re- enacted and reiterated in an .upward growth extending the whole length of our island, the question of land speculation would be greatly simplified. The main problem would be to spy out and select the prospective fashionable quarters, occupy the territory, and hold it for the profitable market, which would surely await it. In considering this subject, we are forced to join issue w^ith the advocates of this the- pry, ^e are led to attribute the upward march of this fashionable element to the contracted shape of our island, which ad¬ mitted of no gi-o-v\i;h, except in a north¬ westerly direction, to escape the inroads and vast increase of our commerce, the latter continually demanding larger space and scope for its exercise. The steadfastness with which the fashionable world has ad¬ hered to the line of Fifth avenue, demon¬ strates that when left alone and free from the intrusions of trade, this element is reason¬ ably permanent and apt to continue in one location. The natural growth of our city has demanded the extension of this line, and as new, more modern and more convenient houses were erected, they were naturally sought after by the most wealthy of our old and new population, so that the present fashionable quarter may be regarded as re¬ presentative of the highest wealth or rather the plutocracy of our city. Within the pre¬ sent limits there is sufficient land yet unused to meet the requirements of this favored class for ten or twenty years to come, so that we may assume that, for at least that space of time, the fashionable quarter of the city will be fixed. The structures therein erected are of a class and extent, and of such recent construction, that we may fairly assume that, for twenty years or more, no necessity for a change will be felt on the part of the present occupants. To aU intents and pur¬ poses it seems to us that the costly and extra¬ vagant growth of our city is localized and fix¬ ed, and that Fifty-ninth street represents the most northerly limit of this peculiar growth. On either side of the Park the city is already laid out and prepared for residences, and with the urgency, which must soon be felt, of rendering this vacant land productive, we expect to see an indisposition on the part of the owners to await the creation of fashion¬ able centers, and a widespread movement in the erection of plain and inexpensive buUd¬ ings commenced on both sides. This move¬ ment may extend to the complete occupa¬ tion of the principal parts of the east and west sides, leaving perhaps some isolated positions, parts of avenues and streets, that may be deemed to be of a very choice and costly character, and which may await ex¬ pensive improvements. But the greater part of the vacant land north of Fifty-ninth street seems to us to be destined for early improve¬ ment of a character that wUl be far from fashionable, as measured by existing stan¬ dards. In other words, the hon ton of our city wUl no longer be at liberty to choose sections of vacant territory, to the extentnof a mUe in length whereon their costly edifices may be uniformly erected, but wiU find a st yle of buUdings adapted to the great middle