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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 18, no. 453: November 18, 1876

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Real Estate Record AND BUILDERS' GUIDE. YoL. XVIII. NEW YORK, SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1876. No. 453 Published Weekly by Cfje §led Estate %uaxti %%SQtmimx. TERMS. ONE YEAK, in advance... .$10.00. Communications should be addressed to C. W. S'WEET, Nos. 345 and 347 Broadway. CENTRAL PARK LOTS. The difficult and perplexing questions that now agitate the minds of many of the owners of lots facing the Central Park are: What improvement is suitable for them ? What is to be their ultimate destiny ? In what Avay can productive income be best secured upon their present enormous cost ? From the inception of the Central Park as a public enterprise, the overwhelming de¬ lusion has beset a certain portion of the real estate community, that around this center would speedily congregate the fastid¬ ious and representative wealth of our city. With only 1,100 lots directly facing the Park, it was maintained that at least 5,000 of our men of wealth were in eager haste to possess them. The dicta of but one Central Park, and but one margin surrounding it, possessing an untold and ravishing beauty, and, as a dwelling-site incomparably transcending any in the world, have been the rallying cries and the shibbo¬ leths of a whole generation of land specula¬ tors. These themes have been heretofore so fuUy discoursed upon, written about, har¬ angued over, and their, ingenuousness so lauded to the sky, that it has become almost an undoubted axiom'that none but the most wealthy and most select of our population would ever be able to enjoy the rare privi¬ lege of possessing these building sites, and luxuriating amid this supernal beauty. What have been the results of these theories during ten years of the most un- paralled prosperity that this city has ever known, a period especially propitious for their developnient? As a matter of his¬ tory we know that these rare and choice lots have served the purpose of the speculator in a manner that has never been equalled in the annals of land speculation in this or any other country. Whatever vicissitudes and fluctuations attended the great speculation during its ranipart career in other portions of the island, its course around this wonder" ful margin held its even and steady way, in a constant and unfaltering ascent of values until lots, which Avere originally sold ^tt 1-500 reached the fabulous prices of $50,000 and even $100,000. To all appearances the Park as a speculation Avas a success, as the opera^ tors themselves proudly proclaimed when thejr drew attentiQU to the magnificent trans¬ actions which yielded these fabulous sums. Certainly, as a mere football for speculative ventures, we must confess that the Central Park has realized the wildest visions of its most sanguine projectors. But what are the practical results ? How many of this fastidious, wealthy class have erected residences on its border? How many, or rather hoAv few holding lots to-day contemplate the erection of dwellings there¬ on? Must it not be admitted that at the time of the great crash in 1873, the bulk of these lots -were found to be in the hands of mere speculators holding them on small cash payments contemplating an early turn? The revulsion has left many of these lots without OAvners save the credulous and con¬ fiding mortgagees, who have been busily en¬ gaged during the past two years in acquiring title to them as the only return which they are able to obtain for the loans made on them. It is a fact of current history that in the supreme crisis these lots were found to possess a snaaller modicum of real reliable value than lots elsewhere situated. The vast accumulation of wealth which found its way into the coffers of our citizens during the ten years of prosperity, and which sought an appropriate expression in costly residences contributed at the most but ten representa¬ tive dwelling-houses facing the Park ; and of these, it is no breach of propriety or in¬ trusion upon the privacies of life to say that scarcely any have afforded the satis¬ faction and enjoyment to their owners, which they expected to derive from them. In truth it musjt be said, that the great majority of those who acquired wealth during the past ten years selected and located their residences elsewhere than about the Park mainly in the present growing fashionable quarter of the city. It is an open and debatable question to-day whether residences facing such an immense area or unbroken tract of land, as Central Park, affording no opposite neighbors, will ever be satisfactory to: persons of wealth, culture and social proclivities under the separate dwelling-house system. The smaller parks which abound throughout our city, and which have heretofore been the centers of fashionable life, to wit: St. John's and Gramercy Parks, and Washington, Union and Madison Squares are all small tracts of land, which admit of a ready oversight and offer the benefit even to near-sighted persons of opposite neighbors, and thus present no analogy to Central Park. As exclusive and fastidious as we know our wealthy people to be, they are also gre¬ garious and social beings, and pre-eminently of all classes are depen^eatoa daily, even though dumb intercourse with their neigh¬ bors. Thus, Mr. and Mrs. McMimsey, and their daughters desire above all things, in connection with their magnificent establish¬ ment, that they shall be permitted to enjoy as a vis-a-vis the spectacle of Mr. and Mrs. Shoddy and family, as they disport them¬ selves in their palatial mansion, along with the parade of an elegant equipage, and the display of costly garments in their ingress and egress'. This craving of exhibitory dis¬ play, and counter display which the lack of opposite neighbors would wholly thwart, underlies and permeates the whole fabric of our fashionable social life. To our minds it is questionable, whether a reaUy fashionable quarter could be established without opposite neighbors or without at least, the interven¬ ing space being so small as to admit of visual contact. With the apparently permanent and settled establishment of a fashionable precinct that already exists south of Fifty-ninth street, it becomes a matter of the liveliest interest to the owners of Central Park lots to know what final disposition shall be made of them. In this connection, we eschew the theory that these lots are bound to undergo the same experience as lots in the lower part of the city have heretofore undergone in the matter of their building improvement, namelj'- : first, the dwelling, then the boarding-house, then the dress-making establishment, and finally a reconstruction for the purposes of trade. We claim that the enormous outlay of cnpital, which has been already made in the bare cost of Central Park lots, involving sums greater than was ever before paid for similarly situated lots in this or any other city, precludes the idea of making any merely temporary or transient, improvement and would stamp as injudicious a,ny improve¬ ment which failed to yield the promise of an early and ample return for the total capital invested. The present seUing prices of these lots though greatly reduced are still so high that taken together with the bitter experi¬ ence of the two or three builders who have heretofore attempted speculative building ventures on the face of the Park frustrates any supposition that these lots are likely tc interest or attract speculative builders. Tht ultimate disposition of them rests with theii present owners. Whatever improvements may be contemplated or agreed upon mus1 be made with reference to permanent owner ship rather than prompt sale of the premises and this fact presents the key note to ou] present argument. It is idle to think that any existing o: future Astor or Goelet will acquire these loti and benevolently erect residences upon them