crown CU Home > Libraries Home
[x] Close window

Columbia University Libraries Digital Collections: The Real Estate Record

Use your browser's Print function to print these pages.

Real estate record and builders' guide: [v. 90, no. 2313]: July 13, 1912

Real Estate Record page image for page ldpd_7031148_050_00000099

Text version:

Please note: this text may be incomplete. For more information about this OCR, view About OCR text.
*^tl JULY 13, 1912. RECENT TRADE EXPANSION IN FIFTH AVENUE Old-Time Fashionable Residences in the Fifties Are Giving Way Rapidly To Stores.—Comer Lots Have Advanced to Half a Million Each. JN 1900 it was predicted that ten years later the "social center" of Manhattan would be at Fifth avenue and Fifty-ninth street. This conclusion was reached by a process of reasoning based on the past shifting of the high grade residential dis¬ tricts. The customary northward advance of a block a year had been maintained by the social center with fair precision be¬ tween 1890 and 1900, though in the latter years of that decade it was a little faster. Between 1900 and 1902 the movement was again about normal. But between 1902 and 1905 the yearly rate was three blocks, the center of the Circle ibeing found at Fifth avenue and Fifty-eighth street in 1905. Between 1905 and 1907 the center moved at the rate of a block and a half a year. In 1907 it reached Sixty-second street. In 1910 It showed no appreciable northward progress but had moved slight¬ ly east toward Madison avenue, at Sixty- second street. At the taking of the last "social census," in December, 1911, the center had shifted again a half block further north. Here, then, are two important facts. The center of the circle, which was in 1900 booked to be at Fifth avenue and a period of fifty-four years, or since 1860, when it finally abandoned Broadway for Fifth g.venue, at Washington Square. Even In this city of rapid changes in the utility of land the swift encroachment of trade upon our imost exclusive resi¬ dence areas has nowhere been more startling than on the last stretch of mid¬ dle Fifth avenue from which the social circle has lately shifted its center Not much more than a decade ago the fash¬ ionable colony, then centered about St. Patrick's Cathedral, was startled by the announcement that a big hotel was about to be erected on a corner facing the Van¬ derbilt houses at Fifty-first and Fifty- seoond streets. To-day these houses are practically hemmed in by trade, and busi¬ ness is inching close on the Cornelius Vanderbilt mansion, facinig the Plaza. It is interesting here by way of em¬ phasizing not only the radical changes that have transformed the n-ortherly half mile of middle Fifth avenue but the er¬ roneous calculations made by some of our shrewdest millionaire owners, to re¬ call one or two epochal events affecting Fifth avenue real estate. Not much more than a generation ago, or in 1879, William H. Vanderbilt selected move uptown he presumably discounted the most extravagant estimates of his time as to the likelihood of -being dis¬ turbed by trade. And yet it was only as recently as in 1904 that the big house at Fifty-eighth street was built. It was fashioned after the Chateau Du Bois, near Paris. It was for its time one of tlie most expensive houses in America and is said to have cost about $4,000,000. The efforts of the best American artists were supplemented in its decoration ;by the work of such celebrated foreigners as Toudouze, Heb¬ ron, Alare, and Cuel. To-day art shops and high grade specialty houses are set¬ tled on nearby corners, and the history of the lower Vanderbilt colony is being repeated at the Plaza. The decade between 1900 and 1910 brought about a radical change on the avenue between Thirty-fourth and Forty- second streets. It was in the early part of the last decade that the lower portion of middle Fifth avenue saw its greatest changes. The Pennsylvania Railroad's terminal and tunnel plans, the removal of Macy's from Fourteenth street to Herald Square and of Altman's from Sixth ave¬ nue to Fifth avenue and Thirty-fourth THE BLOCK BETWEEN 52D AND 53D STREETS, EACH SIDE OF LOOKING SOUTH FROM 48TH STREET ON STH AVENUE, FIFTH AVENUE. The Eight-Story Building in the Foreground Is the New Home of W, & Here Three Mercantile Buildings Have Gone Up on Land from Which J. Sloane, at th^ Southwest Corner of Forty-seventh Street. the Wealthy Owners Recently Lifted the Restrictions Against Business, The Former Gould House Is Opposite. Fifty-ninth street ten years later, had as early as 1907 reached Madison avenue and -Sixty-second street. It had, in other words, -arj^ived at Sixty-second street some six years ahead of scheatile time. Since that time the northward movement has ■been checked, partly because of the fact that the wealthy are -more than ever migrating to country estates and fine suburban homes, and are adopting apart-. ment house life, and partly -hecause sev¬ eral sites about Lenox Hill have recently become available for high class residential improvement. It is interesting to trace the close re¬ lationship between this accelerated north¬ easterly movement of the social circle in the last decade and the changes that have transformed middle Fifth avenue from a notable residence avenue to the most wonderful retail thoroughfare in the world. The swerving of the center of the social circle from Fifth avenue in 1906 was an extremely significant fact. For it had moved steadily along that line for the site on the west side of Fifth ave¬ nue from Fifty-first street to Fifty-sec¬ ond street on which now stand the Van¬ derbilt houses. The Stewart miansion which up to about 1900 stood on the cor¬ ner of Fifth avenue and Thirty-fourth street, then ranked among our finest residences and -was one of the show places of the city. In the early eighties the line of residences along Fifth avenue, north of Union -Square, was hardly broken by trade except at Twenty-third street, where business was flourishing, and at Forty-second street, where it was spreading because of the influence of the Grand Central Station. But the wealth¬ iest families were moving north. As has been said, William H. Vanderbilt had se¬ lected a site half a mile north of Forty- second street. The clubs and the hotels were also drifting north. In 1893 the Waldorf replaced the old Astor home at Thirty-third street to Thirty-fourth street. And when the elder Cornelius Vanderbilt decided to street were leading events. Other re¬ movals to this section followed rapidly. By 1908 the transformation was practic¬ ally complete. On Fifth avenue from Thirty-fourth to Forty-eighth streets hardly half a dozen dwellings still serve the purpose for which they were designed. The ultimate retreat of the private house north of Forty-eighth street before the big business structure was foreshadowed ten years ago. The Roman Catholic Or¬ phan Asylum property on the east side of the avenue, from Fifty-first to Fifty- second street, was sold in 1899. Two years later it cost the Vanderbilts nearly $1.- 000,000 to prevent, by purchase of the site, the construction of a skyscraper hotel on the southeast corner of Fifty-second street. This plot was shortly afterwards im¬ proved with three dwellings, the Morton F. Plant house on the corner and two houses just north for members of the Vanderbilt family, adjoining the newly erected Union Club. This was only nine