Monday, March 02, 2009

Manhattanville, 134th Street at Broadway

Mary Sargent © 2009 …………………………………….. click to enlarge

Okay, Manhattanville. It was incorporated as a village in 1805 at a time when New York City was way way downtown. Uptown was rural with farms and scattered villages, but still New York. Somehow, it was okay to incorporate villages within the city. Why? I'd have to research city charters, I guess, to answer that. It had a good port and became a bustling, well populated village. The other thriving village uptown was Harlem.

And so it was until the coming of the subway in 1904, which led to Manhattanville's gradual absorption into the city. In 1912, The New York Times took note of the changes with this mournful headline: "Quaint Landmarks in Manhattanville Passing Away for Modern Improvements."

And now? Be honest. How many of you even knew of Manhattanville's existence?

See map.


Anonymous said...

The incorporation/annexation of parts of Manhattan is a mystery to me as well. Harlem's wikipedia article notes that "The impoverished village was taken over by the city of New York in 1873," citing a printed source that I don't have, unfortunately. That sentence seems to indicate that Harlem, formerly incorporated as a separate village, was annexed into the city on that date.

But what were Harlem and Manhattanville incorporated as Villages within? Early maps and other sources seem to indicate that the whole island was always "New York City" from an early date. But everywhere else in NY State, counties have always been divided into towns and cities, and villages are incorporated as a level of government below the town level. All current villages in New York are within a town, and former villages and towns in the outer borough seem to have followed that convention as well before annexation.

The DCAS website's writeyo on the Harlem Courthouse over on East 121st St notes that it was "built between 1891 and 1893 for use by the Municipal and Magistrate's Courts, and was said to be one of the City’s earliest county seats." This is even more confusing to me. Was Harlem its own county?! Or was Harlem the county seat of New York City/County? Even less likely! I'd like an explanation of this.

Mary Sargent said...

A kindred spirit, I see. Always with the questions. I read somewhere that when the village was incorporated, it was in Ward X (can't find it, now), which meant to me it was always part of NYC. What powers do villages have when they are within cities or towns? This one laid out its own streets counter to the 1811 grid plan, but whether they did it before or after 1811, I don't know.

I grew up in a state - Virginia - where cities and counties were separate entities, i.e., a city was never in a county, and so I'm eternally confused about local governments.

Anyway, thanks for your comment. Let me know when you learn more.

hbs said...

I never heard of Manhattanville, but Queens is full of former small towns, e.g. Astoria, Forest Hills, etc. And Brooklyn has many place names (Park Slope, E. New York, Brookln Heights) The amazing thing to me is that people from Long Island, and even Staten Island voted to become part of NYC in the early 20th Century, I believe. Up to that time, NYC was just Manhattan and the Bronx. I can't imagine how the NYC folks persuaded all those smaller towns (especially Brooklyn)to give up their independence and become a small part of a big city. I'm sure that would be impossible today.

flyinglady said...

If you like this stuff, try "The Island at the Center of the World," the story of Dutch contributions to establishing our beloved New York City in the early to mid 1600s. I can't put it down. There's lots about how areas of New York City and surrounds were settled and how they got their names. And I learned that Yonkers (yes, Yonkers!) was named after Adriaen Van der Donck (c. 1618 - c. 1655), the first real Manhattan attorney and genteel landowner (referred to as a Jonkheer in Dutch), after whom Yonkers ("city of hills where nothing is on the level") was named. He was granted the Bronx (earlier named for Jonas Bronck, who farmed in Broncksland and died in an Indian raid) and southern Westchester for his many contributions. Not a bad homestead. Van der Donck, great early American patriot, was recognized as a sympathetic early Native American ethnographer, and was all but forgotten by the English rewriting of history after their eventual conquest of New Netherland. And in downtown Yonkers, running north and south along the river, is Van der Donck Street. Who knew?

Thanks for listening ...