Monday, September 21, 2009

Upper East Side, 71st Street Between First and York Avenues

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

And here is another surprise. This is a Czech gymnasium built in 1896 and still in operation, though much diminished, since the days of the Eastern European settlement of the Upper East Side.

Did you know there used to be more than 40,000 Czech's living on the Upper East Side? They had moved there from the Lower East Side because the tobacco industry was uptown. Yes! Tobacco. Cigars, in fact. They were cigar cutters and came uptown to cut cigars. What happened to them? Where did they go? Out to the suburbs. Blame New York Hospital, the United Nations and all the rest of the big developments that tore down housing and put up institutions.

Christopher Gray had a column about the Sokol in 1989 and said that although there were regular offers from developers, it looked like it would be there "at least for the foreseeable future." That was 20 years ago. There it is.

By the way, according to Gray, it used to have a cornice and a portico, but they were "crudely removed" in the 1960's, "probably destroying the building's chances for landmark designation."

See map.

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