Yorkville in Manhattan

Wednesday, 10 October 2018 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, New York City
Reading Time:  9 minutes

90th Street and Second Avenue © flickr.com - mike/cc-by-sa-2.0

90th Street and Second Avenue © flickr.com – mike/cc-by-sa-2.0

Yorkville is a neighborhood in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City. Its southern boundary is East 79th Street, its northern East 96th Street, its western Third Avenue, and its eastern the East River. The neighborhood, in Manhattan Community Board 8, is among the most affluent in the city. In August 1776, George Washington stationed half of his Continental Army in Manhattan, with many troops in the Yorkville area in defensive positions along the East River to protect the other half of his army if they were to retreat from Brooklyn, and to inflict damage on invading land and sea forces. Following the Battle of Long Island defeat on August 27, the Continentals implemented an orderly pivoting retreat in the Yorkville area, leading the enemy to entice the Continentals to fight by piping “Fly Away”, about a fox running away from hounds. The Continentals’ disciplined northerly retreat led to the successful Battle of Harlem Heights in September 1776.

In 1815, the Upper East Side was a farmland and market garden district. The Boston Post Road traversed the Upper East Side, locally called the Eastern Post Road; milepost 6 was near the northeast corner of Third Avenue and 81st Street. From 1833 to 1837 the New York and Harlem Railroad, one of the earliest railway systems in the United States, was extended through the Upper East Side along Fourth Avenue (later renamed Park Avenue). A hamlet grew near the 86th Street station, becoming the Yorkville neighborhood as gradual yet steady commercial development occurred. The current street grid was laid-out between 1839 and 1844 as part of the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, so the Eastern Post Road was abandoned. The community had been referred to as Yorkville before 1867. By 1850, a significant proportion of the inhabitants of the area were the Germans and the Irish that helped build the Croton Aqueduct. The area was included in the 19th administrative district whose boundaries were 40th and 86th Street. In 1858, trams were built along Second and Third Avenues. After the American Civil War, mansions replaced slums in Yorkville. On December 30, 1878, the IRT Third Avenue Line opened, followed by the IRT Second Avenue Line in August 1879.

For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, Yorkville was a middle- to working-class neighborhood, inhabited by many people of Czech, Slovak, Irish, Polish, German, Hungarian, and Lebanese descent. The area was a mostly German enclave, though.> The neighborhood became more affluent. From 1880, Yorkville became a destination for German-born immigrants. However, by the 1900s, many German residents moved to Yorkville and other neighborhoods from Little Germany (“Kleindeutschland”) on the Lower East Side after the General Slocum disaster on June 15, 1904. The ship caught fire in the East River just off the shores of Yorkville, leading family members to move closer to the site of the incident. Most of the passengers on the ship were German. In addition, the general trend towards moving to the suburbs reduced the German population in Manhattan; by 1930, most German New Yorkers lived in Queens.

Yorkville, seen from 87th Street © Leif Knutsen/cc-by-sa-3.0 PS General Slocum © The National Archives General Slocum Disaster St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church, since 1940 the Community Synagogue © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 The Rhinelander Children's Center of the Children's Aid Society © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Freie Bibliothek and Deutsches Dispensary (Free Library and Reading Hall), today_the NYPL Ottendorfer Library © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Former German-American Shooting Society Clubhouse © Schreibkraft/cc-by-sa-3.0 East 88th Street © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Scheffel Hall © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 90th Street and Second Avenue © flickr.com - mike/cc-by-sa-2.0
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Freie Bibliothek and Deutsches Dispensary (Free Library and Reading Hall), today_the NYPL Ottendorfer Library © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0
On 86th Street, in the central portion of Yorkville, there were many German shops, restaurants and bakeries. Yorkville became the melting pot of populations arriving from various regions of the Prussian-dominated German Empire and its colonies, where many cultures spoke German. In the 1930s, the neighborhood was the home base of Fritz Julius Kuhn‘s German American Bund, the most notorious pro-Nazi group in 1930s America, which led to spontaneous protests by other residents. Yorkville was a haven for refugees from fascist Germany in the 1940s, and from refugees from communist regimes in the 1950s and 1960s. The neighborhood is the site of the annual Steuben Parade, a large German-American celebration. The largest non-German group were the Irish. Irish mostly lived in an area bounded by 81st and 85th Streets, and Lexington and Fifth Avenues. They attended mass at such churches as St. Ignatius Loyola on 84th Street and Park Avenue, Our Lady of Good Counsel (90th Street) and the Church of St. Joseph (87th Street). There were many Irish bars including Finnegan’s Wake, Dorrian’s Red Hand Restaurant, Ireland’s 32, Carrol’s Hideaway, O’Brien’s and Kinsale Tavern. Until the late 1990s, New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade ended at 86th Street and Third Avenue, the historical center of Yorkville. In addition, Jews also lived on Second Avenue. 79th Street was a hub for the Austro-Hungarian populace. Popular restaurants included the Viennese Lantern, Tokay, Hungarian Gardens, Robert Heller’s Cafe Abazzia at 2nd Avenue, Budapest and the Debrechen. There were also a number of butcher stores and businesses that imported goods from Hungary. Churches included St. Stephen Catholic Church and the Hungarian Reformed Church on East 82nd Street. In addition, Czechs, Poles and Slovaks lived from 65th to 73rd Street. Besides Ruc, a Czech restaurant off Second Avenue, there were sokol halls on 67th and 71st Streets. There were other Czech and Slovak businesses, such as Czech butcher shops, poultry and grocery stores, and shops that sold imported goods such as Bohemian books, leather products and crystal. Around the late 1920s, Yorkville’s ethnic diversity was beginning to wane. In 1926, the New York Times wrote of Yorkville’s changing ethnic makeup:

Yorkville, for well-nigh two decades known to connoisseurs of east side life as the exclusive domain of Czechoslovaks, Hungarians and Germans, is slowly giving up its strongly accentuated Central European character and gradually merging into a state of colorless impersonality…

In 1928, a one-block section of Sutton Place north of 59th Street, and all of Avenue A north of that point, was renamed York Avenue to honor U.S. Army Sergeant Alvin York, who received the Medal of Honor for attacking a German machine gun nest during World War I’s Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The dismantling of the Third Avenue El in 1955 led to the demolition of many mansions. This led to the acceleration of the exodus of Yorkville residents. Over the years, this trend continued. Thus, in the 1980s, a building for members of the German gymnastic society Turners, at the intersection of 86th Street and Lexington Avenue, was demolished. Cafe Mozart, on 86th Street between Second and Third Avenues, was also demolished. In their place were built high-rise residential complexes. By the turn of the 21st century, East 82nd Street was co-named St. Stephen of Hungary Way. The area from East 79th to 83rd Streets, spanning approximately four blocks east-west, is colloquially known as Little Hungary. Prominent locations in Yorkville are:

  • Carl Schurz Park is a small park on the far east side of Yorkville, near the East River.
  • The Fox Television Center is the studios of WNYW, the local Fox Broadcasting station. They have been here since 1954, first as the Dumont Tele-Centre, then as the Metromedia Telecenter from the 1960s until 1986, after which it became the Fox Television Center.
  • Gracie Mansion is the official home of the mayor of New York City.
  • The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce was founded in Yorkville circa 1920, founded by 11 local businessmen.
  • The Municipal Asphalt Plant was constructed in 1941. Asphalt Green, a fitness center, opened in the building in 1984.
  • The 91st Street Marine Transfer Station is a controversial waste transfer plant being planned next to Asphalt Green, at York Avenue. The waste facility is supported by New York City mayors Bill de Blasio and Michael Bloomberg. The waste facility has been criticized by some area residents.
  • On 86th Street and 3rd Avenue the first Papaya King opened in 1932, and it is still in operation today.

Read more on nytimes.com – Living in Yorkville, Yorkville-KleindeutschlandHistoricalSociety.com and Wikipedia Yorkville (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.








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