Date of Degree
New York History, Preservation, City Planning, Archeology, Parks
Northern Manhattan has a rich, complex history; this thesis focuses on key figures who discovered, documented, and sought to preserve it. These central figures created maps that documented the site’s many histories, as well as planned new streets and parks that shaped its future development. Starting with Andrew Haswell Green’s initial 1865 plan for the area north of the 155th Street terminus of the 1811 street grid, this paper analyzes the intertwined actions of civic leaders, preservationists, social reformers, archeologists, philanthropists, and an art historian who shaped the area’s design in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Green’s plan supported incremental development over time, as opposed to an immediately realized grid plan, and thus supported both the later integration of new connections from the island to the mainland, and the preservation of areas along the waterfronts as parkland. This later became the planning model for Greater New York.
This paper argues that through subsequent planning and preservation actions, the area north of the 1811 street grid realized a unique sense of place unattainable within the grid plan’s imposed orthogonal system. It discusses the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society (ASHPS), founded by Green in 1895. This Society sought to strengthen the sense of place through preserving historic hilltop Revolutionary War fortifications and their associated aesthetic views. The paper introduces Reginald Pelham Bolton, who became a leader of the ASHPS after Green’s 1903 death. Bolton, an engineer, and a group of archeologists, without formal training, began to investigate, and document both Revolutionary War and Native American artifacts being lost in the rapidly developing neighborhood. In 1904 he presciently proposed to preserve the Native American archeological sites in what would later become Inwood Hill Park at the north end of the island as a bold act of land preservation within the expanded metropolis of Greater New York.
In a similar act of land preservation in 1911, Julia Isham Taylor and her aunt Flora Isham donated a public park with purchased land and from the family’s hilltop estate, with the stipulation that the city would preserve the view to the Hudson and the Palisades for the public. The new park thus introduced an aesthetic directive into the city’s design vocabulary. Progressive Era Borough President George McAneny, who worked with the Ishams to redesign the streets to preserve the view, employed the new park to create a new residential neighborhood close to parks and to public transportation. This type of integrated design became a foundational narrative for the Progressive City Planning Movement.
Addiss, Gail K., "The Critique Became the Counter-Narrative: Planning Manhattan North of the Street Grid" (2019). CUNY Academic Works.