Friday, February 17, 2012

☞ REMEMBER: 116th and Madison circa 1872

A painting depicting the area around 116th Street and Madison Avenue circa 1872 shows a Harlem surrounded by nature, rocks and a makeshift shanty farm.  Even though Harlem was known for grand country estates for the wealthy at the time, the poor also lived further out and many old photos show shanty towns especially along this area further to the east side.  Today 116th Street has mostly taller tenement buildings mixed in with new residential developments that have arisen in the past decade

George Holston, 116th Street and Madison circa 1872 via the digital collection at the Museum of the City of New York


  1. This area has a natural rise to it today, the highest point being at Park Ave. and 116th Street. The topography in this painting looks more dramatic than what remains today, I expect there was considerable blasting to reduce this area before the street grid was constructed. I also expect the buildings around here have good foundations with the exposed rock to build off. It would be great to get a print of this painting.

  2. I agree with you totally. Its my understanding that when we walk on Manhattan streets today we actually walk ten feet below what was originally there due to the blasting in the 19th cent to make way for paved streets. The bedrock is Manhattan schist & is the strongest of elements. Its what allows our sky scrapers to hold their own. I too would love a print of this.

    Great minds think alike.

  3. Looks to be further north than 116 street. That escarpment looks like present day Mt Morris, and the structure on top looks like it could be the fire tower, which would place this in the vicinity of present day 120 street.

  4. It's really startling to see how much the neighborhood has changed over the years. Ages ago I stumbled upon an 1893 photo by William J. Roege of the other end of the block (5th Ave. between 116th and 117th). There's a couple more images from that same period on this MCNY page.