Monday, November 5, 2012

☞ REMEMBER: Carmansville Revisited

A Bespoke reader mentioned they were curious about the bounderies of Carmansville in West Harlem since it was mentioned on the BBC 19th century drama called Copper.  The African-American doctor of the period piece at one point visits Carmansville and plans to make a move from the festering Five Points neighborhood of what is now around the borders of Chinatown.

Carmansville was the village north of Manhattanville, was made up mostly of what is now considered Hamilton Heights and was named after the landowner John Carman.  A book on the Hudson published in 1866 mentions that Hamilton Grange at 143rd Street is on the southern most region of Carmansville: LINK.  At the north end of the villages border would have been Minnie's Land which was owned by James Audobon so that said boundary would have been in the lower 150s.  The area around Amsterdam Avenue would have made up the east border and the Hudson provide the many estates with river views to the west.

The above photo shows a couple of rare views of the village during the latter part of the 19th century when the transition to country village to NYC town was well underway.  At top is an image taken in 1893 that is probably the train system that reportedly Carman was opposed to on the west side and the lower photo was taken taken in 1885 with Hudson River views.  As with any town, more modest houses existed alongside wealthier estates but most of this would start to unravel once the subways arrived uptown by the turn of that century.  Some of the more charming structures appeared to have survived a little longer than the more modest building during this time period: LINK

Today, not much of the old wood frame housed remain of the former Carmansville but a few reminders are still standing within the neighborhood.  At 152nd and Amsterdam Avenue, the freestanding building with a mansard roof was formerly the village police station built in 1871.  The Hamilton Grange also still is intact at the north end of St. Nicholas Park and would have been reminiscent to the grand country homes that would have been scattered throughout this west side of Harlem.  Lastly, a playground at 151st and Amsterdam has been named Carmansville to reflect upon the old history of this part of town.  Check out more details on the Copper website: LINK

Archival photos via the digital collection at the Museum of the City of New York


  1. Great reading, research and photos, many thanks.

  2. I think the doctor mentioned in the series Copper is Dr. James McCune Smith who has the distinction of being America's first academically trained African American physician. Perhaps he wants to move to Carmansville because he was the Attending Physician to the Colored Orphan Asylum which relocated to Carmansville after it was burned down during the Draft Riots.

  3. In the series the Doctor did mention that he was relocating to Washington Heights from Five Points.