A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE UPPER WEST SIDE
PARK 79 HOTEL’S HISTORIC LOCATION
PARK 79 HOTEL proudly rests on a significant corner of New York City’s Upper Westside. A neighborhood only too recently named one of the “worst,” “most dangerous,” “least desirable,” etc., now has a prominent place on the, “Most Desirable Neighborhoods in NYC” list.
Settled by the Dutch early-mid 17th century, naming this stretch of land, “Bloemendal,” Valley of the Flowers…or, Blooming Dale. Tobacco was the main crop. In 1703, Bloomingdale Road—later to become Broadway—was built for growing commerce. Late 18th century, the high, rocky area saw country estates, farms and fine homes.
Central Park, created in 1853, changed the economic face of the West End. Squatter and lower-income tenants were forced to abandon their park setting, many moved west, building shacks and lean-tos. By the end of the Civil War, this now suburban area was assimilated into New York City. The West End remained largely underdeveloped through the 19th century. Bloomingdale Road (now renamed, “The Boulevard”) was widened and joined by new sewage lines and the extension of the elevated railroad on Ninth Avenue (Columbus Avenue). Gentrification came with the grand apartment buildings: the Dakota and San Remo were the start and are still the architectural gems in this 21st century.
Hotels and vacant lots populated The Boulevard. The Upper West Side as it is today took its distinct form, then through the 19th century. Early in the 20th century, our home, 117 West 79th Street was built. The subway system—first in America—opened in 1904. The elevated train (fondly called, “The El”) remained until 1940 in the area.
Cathedral Church of St. John Divine started its glorious history in 1892, and new and great change came to the Morningside Heights section when Columbia University relocated in 1897. This brought a level of recognition to what was already a growing intellectual/artistic movement on the Upper West Side. Artists and academics melded into this now totally mixed population. In time, seedy pockets developed in sections east of Broadway as lower middle class families filled neglected, older buildings. Major downturn in the neighborhood’s attraction came with the 1930’s, lasting through the 1980’s. The influx of Europe’s Jews escaping Nazism) mid-20th century was followed by the arrival of African-Americans from the impoverished South; then Russians, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, Cubans and Ukrainians. Major urban renewal began in the mid-50’s, and it was the birth of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in 1959 that brought rebirth to the borders south and north, west to the Hudson River. Soon–the downtown campus of Fordham University, renewal of the American Museum of Natural History, New=York Historical Society, Columbus Circle/Time Warner Center, upscale boutiques and national chains, and the magnificent renewal of the Hudson River waterfront…and Central Park It has all come together, and we are proud to share this with the world’s visitors who select Park 79 Hotel.