info 06.12.12

Murray Hill
Every Person in New York

When it's too hot to go far, Murray Hill can be ideal for exploration, with plenty of quiet rewards for the stroller. For our purposes, the area is 34th to 41st, 1st Avenue to 5th.

Murray Hill was named for Robert Murray, whose 25-acre farm, Inclenberg, was at Park and 37th (it included a corn field where Grand Central is located). His wife, Mary, earned a place in American Revolution history by entertaining British troops (lunch, homemade wine, songs and spinet) while Aaron Burr and troops effected a getaway. It's not clear whether she did this intentionally or not.

In any case, there were Murrays for generations at Inclenberg and when commerce threatened to envelop the area, the Murray Hill Restrictive Agreement was devised to keep commercial interests out. To this day, Murray Hill retains something of an enclave feeling.

Weekdays, 11:30am-2pm, you can stop in the Church of the Incarnation, 209 Mad [35th], opened in 1864 as an uptown chapel of Grace Church. During a fire in 1882, the church roof collapsed and all the original windows were lost. The new church has windows by Tiffany, Burne-Jones, Henry Holiday and LaFarge, since the rebuilding coincided with the biggest period of revival of the stained glass arts in England and America.

At 233 Mad [37th] is the De Lamar Mansion, the landmarked French Empire chateau (a wonderfully extravagant building) by C. P. H. Gilbert for Joseph De Lamar. It's now the Polish consulate. [Photo: Gryffindor]

The Collectors Club, 22 E. 35th [Park/Mad] is a club for serious stamp collectors that features a philatelic library. The building was bought by the club in 1937, designed by McKim Mead and White in 1902 for Thomas Benedict Clarke, an art dealer and decorator who wanted a showcase for his collection of American art.

Don't miss the lovely Beaux Arts James F. D. Lanier Residence, 123 E. 35th [Park/Lex], designed by Hoppin & Koen. The AIA Guide calls it "the tiara on a block of brownstones."

Murray Hill still has a number of its original carriage houses—they're at 158 E. 35th [Lex/3rd], 149 E. 38th [Lex/3rd] (the Dutch-style carriage house, complete with a carved bulldog head, pictured, is from 1902), and 148 E. 40th [Lex/3rd].

The first home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt was at 125 E. 36th [Park/Lex]… W. R. Grace (1832-1904) was the first Catholic mayor of NY and founder of W. R. Grace and Company. He lived at 31 E. 38th [Mad/Park]… The Louis XVI-style limestone townhouse from 1911 at 57 Park [37th/38th] was designed by Horace Trumbauer for Adelaide L. Douglas. It is an elegant, gracefully proportioned design, from its slate mansard roof to its cornice doubling as a balcony. It's now the Guatemala mission to the U.N.

Sniffen Court, 150 E. 36th [Lex/3rd] was built in the 1850s by John Sniffen as a series of small coach houses and stables. In the '20s, they became houses. Sculptor Malvina Hoffman had her studio at the back of the court.

Finally, the great cultural institution of the neighborhood is The Morgan Library, 225 Mad [36th] 212.685.008. Their new exhibit is Churchill: The Power of Words.

Jason Polan started Every Person in New York in March of 2008. He plans on working on the project until it is finished. Look for Every Person in New York on Tuesdays in MUG and daily at Jason's site.

Midtown (from 2010)

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