Kips Bay, Manhattan(History)

neighborhoods_manhttan_kips_bay_300x300Kips Bay is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan. The New York Times defines the boundaries as the area between East 23rd Street to the south, East 34th Street to the north, Lexington Avenue to the west and the East River to the eastThe American Institute of Architects’ AIA Guide to New York City considers the western boundary to be Second Avenue.

Kips Bay is neighbored on the north by Murray Hill, on the west by Madison Square or Rose Hill, and on the south by the Gramercy Park neighborhood and the Peter Cooper Village apartment complex. It is part of Manhattan Community Board 6.

 

HISTORY

Colonial settlement

Kips Bay was an inlet of the East River running from what is now 32nd Street to 37th Street. The bay extended into Manhattan Island to just west of what is now First Avenue and had two streams that ran from it. The bay was named after New NetherlandDutch settler Jacobus Hendrickson Kip (1631–1690), whose farm ran north of present day 30th Street along the East River. The bay became reclaimed land, yet “Kips Bay” remains the name of the area. Kip built a large brick and stone house, near the modern intersection of Second Avenue and East 35th Street. The house stood from 1655 to 1851, expanded more than once,and when it was demolished was the last farmhouse from New Amsterdam remaining in Manhattan. Iron figures fixed into the gable-end brickwork commemorated the year of its first construction. Its orchard was famous, and, when George Washington was presented with a slip of its Rosa gallica during his first administration, it was claimed to have been the first garden to have grown it in the colonies.

Kips Bay was the site of the Landing at Kip’s Bay (September 15, 1776), an episode of the American Revolutionary War and part of the New York and New Jersey campaign. About 4,000 British Army troops under General William Howe landed at Kips Bay on September 15, 1776, near what is now the foot of East 33rd Street. Howe’s forces defeated about 500 American militiamen commanded by Colonel William Douglas. The American forces immediately retreated and the British occupied New York City soon afterward.

A single survivor of the late 18th or early 19th century in the neighborhood is the simple vernacular white clapboard house, much rebuilt, which has been variously dated from around 1790 to as late as 1870, standing gable-end to the street, at 203 East 29th Street(illustration, left); it is one of a mere handful of wooden houses that remain on Manhattan Island. The house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is privately owned and not open to the public.

South of the Kips Bay Farm stood the substantial Federal-style villa erected facing the East River by Henry A. Coster, in the thirty-acre estate that was purchased in 1835 by Anson Greene Phelps;towards the city, the Bull’s Head cattle market fronting the Boston Post Road extended southwards from 27th Street to 23rd Street, affording a distinctly less rural aspect; the villa was removed to make way for row houses in the 1860s and the cattle market was moved farther out of town, to 42nd Street.

Later development

The neighborhood has been rebuilt in patches, so one can see both new high-rise structures often set back from the street, and a multitude of exposed party walls that were never meant to be seen in public. A nearly forgotten feature is the private alley called Broadway Alley, between 26th and 27th Streets, halfway between Lexington and Third Avenues, reputedly the last unpaved street in Manhattan.

In the 1960s and later, four Henry Phipps high-rise apartment complexes were constructed mainly on East 29th Street between First and Second Avenues, and south to East 27th Street. Historically, Phipps had been a partner of Andrew Carnegie. Much earlier in time, by 1940, the Madison Square Boys (and later Girls) Club, which had been located on East 30th Street just east of Second Avenue, built its own facilities on East 29th Street (back-to-back with its older facility). In the 1990s, the Club sold its facility to The Churchill School and Center and has operated its office in the Empire State Building.

There are two large apartment buildings in the neighborhood named Kips Bay Towers, which are part of a 1,112-unit complex completed in 1963 and designed by architect I.M. Pei.

Built on a pier above the East River between East 25th and East 28th Streets is Waterside Plaza, which includes residential towers and theUnited Nations International School. There were plans to build additional above-water apartments, offices, and a hotel in the 1980s, but environmental concerns and community opposition doomed the project. Today, the waterfront south of Waterside Plaza is Stuyvesant Cove Park. The park includes a small man-made land mass extending out into the East River, which was created from excess cement dumped into the river.