Midtown’s Murray Hill From Quaker Farms to Deluxe Condos

Murray Hill, a respectable traditional neighborhood in Midtown  Manhattan, started as a small farming community but soon became a playground for the wealthy with industrialists like J.P. Morgan and John Jacob Astor building their townhouses and brownstone mansions there. Today, it is a bastion of young professionals and graduate students looking for a vibrant sometimes rowdy Manhattan lifestyle away from the Brooklyn or Queens boroughs many millenials call home.  

Where It’s At

Manhattan Community Board 6—of which Murray Hill is part—defines the boundaries of the area as East 34th Street to the south, East 40th Street to the north, Madison Avenue to the west, and Third Avenue to the east. So it runs approximately from 40th Street down to about 27th Street, and from Fifth Avenue over to the East River, according to the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association. 

The small Murray Hill Historic District between Lexington and Park Avenues is largely made up of 19th-century brownstones and rowhouses, while Park Avenue has towers with co-ops and high-end rental apartments. Third Avenue, with its retail shops, restaurants and bars, has a mix of uses but less residential housing stock. Housing to the east trends mainly towards large rental and condo buildings, drawing in recent college graduates and young professionals. Around 41,500 residents live in a roughly 85-block area, according to the 2010 U.S. census, though Murray Hill today is becoming more and more popular with families.

The Name Says It All

As one can surmise, Murray Hill derives its name from the Murray family, who were 18th-century Quaker merchants that dealt with the shipping and overseas trade. Irish immigrant Robert Murray was the family patriarch, who rented land from the city to build a house and farm. His great house, he named Belmont, but others referred to it as Murray Hill, since it was built on a since-leveled hill at what is today Park Avenue and 36th Street. The house, with a total land area of just around 29 acres, was surrounded by trees and three sides with verandas that commanded panoramic views of the East River and Kips Bay. 

All’s Fair in Love and War…

Legend has it, according to a historical account from the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association, that the most famous party given by Mary Murray during the time of the Revolutionary War was an attempt to divert the British so the Americans could escape and regroup at the Battle of Harlem Heights. 

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