Castles in the Sky A Look at Manhattan's Tudor City

There is a full-sized English manor perched on a rooftop on East 41st Street, overlooking land that used to be awash in beer and blood. You can’t really tell from the street, of course, but if you can manage to get access to one of the roofs neighboring Hardwicke Hall in Manhattan’s Tudor City, there it is; a castle, floating 15 stories above the traffic and noise.

Sheep…Then Squatters

Hardwicke Hall is just one of the dozen or so buildings that make up Tudor City, one of New York’s smaller, more unsung neighborhoods. The long, skinny district, which lies between First and Second Avenues from 40th to 44th Street, wedged in amongst better-known Gramercy and Murray Hill, is home to some 5,000 full-time residents. Like most New York City neighborhoods, Tudor City has a long and colorful history, beginning in the latter part of the 17th Century with two Dutch farm families.

The Kips and the De Voors settled the areas that would eventually become Tudor City and Kip’s Bay around 1677, working the land and raising sheep along the creek that separated their respective farms. Over time, the original Dutch settlers gave up their agricultural livelihoods and relocated, melting into the fast-evolving urban landscape of Niew Amsterdam.

By the time Niew Amsterdam became New York, the land left by the assimilating Dutch farmers was called "Dutch Hill," and was being slowly overtaken by a sprawling shantytown of tin-roofed, tarpaper shacks. The shacks and down-at-heel tenement buildings housed new generations of immigrants, many of whom made a miserable living working in Dutch Hill’s less-than-tasteful industries; by the last two decades of the 19th Century, the east end of the neighborhood bristled with slaughterhouses and tanneries, and several breweries added their pungent contributions to the already unwholesome atmosphere. The creek that had separated the Kips from the De Voors was now little better than a muddy, polluted sewer, and offal from the abattoirs and stockyards flowed ceaselessly into the East River.

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