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Neighborhood Guide: History of the West Side

Originally the name Bloomingdale (from the Dutch “Bloemendaal”), or the Bloomingdale District, applied to the west side of Manhattan from about 23rd Street up to the Hollow Way (modern 125th Street), and it contained numerous farms and country residences of many of the city’s well-off, a major parcel of which was the Apthorp Farm.. The main artery of this area was the Bloomingdale Road, which began north of where Broadway and the Bowery Lane join (at modern Union Square) and wended its way northward up to about modern 116th Street in Morningside Heights, where the road further north was known as the Kingsbridge Road. Within the confines of the modern-day Upper West Side, the road passed through areas known as Harsenville, Strycker’s Bay, and Bloomingdale Village.In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the Upper West Side-to-be contained some of colonial New York’s most ambitious houses, spaced along Bloomingdale Road.[2] It became increasingly infilled with smaller, more suburban villas in the first half of the nineteenth century, and in the middle of the century, parts had become decidedly lower class.

Much of the riverfront of the Upper West Side was a shipping, transportation, and manufacturing corridor. The Hudson River Railroad line right-of-way was granted in the late 1830s to connect New York City to Albany, and soon ran along the riverbank. One major non-industrial development, the creation of the Central Park in the 1850s and 60s caused many squatters to move their shacks into the UWS. Parts of the neighborhood became a ragtag collection of squatters’ housing, boarding houses, and rowdy taverns.

As this development occurred, the old name of Bloomingdale Road was being chopped away and the name Broadway was progressively being applied further northward to include what had been lower Bloomingdale Road. In 1868, the city began straightening and grading the section of the Bloomingdale Road from Harsenville north, and it became known as “The Boulevard”. It retained that name until the end of the century, when the name Broadway finally supplanted it.

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