A Book Recommendation:

Touring the Upper East Side -- New York Landmarks ConservancySome years back, I picked up a copy of the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Touring the Upper East Side by Andrew S. Dolkart. I can’t recall where I bought it, maybe the Historical Society or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but anyway, this past year, finally, my son and I decided to actually walk some of the wonderful tours described in its pages! We started with the Treadwell Farm Historic District where we sat in on a church service, moved on to do part of the Upper East Side Historic District (bothered a couple of doormen to let us in lobbies), and then this past week, we took in the small Henderson Place Historic District (almost attended an open house, but chickened out!)

The book is beautifully laid out and easy to follow with fabulous images. We learned quite a bit about the streets we’ve walked for over twenty years and came home from each tour inspired do more exploring online.

The book includes an index to architects and buildings, and the only thing I missed was perhaps a dictionary explaining some of the architectural terms. More than once we looked at each other and wondered, “what does that mean?” Thankfully we used my son’s iphone to provide onsite, on-the-fly clarifications!

I was not aware that there are other walking tours published by the Conservancy (Lower Manhattan, The Flatiron, Historic Harlem) and look forward to a guided exploration of these additional neighborhoods. You can order Touring the Upper East Side or any of the other titles HERE!

Henry  Bock Building, 428 East 75th STreet

Henry Bock Building, 428 East 75th STreet

I’ve lived in this Yorkville neighborhood for decades, and have passed this interesting little white carriage house at 428 East 75th Street practically daily, looking up each time to acknowledge the HENRY BOCK 1895 dedication up top! I’ve been inside it, as well, as several of our animals were patients of the vet who occupies part of the space…

It took about ten years, but I finally decided to research Henry Bock and figure out why his name was on this building!Henry Bock

First stop was ancestry.com. The Bock record in the 1900 census is one of those lovely finds where the enumerator hand writes the street name in the margin. So, here, in 1900, I found the Henry Bock family at 428 E. 75th.  Henry, head of household, lived  with his wife Phillipine, 5 children, 2 boarders (both Horseshoers) and a servant.  Henry Bock listed his own occupation as Horseshoer and indicated that he was a naturalized citizen, was married 15 years, arrived in the US in 1883 and owned the building with a mortgage!

The Henry Bock family in the 1900 census!

The Henry Bock family in the 1900 census!

The most interesting thing to me is that real estate records of 1895 show that Phillipine had her hands and name in  428 East 75th Street, as well as in multiple other transactions in the same time period!  (anyone researching this Bock family? contact me and I’ll give you what I’ve got! I suspect the transactions may involve Phillipine’s family…!)

By 1910, Henry & family are gone from NYC, relocated (or, in one of my favorite old-timey expressions, “removed”) to Seattle, Washington!

The Bock family in 1910

The Bock family in 1910

The Bock family may not have lived on my street for very many years….and they may have deserted my fair city for the northwest, but Henry (and Philippine) did leave their mark, and I (perhaps I’m the only one?) do think of them, almost 120 years later, every time I pass!

FDR Drive between 75th & 76th Street.

FDR Drive between 75th & 76th Street.

One of my favorite spots to pass while tooling down the FDR on Manhattan’s East Side, is the outer wall of the old East Side House at 76th Street.  The building’s been long incorporated into the Town School, but if you look closely as you pass, you can see the writing above what might have once been a side door of a building that hasn’t been a settlement since the mid 1900’s.

In 1891, the East Side Settlement organization rented a house on a wide lawn on the East River at 76th street for use as a men and boy’s club, later opening to women and girls, with a nursery and classes and neighborhood programs and a library funded with five thousand books from the New York Free Circulating Library. The library, geared toward the immigrant Czech and German population, was ultimately absorbed by the New York Public Library Webster Branch.
After a period of fundraising, the red brick East Side House was built in 1902 to accommodate concerts, art programs, classes and more. A portion of the riverbank was fenced in to provide swimming for the neighborhood children, a direct water access enjoyed for a short period until Exterior Street was cut through along where the highway would later be built.
There is still a thin strip of sidewalk between the old East Side House and the highway–a shortcut I sometimes walk along from 79th street to my own block, though the view of what remains of the house is much better from across the river promenade on the other side of the highway.

East Side House, NYC

East Side House, NYC

Although the East Side House moved from this location in the 1960’s, the neighborhood is still a wonderful area with John Jay Park and the NYC outdoor pool available to everyone! I’ve lived in this neighborhood for most of my adult life and never tire of exploring its history and stories!

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