A View from the FDR

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. ┬áThe 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!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: