Classes, Lectures & Tours
Upper Fifth Avenue
The growth of the Middle Road from shacks to mansions
By the mid-1800s Fifth Avenue had become the focus of American wealth and privilege. It remains the major beneficiary of Manhattan’s grid plan and is central to an understanding of New York.
The fabulous Carnegie and Warburg homes are dazzling reminders of Gilded Age excess while a more discreet mansion blocks away stands out by comparison because it is so relatively plain. Then again, an ordinary backyard nearby represents a display of wealth extreme even by Fifth Avenue standards.
The leafy green of Central Park continues to draw the super-rich on this eastern edge of the Park, as well as the merely rich, who tend towards the opposite side along Central Park West. Today the population of Upper Fifth Avenue represents the greatest assemblage of wealth in world history.
Fifth Avenue makes clear the two major patterns of Manhattan’s growth, and shows how all of New York grew and how that matters.
The buildings of the South Street Seaport went up as the United States assumed its place on the world stage. A walk through this landmarked district provides not only the feel of the mid-1800s and a view of its skyline but also the notion of possibility enjoyed by an energetic population with room to grow.
Our visits to sailing ships, crooked structures, a 1790s tavern and former slips, punctuated by a new kind of building and a great landmark bridge, tell of the nation’s growing influence and the establishment of New York as its commercial and financial center.