Hamilton Heights, the northern Manhattan neighborhood referenced above, was named for founding father and Broadway star Alexander Hamilton, who acquired 32 acres there by 1800. The area remained relatively rural (mansions and farms plus the Croton Water Aqueduct construction) until the 1880s, when the Eighth and Tenth Avenue streetcar lines were extended. Rapid transit inspired residential growth, primarily led by William H. De Forest, a silk importer turned developer turned mental patient.
It was thought that this picturesque area would mimic the East Side, where rows of townhouses reigned, space was running out and land values were high. Tenth Avenue was renamed Amsterdam in 1890 to encourage the uptick. And a subway stop at 145th was in the works.
Mr. De Forest had acquired most of Mr. Hamilton’s land (roughly W. 141st to W. 149th Streets, west of Convent Avenue) and more, divided it into hundreds of lots, and sold or developed them with his son. In 1886, pre-city zoning, he created a 20-year deed restricting new construction to “brick or stone dwellings at least two stories in height.”
That was code for private residences, which was code for unrelated people living under one roof is vulgar, something other ethnicities and races might do. There were limitations on use, too, a condition of sales that were not uncommon throughout the city: no stables, no factories, no bawdy houses and so forth. No manure in my backyard.
Read complete story on Observer.com: In Hamilton Heights, A Townhome Reflects the Neighborhood’s History