Block of Mansions
This wood engraving shows an advertisement to sell a block of buildings on the corner of 5th Avenue and 42nd Street facing onto the Croton Reservoir, the corner of which can be seen in the view. The buildings were designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, one of the foremost American architects of the nineteenth century and a leading proponent of the American Gothic Revival. Davis' book, Rural Residences, had a great influence on the "estates" that wealthy New York families built along the Hudson River during the middle of the century. The block featured eleven separate dwellings with twelve to eighteen rooms each and, in 1857, offered views of the Hudson and East Rivers, and Staten Island (or at least so said the real estate agent). The first Perris Fire Insurance Map from 1854 shows a largely empty block facing the Croton Reservoir. By 1854, the distinctive footprint of this unusual building can be seen. The 1867 Dripps atlas identifies the building as the Rutgers Female College, an institution that had been founded in lower Manhattan in 1838 and then moved to Fifth Avenue before eventually being absorbed into Rutgers University in New Jersey. The 1885 map shows the block divided into individual lots which appear to be owned by businesses; the "Bank of Banks" is on the north end, and the two central units in the building are occupied by Pottier & Stymus, a very successful furniture manufacturer in many revival styles, including Gothic Revival.