The Upper East Side is a neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, between Central Park and the East River. The Upper East Side lies within an area bounded by 59th Street to 96th Street, and the East River to Fifth Avenue-Central Park.
In the 19th century the farmland and market garden district of what was to be the Upper East Side was still traversed by the Boston Post Road and, from 1837, the New York and Harlem Railroad, which brought straggling commercial development around its one station in the neighborhood, at 86th Street, which became the heart of German Yorkville. The area was defined by the attractions of the bluff overlooking the East River, which ran without interruption from James William Beekman's "Mount Pleasant", north of the marshy squalor of Turtle Bay, to Gracie Mansion, north of which the land sloped steeply to the wetlands that separated this area from the suburban village of Harlem. Among the series of villas a Schermerhorn country house overlooked the river at the foot of present-day 73rd Street and another, Peter Schermerhorn's at 66th Street, and the Riker homestead was similarly sited at the foot of 75th Street. By the mid-19th century the farmland had largely been subdivided, with the exception of the 150 acres (0.61 km2) of Jones's Wood, stretching from 66th to 76th Streets and from the Old Post Road (Third Avenue) to the river and the farmland inherited by James Lenox, who divided it into blocks of houselots in the 1870s, built his Lenox Library on a Fifth Avenue lot at the farm's south-west corner, and donated a full square block for the Presbyterian Hospital, between 70th and 71st Streets, and Madison and Park Avenues. At that time, along the Boston Post Road taverns stood at the mile-markers, Five-Mile House at 72nd Street and Six-Mile House at 97th, a New Yorker recalled in 1893.
Before the Park Avenue railroad cut was covered (finished in 1910), fashionable New Yorkers shunned the smoky railroad trench up Fourth Avenue (now Park Avenue), to build stylish mansions and townhouses on the large lots along Fifth Avenue, facing Central Park, and on the adjacent side streets. The latest arrivals were the rich Pittsburghers Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. The classic phase of Gilded Age Fifth Avenue as a stretch of private mansions was not long-lasting: the first apartment house to replace a private mansion on upper Fifth Avenue was 907 Fifth Avenue (1916), at 72nd Street, the neighborhood's grand carriage entrance to Central Park.
Most members of New York's upper-class families have made residences on the Upper East Side, including the oil-rich Rockefellers,political Roosevelts, political dynastic Kennedys, thoroughbred racing moneyed Whitneys, and tobacco and electric power fortuned Dukes.
Construction of the 3rd Avenue El, opened from 1878 in sections, followed by the 2nd Avenue El, opened in 1880, linked the Upper East Side's middle class and skilled artisans closely to the heart of the city, and confirmed the modest nature of the area to their east. The ghostly "Hamilton Square", which had appeared as one of the few genteel interruptions of the grid plan on city maps since theCommissioners' Plan of 1811, was intended to straddle what had now become the Harlem Railroad right-of-way between 66th and 69th Streets; it never materialized, though during the Panic of 1857 its unleveled ground was the scene of an open-air mass meeting called in July to agitate for the secession of the city and its neighboring counties from New York State, and the city divided its acreage into house lots and sold them. From the 1880s Yorkville, as it was known, extended eastwards toward the river and westwards pastLexington Avenue; Yorkville became a suburb of middle-class Germans, many of whom worked in nearby piano factories, stables, and breweries.
Gracie Mansion, the last remaining suburban villa overlooking the East River, became the home of New York's mayor in 1942. The East River Drive, designed by Robert Moses, was extended southwards from the first section, from 125th Street to 92nd Street, which was completed in 1934 as a boulevard, an arterial highway running at street level; reconstruction designs from 1948 to 1966 converted FDR Drive, as it was renamed after Franklin Delano Roosevelt, into the full limited-access parkway that is in use today.
Provided by Wikipedia