11 Photos of a Forgotten Manhattan

505 West 160th Street

by Chelcey Berryhill

Today we’re hopping across the East River to introduce you to Charles, one of the original members of the Wooden House Project. While he may not write posts for us, his legacy and dedication to documenting all of the wooden houses in Manhattan certainly lives on! For nine months, Charles scoured the entire island of Manhattan in an effort to document all of its remaining wood-frame buildings. We think it’s safe to say he started the Wooden House Project with this effort back in 1932.

Wood-frame houses are far more scarce in Manhattan than in Brooklyn simply because Brooklyn developed later. Because of fires, Manhattan got its act together long before Brooklyn, outlawing wood-frame construction in its denser sections at an early date. I find myself often scrolling through the nearly 600 photographs in the Charles Von Urban photographic collection online at the Museum of the City of New York. While it’s hard to choose my favorites, here is a crack at it with a handful of photographs that make me smile and say “thank you,” Mr. Charles Von Urban! (all photos in this post presented courtesy of MCNY).


Because who doesn’t love a mansard roof?

127 West 108th Street

As a previous post suggests, we love mansard roofs on wooden houses (or as our friend David likes to say, “French hats!”)


Because they’re twins!

twins63-65 Audubon Avenue

Not only do these porches look so inviting, they’re a pair! Twin wooden houses deserve twice as many ooooos and aaaaahhhhs.


Because wooden houses were also villas.

Pleasant-Ave324 Pleasant Avenue

Located on Pleasant Avenue in East Harlem, this house recalls the early history of Upper Manhattan, before development really took off here. At one time, this was a “country” getaway.

Because houses can be moved.

Alexander-Hamilton287 Convent Avenue

Anyone else feel squished?! Guess what: Alexander Hamilton resided here. Moving this house was certainly controversial, but from its new site visitors can see the house from all sides.


Because of the gingerbread!

456-458 West 155th Street

313-315 East 53rd Street

127 464-468 West 166th Street

The three photos above pretty much speak for themselves. WOW.


Because they’re survivors.

Grove-Street17 Grove Street

The house at 17 Grove Street still stands in the West Village Historic District. Impeccably restored, it is a testament to just how beautiful these wood-frames were and continue to be. And how hearty!

E-92nd-St120-122 East 92nd Street

Also landmarked, both of these houses have survived and appear just as they did in 1932.


Because they’re famous!

Sylvan-TerraceSylvan Terrace

If you’re lucky enough to find Sylvan Terrace behind the C-Town in Washington Heights, you’ll feel like you’ve been transplanted into a whole new world. But if you happen to watch Boardwalk Empire, it might look somewhat familiar (Nucky Thompson moves Margaret Schroeder to a house after her husband is killed). I suggest you make your way up here — it looks the exact same as it does in this picture, minus the ads.

The list could go on and on. Take a look at the collection and let us know your favorites on Facebook or in the comments!

  • Amanda

    Amazing photos! I did happen to stumble across Sylvan Terrace during a survey of Washington Heights. It’s definitely a special place.