As part of its new series of tours entitled “Secret Lives”, the Historic District Council covers Pomander Walk, a delightful little enclave of Tudor English houses in the Upper West Side. Located on 95th St and West End Ave, Pomander Walk is accessible only to its residents for the most part and can be reached by invite only. Built to house 56 inhabitants, the street features houses that all have front gardens, which the residents are free to maintain on their own. It’s a lovely slice of bucolic village life strikingly set against a backdrop of high rise skyscrapers.
The founder of the site is Thomas Healy, an Irish immigrant who came to New York in 1886 at the age of fifteen. In many respects, he was the quintessential self-made American. He started his career as a penniless apprentice at a small restaurant on 103rd and Broadway before eventually founding a culinary empire composed of five major eating establishments and the Society of Restauranteurs in 1913. He also made a name for himself in real estate speculation, having made several successful investments. However, he showed that his heart remained in Britain after he obtained the site Pomander Walk now occupies under a long-term 200 year lease in 1920. Yearning to reproduce the Old World appearance of his homeland, he commissioned architectural firm King & Campbell to construct an exact replica of a Georgian street in London featured in a play by Lewis Parker named Pomander Walk, which had just come to Broadway in 1911. An avid theater enthusiast, Thomas Healy named his new haven after the play itself.
Much more than just an antique reproduction, Pomander Walk is a remarkable testament to how mass housing can still be an artistic endeavor.