The Upper East Side is often associated with wealth and art, featuring some of the city’s most expensive residences and most famed museums. The Upper East Side houses many former mansions and estates, as well as dozens of museums and cultural centers, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Neue Galerie. The neighborhood, though, has many secrets beyond just extravagant apartments and world-renowned museums: In fact, Robert Moses actually despised a few structures in the neighborhood, and there are a number of under-the-radar societies and clubs. Here’s our guide to the top 11 secrets of the Upper East Side.
1. Jones’s Wood may have been New York’s Central Park
In present-day Lenox Hill, Jones’s Wood was a plot of farmland overlooking the East River formerly owned by the Jones and Schermerhorn families. The 132-acre property, known as the “Louvre Farm,” extended from 66th Street to 75th Street. The successful innkeeper and merchant John Jones bought the property, which was divided into lots and given to his children. His son James maintained the property, and his daughter Sarah lived with her husband Peter Schermerhorn, a shipowner and merchant. Peter purchased the adjoining property, while the home survived until as late as 1911.
Before concrete plans for Central Park were drawn out, many landscape architects and urban planners considered building a public park at the site of Jones’s Wood. The New York Tribune and New York Post featured numerous editorials outlining the perks of the farmland, which according to one article would “form a kind of Hyde Park for New York.” A bill was unanimously passed that would authorize the city to appropriate the land through eminent domain, but the law was later invalidated. Many people thought the park was too hard to access, and plans for Central Park proved more popular since building the park would require the destruction of Seneca Village, which many felt needed to be redeveloped. The Schermerhorns and Jones continued their fight to stop the city from taking their property, and eventually, a hotel was erected on the property which attracted working-class New Yorkers. Part of Jones’s Wood is now occupied by Rockefeller University.