Murray Hill is a neighborhood on the east side of Manhattan that is predominantly residential with plenty of historic buildings. The neighborhood is very diverse, in part thanks to its many consulates and proximity to the United Nations in neighboring Turtle Bay. Named after Robert Murray, a merchant during the mid-1700s, Murray Hill was historically isolated from the rest of Manhattan since it was situated on a steep glacial hill. Around the turn of the century, the area quickly became wealthier and more developed, attracting figures like J.P. Morgan and the Roosevelt family. Many structures in Murray Hill are New York City landmarks, from two- and three-story homes to skyscrapers. With a small Armenian, Orthodox Jewish, and Scandinavian cultural community, here are 18 secrets of Murray Hill.
1. Sniffen Court is one of Manhattan’s secret mews
Sniffen Court is a small row of mews in Murray Hill running perpendicularly southwest from East 36th Street. Sniffen Court is one of the city’s smallest historic districts, consisting of 10 two-story brick Romanesque Revival stables. The row of mews was built between 1863-1864 between 3rd Avenue and Lexington Avenue, likely by local architect John Sniffen. Though many mews were constructed in lower Manhattan around Greenwich Village and West Village, Midtown never had many alleys, making Sniffen Court an anomaly in the area. Originally built as carriage houses, many were converted for other users, including the clubhouse and theater of the Amateur Comedy Club.
Many famous artists lived at Sniffen Court, most notably Cole Porter, who owned both 2 and 4 Sniffen Court while in residence at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Malvina Hoffman, a sculptor known for her life-size bronze sculptures, had her studio at the Court (and created plaques of horsemen on the rear wall), which was later the residence of author Pearl S. Buck. Over the years, many of the homes shifted to architecture offices and music studios for figures like Lenny Kravitz. The Doors also used Sniffen Court for the cover of their album Strange Days.