The Upper West Side is a famous neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan. The UWS extends from the Hudson River to Central Park West and from 110th to 59th Streets. Historic landmarks in the Upper West Side are a big attraction to architecture enthusiasts throughout the United States. If you are looking to visit and see some of the oldest buildings in New York City, the Upper West Side is the perfect place to start. Below, we look at some of the most noteworthy landmarks from 19th-century developments.
Congregation Shearith Israel Synagogue
The Congregation Shearith Israel Synagogue at 2 West 70th Street dates back to 1897 and has a Classical Revival architectural style. Architects Arnold William Brunner and Thomas Tryon designed the synagogue, while famed glass artist Louis Tiffany designed its main sanctuary and stained-glass windows.
As one of the oldest landmarks on the Upper West Side, this building serves as the place of worship for the oldest American Jewish congregation in the United States. The Congregation Shearith Israel represents a unique part of the neighborhood’s history since the congregation established itself nearly 250 years before erecting this grand synagogue. Spanish and Portuguese Jewish immigrants migrated to New Amsterdam from Dutch Brazil in 1654 where they established a community here.
The Apthorp is a condominium apartment building on the corner of Broadway and West 79th Street. William Waldorf Astor built the Apthorp in 1908, modeling the building after the Pitti Palace in Florence, Italy, and representing the Italian Renaissance Revival Style. The Apthorp is a classic NYC landmark with a doorman, fitness center, concierge services, and entertainment venue. The garden courtyard and central fountain are the building’s noted design features. Unlike other historic apartment buildings in the area, the Apthorp’s apartments each have unique designs.
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History dates to 1874 on Central Park West & 79th Street, across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Architects J. Wrey Mould and Calvert Vaux designed the first building of the AMNH’s complex as part of the Gothic Revival architecture movement. Since its original construction, the museum has expanded and currently has a gross floor area of more than two million square feet. Noteworthy buildings in the complex include the Romanesque structure that J. Cleveland Cady designed in 1888, and the entrance on Central Park West, designed by John Russel Pope in 1936.
The Ansonia at 2109 Broadway between 73rd and 74th Streets dates back to 1899. This Beaux-Arts-style building is one of the historical landmarks that give the Upper West Side its aesthetic appeal and authentic personality. Originally a hotel, the Ansonia is the largest hotel and apartment combination building in the city, with a gross floor area of 50,000 feet containing 300 suites and 1,400 rooms. The Ansonia has a rich history and served as the home of Igor Stravinsky, the composer.
Ethical Culture School
Thomas Hastings and John Mervin Carrere designed and began building the Ethical Culture School building in 1902 at 33 Central Park West. The New York Society For Ethical Culture, established by Dr. Felix Adler in 1876, was and is a humanist community dedicated to “ethical relationships, social justice, and environmental stewardship,” according to its website. One of the Society’s missions was ethical education for all. Its members established the first free kindergarten in the U.S. and then chartered the Workingman’s School in 1880, which became reorganized in 1895 as The Ethical Culture School—a private, independent school.
Two years after construction, in 1904, the new school building in Manhattan opened to students from all walks of life. The Ethical Culture School is an integral part of the Upper West Side history. In 1928, the high school division moved to a new campus on Fieldston in Riverdale, but the Lower School remained in the Upper West Side. Today, The Ethical Culture School is an Ivy Preparatory School League member and service about 1,700 students.
Fourth Universalist Society of New York
William A. Potter built the Fourth Universalist Society church building of New York at 4 West 76th Street in 1898. The English Gothic style and design of the Magdalen Tower served as inspiration for this church’s design, which stands out from the classical architectural elements in the rest of the Upper West Side. The Fourth Society is the only remaining Universalist congregation of the seven originally standing in New York City.
The Dakota is a prominent historic apartment building in Manhattan located at 1 West 72nd Street at Central Park West and 72nd. Architect Henry Janeway Hardenberg designed the Dakota on commission for Edward Cabot Clark, head of the Singer Manufacturing Company. A square building around a central courtyard with a façade notable for its steep gables, balconies, and balustrades, Hardenburg’s masterpiece integrated elements from the North German Renaissance architectural style. In contrast, the interior of the building features prominent French architectural styles. Notably, each apartment faces both the street and the courtyard, and all the rooms are interconnected. John Lennon and Yoko Ono began living in the Dakota in 1973, and seven years later, assassin Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon just outside the Dakota. Ono still lives in the building.
The Dorilton at 17 West 71 Street is a beautiful 12-floor apartment building in Lincoln Square on the Upper East Side. Hamilton M. Weed developed the Dorilton between 1900 and 1902, according to the design by Elisha Harris Janes and Richard Leopold Leo. Prominent architectural features of the building include a brick and limestone exterior and a three-story mansard roof. Originally, the Dorilton had 48 apartments. However, after the conversion to a cooperative in 1948, the Dorilton now has 59 apartments.
The San Remo
The Sam Remo, located between 74th Street and West 75th Street, is a cooperative two-tower apartment building with 27 floors. The building stands two blocks north of the Dakota and overlooks Central Park. Emery Roth designed the Sam Remo, built in 1930. The luxury apartments have large entrance galleries, high ceilings, and terraces. Amenities of the San Remo include 24-hour doorman services, semi-private and private elevator landings, a health club and community room, and designated laundry areas.
The Beacon Theatre
The Beacon Theatre at 2124 Broadway opened in 1929. The theatre. a famous New York entertainment venue, has three tiers with 2,894 seats. Walter W. Ahlschlager designed the Beacon Theatre with its neo-Grecian interior and curtainless stage with a proscenium arch. Notable features of this theatre include white marble floors, original bronze doors, and hand-painted murals. The architect designed the Beacon Theatre’s acoustics, today considered the best in New York for live music, specifically for vaudeville acts and silent movies.
The Majestic Apartments
The Majestic is a 29-story twin-tower apartment building at 115 Central Park West constructed in 1930-1931. Architect Irwin S. Chanin designed the steel-framed building in the Art Deco style. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated The Majestic as a New York City Landmark in 1988. Notable residents of The Majestic include heads of the Luciano crime family, actor Milton Berle, and fashion designer Marc Jacobs.
Enjoy your visit!
We hope you will enjoy learning more about the rich architectural history of the Upper West Side as you explore these fascinating neighborhoods and the oldest buildings.