This week, the New-York Historical Society turned 214! To celebrate our birthday we’re taking a look back on the construction of the New-York Historical Society’s permanent home at 170 Central Park West. Before settling along the park, New-York Historical lived at seven other locations around the city between 1804 and 1908. Here’s a retro map cataloging its former homes.
One of its most photogenic spaces was the location at 170 Second Avenue.
As you can see, the collection overtook the wall space, which was curated in the traditional salon style.
During the early 1900s, New-York Historical moved uptown to a larger location along the newly minted Central Park, reflecting its need for more space to house its growing collection; the move also mirrored the unceasing expansion of the city, itself. By the turn of the 20th century, the Metropolitan Museum and the American Museum of Natural History had also arrived uptown. New-York Historical followed suit, breaking ground on 170 Central Park West the same year the Met opened its doors on Fifth Avenue in 1902. The snapshot below was taken during the ceremony. Although migration uptown was increasing, there was still much space for development. This is what 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue looked like in 1887, just 15 years before we arrived on the scene.
A little over a year later, before an enthusiastic crowd, undeterred by the cold, wet fall weather, the cornerstone was laid on November 17, 1903. Many arrived at the future site of New-York Historical via Central Park.
Do you recognize the building in the background? It’s the the American Museum of Natural History!
In the following years, the ambitious construction project kicked into high gear.
Looking south on 77th Street:
Looking south on 77th Street after the brick wall was raised:
Looking northwest on 77th Street:
Although construction was completed and the spectacular Museum opened in 1908, expansions and renovations have continued to make room for more art and history in the ever-expanding N-YHS collection. In 2016, we began yet another groundbreaking (pun intended) project and opened our Center for Women’s History.