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The Neighborhood Manhattan Forgot: Audubon Park and the Families Who Shaped It

The Neighborhood Manhattan Forgot: Audubon Park and the Families Who Shaped It

by Matthew Spady


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Audubon Park’s journey from farmland to cityscape

The study of Audubon Park’s origins, maturation, and disappearance is at root the study of a rural society evolving into an urban community, an examination of the relationship between people and the land they inhabit. When John James Audubon bought fourteen acres of northern Manhattan farmland in 1841, he set in motion a chain of events that moved forward inexorably to the streetscape that emerged seven decades later. The story of how that happened makes up the pages of The Neighborhood Manhattan Forgot: Audubon Park and the Families Who Shaped It.

This fully illustrated history peels back the many layers of a rural society evolving into an urban community, enlivened by the people who propelled it forward: property owners, tenants, laborers, and servants. The Neighborhood Manhattan Forgot tells the intricate tale of how individual choices in the face of family dysfunction, economic crises, technological developments, and the myriad daily occurrences that elicit personal reflection and change of course pushed Audubon Park forward to the cityscape that distinguishes the neighborhood today.

A longtime evangelist for Manhattan’s Audubon Park neighborhood, author Matthew Spady delves deep into the lives of the two families most responsible over time for the anomalous arrangement of today’s streetscape: the Audubons and the Grinnells. Buoyed by his extensive research, Spady reveals the darker truth behind John James Audubon (1785–1851), a towering patriarch who consumed the lives of his family members in pursuit of his own goals. He then narrates how fifty years after Audubon’s death, George Bird Grinnell (1849–1938) and his siblings found themselves the owners of extensive property that was not yielding sufficient income to pay taxes, insurance, and maintenance. Like the Audubons, they planned an exit strategy for controlled change that would have an unexpected ending.

Beginning with the Audubons’ return to America in 1839, The Neighborhood Manhattan Forgot follows the many twists and turns of the area’s path from forest to city, ending in the twenty-first century with the Audubon name re-purposed in today’s historic district, a multiethnic, multi-racial urban neighborhood far removed from the homogeneous, Eurocentric Audubon Park suburb.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780823289424
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Publication date: 09/01/2020
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,015,127
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Matthew Spady is the creator of the virtual walking tour and curator for, a news site that reflects on the constant intersection of past and present in a vibrant and historic neighborhood. He was a leader in the decade-long community effort that culminated in the Audubon Park Historic District.

Table of Contents


A Word About Names

Chapter 1
Triumph and Tribulation on White Street

Chapter 2
The Land Before It Was Minnie’s

Chapter 3
Arcadia Found . . .

Chapter 4
. . . and Too Quickly Lost

Chapter 5
Audubon Park Begins to Bloom

Chapter 6
Fruit Basket Turnover

Chapter 7
Audubon Park’s New Power Brokers

Chapter 8
The Hemlocks

Chapter 9
Three Widows, Three Households

Chapter 10
Reconstructing the Park

Chapter 11
A Gilded Lily

Chapter 12

Chapter 13
Halcyon Days

Chapter 14
Waning Days of Summer

Chapter 15
Exit Strategy

Chapter 16
Partition Suit

Chapter 17
Clinging to the Past . . .

Chapter 18
. . . and Facing the Future

Chapter 19
Rapid Transit, Rapid Transformation

Chapter 20
When the Bloom Faded




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