Friday, May 8, 2015

The Cherokee Apartments aka Vanderbilt Model Tenements

The Cherokee Tenements 1912
     When previewing apartments in the Upper Eastside one of my favorite buildings in the Yorkville area  is the Cherokee apartments. The Cherokee apartments are truly a beauty. The building is located off York avenue between 77th and 78th streets. It has that graceful aura that many of the older residents tend to have. I never get tired of seeing older ladies pushing their carts while smelling like Channel No.5,wearing Hermes Equestrians scarves, Cartier Tank watch on the wrist and a Fur coats possibly from a Oscar De La Renta collection. While now the apartment is mainly Co-ops, did you know it was modelled tenements?
Contagious respiratory diseases had the highest rankings in the late 1800s end early 1900s

   The  building was the answer  to the problem that the city was facing, housing for the poor. A problem which still exists in New York City. This problem is even getting worse in my opinion. Tuberculosis was a major problem in New York City. Many apartments for low income families were small and overcrowded, making it the perfect breeding ground for tuberculosis. While it may not seem a like a huge amount, but at the turn of the 19th century New York City had a population of three and half million.
Manhattan was the most overcrowded borough. Remember public mass transportation that connected Manhattan to the outer boroughs wasn't available. Once transit lines became available boroughs like the Bronx and Queens had a population increase due to the better accessibility. A lot of people were living in single-family dwellings that were divided into multiple living spaces. These tenements were poorly lit, lacked indoor plumbing and proper ventilation. In many of these  tenements, only the rooms on the street receive any light, and the interior rooms had no ventilation. In 1901,  the Tenement House Law, came into effect and it  outlawed the construction of new tenements on 25-foot lots. It also mandated improved sanitary conditions, fire escapes and access to light.  Treatment  was also expensive, not that many people were able to afford open air treatment in Tuberculosis sanatoriums like North Brother island or Otisvillve, Orange County, New York.

Enjoy Fresh Air
    The idea of the building came from  Dr. Henry L. Shively, head of the tuberculosis clinic at Presbyterian Hospital; and designed by designed by Henry Atterbury Smith. Mrs. William. K. Vanderbilt Sr. funded the project and  put up $1 million dollars to build the Shively Sanitary Tenements, otherwise known as the Vanderbilt Model Tenements, Her tenements were to house families with at least one member ill with tuberculosis. The apartments were designed to allow plenty of sunlight and ventilation. It became available to tenants in January 5, 1912. Hygiene was a great emphasis on the building, it had no dark passageways, open stairwells, and the tenants had access to the building roofs. Having plenty of sunlight and fresh air was very important because it was the cure for the fatal disease. The floors are made of  concrete, making it difficult to lay down carpeting. The concrete curved up onto the wall, so as not to trap germs and dust. Radiators were mounted on the walls, so a broom could pass easily underneath.It had enormous floor to ceiling windows allowing for the sick tenant to step through them onto the building’s wide iron balconies and breath fresh air. Some of the tenants slept on the balconies. The complex consisted of 4 sections.One section of the complex was converted into a home hospital to aid the sick. The program was remarkably successful,  many tenants were cured from the disease. This program didn't last long, the building was sold to City and Suburban Homes Company for rentals in 1923.
Open style staircases

This building was a walk-up so it  has rest stops for it's sick tenants

Another view
   It's great to know that this building is a landmark. I always looked forward when walking on York Ave to see this apartment. Its massive size and gorgeous facade make me want to be a tenant there. But what makes this building so special is that a lot of thought was put  into designing the building. It was really for residents. Even though this building was designed for the poor, details and elegance was not taken out the picture when designing this fortress. The link between overpopulation, unsanitary conditions and tuberculosis was a recipe of disaster that resulted in the death of many tenants in New York City. That's why I love real estate each building has a story!
The most welcoming entrance

Inside the court yard

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