Murray Hill, Manhattan

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File:Murray Hill.jpg
Townhouses in Murray Hill.

Murray Hill is a Midtown neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan. Around 1987 many real estate promoters of the neighborhood and newer residents described the boundaries as within East 34th Street, East 42nd Street, Madison Avenue, and the East River; in 1999, Frank P. Vardy, the demographer for the City Planning Commission, said that the traditional boundary is within East 34th Street, East 40th Street, Madison Avenue, and Third Avenue. The neighborhood is part of Manhattan Community Board 6.[1]

South of Murray Hill, blocks on Lexington Avenue around 28th Street are sometimes informally called “Curry Hill,” due to the current high concentration of Indian restaurants and specialized grocery stores.[2]



Eighteenth century

Murray Hill derives its name from the Murray family, 18th-century Quaker merchants mainly concerned with shipping and overseas trade. Robert Murray (1721–1786), the family patriarch, was born in Pennsylvania and came to New York in 1753 after a short residence in North Carolina. He quickly established himself as a merchant and eventually owned more shipping tonnage than any other New Yorker. About 1762 Murray rented land from the city for a great house and farm. His great house, which he named Inclenberg (or Belmont), but which was popularly termed Murray Hill, was built on a since-leveled hill at what is today Park Avenue and 36th Street. The great square house was approached by an avenue of mixed trees leading from the Boston Post Road;[3] it was surrounded on three sides with verandas— or “piazzas” as they were called in New York— and commanded views of the East River over Kips Bay. The total area was just over 29 acres (117,000 m²). In today’s terms, the farm began a few feet (meters) south of 33rd Street and extended north to the middle of the block between 38th and 39th Streets. At the southern end, the plot was rather narrow, but at the northern end it extended from approximately Lexington Avenue to a spot between Madison and Fifth Avenues.[4]

The Inclenberg was an abrupt, steep-sided mound of glacial till typical of Manhattan Island's still-unmodified post-glacial terrain: this "hill of the rudest and most heterogeneous mixture of stone and gravel and boulders, cemented together into a matrix of almost impenetrable density existed, crowning the underlying schist... It had a natural rise from 34th Street, sinking towards 42nd Street and reaching from Lexington Avenue to Broadway."[5] Such a soil would have been unpromising had Murray intended seriously to farm it; instead the house, like the other grand expressions of preeminent urban social position that crowned most of Manhattan's prominent rises of ground[6] had other uses: "although some of these estates grew crops for profit," the historians of New York Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace observe,[7] "their primary purpose— besides providing refuge from epidemics— was to serve as theaters of refinement".

The most illustrious member of the family was the oldest child, Lindley Murray (1745–1826). A New York lawyer, he was forced into exile after the Revolution as a loyalist. In England, Lindley wrote 11 school textbooks which had their greatest success in the new United States, partly because no international copyright existed and the books could be reprinted without royalties. Some 16 million copies of Murray's books were sold in America. His English Reader utterly dominated the American market for readers from 1815 into the 1840s.

DAR plaque on 37th Street at Park Avenue in Manhattan

Mary Lindley Murray is credited with delaying William Howe and his army during General Washington's retreat from New York following the British landing at Kip's Bay, 15 September 1776. As the story goes, Mrs. Robert Murray, the mother of Lindley and John, invited the officers to tea[8] at her mansion of Inclenberg and, through feminine wiles, succeeded in delaying the British troops for a period sufficient to allow a successful American retreat.[1][9] She is said by Rev. T. Dewitt Talmage to have saved American independence by detaining Lord Howe long enough to permit Israel Putnam to pass up the Greenwich road from the city and join the forces of George Washington in the north end of the island, before Howe was able to overtake him. This detention and the stories told by the fair friend saved 4,000 men, who otherwise would have been cut off and captured.

James Thacher, M.D., a gossipy surgeon with the Continental Army, kept a journal that is one of the prime sources of information about the military happenings of the times. In an entry for Sept. 20, Thacher tells the story as follows: "The British generals...repaired to the house of a Mr. Robert Murray, a Quaker and friend of our cause; Mrs. Murray treated them with cake and wine, and they were induced to tarry two hours or more, Governor Tryon frequently joking her about her American friends. By this happy incident general Putnam, by continuing his march, escaped...It has since become almost a common saying among our officers, that Mrs. Murray saved this part of the American army."

Sniffen Court, built as stables in the 1850s, preserves a sense of Murray Hill's former intimate scale

Nineteenth century

During the nineteenth century, this neighborhood was "uptown" with the city ending with the reservoir at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street covering what today is the New York Public Library and Bryant Park. To the north was for the most part farmland. In the bitter winter of 1808 during the embargo that closed New York harbor, an innovative work relief program kept out-of-work dock workers busy reducing the height of Murray Hill;[10] between twenty and forty feet were sliced off its summit and used for fill.[11] In 1833 the railroad tunnel was begun, to carry the New York and Harlem Rail Road under Murray Hill; the route under the most prominent obstacle in its right-of-way was finished in 1837; then the locomotives, which had met the horse-cars that ran through the city's streets at the station at 27th Street, could pass under the reduced hill; the tunnel, enlarged and relined, is devoted to automobile traffic today.

In mid-century the rich, temporarily, and the upper middle class more permanently filled the brownstone row houses that filled Murray Hill's streets, the Brick Presbyterian Church followed its congregation; selling its site facing City Hall Park, it rebuilt in 1857 closer to its congregation, on the smoothed brow of Murray Hill, at Fifth Avenue and 37th Street.[12] But when J. P. Morgan built his conservative brownstone free-standing mansion in 1882 on Madison Avenue at 36th Street, which is today a part of the The Morgan Library & Museum, it was considered a fashionable but slightly old-fashioned address,[13] as the rich were filling Fifth Avenue with palaces as far as Central Park. Instead stylish merchandising was changing the neighborhood; Madison Square Park, at this time considered a part of Murray Hill, was bordered by the fashionable ladies' shops of the day on Fifth Avenue.

Twentieth century

For much of the twentieth century, the neighborhood was a quiet and rather formal place, with many well-off older residents. Since the late 1990s, however, many professionals in their twenties and thirties have begun to move into the area. On weekends, the raucous restaurant-and-bar scene along Third Avenue, beyond the traditional eastern limits of Murray Hill, particularly reflects this change.

The community is also home to the CUNY Graduate Center which share the landmark former B. Altman Building with the New York Public Library Science, Industry and Business Library or SIBL and Oxford University Press. The neighborhood is also home to Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University, The Morgan Library & Museum and Scandinavia House - The Nordic Center in America, The Mexican Cultural Institute of New York and a historically notable private institution, the Union League Club of New York. On January 29, 2008, the Whitney Museum of American Art branch gallery at what had been the Philip Morris headquarters opposite Grand Central Terminal closed after a 25-year run.

Twenty-first century

Though housing in the neighborhood is slightly cheaper than in fashionable nearby parts of Manhattan, prices for apartments here rose a great deal during the boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s—as much as 500 percent in a decade.

The area includes 10 East 40th Street, an example of art deco architecture.


L-3 Communications has its headquarters in Murray Hill.[14] Sumitomo Corporation operates its New York Office, the headquarters of the corporation's United States operations, in the same building as the headquarters of L-3. Industries supported by the office include Aerospace and Defense, Agricultural Commodities, Agrochemicals, Business Investment, Chemicals, Fertilizer, Information Technology, Latin American Operations, Living Related Products, Media and IT Venture Group, Meat Products, Presidio Venture Partners, Ship, Real Estate, Transportation Systems and Equipment, and Tubular Products.[15] China Airlines operates its New York Branch Office in Suite 800 at 633 3rd Avenue (10017).[16][17]

In 1975 American Airlines was headquartered at 633 Third Avenue.[18] In 1978 American announced that it would move its headquarters to a site at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in 1979. The move affected up to 1,300 jobs. Mayor of New York City Ed Koch described this move as "betrayal" of New York City.[19]

Diplomatic missions

The Consulate-General of Mexico in New York is located at 27 East 39th Street (10016).[20] The Consulate-General of South Africa in New York is located at 333 East 38th Street (10016).[21]

Missions to the United Nations in Murray Hill include:[22]


New York City Department of Education operates local public schools. P.S. 116 Mary Lindley Murray School is the neighborhood elementary school.[1][24] Residents are also zoned to J.H.S. 104 Simon Baruch.[25]

Telephone exchange

For the most part of the twentieth century the name "Murray Hill" was used by New York Telephone as a telephone exchange for residents living on the East Side of Manhattan. Most neighborhoods at the time would be grouped together by a particular exchange name. Other municipalities in the United States would also use MUrray or MUrray Hill as an exchange name. The first two letters in MUrray (capitalized to indicate that they should be dialed) would be joined by five number digits to make up a telephone number such as MUrray Hill 5-9975 (the Ricardos' number on I Love Lucy). This was the way most telephone numbers were given until AT&T switched to All-Number Calling by the late 1970s to early 1980s. Nevertheless the name MUrray Hill is still applicable, as many numbers on the East Side of Manhattan still begin with 6 and 8 which correspond to MU on the telephone keypad.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Cheslow, Jerry. "If You're Thinking of Living In / Murray Hill; A Quiet Enclave Close to Midtown", The New York Times, December 5, 1999. Accessed January 12, 2008.
  2. Sigmund, Stephen. " SOAPBOX; Onward and Upward on Curry Hill", The New York Times, January 17, 1999. Accessed July 1, 2008.
  3. Shown on a detail of the British Headquarters map, ca. 1781 in Eric W. Sanderson, Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City, 2009:55, fig. a. The orchards are shown behind the house to the north.
  4. Muschamp, Herbert. "Critic's Notebook; Atop a Hill In Midtown, Where Life Is a Stroll", The New York Times, December 5, 1997. Accessed July 1, 2008.
  5. L.P. Gratacap, Geology of the City of New York (New York, 1904), quoted in Sanderson 2009: appendix A p. 252.
  6. See, for some examples, articles for Richmond Hill, the Apthorp Farm, the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Gracie Mansion, and Alexander Hamilton's "Grange"
  7. Burrows and Wallace 1999:179.
  8. Plying them with cakes and wine in earlier tellings, as reported in Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: a History of New York City to 1898 1999:241.
  9. McCullough, David. "1776", p. 216. "In explanation, a romantic story spread - a story that would become legendary - that a Mrs. Robert Murray, a Quaker and an ardent patriot, had delayed William Howe and his generals by inviting them to afternoon tea at her country home at Inclenberg, later known as Murray Hill."
  10. Burrows and Wallace 1999:412.
  11. Sanderson 2008:map "Fill and Excavation, 1609-2009" p. 81,
  12. Burrows and Wallace 1999:717
  13. "In the no longer cutting-edge Murray Hill" (Burrows and Wallace 1999:1075).
  14. "Company Profile." L-3 Communications. Retrieved on March 10, 2010.
  15. "Office Network." Sumitomo Corporation. Retrieved on January 25, 2009.
  16. "Flatiron / Gramercy / Murray Hill / Union Square: Manhattan Neighborhood Map." Retrieved on January 25, 2009.
  17. "Branch Offices North America." China Airlines. Retrieved on January 25, 2009.
  18. World Airline Directory. Flight International. March 20, 1975. "472.
  19. Sterba, James P. "American Will Shift Headquarters From Manhattan to Dallas Airport; Big Economies Predicted." The New York Times. Thursday November 16, 1978. Page A1. Retrieved on August 27, 2009.
  20. Home Page." Consulate-General of Mexico in New York. Retrieved on January 25, 2009.
  21. Home Page." Consulate-General of South Africa in New York. Retrieved on January 26, 2009.
  22. "United Nations Member States." United Nations. Retrieved on January 26, 2009.
  23. Home page. Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations. Retrieved on January 26, 2009.
  24. "P.S. 116 Mary Lindley Murray School." Retrieved on January 25, 2009.
  25. "School & Zone Finder." New York City Department of Education. Retrieved on January 25, 2009.

External links

Coordinates: 40°44′54″N 73°58′42″W / 40.74833°N 73.97833°W / 40.74833; -73.97833ca:Murray Hill es:Murray Hill (Manhattan) fr:Murray Hill sv:Murray Hill, Manhattan

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