Midtown East is a testament to Manhattan’s characteristic architectural might. The upscale vibe associated with structures like the Chrysler Building hasn’t dulled much over the last several decades.
Midtown East can refer to multiple neighborhoods on the eastern side of Midtown Manhattan. However, as a separate neighborhood, Midtown East has well-defined quadrilateral boundaries, just slightly shy of a perfect square. The Northern boundary of this Manhattan neighborhood is East 59th Street, and on the south (Lenox Hill), the neighborhood’s boundaries end at West 42nd Street (Murray Hill). On the west, the neighborhood ends at 5th Avenue and on the east is East River. These boundaries absorb Turtle Bay in a way that there is little distinction between the two.
The neighborhood, like most other Manhattan neighborhoods, came under Dutch rule in 1639. It was prime farmland and remained thus until the 1700s when wealthy New Yorkers started building mansions and homes there. By the 1800s, the neighborhood was mostly populated. It became part of the Manhattan Draft riots, a lot of which took place in Midtown Manhattan. The St. Patrick’s Cathedral (5th Ave), the seat of New York’s Archbishop, was also built in the 18th century.
The neighborhood truly started thriving in the 19th century with the construction of the Grand Central Terminal, though another station had been there since 1871. Other important additions to the neighborhood’s history were the Chrysler Building and the UN headquarters.
Origin Of The Name
Midtown East is the name the neighborhood got by virtue of its geography. But it’s interesting how part of the neighborhood, Turtle Bay got its name. Since it was an actual cove, some historians believed that hundreds of turtles used to bask on the sands alongside the East River. But, another theory is that it’s a mispronunciation for the Dutch name “Deutel” for the neighborhood, which means bent blade. This referred to the geography of the area.
Main Attractions Of The Neighborhood
Midtown East is known for its upscale food establishments:
- Aquavit (65 E 55th St): It’s a high-end Scandinavian restaurant most famous for its tasting menu and aesthetically pleasing small portions. It’s just as magical for the palate as it is for the eyes.
- Chola (232 E 58th St): For Indian food lovers, this is the place to go. It serves a wide variety of authentic Indian dishes (endorsed by Indians) in a calm, modestly classy setting, but the prices are a bit high.
- The Smith (956 2nd Ave): It’s an upbeat place for brunch and drinks and classifies itself as a classic American Brasserie. The service is good, and the atmosphere is better. A good place if you want some mac & cheese, steaks, or avocado toast.
- La Grenouille (3 E 52nd St): It’s an amazing place for a classic fine dining experience and ambiance. The flower-filled décor makes it a top choice for romantic dinners.
- The Perfect Pint (203 E 45th St): It’s a four-story pub with a rooftop lounge and interesting décor. It offers 40 pints on tap and stools made up of beer cags (not all of them).
Midtown East is known for its skyscrapers and modern architecture.
- Trump Tower (725 5th Ave): It’s an important neighborhood attraction and a beautiful 664 feet skyscraper. Its most notable feature is the steeped façade in the front.
- MetLife Building (200 Park Ave): Completed in 1963, it’s a landmarked skyscraper that stands 808-feet tall and 39th tallest in the city. It has an interesting design and sits on top of two railroad tracks.
- Seagram Building (375 Park Ave): It’s another famous skyscraper in the neighborhood that once served as the headquarter of famous Canadian distillers Seagram. The façade is almost entirely made up of bronze and has a characteristic dark coloration.
- One Vanderbilt (1 Vanderbilt Ave): It’s currently the fourth tallest building in the city and the tallest in Midtown East. Even if you discount the 100-feet long antenna, the structure itself stands 1,301 feet tall.
- 432 Park Avenue Condominiums: It’s the fifth tallest building in NYC and the second tallest in the neighborhood. However, at 1,396-foot-tall, it’s technically taller than One Vanderbilt if you disregard the antenna spire.
Midtown East is home to many historically significant attractions.
- Grand Central Terminal (89 E 42nd St): As the second-busiest train station in North America, it sees about a quarter of a million people pass through each day. But its architecture is what makes it a famous attraction and was the reason it was landmarked. The façade is beautiful and was the largest sculptural group around the globe at the time of its unveiling (1914).
- Chrysler Building (405 Lexington Ave): This art deco building remained the tallest in the world for about a year from when it was built (1930). The building is 1,046 feet tall (including the antenna spire). Its characteristic features include the gargoyles on the 31st floor and the eagles on the 61st.
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral (5th Ave): As the seat of New York’s archbishop, this beautiful catholic cathedral has religious significance. Its gorgeous architecture, spirals, and art within its wall attract a lot of visitors.
- United Nations Headquarter (760 United Nations Plaza): UN headquarters have relevance to the entire world and not just the US, and it’s an attraction recognized by almost all foreign visitors. The flags of all nations together make enough of a spectacle, but the art pieces donated by different countries are also worth the trip.
- Japan Society (333 E 47th St): It’s technically a non-profit organization established to forge better relationships between Japan and the US and predates both world wars (established in 1907). It offers exhibitions and information associated with Japanese culture.
What Is Midtown East Known For?
- Skyscrapers and gorgeous architecture.
- A sense of community.
- Amazing shopping malls and stores.
- High-quality restaurants and low-key bars.
- United Nation Headquarters and Grand Central Station.
Different sources put the population of this neighborhood somewhere between 49,000 and 67,000.
Interesting Facts About Midtown East
- Very few houses/buildings opposite the UN Headquarters actually face the headquarter building. That’s because the place where the headquarters currently stand used to be full of slaughterhouses (demolished to make room for the UN building), and the buildings opposite to them were constructed facing the other way to remain safe from the stench.
The Chrysler Building might still be considered the tallest brick building in the world if you disregard its internal steel skeleton.