Today, a look at a New York Times article delineating the "Cinderella transformation" of "neglected" East Midtown, published on January 24, 1926. Select excerpts from the piece, below.
. . . The city has overlooked the easily accessible east side and left it largely to its own devices. Now broad changes are projected, designed to transform dingy neighborhoods into a dwelling district as fine as that along Riverside Drive. The lowly east side is to become a fashionable part of town. . .
This change will be particularly true of the strip of land lying directly upon the East River front. Gardens and terraces will banish the unbeautiful buildings of the river bank, which was once, and may again be, New York's pride. There will be an East River Drive, the prophets say, flanked by magnificent architecture. The change, they expect, will be well under way within the next twenty-five years. . .
Now comes the announcement of the Fred F. French Company of their projected Tudor City development at the foot of Forty-second Street on that rocky projection that rises seventy feet above First Avenue and is known as Prospect Hill. The name dates back to Revolutionary days, when Bayard Winthrop built his comfortable home on top of the promontory in the middle of his farm. . .
The view of even seventy-five years ago is no more. Swaying tree tops made way for factory roofs with their black smoking chimneys. Below the crest of the hill, running parallel with the river and lying directly under the overhanging cliff, is First Avenue with its lumber and coal yards, its slaughter and packing houses, its poor dwelling places, and the great Edison power plant occupying four blocks of the waterfront. Undaunted by the prospect of having such neighbors, the Fred F. French Company proceeded with its plans. . .
Above, a proposal for the redesign of the eastern terminus of 42nd Street, focused on the blocks between the East River and First Avenue. [What would later be Tudor City is hinted at by the two towers at top center.] Drawn up by Francis Swales, an architect affiliated with the Committee of Regional Plans for New York, this monumental design includes "Riverside Drive"‒worthy dwellings, "double-decker streets," "handsome plazas with statuary and fountains," and a "shoreline with terraces, hanging gardens and parks."
Of course, Swales' plan never came to fruition. 94 years later, the riverside north of 42nd Street is home to the United Nations campus, a decided improvement. Rather unbelievably, the land south of 42nd Street is currently home to a vacant lot. Sometimes progress takes its time.
Additional reading: The story behind Slumnest, Prospect Hill's first attempt at gentrification, here.