February 20, 2019


BEFORE FRED FRENCH, Prospect Hill ‒Tudor City's future site ‒
was lined with tenements and boarding houses. 

Who thought up Tudor City? We believe the idea evolved through the efforts of three men. Here is their story.

Leonard Gans
Gans is real estate broker who specializes in assembling multiple properties into large parcels. In 1924, he discovers Prospect Hill, a rundown area flanked by malodorous industry along the East River. Gans pays the slaughterhouses and steam plants no mind. He's transfixed by the view to the west ‒ the booming Grand Central Terminal business district. Within walking distance. He thinks it's the ideal site for a residential community.

He pitches the site to a few prospects, with no takers. Then he arranges a meeting with a business acquaintance who works for Fred French named Paine Edson. Edson has been with the company since 1916, and over time has gained French's ear.

Paine Edson
Gans meets Edson at Prospect Hill and launches his pitch. It's a big idea ‒ five acres of land ‒ which impresses Edson, as does the walk-to-work angle. Gans leads him over to the Prospect Hill Apartments, then under construction on 41st Street. The building is already fully rented ‒ from plans. Edson says he will talk to Fred French.

Fred French
Edson buttonholes French into visiting the site. At first, his boss is aghast. "Look at those slaughterhouses and smokestacks and the rookeries around them, and think of the fumes! Phew!" French reportedly says.

Edson perseveres, extolling the scale of the project, which vastly appeals to French. He adds that the land would be half the cost of what French is paying on Park Avenue. French likes that too. Then Edson takes him by the fully-rented-from-plans Prospect Hill Apartments, and that seems to seal the deal.

And so, French signs on to building the planned community that would ultimately be his legacy. Thereafter, he refers to Paine Edson as "the Daddy of Tudor City." Gans is hired to assemble the land and acquires nearly 100 properties in a record 35 days. Edson eventually takes an apartment in The Manor, an easy walk to his office in the French Building. 

AFTER THE SALE, the future site of Essex House and Hotel Tudor, at left,
and The Woodstock, at right, adorned with 'Tudor City coming soon' signs. 

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