Borough and State: Manhattan, New York
Type of district: individually listed in the National Register
Main Streets: West 21st Street and Ninth Ave
The East 78th Street Houses are a group of five vernacular row houses situated on a quiet, tree-lined residential street on the Upper East Side. Constructed by Henry Armstrong in 1861 for working- or middle-class New Yorkers, the houses reveal the influence of the Italianate style in the cornice detail, the variation in the size of window openings and the raised parlor floors. The East 78th Street Houses are excellent examples of a type of structure commonly built at the time by the speculative builder who also acted as his own architect, drawing up one standard plan and then merely replicating the plan for each house in the row.
In 1860, New York was rapidly expanding northward; Fifth Avenue south of 42nd Street was already lined with palatial mansions. A street grid plan for the future city had been developed and a survey completed, but few of the streets above 42nd Street had been graded. Following the opening of East 78th Street in 1860, John Turner, a painter, purchased lots 24 through 28. A row of eleven brick houses, only five of which remain today, were erected for Turner the following year by Henry Armstrong, a builder and speculator. The row remains today as a handsome component of the streetscape and a distinctive example of the style and type of housing built in the 1860s.