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Phipps Garden: 1940

Phipps Garden: 1940

May 17, 1940. "Phipps Garden Apartments, 5101 39th Avenue, Long Island City, New York. Clarence S. Stein, architect." Hanging with a big girl whose feet touch the ground. Large-format negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.


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Sunnyside/Astoria/Long Island City

Phipps is in zip 11104; the post office's preferred designation is Sunnyside, but Long Island City and Astoria are also acceptable for parts of the zip. For a while in college I was a Fuller Brush salesman in this general area. Lots of 4-6 story walkups. I didn't last too long.


Hula Hoops weren't invented till the 60's, what is that?

[Wham-O's hula hoop dates from 1958, but hoop rolling has been around for centuries. -tterrace]


Henry Phipps (1839-1930) grew up poor in a Pittsburgh tenement and became a friend of a neighbor, the Scottish immigrant, Andrew Carnegie. He worked for Carnegie as a bookkeeper. Carnegie Steel was merged with the steel companies controlled by another Robber Baron, Henry Clay Frick in 1901. Phipps part of the deal earned him $69.5 million, worth today, just slightly south of 2 Billion. His family Bank, the Bessemer Trust, controlled now by his Great Grandson, Stuart S. Janney III, was able to increase the net worth many times. Phipps became a Philanthropist building affordable housing for NYC Working People. Thousand of housing units have been built over those years, including those in today's Blog. Attached is a shot of Henry Phipps Plaza in the Kips Bay Section of Manhattan.

An early housing experiment

Phipps Gardens is still a desirable development after all these years. It's owned and managed by a nonprofit corporation, with apartments made available at affordable rents to people who meet income guidelines. The concept is similar to the neighboring and larger Sunnyside Gardens, though the latter development is a cooperative rather than rentals. Both developments were inspired by the English "Garden City" movement and built by a corporation headed by various dignitaries including Eleanor Roosevelt. The idea was that providing working-class people with (relatively) low density housing that included ample open space would cure many of the social ills associated with tenement life. Whether or not that experiment succeeded or not is hard to say, but given that the developments remain quite nice today a qualified "yes" may be in order.

The photo's caption notwithstanding, Phipps Garden is not in Long Island City. As the name of its neighbor Sunnyside Gardens suggests, it's in the Sunnyside neighborhood. While Long Island City has gotten a bigger influx of affluent people who work in Manhattan, Sunnyside is a desirable neighborhood itself with its tree-lined streets and a bit of a small town feel. In the 1940's and 1950's it was known as New York's nursery on account of the high birthrate among the young families living in the area.

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