"the city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world."
-- Scott Fitzgerald in THE GREAT GATSBY
"Slow down, you move too fast, you've got
to make the morning last.
Just kickin' down the cobble-stones,
lookin' for fun and feeling groovy."
--Simon & Garfunkel
THE QUEENSBORO BRIDGE, best known as the 59th Street Bridge, was made famous in the sixties by singers, Simon and Garfunkel, with their recording of the 59th Street Bridge Song, “Feeling Groovy.” (Both Simon and Garfunkel grew up in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens and often journeyed across the bridge to Manhattan.)
The bridge, also known as the Queensboro Bridge, connects Queens to Manhattan, and offers views of midtown Manhattan, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building and the United Nations. The two-decked cantilever bridge was opened to traffic in March 30, 1909. Its engineer was Gustav Lindenthal and its architect, Henry Hornbostel. Blackwell’s Island Bridge was its original name for Blackwell’s Island (now ROOSEVELT ISLAND), owned by the Blackwell family for over 150 years until the City purchased it in 1828. (A painting of Blackwell’s Island was done by the artist, Edward Hopper when he was living at 59th Street in 1911.) Throughout its history, Roosevelt Island – in the middle of the East River, -- has had a penitentiary, the first mental asylum in America -- the Municipal Lunatic Asylum (1839); a Smallpox Hospital (1854), Goldwater, Metropolitan and City Hospitals and a school of Nursing (the country’s third) and a small unit for the city’s municipal jail system’s terminally-ill inmates.. The island has also been known as Hogs Island and Welfare Island. Its last name change to Roosevelt Island occurred in 1972.
The Manhattan side of bridge is at the very fashionable and exclusive Upper East Side neighborhood of Sutton Place and Sutton Place Park (at 59th & York Avenue). Famous residents have included Blll Blass, Montgomery Clift (217 E. 61st Street), Joan Crawford, Lillian Gish, C.Z. Guest, Katharine Hepburn (244 E. 49th Street), Michael Jackson, Peter Lawford & Patricia Kennedy Lawford, Freddie Mercury, Marilyn Monroe and her then husband Arthur Miller (444 E. 57th Street), Aristotle Onassis, the Chinese American architect, I.M. Pei, Liza Minnelli and Peter Allen (300 E. 57th Street), Tennessee Williams (on East 58th Street), Greta Garbo (who lived at 450 East 52nd Street for 37 years), and Kurt Weill and Lotta Lenya at one time moved into an apartment at 455 East 51st Street where the Gish sisters had once lived.
One Sutton Place (North) is an imposing townhouse built as a home for Anne Harriman Vanderbilt, widow of William K. Vanderbilt. A five-story building next door, built in the early 20s for J. P. Morgan's daughter, Ann, was donated to the United Nations in the early 70s and is now the home of the UN's Secretary-General. Friends of these women, Elisabeth Marbury and Elsie de Wolfe, also moved to the Sutton Place area. These women were members of the Colony Club, NYC's first club exclusively for women. Elsie de Wolfe was America's first professional interior designer and created the interiors of the Colony Club, designed by architect Stanford White and first located at 120 Madison Avenue between 30th and 31st Streets. The Colony Club had a marble swimming pool and Turkish baths. Elisabeth Marbury, an actress, became the country's first female literary and theatrical agent and a producer of Broadway musicals. Her clients included both Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. The friendship of these four women is the subject of the book, THE SUTTON PLACE COLONY, by Elizabeth Spaulding Titus. They used their wealth and position in society to challenge the conventional rules and roles of women in Victorian New York City. Anne Morgan, Elisabeth Marbury and Elsie de Wolfe opened a Broadway dance hall, produced Cole Porter's first musical, See America First, in 1916 and were supportive of liberal and feminist causes and women's suffrage.
Sutton Place, originally known as Avenue A, runs north and south along the East River for the two blocks between 57th and 59th Streets. This neighborhood also had a gay mystique due to the superluxuary apartment houses, designed and built by the Italian American architect, Rosario Candela, and the parties given by Mrs. Anne Harriman Vanderbilt. One residence at 405 East 51st Street was known as the "4, out of 5" building due to the large number of gays and lesbians who lived there.