I live in England, by the sea. I’m also pretty close to countryside peppered with charming English villages. So, when I visit New York, it’s for a complete ‘slap-in-the-face’ change of scenery, swapping the ‘stuffy charms’ of England for some concrete-jungle action and culture! But, after finding out about a tiny English village sandwiched between blocks of high-rise apartments on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, I couldn’t resist a look and wanted to share my discovery…
It’s called Pomander Walk and it runs from 94th to 95th streets between Broadway and West End Avenue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. To find it, head along 95th Street from Broadway and look out for a metal gate in the middle of a brick wall….
…It doesn’t look like much, but peek through it and you’ll see another world – a tiny pedestrian-only street of Tudor-style cottages.
(Insider tip: Only residents have a key to this gated community, so technically you can’t just walk on in and explore… unless you know someone who lives there, or (like us) on the day you walk past, some tradesmen have left the gate propped open…)
Inside, you do actually feel like you’re standing in the middle of an English village or quaint London suburb! The walk dates back to 1922 and is lined with eight two-story homes facing each other across a narrow courtyard. Each one looks slightly different – some have brick facades, others are half-timber, some rendered, while some have pretty wooden shutters painted in different colours and flowering window boxes.
Fun fact: Apparently, Humphrey Bogart once owned one of them and there’s still a little green shed at the top of the staircase that was the old guardhouse used by his bodyguard while Bogie was living there!
Pomander Walk was built in 1922 – along with some other houses on the block – by an NYC businessman called Thomas J Healy and named after a play of the same name, set on a small street in Georgian London which opened in NYC in 1910.
This New York Times article from 1921 described it as a ‘street of little houses, lawns, flowers and fountains in the shadow of Broadway’. It also says that the architects, King & Campbell, are said to have taken ‘delight in making the houses miniature copies of much more pretentious town mansions’.
They were originally single-family homes, with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a dining area, kitchenette and living room (see what the houses look like inside here). Nowadays, each house is split into two apartments and when they occasionally go up for sale (see here) they’re snapped up fast and go for over £2 million! Yikes!
Healy planned to eventually build a large hotel on the site, using money raised renting the apartments to visiting actors, before knocking them down to build the hotel – which obviously never happened. Luckily this adorable miniature English village survives today!
Find Pomander Walk here.