When you first turn onto West 95th Street from Broadway, it seems like pretty much any Upper West Side block: a few apartment buildings, some fire escapes, a tree or two…Nothing in particular to catch the eye.
In fact, I’m not even sure how many trips down the street it took before I finally noticed the gate.
At first glance, you might think it to be the service entrance to the adjacent apartment building, or maybe the trash storage. But as you get closer, something very quickly comes into focus: a staircase…
…leading to what has to be the most unexpected byway on the Upper West Side:
My first thought? This shouldn’t exist:
This is Pomander Walk, identified on the 94th Street side by this great sign:
Built in 1922, Pomander Walk is lined on either side with 8 two-story Tudor homes…
…alternating between stucco, brick, and half-timber in design:
The inspiration for Pomander Walk stems from an appropriately unlikely origin: a play called Pomander Walk, a romantic comedy set in “a retired crescent of five very small, old-fashioned houses near Chiswick (London).”
In 1920, nightclub wunderkind Thomas Healy bought a large portion of the block bordered by 94th & 95th Streets, Broadway & West End Avenue. Hoping to build a large hotel on the land, he created Pomander Walk as a temporary means of generating money until the necessary funds were raised, at which point it was to be razed. Below, a photograph from the late 1920s:
Ultimately, Healy’s hotel was not to be: he died in 1927, leaving Pomander Walk to survive as the most unusual block on the Upper West Side. Below, an aerial view:
Today, the houses remain in residential use (Pomander Walk is private), with most divided into two apartments. A two bedroom recently went on the market for about $700k.
Pomander Walk is in immaculate condition, with beautifully maintained facades and lush gardens throughout (the flowering windowboxes really are the cherry on top):
But had you visited in the 1970s, you would have found Pomander in a rundown state, in danger of succumbing to the whims of developers hungrily eyeing Healy’s huge plot of land. Thankfully, it was saved with a Landmark designation in 1982.
What really sets Pomander Walk apart from the handful of other unusual residential nooks found throughout Manhattan are its gardens, which are clearly lovingly tended to, each with its own character.
The cute little gardener’s shed:
Really nice that Pomander, seen below in the late 1920s…
…has only ripened with age:
Healy built several other properties on the lot which still stand today…
…and seen against the towering adjacent apartment buildings, the feeling is as otherworldly as it gets.
Though the rent is a bit too steep for my wallet, I wish I lived on Pomander Walk simply to be able to astonish guests with a pretty neat magic trick…
The ability to leave Manhattan simply by passing through a gate.