Murray Hill is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan that extends south from 42nd Street to meet the neighborhood of Gramercy (or Rose Hill, as the northern half of Gramercy is often referred to) at 29th Street. Some sources draw the southern border at 34th Street. Its western border is at Fifth Avenue and eastern border now extends beyond Lexington Avenue, to meet the distinct waterfront neighborhoods of Kips Bay and Tudor City at Second Avenue. The neighborhood is part of Manhattan Community Board 6, which defines the area as extending from 34th Street north to 40th and from the East River west to Madison Avenue. South of Murray Hill, blocks on Lexington Avenue around 28th Street are sometimes informally called “Curry Hill,” due to the current high concentration of Indian restaurants. Murray Hill derives its name from the Murray family, 18th-century Quaker merchants mainly concerned with shipping and overseas trade. Robert Murray (1721-1786), the family patriarch, was born in Pennsylvania and came to New York in 1753 after a short residence in North Carolina. He quickly established himself as a merchant, eventually owned more shipping tonnage than any other New Yorker. About 1762 rented land from the city for a great house and farm. His great house, which he named Inclenberg (or Belmont), but which was popularly termed Murray Hill, was built on a since-leveled hill at what is today Park Avenue and Thirty-Sixth Street. The great square house was approached by an avenue of mixed trees leading from the Boston Post Road; it was surrounded with verandas, or “piazzas”, on three sides and commanded views of the East River over Kip’s Bay. The total area was just over 29 acres (117,000 m²). In today’s terms, the farm began a few feet (meters) south of 33rd Street and extended north to the middle of the block between 38th and 39th Streets. At the southern end, the plot was rather narrow but at the northern end it went from approximately Lexington Avenue to a spot between Madison and Fifth Avenues. The most illustrious member of the family was the oldest child, Lindley Murray (1745-1826). A New York lawyer, he was forced into exile after the Revolution as a loyalist, settling in York, England, where there was a Quaker community. In England, Lindley began writing school textbooks. He wrote 11 of them, beginning in 1798, and became the largest-selling author in the world in the first half of the nineteenth century. His textbooks were widely printed in Britain (particularly his English Grammar) but had their greatest success in the new United States, partly because no international copyright agreement existed and the books could be reprinted without royalties being paid. Some 16 million copies of Murray's books were sold in America and another 4 million in Britain. His most popular work was his English Reader, full of selections from the liberal-minded writers of the Scottish Enlightenment, most notably the Rev. Hugh Blair. Abraham Lincoln praised the "English Reader" as "the best schoolbook ever put in the hands of an American youth." The English Reader utterly dominated the American market for readers for over a generation from 1815 into the 1840s. It was replaced mainly by the McGuffey Readers, a series of reading texts, which began to appear in 1836. Mary Lindley Murray is credited with delaying William Howe and his army during General Washington's retreat from New York in 1776. As the story goes, Mrs. Robert Murray invited the group to tea at her mansion in Inclenberg (now Murray Hill), and, through feminine wiles, succeeded in delaying the British troops for a period sufficient to allow a successful American retreat. Mrs. Robert Murray, the mother of Lindley and John, is said by Rev. T. Dewitt Talmage to have saved American independence by detaining Lord Howe to dine with her, long enough to permit Israel Putnam to cross the lower end of Manhattan Island and join the forces of George Washington, before Howe was able to overtake him. This detention and the stories told by the fair friend saved 4,000 men, who otherwise would have been cut off and captured. James Thacher, M.D., a gossipy surgeon with the Continental Army, kept a journal that is one of the prime sources of information about the military happenings of the times. In an entry for Sept. 20, Thacher tells the story as follows: The British generals...repaired to the house of a Mr. Robert Murray, a Quaker and friend of our cause, Mrs. Murray treated them with cake and wine, and they were induced to tarry two hours or more, Governor Tryon frequently joking her about her American friends. By this happy incident general Putnam, by continuing his march, escaped... It has since become almost a common saying among our officers, that Mrs. Murray saved this part of the American army. During the nineteenth century, this neighborhood was "uptown" with the city ending with the reservoir at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street covering what today is the New York Public Library and Bryant Park. To the north was for the most part farmland. When J. P. Morgan built his home on Madison Avenue at 36th Street, which is today a part of the The Morgan Library & Museum, it was considered a fashionable uptown address. Madison Square Park, at this time considered a part of Murray Hill was bordered by the fashionable ladies' shops of the day on Fifth Avenue. For much of the twentieth century, the neighborhood was a quiet and rather formal place, with many well-off older residents. Since the late 1990s, however, many professional New Yorkers in their twenties and thirties have begun to move into the area. The raucous restaurant-and-bar scene along Third Avenue on the weekends particularly reflects this change. The community is also home to the CUNY Graduate Center which share the landmark former B. Altman Building with the New York Public Library Science, Industry and Business Library or SIBL and Oxford University Press, Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University, The Morgan Library & Museum and Scandinavia House - The Nordic Center in America, The Mexican Cultural Institute of New York and a historically notable private institution, the Union League Club of New York. On January 29, 2008, the Whitney Museum of American Art branch at what had been the Philip Morris headquarters opposite Grand Central Terminal, ended a 25-year run. Though housing in the neighborhood is slightly cheaper than in fashionable nearby parts of Manhattan, prices for apartments here rose a great deal during the boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s--as much as 500% in a decade.
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