412 East 85th Street Wooden House

c. 1861
NYC Individual Landmark

412 East 85th Street is a rare surviving example of a wood-frame building in Upper Manhattan. Built by an anonymous craftsman, the house is one of only six wood-frame buildings still standing in this section of the city. Because of the very real danger of fire in urban settings, during the 19th century the construction of wood buildings was increasingly prohibited in dense sections of New York. In 1866, Manhattan’s “fire limit” was extended north to 86th Street, leaving 412 East 85th Street among the last wood buildings to be constructed on the Upper East Side. The house is a modestly-sized three-story structure, set back from the sidewalk and overshadowed by the taller 20th century apartment buildings book-ending this block. The building expresses a simplified Italianate style, featuring a raised brick basement, a three-bay façade clad in clapboard siding, a porch with a tall stoop, floor-length parlor windows and a prominent bracketed cornice. Originally occupied as a single-family residence, by the turn of 20th century the building had been converted for multi-family use and the raised basement was converted to commercial use—both reflections of Yorkville’s changing demographics. Over the decades since the 1950s, the heavily altered house has been restored in phases, resulting in its present appearance.

*Photo courtesy Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts