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Turtle Bay is a neighborhood in New York City, on the east side of Midtown Manhattan. It extends between 43rd and 53rd Streets, and eastward from Lexington Avenue to the East River, across from Roosevelt Island. It is the site of the United Nations Headquarters and the Chrysler Building.
Turtle Bay, which received its name in the 17th century, was a valuable shelter from the often harsh weather of the East River, and it also became a thriving site for shipbuilding. The Turtle Bay neighborhood was originally a 40 acres (16 ha) grant given to two Englishmen by the Dutch colonial governor of New Amsterdam in 1639, and named "Turtle Bay Farm". On a knoll overlooking the cove, near 41st Street, the farmhouse was purchased as a summer retreat by Francis Bayard, and in the early 19th century remained the summer villa of Francis Bayard Winthrop. Turtle Creek, or DeVoor's Mill Creek emptied into the cove at what is now 47th Street. To the south lay Kip's Bay farm; to the north, on a bluff, stood James Beekman's "Mount Pleasant", the first of a series of houses and villas with water views stretching away up the shoreline. After the street grid system was initiated in Manhattan, the hilly landscape of the Turtle Bay Farm was graded to create cross-streets and the land was subdivided for residential development.
An army enrollment office was established at Third Avenue and 46th Street, after the first Draft Act was passed during the American Civil War. On July 13, 1863, an angry mob burned the office to the ground and proceeded to riot through the surrounding neighborhood, destroying entire blocks. The New York Draft Riots continued for three days before army troops managed to contain the mob, which had burned and looted much of the city.
After the war's end, the formerly pastoral Turtle Bay neighborhood was developed with brownstones. By 1868 the bay had been entirely filled in by commercial overdevelopment, packed with breweries, gasworks, slaughterhouses, cattle pens, coal yards and railroad piers. With an infusion of poor immigrants in the later part of the 19th century, and the opening of the elevated train lines along Second and Third Avenues, the neighborhood went into decay with crumbling tenement buildings. Much of it was restored in the 1920s, and a large communal garden was established. The huge Waterside Station of the Consolidated Edison Company, producing 367,000 kilowatts of electricity in its coal-fired plant, marked the southern boundary of the neighborhood. By the 1930s, Turtle Bay was "a riverside back yard" for the city, as the WPA Guide to New York City (1939) described it: "huge industrial enterprises— breweries, laundries, abattoirs, power plants— along the water front face squalid tenements not far away from new apartment dwellings attracted to the section by its river view and its central position. The numerous plants shower this district with the heaviest sootfall in the city— 150 tons to the square mile annually". The blighted stretch of sooty darkness beneath the Third Avenue El (demolished 1956) separated the neighborhood from Midtown Manhattan.
Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan saw promise in the run-down rowhouses of Turtle Bay; in 1918 she purchased eleven houses on the south side of 49th Street and nine on the north side of 48th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues; within two years she had renovated the enclave called Turtle Bay Gardens. Her architects refaced the brownstone street-fronts with pale stucco, and rearranged the interiors so that service rooms faced the noisy street and living areas faced inwards, where the individual back yards were arranged so that each opens into to a common garden of trees and shrubs down the center. Having married Walton Martin, she then sold the houses to friends at cost, with property restrictions that kept the commons secure. Among the first purchasers was Maria Bowen Chapin, founder of the Chapin School. Celebrity residents since have included actors Katharine Hepburn, June Havoc, Ricardo Montalban and Tyrone Power, writer-director Garson Kanin, composer Stephen Sondheim, jurist Learned Hand, conductor Leopold Stokowski, editor Maxwell Perkins, publisher Henry Luce, journalists Dorothy Thompson and E. B. White, who wrote Charlotte's Web when living on 48th Street. It was designated the Turtle Bay Gardens Historic District in 1966.
The clearing of 18 acres (73,000 m2) of slaughterhouses for the construction of the UN Headquarters in 1948, largely completed by 1952, and the removal of the elevated trains opened the neighborhood up for high-rise office buildings and condominiums. In 1957, the Turtle Bay Association was formed by residents and property owners in hopes of guiding the development to maintain the neighborhood's quality of life. The Association's efforts have resulted in more park and landscaping development, creating the neighborhood's tree-lined and relatively quiet atmosphere.
The Turtle Bay Association is a neighborhood non-profit 501(c)3 organization that was founded in 1957 to protest the widening of East 49th Street, which succeeded. It now serves as advocate for residents of Turtle Bay.
Fujitsu operates an office at 733 Third Avenue. Avianca operates a New York-area sales office in Suite 2525 at 122 East 42nd Street. Ethiopian Airlines operates a sales office at 336 East 45th Street. Delta Air Lines operates a ticketing office in the 2 Grand Central Tower.
Missions to the United States in Turtle Bay include:
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