Minnie’s Land: The Biography of a Home

Minnie's Land 1849

An illustrated talk by Matthew Spady
Presented by
The Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group

Thursday evening, June 4, 2015 at 6:30 p.m.
891 Amsterdam Avenue (103rd Street)
Open to the public, free of charge
For more information, call 212.666.9774

In May 1842, John James Audubon moved his family into a house just north of Manhattan’s 155th Street, near the southwestern corner of the fourteen acres of farmland he had bought the preceding September. He had registered the land in his wife Lucy Bakewell Audubon’s name both in gratitude for her years of support while he was producing the Birds of America, and more practically, as a hedge against financial downturn and possible bankruptcy. Audubon’s sons Victor and John called their mother “Minnie,” a Scottish term for mother they’d begun using while the family lived in Edinburgh. Over time, they began calling the farm “Minnie’s Land—which it was figuratively as well as literally—and eventually, they gave the house the same name.

Nine decades after the Audubon’s moved to Minnie’s Land, workmen began dismantling it to make way for an apartment building to be numbered 765 Riverside Drive. Local activists, as well as the Audubon Society and the Washington Heights Taxpayers Association had attempted to save it, but their efforts came to nothing. At the last minute, however, Harold Decker, a Bronx ornithologist, stepped forward with funds for moving the house to a new site ten blocks north. There, it would be restored for use as a “memorial to Audubon.” Jubilation was temporary. Additional funding never materialized and within a few years, Minnie’s Land was gone.

During its ninety years, Minnie’s Land had only had three owners, but it had housed more than a dozen families. For more than fifty years, it sheltered only one family at a time, but gradually, as neglect and physical changes around it took their toll, the last owner divided it into “floors” and piled in as many people as possible.

Who owned Minnie’s Land? Who lived there? And how did the house’s history reflect events around it? For answers to those and other questions, join me for “Minnie’s Land: The Biography of a Home,” presented by the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group on Thursday evening, June 4, 2015 at 6:30 p.m.

The event at 891 Amsterdam Avenue (103rd Street) is open to the public, free of charge. For more information, call 212.666.9774.