While Manhattan has countless famed thoroughfares—34th Street, 125th Street, or Park Avenue, just to name a few—there are few with the name recognition and rich history of Fifth Avenue. The legendary boulevard, which traverses neighborhoods from downtown to uptown, is now home to everything from luxury shopping to gorgeous homes—but it wasn’t always such a flashy stretch of land.
In the 1800s and the early part of the 20th century, 5th Avenue was a relatively narrow thoroughfare—far from the bustling stretch of residential and commercial space, we know it as today. In 1896, the first lot intended for commercial use—a plot of land proposed to house what would later become the B. Altman Department Store—was purchased. The famed department store’s flagship was erected 10 years later in 1906, and just two years after that, the area’s increased commerce necessitated a widening of the once-narrow stretch of land. Luckily, the popularity of B. Altman paved the way for increased traffic to the area, prompting additional stores to make their homes on Fifth Avenue, as well. Over the course of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Fifth Avenue became home to numerous stately homes uptown—a stretch dubbed “Millionaire’s Row”—as well as the iconic Museum Mile, the stretch from 82nd to 105th Street that houses cultural institutions including The Metropolitan Museums, the Guggenheim, the Cooper Hewitt Museum, the Jewish Museum, and the Museum of the City of New York.
Today, Fifth Avenue is nearly as well-known for its shopping and homes as it is for its cultural institutions. While B. Altman has long since shut its doors, the avenue is still home to high-end retailers like Lord & Taylor, Tiffany and Co., and Bergdorf Goodman. It’s also become a haven for new luxury construction, with notable buildings like 985 Fifth Avenue and 800 Fifth Avenue taking shape on the strip in recent years. The former, located just above 79th Street, is home to massive residences—just two per floor—and offers unparalleled views of Central Park and Museum Mile below, as well as one of the city’s most generous amenities suite, including doormen and elevator operators. At 800 Fifth, residents can enjoy similar views from their one- to three-bedroom homes, as well as top-of-the-line service, from the building’s concierge to the doorman to the valet.
While Fifth Avenue has evolved over the past 100-plus years, one thing is for certain: The iconic thoroughfare has always been a luxury destination for Manhattanites and visitors to the island alike—and thanks to the latest crop of luxury buildings calling the avenue home, it always will be.