Murray Hill’s Namesake: The Mary and Robert Murray Home

by The Preservation and Design Committee

Thursday, April 3, 2014

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 County Armagh, Ireland, immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1732, and came to New York in 1753. He quickly established himself as a merchant and eventually owned more shipping tonnage than any other New Yorker.

In the 1750s Murray rented land from the city for a large house and farm. His expansive house sat in an area called Inclenberg, which was later popularly called Murray Hill. He named the home Belmont. The home was built on a since-leveled hill at what is today Park Avenue and 37th Street. The great square house was approached by an avenue of mixed trees leading from the Boston Post Road; it was surrounded on three sides with verandas—or “piazzas” as they were called in New York—and commanded views of the East River over Kips Bay. The total area was just over 29 acres. In today’s terms, the farm began a few feet 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 extended from approximately Lexington Avenue to a point between Madison and Fifth Avenues