I had always been under the impression that Cherokee Place, between East 77th and 78th Streets near the FDR Drive, was cut through when the Drive was constructed here in the early 1940s, but the short alley has actually been here since 1912. It was named for the Cherokee Club, an East 79th Street headquarters of the powerful Democratic Party organization, Tammany Hall. As it happens, the Cherokee Club is still there, now as an apartment building.
But, what truly dominates Cherokee Place, and has since 1912, is the former Shively Sanitary Tenements (now Cherokee Apartments) with its distinctive balconies facing the river. Before today’s tuberculosis treatments, it was thought that the best way to treat ‘consumption’ was with plenty of light and air. The Shively Tenements were conceived with that thought in mind by Dr. Henry Shively, a leading physician in the treatment of tuberculosis at Presbyterian Hospital. Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt sponsored the project, which was built by architect Henry Atterbury Smith from 1909 to 1912. Every apartment in the building had a balcony, accessed by floor-to-ceiling windows, and each apartment could also be accessed from staircases, built with seats so those afflicted with TB could rest on their way up, in the inner courtyard. The apartments were miraculously filled with fresh air and sunlight in an era when most housing featured shadowy, dark rooms. The Shively Tenements were 6 stories high, making the top floors a rather uncomfortable climb for anyone of a certain age, let alone TB patients!