Harlem’s Goat Town / Goatville, New York, 1890

eltrain in harlemDuring the 1800s, the Upper West Side of Manhattan from about 59th Street to Harlem was known as Goat Town / Goatville (the photo above is from 1894).

Before the extension of the Eighth Avenue elevated railroad (above) prompted new housing construction Central Park, there was an estimated 15,000 goats in Goat Town / Goatville.

The Sheep Meadow in Central Park was where they were housed, along with their shep­herd, in what is now the Tav­ern on the Green restau­rant at 67th Street. We cannot forget The Goat House in Harlem, the A Harlem Goat poem, and Maltilda The Goat that was on Morningside Heights at Amsterdam Avenue area at West 120th Street near Columbia University.

There were also many goats roaming free on the Upper East Side, especially before some well-to-do residents of Yorkville and East Harlem formed the Anti-Goat Protective Association to expel the goats in 1884.


Although most of Harlem’s goats received bad press for creating a nuisance – like the story where goats entered a parlor window then devouring wall hangings and trampling flower gardens.

In the 1930s, there were enough goats in Harlem NY to war­rant annual goat beauty pageants spon­sored by the Brew­ers Board of Trade to find the best-looking billy goats to adorn beer posters..

Photo credit: 1) The Eighth Avenue elevated railroad, probably just north of 116th Street. As farmers sold their land, the lots were raised to the new street level. 2) This illustration of the Dakota at 72nd Street from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Paper, September 7, 1889, depicts the typical squatters’ shantytown of the Upper West Side. (Source).

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