The tract was originally part of Mary and John Murray's farm on Murray Hill. The earliest recorded major action on the site was during the American Revolutionary War, when General George Washington's troops retreated from the British following the Battle of Kip's Bay. In 1799, John Thompson (or Thomson; accounts vary) bought a 20-acre (8 ha) tract of land roughly bounded by present-day Madison Avenue, 36th Street, Sixth Avenue, and 33rd Street, immediately north of the Caspar Samler farm. He paid a total of 482 British pounds for the parcel, equivalent to roughly $2,400 at the time, or about £38,226 ($47,565) today. [e] Thompson was said to have sold the farm to Charles Lawton for $10,000 (equal to $275,287 today) on September 24, 1825. The full details of this sale are unclear, as parts of the deed that certified the sale were later lost. In 1826, John Jacob Astor of the prominent Astor family bought the land from Lawton for $20,500. [f] The Astors also purchased a parcel from the Murrays. John Jacob's son William Backhouse Astor Sr. bought a half interest in the properties for $20,500 on July 28, 1827, securing a tract of land on Fifth Avenue from 32nd to 35th streets.
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