Friday, April 5, 2013
The Furniss estate briefly extended up to 104th street and Riverside Drive, and it did extend all the way to the edge of the Hudson River, but over the years lots were sold off or given away to his children and the construction of Riverside Drive cut off the river access. Furniss and his wife had passed away by 1880, their daughter Margaret sold the lots south of what is now 99th street to John N. A. Griswold of Newport, Rhode Island. Then in 1899 Griswold sold the lots, which had remained undeveloped during his ownership. This left a still ample piece of property for an already vastly different city from when the house first went up - the entire block from 99th street to 100th street from West End Avenue down to Riverside Drive.
Eventually the old Furniss mansion had become an artist’s colony of sorts. A playwright by the name of Paul Kester lived in the house during its final years and would very often hold rehearsals in the big living room. Gertrude Stein lived in the Furniss house from February to late spring 1903. The Furniss house finally gave way to the ever growing city, apartment house construction and the old saying "the land is worth more than the house". The Old Colonial White House" was torn down in 1904.
Friday, March 22, 2013
The future, and temporary Riverside Avenue, as it will be quickly renamed Riverside Drive. The Drive was under construction while lawsuits over land ownership and eminent domain abuse were litigated. One guess who won. This is looking south on September 30th 1870 from 109th Street. Obviously much has changed but there is so much that is recognizable today. None of the houses are with us but the shape of the island of greenery (the tangled mess of bushes and trees) between the service road and the main drive is starting to look familiar. The service road does not exist on the 1867 maps and neither do these houses. There are houses that unfortunately do not appear in this photo but do appear, along with their drive ways, on the 1867 map. What will become the service road is merely a suggestion at this point. The hill leading down from 106th street to the intersection of the service road and 108th street where the shortest timed traffic light on the west side is placed is already evident. Where the wagon with the big wheel in the middle of the drive is sitting is 108th street. In such a short period of time, massive change will happen.
Built in 1892 for Samuel Gamble Bayne (1844- 1924 ), the son of a prosperous merchant in the town Ramelton, Ireland. At the age of twenty-five Sam graduated from Queen's University Belfast and decided to travel to America. While he was here Samuel G. Bayne accumulated enough wealth to join the billionaires club. His wealth was based on gold prospecting in California, oil in Texas and banking; he was a founder of Seaboard National Bank, which ultimately after several mergers and acquisitions became what we all know and love today - Chase Manhattan Bank (now JP Morgan Chase). Could that be the nearly 80 year old Bayne sitting on the steps?
If his house was here still, if you crazy enough to have a car on this island and in this neighborhood, you would probably spend some time waiting for a green light in front of it. Not an unpleasant site to sit in front of.
Friday, March 15, 2013
This is the Clendening Mansion. This print from Valentine's Manual lists the location as 90th Street and 8th Avenue. This is incorect. John "Lord" Clendening was a wealthy New Yorker who made his fortune importing Irish textiles after the Revolution, at the end of the 18th century. He built this lovely mansion, complete with widow's walk and waving American flag, around 1811. It stood at what is now the southwest corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 103rd Street, in the northern fringes of the area known as Bloomingdale. As the grew, so did the demand for a clean reliable water source. Early New Yorkers were incredibly dumb when it came to clean drinking water. They were very adept at polluting their water sources. Finally someone put it together and figured that all the garbage strewn ponds and wells (some wells too close to cemeteries that contained the bodies of those who had died in cholera epidemics) were killing them. Long story short, and it is a long story, after building the Erie Canal system nothing seemed impossible. So supervised by Chief Engineer John B Jervis (like in Port Jervis, who had served as one of the engineers of the Canal system) an aqueduct system was designed to bring water from reservoirs in Westchester County all the way down to City Hall Park. Bringing water by the force of gravity alone, New York City's first aqueduct system sent water 41 miles through stone aqueducts which for the most part were underground. Except in Clendening Valley. Because of the dip in the landscape a plan had to be hatched.
There are the arches on the map from 1868. The streets and sidewalks of 98th, 99th, and 100th streets passed beneath those arches. The Clendening estate stretched from the north side of 99th Street to the south side of 105th Street and from Central Park West to the Bloomingdale Road. The estate was lost in 1845 and the farm disappeared within 20 years. By the 1870s, development demanded more water; the above ground aqueduct section was buried underground into a pipe siphon and the solid wall blocking 96th, 97th, and 101st Streets–along with the arched 98th, 99th and 100th streets - was torn down.
This is looking northeast from just south of 101rst street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues. The 104th Street 9th Avenue El station is in the distance and the remains of the aqueduct through Clendening Valley are in the left foreground. This is quite possibly the remains of the arch-way at 101rst street. The original Croton Aqueduct, one of the most important pieces of what made New York City, opened June 22, 1842, taking 22 hours for gravity to move the water the 41 miles to Manhattan. Almost immediately it was woefully inadequate. Construction on a new aqueduct began in 1885. The new aqueduct, buried much deeper than the old one, went into service in 1890, with three times the capacity of the Old Croton Aqueduct.
Clendening lived on his rural estate for many years, but in 1836 he lost most of his money when President Andrew Jackson refused to renew the charter of the United States Bank, in which Clendening was a major stockholder. The estate was sold in 1845 as forty lots for a total of $4500. Although the mansion was torn down the area was known as Clendening Valley well into the post civil war 19th century New York. On the site where Lord Clendening's house one stood, the Clendening Hotel rose in its place on the west side of Amsterdam Avenue at 103rd street. The Hotel survived until 1965 when it was torn down for furthest west building of the Douglas Houses complex.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
On December 18th, 1937, the Karlopat Realty Company announced plans to build an apartment house on a rocky little lot at Riverside Drive and 107th Street. The townhouse next door, to the east, would go but there was a problem. The deed to the land came with a covenant which specified that a one family home must occupy the lot first before anything else was built. The idea behind this was probably a contextual zoning type of situation done by a private owner. The owner of the land did not want something sticking out like a sore thumb on such a beautiful stretch of Riverside Drive, not to mention the beautiful houses along 107th street. Seriously, why would you want to detract in anyway from the 12,000 square foot William Tuthill designed Morris Schinasi mansion. William Tuthill designed another New York City Landmark - Carnegie Hall. So what is the Karlopat Realty Company to do about this covenant? Build a house, but not just any house. A pre-fabricated structure from the National Houses, Inc. makers of Modern All-Steel house. House cost $3,000, and was built according to FHA specifications. Most significantly the house was designed by William Van Alen, architect of another New York City Landmark and art deco icon, the Chrysler Building. So once upon a time the intersection of 107th street and the Riverside Drive service road had an incredible architectural pedigree - a William Tuthill building and a William Van Alen building within feet of each other.
Karlopat Realty was part of an empire, the Paterno family. Charles Paterno along with his brothers Joseph, Michael, and Anthony left their mark on the upper west side like nobody else did. They were prolific builders, constructing some of the most beautiful non- Janes & Leo apartment houses. In Morningside Heights alone they were involved in the construction of 37 buildings. All over the upper west side and Morningside Heights there are buildings adorned with "P"for Paterno, or "JP" for Joseph Paterno(my childhood home does) or "PB" for Paterno Brothers.
This is a view of the family compound from the air. Today this site is occupied by Castle Village.
The fortune that was made built this castle for Charles Paterno. Like the Schinasi Mansion on 107th street, the castle also had an underground tunnel, in this case to Riverside Drive (now the north bound Henry Hudson Parkway) where there were stairs leading down to the hudson river. The Schinasi house tunnel went under the park to the not yet covered New York Central tracks, which ran along the shore of the river (pre - landfill).
How they got into this business has a most romantic tale, as told in Joseph Paterno's New York Times obituary. The young immigrant newsboy Joseph is shivering at his post on Park Row, watching a tall office building rise. "'Papa,' he asked, ' why do they make the business buildings so high?' ' Because it pays,' his father replied....'[T]his is the American way.' The bright-eyed newsboy wrinkled his brow and frowned, while making change for a customer. 'But, papa, if this is so why don't they make the houses and tenements high, too, as they will bring more rent?' The father smiled and patted his son's curly head. 'You have an eye for business, my son. Perhaps some day you may build some high houses.'" From that day on, the story continues, "it became Joseph's ambition to build skyscraper apartment houses."
The more likely story is that their father John was a builder back in the old country, Castelemezzano near Naples.
The builders hired many architects who were from Italian and Jewish backgrounds, including Gaetan Ajello, Simon Schwartz, Arthur Gross, George and Edward Blum are among the names people did not see as the firms who got commissions on the east side. The more ethnic west side is one thing.
This beautiful vine drenched pergola wrapped along the edge of the cliff. The castle did not even last 40 years, the land became to valuable. In 1935 John D. Rockefeller Jr. donated the land that once was the C.K. Billings estate, Tryon Hall, to the City of New York to use as a park. Fort Tryon Park to be specific. The land values in the area began to rise and Charles Paterno smelled the future. In 1938 he announced plans to begin demolition of the castle in order to build 5 twelve story apartment houses called Castle Village.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
“According to legend, on this site of the principal Manhattan Indian Village (Shorakkopoh), Peter Minuit in 1626 purchased Manhattan Island for trinkets and bead then worth about 60 guilders. This boulder also marks the spot where a tulip tree (Liriodendron Tulipera) grew to a height of 165 feet. It was, until its death in 1938 at the age of 280 years, the last living link between the Reckgawawanc Indians who lived here.”
This is the house in 1893, we are looking south. The tree was just east of the house. All of this is in a much more altered landscape now know as Inwood Hill Park. Oh the days are gone that a man could go fishing with a dog.
The spot was a favorite among fisherman as there were plenty of large stripped bass to be caught. Oysters flourished in the marshes and every now and then Pops would rescue a swimmer caught up in the confluence of the creek spilling into the mighty Hudson. He also sold beer.
"As this spring interfered with Seeley’s sale of soft drinks to boatmen, he put a padlock on the spring house, and filled in with earth the space where the water appeared outside, so that the overflow runs into the creek below the level of the tide."
Pop Seeley died in 1915, dropped dead ordering a sandwich in a coffee wagon on 216th street, and none of the obituaries could agree when it was exactly he moved into the cove on Spuyten Duyvil Creek. The cove is buried under the landfill, made up from the tunnel work for the A train and some from the IRT tunnel south of Dyckman Street, and is now called Inwood Hill Park, but once upon a time the bucolic Inwood Hill was referred to as Cold Spring Mountain.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
At the time of this programs publication composer and bandleader Julius Lenzberg was the orchestra leader at the Riverside. This is the Riverside Orchestra, Julius is the guy with the violin. Born January 3 1878 in Baltimore, Lenzberg began his career accompanying dancing lessons at the piano. By 1903, with a couple of published compositions to his credit, he got himself married and moved to New York City, eventually settling in Queens. Thus began a long stint serving as orchestra leader at various vaudeville houses in Manhattan and in the summer, he led a band out on Long Island.
In 1919, Lenzberg served as director of the George White Scandals of 1919 and also led the house band at the Riverside Theater in New York. That year, Lenzberg and the Riverside Orchestra began to make records for Edison, and though Lenzberg's recording activity ended in 1922, he was prolific, ultimately producing more than 50 sides for Edison. Lenzberg continued to lead a band and appear on radio once it emerged, into the 1930s, but the depression knocked him out of the performing end of the business. By the last time Lenzberg is heard from in the early 1940s, he was working as a booking agent. He passed away in April 1956.
However, here he is in a 1922 program, along with Horton's Ice Cream. Is that stuff still around?
However, here he is in a 1922 program, along with Horton's Ice Cream. Is that stuff still around?
Was this Julius's view as he crossed Broadway? Could be as this is circa 1920. The Riverside, Riviera and the Japanese Gardens all still have their original marquees, but the neon signs are new. Although William Fox (as in 20th Century) began construction of the Riverside, he gave it up to the uber powerful Keith people when they threatened him with no acts for his other theaters. The B. F. Keith people knew that 96th street was an ideal location; conveniently located with an express subway stop right there, you also have direct access to the New York Central Hudson River Railroad and the not yet covered over tracks at 96th street on the Hudson. Very important if you are moving a vaudeville show that often traveled as a package around the east coast, if not the country.
Notice that the 1923 Broadway View Hotel, known today as the place we all know and love, The Regent, does not appear to looming in the middle of Broadway as does today, placed perfectly where Broadway takes a bend to the west following the path of the old Bloomingdale Road.
Across the road from the Billings was this castle. Well it looked like a castle, in fact the nice reporter who, in 1921 while working for the New York Tribune, explored the upper reaches of this large out cropping of schist called it a "Norman structure, with its narrow windows and stone towers". So nice it was, it warranted it's very own post card. What it was called, according to the postcard, it was the Libby Castle. The "castle" had a larger claim to fame however as it was home to William Marcy Tweed, the Tammany Hall boss.
This is a later than the postcard picture, quite possibly very close to the end of the castle's existence. Tweed was living there when he was finally arrested for his unbridled corruption and fled from there to Spain. The land on which it stands was purchased in 1846 by Lucius Chittendon, a merchant from New Orleans whose name is all over the 1867 map, who got ninety-seven acres for $10,000. Angus C. Richards, another name all over the map (as A C Richards) bought a piece of the ground in 1855 and erected the castle, which in 1869 he sold to General Daniel Butterfield, who was acting for Tweed.
This is William Magear Tweed, a member of the Odd Fellows and the Masons, a volunteer firefighter, certified as an attorney, Commissioner of Public Works and the ring leader of one of the biggest centers of corruption ever to befall our great city - Tammany Hall. It had been said that Tweed put through Fort Washington Avenue and the Boulevard (Broadway) and Lafayette Boulevard which is now the Riverside Drive that feeds on to Dyckman Street from the Henry Hudson Parkway (part of which had been Riverside Drive). The reason he had these streets constructed was that Tweed wanted easy access to his home. Traveling up to what I have called Manhattan's border with Canada back in the post Civil War 19th century New York was not as easy or as fun as it is now. My street, west 104th between West End Avenue and Riverside was a dirt road until the early 1890's so one can imagine that streets up there were still on the back burner in regards to paving, sewers, waterlines, things of that nature.
However, poor Boss Tweed. The New York Times and the father of American political cartoons Thomas Nast were after him and caused a great deal of trouble. With such biting images how could he have not avoided trouble? Especially with that pesky New York Times turning down a $5 million bribe to not publish their findings of corruption and Harper's Weekly investigating why plastering at the new court house (which took 15 years to build) cost many thousands of dollars more than it was supposed too (kind of like the $600 toilet seat on the B-1 Bomber back in the '80's). He didn’t enjoy the castle for too long due to his legal entanglements. After serving a year in prison he fled to Spain in 1875 to avoid a civil suit brought on by New York State in an attempt to recover $6 million in embezzled funds. Only $6 million? They were being nice.
This was Tweed's home after his year as a guest of the State of New York. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison but a higher court reduced the sentence to one year. He had been convicted of only 204 of 220 criminal counts of extortion, bribery, embezzlement, ballot box tampering and general chicanery after all. He was re-arrested and then charged in a civil suit bought on by the City and the State of New York. Unfortunatly he was unable to come up with the $3 million in bail. However
Tweed had been allowed home visits and normally lived at the Ludlow Street Jail. The castle was in foreclosure as Tweed's son was behind in paying A.T. Stewart, the department store king. Tweed had put the names of various properties in the names of relatives, this house and his Metropolitan Hotel. Tweed, or should I say Tweeds, owed Stewart for the furnishings of the Metropolitan Hotel and the property is eventually lost.
However, incarceration was not for Mr. Tweed. As such a recognizable figure (after all Thomas Nast drew his portrait too many times) and even with all the scandal surrounding him, too much to go through here as there are entire books on the subject of Tweed and his shenanigans, he still had friends in high enough places in the business of law enforcement that saw no reason why this man should not be allowed out on weekends. After all, it wasn't like he killed anyone.
Sometimes the best intentions of mice and men go badly. Not wanting to pay the only $6 million the State was looking for, not having the $6 million the State was looking for, nor having any more desire for the structured life of prison, Mr. Tweed skipped bail. None of his friends knew where he could have possibly gone off to. However, one resident of Tubby's Hook did know.
When this particular resident of the banks of the Spuyten Duyvil Creek first appeared in the area is lost to the ages. He was living alone in a house on the banks by 1875. An anti-union "boatman", Civil War veteran and retired firefighter this man would become the unofficial mayor of the marshy shallows of the area then called “Cold Spring.” He had a couple of aliases, he was probably from the City of Brooklyn as he is listed as "Boatman" in the 1889-1890 Brooklyn directory. His name was Andrew Jackson "Pops" Seeley and rowed the about to be fugitive, William M. Tweed to a Spanish ship where he worked as a common seaman and eventually ended up heading to Spain. He almost made it into Spain but those darn cartoons came back to bite him; he was recognized from Nast's political cartoons and was turned over to an American warship which delivered him to the authorities in The City of New York on November 23, 1876, and he was returned to prison. Tweed knew the jig was up, he had lost. Broke, broken and desperate he now agreed to "turn state" about the corruption ridden Tammany Hall to a special committee set up by the Board of Alderman, in return for his release. However Governor Tilden refused to stick to the agreement, and Tweed remained in the Ludlow Street Jail where he died on April 12, 1878 from severe pneumonia and was buried in the Brooklyn's cemetery hot spot Greenwood. The Mayor at the time, Smith Ely, would not allow the flag at City Hall to be flown at half staff.