Friday, March 22, 2013

Riverside Drive at looking south from 109th street - nothing lasts forever in this town.

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.

This is 108th street and Riverside Drive while the Drive was in it's second incarnation.  I believe that we are in the third incarnation at this point.  It was hoped that the Drive would rival Fifth Avenue and would become a thoroughfare of suburban type villas for the wealthy.  Although the contruction of several large private homes, ranging from houses such as this one to the largest private house ever built on this rock (The Schwab Mansion of 1906 at 73rd street and Riverside Drive), single family homes gave way to apartment house construction in the first few decades of the twentieth century.

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

Once there was a valley, Clendening Valley.

I love this print. Look how happy everyone appears to be; the mother with her parasol, the father in his best top hat strolling along holding his son's hand. The girl playing with a hoop and the couple promenading north on Second Avenue at 42nd Street in 1861 have an air of contentment. But the house up on that cliff looks precarious.  As soon as Europeans showed up on Manahatta, the task of taming the island began.  As the city grew in population and the boundary inched ever northward, more and more of the original landscape disappeared into oblivion in the name of progress. Forests felled, streams filled in, swamps drained and hills leveled.  And when we imposed a grid upon the island, all of those streets, all of those right angles were cut through making the streets level.  After all, it was a horse drawn world when the grid was being cut through those hills, and would it not be easier on the beasts if they had a level path.  This scene was all too common and those streets that were cut through were very often muddy gullies, not the idyllic scene with a house that could fall over any second presented here. This is a great record of a great city undergoing yet another transformation. However some hills could not be tamed, especially if the word "valley" is attached. Manhattan Valley, where the subway was forced to come out of the ground as it dropped, only to go back into a tunnel as it rose again; and Clendening Valley which centered on Columbus Avenue approximately between 104th street all the way to 94th street with 96th street the bottom of the valley.

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.

This is a plan of the plan.  The streets that had been laid out in 1811 were to be accommodated by arches in a great stone wall carrying the brick conduit which was lined with iron.

This is what they were going to look like. However the "Whig" party had gained control of the state legislature. This party was against wasting taxpayer money on arches through an aqueduct as they were firm believers in less government and lower taxes.  They won their fight to scrap the idea of arches in favor of a solid wall of Manhattan Schist running the entire length of the valley. Realizing the obvious, an unbroken wall would be a barrier to development, in the first veto ever by a New York City mayor, Democrat Isaac Varian prevented the walling up of the valley .  A compromise was reached and the wall was to passable in three places - at 98th, 99th, and 100th streets.  The wall completely blocked the paths of the future 96th, 97th, and 101st Streets.

This bucolic pasture is between the future 98th and 99th streets. Unless we are facing west then this could be between 100th and 99th streets. The Aqueduct ran between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues closer to Columbus.

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.

Again, the map from 1868.  The name John Clendening appears on the map although Clendening had lost the land years earlier. The diagonal line from where the aqueduct crosses west 105th street south west to just south of 103rd street and then west was called Clendening lane. The lane ran over to the plot of land that was the site of the old Downes Boulevard Hotel on 103rd street and the Boulevard (now Broadway). There are remnants of the intersection of the lane and the aqueduct on the south side of 105th street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues just east of P.S. 145.  Best to observe it using bing or google maps.

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

West 107th and Riverside and it's connection to a castle up north.

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 accurate story is that their father Giovanni was in the real estate business and a builder back in the old country, Castelemezzano near Naples.  Giovanni left Italy after an earthquake destroyed a project he was financially involved as well as building. Charles Paterno became Doctor Paterno when he graduated from Cornell Medical School in 1899. He was on his way to a career in medicine when fate intervened with the death of Giovanni.  Doctor Charles Paterno, fresh out of medical school, never practiced medicine, he and his brother Joesph took over his father's business and the result is all those "P's" on all those buildings.

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.

This house is in the lower right corner of the shot from the air.  I know nothing about this house, yet.