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.