Friday, March 6, 2015


So I am looking through the New York Public Library and their new way of viewing on line.  The clarity is a little better.  However, looking around, I found a picture of a house that is listed as being on 110th Street and Riverside but really it is a house that was on 108th and Riverside.

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, merely a suggestion at this point, 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.  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.  The white house on the left is on the north corner of 108th street and Riverside Drive.  How much longer will it be there?  It will be gone in less than 17 years.

This is 108th street and Riverside Drive in 1921 while the Drive was at the end of it's second incarnation.  The is house is part of the second wave, or incarnation of Riverside Drive.  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 construction of many large private unattached 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?

Bayne was involved in keeping the area around his home as elegant as possible and bought the vacant lots on 107th Street and 108th Street. Andrew Carnegie would do something similar on 5th Avenue, to control who his neighbors would be.
When Bayne sold the Riverside Drive lots near his house in 1899, restrictions were put into the sales agreement controlling not so much the neighbors, but how the the lots would be developed. Only “high class residences” with no more than two detached homes were to be built on the lots and that there be at least 30 feet between the houses in the middle of the block and those on either corner.  What is with us today is a result of these stipulations, the distances between 355 Riverside, 353 and 352 Riverside and 351 Riverside (the Schinasi Mansion) are 30 feet and they allow sun to get into the usually dark sides of houses too close together. 

This photo, looking north / uptown dates from 1894 and was taken by J.S. Johnston.  It is labeled, not by the Library but but by the photographer as being on 110th street.  I always had doubts about the location, and the house looked too familiar to the Bayne House.  A little more comparison and a closer look with the zoom, a street lamp and the indications of a street appeared to me.  This is clearly not 110th street as it is no way wide enough.  What is great about this picture is that we can see the house that was to be the second structure on the north east corner of 108th and Riverside the second (?) 360 Riverside Drive.
Both houses were built by Bayne and designed by Frank Freeman.  355 Riverside was a larger house and Bayne had an ever growing family.  He sold 360 Riverside Drive and moved to 355 Riverside by 1892. 

When 362 went up a spite wall was built on the north end of the lot of 360 Riverside, blocking the views of the side garden and the river looking south.  Cora B. and John A. Rutherford were the owners of 360 Riverside when 362 Riverside went up.  Cora was the descendent of Henry Spingler Fonerden Davis who had purchased the house from Samuel Bayne.  She had found it too insulting to live next to an apartment building.  She eventually sold the house and lot in 1917 to the Paterno Brothers who, with their favorite architect, Gaetan Ajello and built the current 360 Riverside Drive, known as The Rutherford.  No mention of Bayne, a man who left a mark on this neighborhood, in a good way, anywhere . . . I'm just saying  . . .

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Upper West Side Country - The slowly disappearing vestiges of rural life.

This is a section of one of the plates that comprise the Dripps Map of 1868.   It is based on the Commissioners Plan of 1811 map.  The map that did not take in the topography of this rock we call Manhattan.  It includes the old farm names, property owners, the structures that were present on the blocks created by the Grid and shows the old lanes and the route of the 1842 Croton Aqueduct.  The future road called Broadway is indicated to the left of the Bloomingdale Road.  Edge Hill is a name not used for way over a century for the area surrounding 112th Street and Riverside Drive.  Just above that the name Andrew Carrigan appears, a name that is associated with the creation of a bank and laws protecting newly arrived immigrants from the machinations of con men (and woman).  Looking at the larger triangle created when the Bloomingdale Road crosses 11th Avenue the name M.T. Brennan appears, as does the house he owns.  Matthew Brennan was a Tammany Hall connected former volunteer fireman who had moved up in the world. Eventually he sold the house to Isidore and Ida Straus who eventually booked passage on the Titanic.  The house, which had the first cast iron bathtub in the United States was torn down soon after the tragedy and 924 West End Avenue rose in its place.  On top of all this, the map shows us a "Burying Ground" at what is now 110th Street and Columbus Avenue.  The map also serves to solve the orientation of the following photos. 

I know that people have found this picture out there before.  I have never been able to find a photographer's name attached to it.  However every source declares that this picture is of the David Knapp house on West 105th Street near 10th Avenue and dates from 1875.  But which way are we looking?  North west. Those telephone poles in the distance, serving to bring lower Manhattan to the sticks, quite possibly could be on Broadway.

The orientation here is facing north east.  And like the photo above this one, 1875 is the date and West 105th Street is the location.  For this photo, one more piece of information was given; the large white house on the right was known as the David Gorham House in 1875.  On the map The David Knapp house is to the west of the David Gorham house.  On the map above, the Gorham house was owned by S.A. King.  This view is from the south west looking north east.  The road on the right is possibly the end of Clendening Lane. 
John Clendening was a landowner in the area, and this would have been, over 30 years earlier, the north west corner of the property.  The lane served as a boundary line as well as a lane.
This is Clendening's house.  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 Clendening's house one stood, the Clendening Hotel (left and below) 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.
The house called "Woodlawn", on the block bordered by 106th and 107th, Riverside Drive and West End Avenue, was owned by the Rogers family.  Their property ran east along 103rd Street from Riverside Drive, around a little piece owned by the Furniss family, who owned a once upon a time very large estate. By the late 19th century all that was left was the house and the land around it - 99th Street to 100th street, Riverside Drive to West End Avenue.  The house was called "The Colonial White House" and was famous enough to have it's own postcard.

This is The Colonial White House.  The name came from the 
columns and the fleeting resemblance to the real Executive Mansion.

The Rogers' property then ran over to the Bloomingdale Road just south of the Downes Boulevard Hotel at 103rd and then followed the western edge of the Clendening Lane up to the south side of 105th street between 9th and 10th Avenues.  Then over to 8th Avenue and up to 107th street where the boundary ran a non - conforming to the grid straight line over to Riverside.  Big piece of land once upon a time,  but it was starting to shrink.

The building in the left background is referred to as "The Ward School" on the map above.  The white fence surrounding it separates the school from the vacant lot, indicated on the map, just uptown of the school.  So given the location of the houses and the position of the school on the map, we can say that this photo, probably taken from the Gorham House, is looking southwest towards 104th street.  What appears to be a road in the foreground, running at an odd angle, is the route of the Croton Aqueduct.  The houses in the background above the Knapp house are on 10th Avenue.  To the right of the cupola on the roof of the Knapp house, off in the distance is what I am fairly certain is the house that once stood on the site occupied by 895 West End Avenue.  In a little over 20 years, this area will be unrecognizable.  I always wondered if they removed the bodies from the "Burying Ground" on 110th Street . . . I have always felt a chill there.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

This is the end . . . does this really need to happen?

 Streit's Matzo's back in a funkier era.  And soon it will join the ranks of the "used - to - be's".

When I was at P.S. 145 on the upper west side back in the late '60's, a forward thinking teacher took us on a tour of the Streit's Matzo factory.  Yes, they really gave tours of this place.  Although they probably had tried it before and did not realize it, half the kids didn't know what a matzo was but all where intrigued and moved by this tour.  Why? The very simple theme of immigration.  It was the theme about immigrants, coming here from wherever, and putting down roots. They were able to do this, build a life, because of the steady employment offered to the newly arrived.  One group after another, and not just in matzo factories but this was the one field trip that hit home with so many of my classmates, in a great many cases the first English speakers in a household.  They saw themselves, their parents, on this tour.  The tour spoke volumes to them, more history that could ever be gotten out of a book - because they felt it.  This is a loss on so many levels, the educational value alone is worth more than what ever glass and steal box will net a developer.  Not to mention how many of us grew up with a box of this on the table at Passover and Rosh Hashanah?  When will this city learn?  Maybe never but I still love this dirty town. 

Click here for more of the story, a trailer for a documentary and more pictures.