Above left: 1851 Dripps Map showing location of 857 RSD house, the year it was built (yellow dot, above "John King") Above right: Mathew Spady's new book: "The Neighborhood Manhattan Forgot" (2020, Fordham University Press)
Background History of 857 RSD Starting in 1851
As seen in photographs, the small Italianate house perched above the Hudson originally had an ornate porch, awnings on the upper windows and a cupola overlooking the surrounding area and the river. Historian Matthew Spady, author of the recently published book, The Neighborhood Manhattan Forgot; Audubon Park and the families who shaped it, tells us that according to the City Register Ledger, the land in question (Block 2135/Lot 23) was unlotted until Dennis Harris divided it in 1851 and sold lots 23-32 to John King. Either Harris or King built the house, which appears on the Dripps 1851 Map, just north of Minnie’s Land, the Audubon Family Farm.
In 1854 the house and property (Lots 23-32) was sold to John Newhouse a New York City judge. The house can also be found on the Blackwell Maps of that time, at the Borough President’s Office. The property seems to have changed hands several times, but was still in possession of the Newhouse family in 1868, and may have gone into the hands of Newhouse descendants for a time. There were more sales of the property in the 1890s, when an owner split off the northern lots and kept the two southern lots in the plot. Then, in 1894, lot 23, now known as No. 857, began to fly solo.
You can also find details about Dennis Harris and his other northern Manhattan enterprises like the New Congress Sugar Refinery and the Jenny Lind Steamboat and wharf built in close proximity to the house still standing at 857 RSD. You'll also learn that "After Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, New York City had become increasingly dangerous for escaped slaves, so the new refinery and steamboat could have extended Harris's effort to move them farther up the river on their journey to freedom in Canada." (from page 69 of The Neighborhood Manhattan Forgot)
For a comprehensive illustrated history, virtual walking tours and much more, be sure to visit Matthew Spady's Audubon Park Website at www.audubonparkny.com
Gallery of 857 Riverside Drive
Iconic Abbott photograph of the house in 1937. Photo courtesy NYPL Digital Collection.
Postcard Early 20th Cent. showing 857 RSD and river, looking north
Southern exposure showing porch and roof in 1918. (Photo Courtesy NYPL Digital Archive)
(Photo Courtesy NYPL Digital Archive)
Today: Picture clearly shows original porches still intact as well as base of cupola on roof. (Photo Lesley Doyel)
Today: Closer view of roof from above (photo Lesley Doyel)
(photo Viivian Ducat)
(photo Viivian Ducat)