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180 Riverside Dr: British Loyalists, Supreme Court Justices & Soda Kings

The site of the current 180 Riverside Drive was home to many colorful characters over the centuries. Before the future Upper West Side was incorporated into New York City, it was home to several villages - the largest of which was Bloomingdale, and its immediate neighbor Striker Bay. The parcel of land that sat there had a tumultuous history. The earliest records are sketchy, but it appears to have been passed through several owners, finally making its way to the first owner of note - Oliver De Lacey.

A map illustrating "Striker's Bay" - the area now known as the 80s and 90s off Riverside Driver. The city grid lines are drawn for clarity only; they did not exist at the time. Source: rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nycoloni/striba.html

De Lacey was a merchant, and later a Loyalist politician who fought for the British during the American Revolution. His family was of Huguenot descent, though he himself was born in New York City on September 17, 1718.

Some correspondance of Oliver De Lancey - 1772 - 1783.

Oliver De Lacey's mansion was situated on what a current map would show as 87th and Riverside, with his land extending north, squarely on Striker Bay. De Lacey was a military man who led expeditions against Ticonderoga in the French and Indians Wars. He caused something of a scandal by marrying a Jewish woman, Phila Franks. (Surviving letters from Phila's mother, Abigaill Levy Franks, to her son - Phila's brother, Naphtali, paint a desperate, rare picture of the colonial Jewish experience in America.)

The April 1743 letter from Abigail to her son Naphtali about Phila's marriage to Oliver De Lancey. She writes: "Good God Wath a Shock it was when they Acquanted me. She had Left the House and Had bin Married Six months. I can hardly hold my Pen whilst I am writting it. … My Spirits Was for Some time Soe Depresst that it was a pain for me to Speak or See Any one."

Portrait of early Jewish American colonist, Abigail Franks (1688-1746). Franks was the mother-in-law of Oliver De Lancey, and her letters have come to serve as an illustration of the early Jewish experience in the Colonies. She writes of heartbreak at learning of her daughter's secret marriage to a non-Jewish man: "

Portrait of Phila Franks, later De Lancey. A Jewish woman, Franks married Oliver De Lancey in secret, and lived with him on his land - which included the future site of 180 Riverside Drive.

Phila and Oliver's children had grown by 1775.

After the war, in 1777, his house was plundered, and confiscated in 1779. He finally left New York for England in 1783, dying there in 1785.

Soon, De Lacey's blood nemesis, lawyer Henry Brockholst Livingston - a colonel who served with Benedict Arnold at Saratoga - took over the estate, naming the country seat Oak Villa. His home stood on the current 91st and Riverside. Livingston later became a Supreme Court Justice.

A portrait of Brockholst Livingston, Judge of the United States Supreme Court

In 1866, Cyrus Clark (dubbed "the Father of the Upper West Side" on a plaque that stands still today at 83rd and Riverside), bought the Livingston property. He sold it some 20 years later to John H Matthews, the "Soda-Water King." Matthews had built his fortune popularizing the novel drink in America, and used his money to build a stately mansion at the northeast corner of 90th and Riverside - on the exact location of the current 180 Riverside. It was designed by architecture firm Lamb & Rich, featuring stained-glass windows, porches, tiled roofs and huge windows facing New Jersey. Clark, for his part, built himself a new home across the street. In 1896 The New York Times reported a fire in the Matthews stables.

Mansion of John H Matthews, Soda King of New York, built in the mid 1880s.

Cover of a manual for a Matthews Soda Water Apparatus. 1880s.

The estate passed hands several times over the next couple of decades. Matthews sold it to John B Russel, who sold it to Franklin Pettit, who sold it to Mary B Pell. Pell owned the property adjacent and wanted to extend her lot. The mansion had been remodeled by Clark, the original builder.

Mary Pell's remodeled mansion. 1908.

1897 Map of the Upper West Side. The Mansion is indicated by the blue arrow.

In 1902, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, honoring the fallen fighters of the Civil War, was finally dedicated across the street, at 89th and Riverside. The idea for a monument had first been proposed as early as the 1860s, but bureaucracy and logistics delayed its construction for nearly 40 years.

Various views of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument from 1907 to 1927.

1936 view of the contemporary 180 Riverside Drive.

The 90-unit building that now stands at the northeast corner of 90th and Riverside Drive was built in 1922. It was converted to a co-op in 1962.

Modern floorplan for apartment 6B of 180 Riverside Drive

Contemporary view of the area, from Google Maps.

Many of the images in this article are available as framed, retouched prints. To purchase them, visit the gallery.

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