The stately columns of our portico have graced the corner of 94th and Riverside since the first decade of the 20th century. Back then, New York apartments were large and our building was not an exception. Unlike today’s 15 apartments per floor, the original floor plan called for only 2 dwellings per floor. Imagine what those apartments must have been like!!!!
In its hundred years history the building has seen births, deaths, weddings, graduations and all the other things that compose people’s lives. It’s seen its share of joy and, sadly, desperation and tragedy.
A couple of our former residents were despondent enough to end their own lives. A. H. Jeanne, a 40 year old French teacher, took his life in September of 1926 after losing all his money in a failed real estate deal. Another resident jumped off the roof (more on that later).
Suicide is one thing, but murder is another. The neighborhood was marginal, at best, in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Our building housed some folks who – let’s say – would not pass the Board interview these days. One of those people, alleged to have been a pimp, opened his door one day to a hail of bullets. Another one of our residents was hauled off to jail, accused of the stabbing death of a woman on Central Park West.
Our building has had its share of unsavory residents, but it’s also been home to people of note. We have a few shareholders now who have made a name for themselves today and we’ve also had notable residents in the past.
- J. Cleaveland Cady was the architect of the original Metropolitan Opera House and part of the Museum of Natural History, among other notable structures. He lived at 214 Riverside Drive at the time of his death in 1919.
- Morris Hillquit was a prominent Socialist and labor lawyer. He ran for Mayor of New York City twice, but lost. He also called 214 Riverside Drive home.
- John Dos Passos was a prolific American novelist. His works include Three Soldiers,Manhattan Transfer and U.S.A.. He wrote Manhattan Transfer while he lived at 214 Riverside Drive.
From wind damage to fire, the 214 Riverside Drive has seen its share of disasters. In some cases, lives were lost.
In May of 1952 a fire on the 7th floor was indirectly responsible for two deaths. Mrs. Caroline Toubert, 96, was pulled from her burning apartment (the fire started in her kitchen) to safety, only to succumb to a heart attack while receiving first aide in the hallway. A firefighter on the scene, David O’Keefe, was also killed as a result of the fire. He was hit in the head by a large ladder after returning the firehouse.
Another fire in the early 70’s spared lives, but destroyed the inside of the building. As a result, the beautiful grand apartments and the original large lobby were replaced by the smaller apartments and less grand lobby we have today.
Wind has taken its toll on the building, too. In August of 1918 a wind storm ravaged the area. A large French warship was blown to the “sandy shoals” off 123rd Street. Windows were blown out, awnings took flight and debris of all sorts littered the streets. Part of that debris was 1/3 of our roof.
Another storm in March of 1938 caused additional damage. A 5′ x 3′ piece of stone coping was torn from the roof. Police removed the hazard before it fell to the street below.
On June 10, 2008 a wind storm felled trees throughout the neighborhood. It also blew out a window on the second floor of the building and destroyed the roof deck on the top of the building.