Automobile Avenue Pre: 1934


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This is another Marginal Street. It breaks out several times on the East as well as the West Side. For some reason or other it seems to have made a hit with motorists and automobile salesmen. The street is wide and little traveled. They can speed up and down it to their heart's content.

Mrs. Steinway says that on Sunday mornings it is crammed with parked cars being repaired. Their owners bring them to Marginal Street to tinker on tires, and engines. Their families come too, the children play along the docks while father works on the flivver.

That great big white skyscraper at Sixty-Sixth and Marginal Street is the Rockefeller Hospital. It is built on the site of an old white pillared mansion erected shortly after the Revolution.

The ground once belonged to the Schermerhorn family. Up to the time the Rockefellers purchased the property, the Schermerhorn mansion was intact. Close by it stood the chapel where the family worshiped.

Long after the Schermerhorns had gone to glory, the Pastime Athletic Club took possession of the estate. The chapel became the club-house. It was a white frame building with slanting roof and Colonial pillars. Sloping from the house and chapel to the river was a stretch of green lawn, bordered by meadows. At the entrance to the grounds were a number of graves, three on either side of the path that led to the mansion. Close by the old head-stones towered a majestic oak tree, and near the tree was a hollow spot in the ground. This marked the burial vault of the Schermerhorns.

The mansion, Felix Oldboy says, was an ambitious structure of two stories and a half, topped off by a cupola or Captain's walk. It commanded a view of Hell Gate and the East River Islands. The Schermerhorns at one time owned much real estate in the neighborhood and several houses built by various branches of the extensive family. Their neighbors were the Joneses for whom Jones' Wood, which stood beyond the Schermerhorn House, was named, the Winthrops, Dunscombs, Kings and Hoffmans.

The little colony was mainly Episcopalians. Often because of yellow-fever scourges in the city, these families remained late in the season at their country places. Feeling the need of a church, they applied to the vestry of Trinity for assistance. The result was St. James Church, erected on the corner of Sixty-Ninth Street and Lexington Avenue and consecrated by Bishop Moore. It was a plain wooden structure with a tiny steeple; a country church surrounded by farms. Peter Schermerhorn was a St. James warden.

The spire of St. James now rises at Madison Avenue and Seventy-First Street, and is one of the city's most fashionable churches. The great white cubicles of the Rockefeller Institute tower above Schermerhorn Heights.

It was long past one o'clock and drizzling a little when we turned up Marginal Street. So great had been our interest in the walk that we had forgotten the time. We were hungry. We stood for a few minutes at the corner above the Rockefeller Institute deciding where to eat. Coal barges flanked the water-front. Near a truck, we caught sight of a little diner shining with new paint and sporting a jaunty red and white striped awning. Above it, loomed up the sign "Joe's Hot Dog Stand, Ladies Welcome."

"Let's try it," said Mrs. Steinway.

It was very pleasant. We sat out on a little side porch, facing the water. Between barges we caught glimpses of river traffic. Our hamburger steak sandwiches were fresh and hot and the beer foaming. The cost was twenty cents apiece.

Joe and his wife did the cooking. "We hope to get a good crowd here this summer," they said. "But it isn't half bad now. The interns and nurses come down from the hospital. They keep us busy."

At Seventy-First Street we were again forced away from the water-front, back onto the former First Avenue, now York Avenue. The name has changed the character. Old tenements are slicked up. Fresh fronts have been put on stores than a better class of tenants bid for. Though still in the transitory stage, York Avenue is far better than First Avenue ever thought of being.

"I went to that school when it was down on Forty-fourth street," Mrs. Steinway said, as we passed a very modern-looking Colonial brick building on East Eighty-Third Street, near the river. It was the Brearley School that numbered among its recent pupils, Doris Duke, America's tobacco heiress.

The Brearley School was founded in 1883 by Mr. Samuel Brearley, A.B., Harvard, 1871, winner of the first Bowdoin Prize and first Headmaster of the School. He died in 1886, and was succeeded by Mr. James G. Crosswell, A.B., Harvard, 1873, who was Headmaster for twenty-eight years.

In 1889 the School was incorporated as The Brearley School, Ltd., the incorporators being the Reverend William R. Huntington, Mrs. F.A. Paddock, Mrs. Joseph H. Choate, Mrs. James J. Higginson, Messors. George C. Clark, Charles C. Beaman and Albert Stickney. A schoolhouse was erected at Number 17 West Forty-Fourth Street.

In 1912 the outstanding stock of the corporation was transferred to Henry Fairfield Osborne, George C. Clark, Cleveland H. Dodge, Pierre jay and Lewis Cass Ledyard, as trustees.

In the same year a new schoolhouse was built at Park Avenue and Sixty-First Street, and occupied in the autumn. It was sold in 1929. The present building, on the bank of the East River and Eighty-Third Street, is the home of one of the important private schools of New York City.


Website: The History
Article Name: Automobile Avenue Pre: 1934
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Round Manhattan's rim; by Helen Worden Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1934
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