In 1840 a Scotch Irish builder by the name of Samuel Thomson bought a huge tract of woodland on the northern end of Manhattan.  Thomson christened his new estate “Mount Washington” in honor of what had been a Revolutionary War outpost.  On the property, today known as Inwood Hill, Thomson and his wife Ann, would build a magnificent home in which they would raise ten children.

Samuel Thomson, unknown artist, NYHS.

Samuel Thomson, unknown artist, NYHS.

Samuel Thomson

Samuel Boyd Thomson was born in Baltimore, Maryland on June 15, 1784.  As a youth Thomson apprenticed in a tannery, but quickly grew bored with the work.  An uncle named James Thomson would later take young Samuel under his wing and teach him the carpentry trade.  In 1804 Thomson moved to New York where he would earn a reputation as a first rate builder.

A deeply religious man, Thomson would devote much of his labors to constructing houses of worship for the Presbyterian Church.

In building circles he was best known for his unfinished work on the Custom House, also known as Federal Hall.  After a famous dispute with his superiors Thomson walked off the job after completing only the lower level.    He took all his plans with him forcing his replacement to start from scratch.

Mrs. Samuel Thomson, unknown artist, NYHS.

Mrs. Samuel Thomson, unknown artist, NYHS.

On February 2, 1807 Thomson was married to Ann Strean, a distant relative of his mother, by the Rev. Dr. Samuel Rudd, at Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth) New Jersey.

During the War of 1812,” wrote a descendant,  “Mr. Thomson served as lieutenant in the 3rd New York Volunteer Heavy Artillery. The regiment was stationed at Fort Gansevoort, on the banks of the Hudson River near the present foot of 14th Street.  As the British did not come to New York during the war, the regiment was never in battle.” (Notes on Samuel Thomson written by Clement Rutter Thomson, New York, in March of 1881.)

Thomson also served as an early director of the Merchants Exchange Bank and was involved in the establishment of the New York Life and Trust Company in which he was a trustee until his death in 1850.

Mount Washington

Mount Washington residence of Samuel Thomson, by William S. Jewett 1847, MCNY.

Mount Washington residence of Samuel Thomson, by William S. Jewett 1847, MCNY.

In 1835,” according to a family history,  “he removed his family to that most northern point of the present city limits, now known as Riverdale, on the banks of the Hudson River, got a temporary residence; whence in 1840, he removed about two miles below, purchasing a lofty wooded tract of land immediately south of Spuyten Duyvil Creek, called “Tubby Hook” but Thomson changed the name to Mount Washington.  The purchase consisted of eighty odd acres, and was thickly covered not only with the native forest growth but also with gigantic rocks innumerable and had never known a plough or the habitation of men, with the exception of the temporary occupation of its northernmost point in 1776, by a small detachment of Americans to defend a redoubt placed there called “Cock Hill Fort.”  Mr. Thomson, built a large house, laid out walks and otherwise beautified the place. 
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4930 Broadway: Southeast corner of 207th Street and Broadway.

4930 Broadway: Southeast corner of 207th Street and Broadway.

Recently, a neighbor asked me to research the southeast corner of Broadway and 207th Street (4930 Broadway).   She was curious what businesses had occupied the corner through the years.

Unsure, I posed the question to some longtime Inwood residents via social media.  The responses were so chock full of history that I’ve decided to post the findings MyInwood.net.

Undated photo by William Davis Hassler shows West 207th Street between Vermilyea Avenue and Broadway, New York City- stationers, tobacconist, notary, Borden's storefront and horse-drawn cart visible. Third shot in a 3-part panorama. Probably taken from Hassler's apartment at 150 Vermilyea Avenue.

Undated photo by William Davis Hassler shows West 207th Street between Vermilyea Avenue and Broadway, New York City- stationers, tobacconist, notary, Borden’s storefront and horse-drawn cart visible. Third shot in a 3-part panorama. Probably taken from Hassler’s apartment at 150 Vermilyea Avenue.

The storefront, most recently occupied by a Mexican restaurant called La Piñata, has a rich history. The above photograph by William Davis Hassler, who once lived on Vermilyea Avenue, shows that the building was one of the first commercial structures built in the then fledgling neighborhood.

Arras Inn, 1910, Source: MCNY.

Arras Inn, 1910, Source: MCNY.

Arras Inn, 1910, Source: MCNY.

Arras Inn, 1910, Source: MCNY.

As early as 1910, as evidenced in the above photo, the corner was home to a restaurant called the Arras Inn.  The Arras Inn began as a place to grab a drink and a meal.  They were best known for their seafood—particularly their lobster.

Arras Inn ad NY Evening Telegram July 1913.

Arras Inn ad NY Evening Telegram July 1913.

Arras Inn interior from vintage postcard.

Arras Inn interior from vintage postcard.

The restaurant would go on to become a notorious speakeasy during Prohibition.

By 1919 the Arras Inn would share its space with a Chevrolet dealership.

Southeast  corner 207th Street and Broadway, 1926, NYHS.

Southeast corner 207th Street and Broadway, 1926, NYHS.

4930 Broadway in 1925, NYHS.

4930 Broadway in 1925, NYHS.

4930 Broadway in 1926, NYHS.

4930 Broadway in 1926, NYHS.

Photos taken between 1925 and 1926 show the B.F. Curry Chevrolet dealership the corner storefront on 207th Street and Broadway.

In the 1950’s through the early 1960’s local residents say the corner was home to a tobacco shop— which sold cigars, pipes and pipe tobacco blends, lighters, newspapers, paperbacks and magazines.

Photo of 4930 Broadway Courtesy of Helen Oppenheimer Katz.

Photo of 4930 Broadway Courtesy of Helen Oppenheimer Katz.

From the mid-1960’s through the 1980’s the space housed a hosiery shop called Value Hosiery.

Southeast corner 207th and Broadway in 2011.

Southeast corner 207th and Broadway in 2011.

 

Southeast corner 207th and Broadway in 2011.

Southeast corner 207th and Broadway in 2011.

Over the last two decades it has housed a Tropical Chicken restaurant, which specialized in “roasted” chicken, a  Dunkin Donuts, a steam-table seafood establishment called Marisco Express, another fish joint called Boca Chica, a coffee shop called Cafe Espresso and most recently La Piñata, a Mexican restaurant.

If you have a memory or old photo of this location that you’d like to share, please write in.  

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Happy Halloween

Ghost stories and other macabre tales from Inwood, New York City.

Every Halloween ghosts and goblins haunt the streets, parks and apartment buildings of Inwood–just as they have for hundreds of years. Inwood is a spooky place where the spirit of a long dead magician might bump into the specter of a headless Hessian, where a Dutch trumpeter fights with the devil himself and cries from […]

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Evidence of Native American activity uncovered in Isham Park

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Update: Less than 24 hours after this post went on-line, Jennifer Hoppa, Administrator Northern Manhattan Parks, sent the following email: “The Capital Contractor was directed to stop work as soon as the Capital Division was informed earlier today of possible artifacts being uncovered.  NYC Parks director of Historic Preservation John Krawchuk is closely coordinating with the […]

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91 Payson Avenue: An Art Deco Masterpiece

91 Payson thumb

In 1935 a new apartment house opened on 91 Payson Avenue in the Inwood section of Manhattan. The stunning apartment building, named “Payson House,” cost  $250,000 to erect. Today, the co-op building, across the street from Inwood Hill Park, is one of the finest examples of art deco design in northern Manhattan. Stepping into the […]

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Asylums on Inwood Hill

Asylums on Inwood Hill

A century ago  asylums and institutions lined the ridge of Inwood Hill.  Inside these fortress-like structures, all demolished by Robert Moses in the 1930′s, tortured, long-dead souls were kept under lock and key.  Some were criminals, some were inebriates and drug addicts, others had the mere misfortune of suffering from tuberculosis.   All were outcasts, banished […]

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From Dyckman Street to Treasure Island

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Near the beginning of the last century, Mrs. Addison J. Rothermel faced both an agonizing loss and a difficult decision.  Tuberculosis had taken her husband and doctors warned that her two teenage boys, Addison Jr.  and Royale Valray, might also succumb to the “white plague” if they continued to live in the cramped and unventilated […]

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Isham Gardens

Building detail from Isham Gardens in Inwood, New York.

Between Seaman Avenue & Park Terrace West Designed in 1924 by the architectural team of Springsteen and Goldhammer, Isham Gardens was the brainchild of builder Conrad Glaser. Glaser envisioned an uptown utopia where middle class New Yorkers could live amidst a resort like atmosphere. And, Springsteen and Goldhammer were up to the task. They designed […]

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