On the evening of October 6, 1962, Dr. Leopold Weiss, the estranged brother of Harry Houdini, stood on the parapet of his northern Manhattan apartment building. He inhaled one last breath of cool autumn air then plunged to his death.
57 Park Terrace West sits on a tree-lined street one half block north of Isham Park in the Inwood section of the borough. Charles Kreymborg designed the six-story art deco structure, which occupies the northwest corner of Park Terrace West and 215th Street, in 1937.
The Kreymborg & Son architectural firm built dozens of apartment houses in Inwood and Washington Heights. Another of their buildings, The Embassy, now stands around the block on 50 Park Terrace East.
Today, upon entering the newly renovated building, decades after the death of Leopold Weiss, co-op residents pass through a terrazzo-floored lobby decorated with Art Deco murals. The same lobby Dr. Weiss walked across every day after tending to the infirm.
An 1899 graduate of Bellevue Hospital, Weiss became one of New York’s first radiologists. A brilliant mind who lived in the otherworldly shadow of the greatest showmen the world has ever known. The pioneering x-ray technician was the magician’s youngest brother. At times the relationship, the good times, but mostly the bad, must have consumed the respected scientist.
Siblings Leopold and Harry enjoyed a close relationship in their early days. Their bond was so dear that Houdini allowed Leopold to join him on tour, referring to his younger brother as “Doc” from the stage. Ultimately, the two would have a falling out after “Doc” became the center of a family scandal. In an incredible show of poor taste Leopold married Sadie, the wife of he and Harry’s brother, Nathan, shortly after their divorce. Sadly, Leopold and Harry were still estranged at the time of Houdini’s death in 1926.
Weiss retired in 1949 after his eyesight began to fail. Some speculated the damage was the result of exposure to radiation emitted from his x-ray devices. The morning of October 7, 1962 the New York Times offered the kind concession that he was killed when he “jumped or fell” off his Inwood rooftop.
Weiss was not the only relative of the legendary illusionist to live out his final days in Inwood. For decades after Houdini’s death, his widow, Bess, lived in a two family home at 67 Payson Avenue. She died on February 11, 1943.
Houdini’s twenty-year-old nephew, Harry Houdini Hinson was killed in a sledding accident in Inwood Hill Park in 1934.