Inwood’s Hurst House: Then and Now

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Top photo shows grand staircase inside the Hurst residence on 215th Street and Park Terrace East in 1920's. (Photo courtesy of Hurst family) Lower photo taken in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Top photo shows grand staircase inside the Hurst residence on 215th Street and Park Terrace East in 1920’s. (Photo courtesy of Hurst family) Lower photo taken in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)

In 1912 an Irish architect named James O’Connor constructed a beautiful brick home on Park Terrace East and 215th Street.

1920's photo of the Inwood home of William H. Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst ancestor JoAnn Jones)
1920’s photo of the Inwood home of William H. Hurst. Note Isham Gardens under construction to the right. (Photo courtesy of Hurst ancestor JoAnn Jones)
Undated photo of the Hurst home.  (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Undated photo of the Hurst home. Photo is taken from Isham Park looking north to 215th Street. Stone building in the foreground was the Hurst’s garage. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)

While O’Connor would later go on to design “Great Gatsby” style playhouse homes for wealthy clients, this particular design had children in mind.

Lots of children.

William H. Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst family)
William H. Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst family)
Hurst Family portrait June 24, 1924. (Photo from Hurst family)
Hurst family portrait June 24, 1924. (Photo from Hurst family)

William H. Hurst, the President of the New York Stock Telegraph Company, and his wife Minnie, needed an especially large home to accommodate their thirteen kids. The grand home at the top of the newly constructed 215th Street stairs, which remarkably still stands today, suited their needs perfectly.

1915 photo of Hurst home. The Hurst's garage is to the right and behind that the Isham home. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
1915 photo of Hurst home. The Hurst’s garage is to the right and behind that the Isham home. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)

The house had a stone garage out back where Bruce’s Garden sits today.  The brick house bordered Isham Park, which had been donated to the city by the Isham family the very year the Hurst’s moved to the neighborhood.

The interior was spectacular.

Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)
Interior of the Inwood home of William and Minnie Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst descendants)

When William and Minnie Hurst died, months apart from one another in 1929, the home was sold and the brick building, with terra cotta detailing, was converted into a convent.

Gerard School for Girls. Class of 1959.
Gerard School for Girls. Class of 1959.

In 1946 the grounds were expanded to create the Gerard School of the Academy of the Sacred Heart of Mary, as well as a high school, and once again the joyous sounds of children at play could be heard throughout the neighborhood.

Gerard School for Girls. Class of 1959.
Gerard School for Girls. Class of 1959.
Gerard School for Girls.
Gerard School for Girls.

For many decades generations of young women, like the Hurst children before them, roamed the hallways of this neighborhood institution. Then, in the 1970’s, a terrible thing happened.  The house, which had given so much to the community, fell into disrepair.

Hurst House today.
Hurst House today.

The former Hurst home, now owned by the Seventh Day Adventists, was bricked up and allowed to deteriorate. The building, though not in use, is today part of the Northeastern Academy campus.

Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst house in 2012. (Photo by Cole Thompson)

In 2013, several generations of surviving Hursts visited the old house, “530″ they called it. They were greatly dismayed by the condition of their ancestral home.

Hurst family reunion June 22,  2013. (Photo by Cole Thompson)
Hurst family reunion, June 22, 2013. (Photo by Cole Thompson)

The future of the former Hurst estate seems up in the air.  Lacking any historic preservation status, the structure could be torn down tomorrow.

Mary "Minnie" and William H. Hurst. (Photo from great grandson Kevin Wright)
Mary “Minnie” and William H. Hurst. (Photo from great grandson Kevin Wright)

I imagine William and Minnie Hurst, if they were around today, would love to see their home converted into a community center or public space—someplace where the children of Inwood could again laugh and feel safe.

A place we could all be proud of.

More vintage Hurst house photos from the descendants of William and Minnie:

For more information on the history of the Hurst home, click here.

17 COMMENTS

  1. This was such a beautiful home at one time. This seems to be the problem with New York, they would rather tear down then rebuild. My father came from Inwood, I was born in Washington Heights in the 50’s. It seems to me it should be restored all though I know it takes money there are plenty of organizations that could help. Such a shame to let something so beautiful go to waste.

  2. The fact that it was allowed to be vandalized and then fall into ruin is horrific. I will never understand why. I spent eight years in that building and seeing it like this is heartbreaking. Even though it may not have any historical significance, just the fact that it’s the last of the mansions that once stood in that area if Manhattan should be some reason for preservation. It’s prime real estate and if the Adventists ever decide to sell the property the building will probably be gone in a flash. There are so many things the building could be used for while preserving a part of Inwood’s past.

  3. In the early 1980’s, a group of us Park Terrace Gardens co-op members asked for a meeting with the headmaster of Northeastern Academy to ask about saving the Hurst house and putting it to good use for the whole neighborhood. We were assured that several options were on the table and that the building would be re-opened (to good use) within a year. Still waiting ….

  4. It looks like the building is still structurally sound, despite the decades of neglect and deterioration. I really hope that the building is restored to it’s original condition or, it that’s not possible, renovated within the original shell. It’s an attractive building that fits into the neighborhood.

  5. Fascinating account about a house that was always a bit mysterious, standing abandoned and forlorn. Your account has removed the mystery, and I agree that this handsome house should be put to some good public use , such as a neighborhood educational center focused on the environment and perhaps local history .

  6. Thank you for sharing these photos of my great grandfather’s house. I hope that the building can be restored and used for the community. I grew up looking at these photos in wonder…

  7. Very interesting. Hope this building is preserved and used to benefit the community. Hurst was my great grandfather also. Thank you for information.

  8. It very sad to see such a beautiful building in such poor condition.I also spent eight year s at Gerard School for Girls and something should done to preserve it. Maybe between NYC, the Hurst family and donations something could be done to save it. If there’s anything in there of value; furniture,etc that could be auctioned that could be of help.Someone should start working on preservation
    before some careless contractor tears it down. Solid foundation is there, hoping someone cares enough to help this house.

  9. I was born and grew up in Washington Heights (192nd Street, between St. Nicholas Ave and Audubon Ave). I feel that this building should be given historic preservation status as well as being restored. It is a part of northern Manhattan history. It tells the story of how Inwood was back in 1900s (1912) before upper Manhattan was all built up. The exterior of the building looks solids and probably needs a little work (patch work and water-proofing), the interior is where all the major work will be done. It would make a great museum about upper Manhattan (Inwood and Washington Heights). Hey, let’s get this one done. The Rockefeller’s gave upper Manhattan Fort Tryon Park, we (the people of NYC) should be able to have this building repaired and made a museum about life in upper Manhattan in the 1900s (where G.W.H.S. is there was a amusement park, etc.).

  10. It breaks my heart to see such a beautiful building neglected so badly. I was a graduate of Gerard School in 1967 and it holds very precious memories for me. If there is a need for volunteers to help restore this little piece of Inwood history count me in.

  11. Thanks for sharing these photos, Cole. I have frequently gone by the Hurst home and wondered what it originally looked like. It was beautiful and it saddens me deeply to its current condition. I hope this Inwood treasure will one day be restored.

  12. I grew up in Park Terrace (1940-1960) and had no idea that Gerard School for Girls was originally the Hurst House. I used to play “Ace-King-Queen” using a Spalding ball with my friends against the northern wall. Thanks for all your articles.

  13. Went to the High School and graduated in 1963. It saddens me to see what has happened to Gerard School as well as the High School. I have great memories of my H.s. years and it saddens me to see what has happened to the buildings .

  14. In 2007 I was having a conversation with the (then) principal of Northeastern Academy, and she told me that several years prior an architect had offered to buy the building for $1 million, but the church had declined the offer. For what earthly reason, I cannot imagine. It remains empty and unused and will eventually fall into such disrepair that none of the structure can be preserved. I imagine an architect would at least have been interested in preserving as much of the original interior as possible.

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