Tucked away between two buildings on the West side of Broadway near 215th Street is one of the few surviving relics of a once fabulously wealthy neighborhood whose residents included captains of industry.
Today a crumbling ruin, the arch, as evidenced in the below photo, was once a stunning sight to behold; even from afar.
The 35 foot tall, 20 foot deep marble arch was built as the gateway to a grand hilltop estate owned by the Seaman family in 1855. According to a turn of the century history of the Inwood, the arch is said to be an exact scale replica of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
The Seamans, who first settled in Long Island in 1653, bought the hilltop property a half mile north of the Dyckman estate on 204th and Broadway in 1851. Construction soon began. Teams of workers worked round the clock in the quarry located at the bottom of the hill where the arch is now located. By 1855 the massive marble home was complete. Where the quarry once stood, the Seaman’s erected the arch, complete with a winding driveway that led to their home atop the hill. According to a New York Times article, “The arch’s 40-foot-wide street facade had two large niches for statuary and two plain inset panels flanking a central barrel-vaulted archway. A projecting cornice, still intact, across the top of the arch is supported on carved acanthus-leaf modillions. Iron pivots for what must have been a huge iron gate across the vaulted passageway still survive, but the door and window openings on the ground-floor level are blocked up. On the upper section of the rear of the arch are a half-dozen window openings, apparently original, suggesting that it was once a gatekeeper’s quarters.” And what a sight it must have been. The Seaman estate was more a country getaway than a full time residence. For many years, the true man of the house was drug merchant John T. Seaman who married Ann Drake. Ann Drake outlived her husband and upon her death she bequeathed, “my marble house, grounds and outbuildings… furniture and plate” to her nephew, Lawrence Drake. Details are sketchy on whether Drake’s young nephew used the manor as a full time residence, but we do know the home was used for various purposes near the turn of the century. Directories of the era say that in 1897 the Suburban Riding and Driving Club, of which Drake was a member, occupied the main house. Then in 1905, the property, including the arch, was sold to a building contractor named Thomas Dwyer. Dwyer is most famous for building the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument as well as part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Dywer continued to occupy the main house, but used the arch as his workshop and place of business.
By 1912, with subway extensions imminent, civilization slowly crept up to Inwood. Before long, small brick buildings began to surround the arch. Soon, a series of car dealerships moved in and began using the arch as an entranceway.
Ever since, this once grand structure, has faded, even crumbled into history. The mansion itself was demolished in 1938 to make room for Park Terrace Gardens. A fire in 1970 gutted the interior of the arch and left the roof exposed to the elements. Let’s hope some civic minded group preserves the arch before it settles back into the ground from which it was created.