Isham Hill in 1915


Since launching I’ve read thousands of century-old news accounts regarding all things Inwood, but the following article, written in 1915, is one of my favorites.

Isham Hill article, New York Herald, September 26, 1915

The account contains so many elements from my little corner of the neighborhood—The Seaman Estate, Isham Park, the still-standing Hurst house on Park Terrace East and 215th and the 215th Street stairs—all frozen in a unique turning point in Inwood’s history.

The article, published in the New York Herald, captures the Park Terrace area as Broadway developers ascend the 215th Street stairs to discover a lush and unspoiled paradise they knew was ripe for urbanization.

New York Herald
Sunday, September 26, 1915
Gift of Park Site and 215th Street Station Stairway Encourage Further Developments

Is Isham Park and its environs at the threshold of a new era in the development of this noble and long neglected area of the westerly heights section of Manhattan?

Three years have elapsed since when, in September 28, 1912, there was held a civic celebration of the gift of Isham Park to the city of New York by Mrs. Julia Isham Taylor and Miss Flora E. Isham.

215th Street stairs, New York Herald, Sunday, September 26, 1915.

In the interim the park has grown into a place of quiet rest and beauty, a somewhat long double flight of steps has been erected from 215th street and Broadway to the crest of the hill at Park Terrace East, the Daughters of the American Revolution, Fort Washington chapter, have been placed in possession of a quiet nook in the old Isham family mansion, an additional gift of land has added to the area of the park, Seaman avenue has been opened, regulated, graded and curbed, with sewers now being set and to be completed in about six week’s time, the work of opening Park Terrace East, 215th street and a section of Cold Spring road (Indian road) along the banks of the Ship Canal is progressing toward completion.

Isham Mansion, New York Herald, Sunday, September 26, 1915.

Also, afternoon tea, toast and crackers are being served by Mrs. Frank Glynn in the stately old dining hall of the Isham homestead, and John Connolly, faithful park keeper the last four years, continues to watch over his bit of grass, flowers and “darlint” trees in the constant fear that ere long a few of these, his friends and boon companions, will be pulled up by their roots by the giant “Progress” to provide an uninterrupted way for still another lateral leading westerly from Park Terrace East, thence connecting with Broadway by steps, or some form of circuitous hillside route yet to be constructed.

Isham street on the south, 218th street on the north, Broadway on the east and the Ship Canal on the west mark the physical boundaries of the small area of the delightfully located and overlooked Isham Hill and Park, the key to the future of which is the 215th street subway station, a few hundred feet east of the staircase continuation of 215th street.  Another factor of the future that, however, is to be reckoned with is the inevitable trend of automobile traffic from Broadway north from Isham street ad south from 218th street, into Seaman avenue and along the Isham hill ridge the instant these improvements are fully completed.

There cannot be even the shadow of a doubt that the natural attractions of this and the Inwood-Hudson region then will prove sufficiently strong in their appeal to effect a division of at least a goodly percentage of the more leisurely automobile traffic that now clings to Broadway.  The advent of this traffic will mark the day when the builder of the higher grades of apartment houses will discover Isham Hill and its advantages.

Home of William H. Hurst (left) on corner of Park Terrace East and 215th, New York Herald, Sunday, September 26, 1915.

Rich in romance and historical data, Isham Hill is the location of the Isham, Dyckman, Seaman (Dwyer) and other homesteads of the earlier years.  At the top of the 215th street stairway, however, are two modern dwellings of high cost and attractive appearance.  One is the home of William H. Hurst, president of the Stock Quotation Telegraph Company, vice president of the New York News Bureau Association, and prominent in other corporations the other, the home of Gerald S. Griffin, a civil engineer.

Old Seaman Mansion, New York Herald, Sunday, September 26, 1915.

To the north of these rises the stately home of Thomas Dwyer, known formerly and for many years as “Seaman’s Folly.” This has direct entrance to Broadway, and commands superb views of all the surrounding country.  In the same neighborhood is the residence of John Mara, and the old Dyckman mansion, now occupied as St. Phillip’s Home, lies just beyond. The next lateral north of 218th street is 225th street, which emphasizes the seclusiveness of the Isham Park neighborhood.

New York Herald, Sunday, September 26, 1915.

Isham Park, the original deed of which—the gift of Miss Julia Isham Taylor—was dated July 17,1911, extends from Broadway to the Ship Canal, parking the centre of the hill, east to west, between 213th and 214th streets and park frontage for the greater number of all the remaining Isham Estate lots.  The park also has a most advantageous strip of additional frontage along the entire westerly side of Cooper street, the southerly extension of Park Terrace East, to Isham street.  On April 15, 1912, the area of the park was considerably enlarged by a gift of land from Miss Flora E. Isham.  The estate of William B. Isham controls the remaining lots.  Some easy and adequate means of reaching the crest of Isham hill, except by climbing the long flight of steps provided at 215th street, where an escalator would have solved the problem, is all the region needs to bring it well within the scope of the demand of just such builders as have improved the better parts of the Fort Washington avenue and other Washington Heights sections.

Mute evidence of the correctness of this forecast is the trend of apartment builders along the lower and less attractive level of Broadway.  Here, at No. 5,000 Broadway (212th street), Grenville Hall, an elevator apartment house, has been a distinct success.  Further north, in Broadway, at the southeast corner of 215th street, and comprising the southwest corner of Tenth avenue (the route of the elevated-subway line) two new five story non-elevator apartment houses are being completed by Charles Flaum, a builder who sold them several weeks ago to Thomas E. Loughlin, an investor.  These houses contain fifty apartments of three, four and five rooms, at $8 average monthly rent a room, and are fifty per cent rented, although unfinished.

Of the eight stores (seven in Tenth avenue and one at the Broadway corner), six have been rented at $600 to $2,000 each for those in Tenth avenue.  Knap & Wasson, the agents, say they are not making concessions.

In the opposite (west) side of Broadway the Reville-Siesel Company is completing a fifty foot non-elevator house, containing twenty-four apartments of three rooms and bath in the rear and four rooms and a bath in the front, and four stores.  Eighteen of the apartments are stated to have been rented at $7 to $8 a room average monthly rental, and three of the stores.  McDowell & McMahon are the agents.

These rentals are in no way indicative of the prices builders might expect to obtain for higher grade elevator apartments atop Isham Hill, but serve merely to indicate the trend of the demand to districts north of Isham street.

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  1. Cole, thx again for another fascinating article. As you know, I grew up on PTW and 214th, Isham Gardens. Isham Park was what we called The Little Park, and Inwood Hill Park, the Big Park. Isham Gardens is located squarely in between. I myself spent more time in The Little Park, up on the lawn across from the PTW side of Isham Gardens. As a young mother, my friends and I hung out on the benches under the wall, with the baby carriages and big wheels where the kids could ride up and down to the edge of the wall before 50 PTW. It was such a great place to live, play, have friends. We were always outside. Mary

  2. I think of how fortunate I was growing up in Inwood . It was a great start for a young person. It helped form who I am today along with my parents and their friends. still need a lot of work but have a good foundation.
    I think I could move back?

  3. Thanks for all your efforts in finding all these fascination facts. I lived at 55 PTE from mid-50′ to early 60’s. A great place to grow up.

    PS: Is Sean McDonough the same one that has a brother Brian and lived in 10 PTW? With Gene O’Neil and Lester Briessblatt. Just wondering. Thanks

  4. In the 1940’s I would deposit bottles until I had a quarter to rent a bike on Academy St. Ride all over Inwood Hill Park for the hour . We had everything from three movie houses, Ice Cream Parlors , Good Shepherd dances on Friday nights and with all the roaming we did we were safe. My Mother never locked the door until 1963. We will never see a time like that again. Thanks for the history of a place that was Paradise to grow up in.

  5. It is sheer pleasure to go into the beautiful lobbies of these magnificent buildings in Inwood. It is a shame that so many of the buildings east of Broadway have fallen into disrepair, but fortunately some of the local landlords are taking the time and expense to restore them close to their original luster.

  6. Great find! Fascinating stuff and I’m happy to learn that the “Daughters of the American Revolution, Fort Washington chapter” are no longer in possession of any nooks of Inwood.

  7. Great stuff. I grew up on Vermilyea Avenue in the ’50s and ’60s. I am trying to find references to Wilde’s bar and the Sherman Avenue Boys club. The buidling that it was located in was from 19th century and I remeber an old photo of a horse at at hitching post outside of it. It looked more like the old west than Manhattan.

  8. My mother remembered her relatives owning a bar called Wilde’s Bar on Sherman Avenue and Dyckman Street in NY when she was a little girl. Her grandmother’s sister cooked German food there and her grandmother used to go from NJ to NY to help out on busy occasions.


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