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.
In fact, the sheer audacity of the project led many locals to dub the arch and surrounding property as “Seaman’s Folly.”
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.
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.
[…] a prominent local builder named Thomas Dwyer. Dwyer lived in the home, and used the still surviving Seaman-Drake arch as his office and […]
I grew up in the Inwood area and went to PS 98 and Good Shepard. Spent all my summer days at the handball courts at Inwood Park and walking the trails from Inwood to Ft. Tryon Pk. It would be a shame if this one last piece of Inwood history disappeared for a lack of attention. If someone decides to resurrect the landmark, please let me know what I can do to help. I live in Los Angeles now and can produce a wide variety of media including commercials to showcase the need for preservation.
The arch was also part of Garon’s Coach Repair owned by my husband’s great grandfather around 1940. I havea pic from the archives, but it’s horrible 🙁
[…] One relic of that history is the Seaman Drake Arch on Broadway near 215th Street. From myinwood.net: “The 35-foot tall, 20 foot deep marble arch was built as the gateway to a grand hilltop estate […]
[…] Road, at 216th Street, stands a neglected and nearly forgotten monument to Inwood’s past. The great marble arch, constructed in the 1850’s, once led visitors to the glorious Seaman mansion, which, until the […]
[…] and a friend pointed me to some information about the arch and associated mansion. It is in fact The Seaman-Drake Arch, and its story from a grand landmark to a forgotten one is a bit sad. But it is still there, even […]
[…] the marble arch, from where Dwyer designed forgotten landmarks of old New York, survived. The arch, its walls […]
[…] he took countless photos of Inwood Hill Park, Fort Tryon and even this spectacular photo the Seaman-Drake arch which still stands today on 215th and […]
[…] complex. Today the only remaining physical evidence of the once sprawling estate is the mable arch on Broadway; once the entrance to the Seaman-Drake […]
[…] are the Dyckman Farmhouse, a Colonial-era relic at Broadway and West 204th Street, and the Seaman-Drake Arch, the last remnant of a large […]
[…] Metropolitan Museum of Art, who used the arch as his workshop. As the IRT subway made its way, the land was subdivided and at some point, a car dealership used the arch as its entrance. This signaled the end of the […]
[…] 1855 by John T. Seaman, stood on the grounds now occupied by Park Terrace Gardens. Famous for its fanciful gate at the bottom of the hill, actually a scale model of the Arc de Triomphe, the home quickly earned […]
[…] quick glance at the membership roll reveals Stuyvestants, Pfizers and Beekmans passing through the marble arch that once led to the palatial estate. In an age of male dominated clubs, and sports in general for […]
The arch would look great at the W.215th street entrance to Inwood Hill Park.