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The Dorchester

131 Riverside Drive

Northeast corner at 85th Street

131 Riverside Drive 

131 Riverside Drive

 By Carter B. Horsley

This very fine apartment building has a grand entrance on Riverside Drive that is very impressive.

The 13-story building, which has fine views of Riverside Park and the Hudson River, has a three-story limestone base and is surrounded by a dry moat with a handsome wrought-iron railing and large limestone bollards.  The wrought-iron entrance door has Art-Nouveau styling and the first floor windowsills have flower planters.



This building, which has inconsistent fenestration and protruding air-conditioners, was erected in 1909 and converted to a cooperative in 1968.

The facade of this building, which has 51 apartments, is quite similar, especially along Riverside Drive, to that of the Clarendon on the same block at 137 Riverside Drive.  That building was erected two years later and was the residence for many years of William Randolph Hearst, the legendary publisher.  Both buildings have limestone banding near their tops although the banding does not align perfectly.

The building is known as the Dorchester and was designed by the architectural firm of Neville and Bagge for A.C. and H.M. Hall. 

According to its entry at streeteasy.com, "The history of how 131 Riverside Drive came into being is a typical indication of how real estate was developed in New York City in the early part of the 20th Century":

"Riverside Drive (originally know as Riverside Avenue until 1908) and the adjacent side streets were laid out and paved in the early 1880’s, at which time the neighborhood was developed with single family dwellings. However, the property on the east side of Riverside Avenue from West 85th Street to West 86th Street, going east 200 feet, became the Episcopal Home of Mercy – a wood frame and brick structure occupying a small percentage of the acre-or-so of land. Later, the building was used for Misses Ely’s School. By the first decade of the 1900’s, the underutilized land occupied by the school was ripe for development. In 1905 the school was sold as one parcel to an investor who divided the property into two equal parcels – one on West 85th Street and the other on West 86th Street, each with 102 feet of Avenue frontage and 200 feet of Street frontage. The property on West 86th Street was acquired by Ranald Macdonald who subsequently divided his property in half and built the Clarendon on the corner plot in 1907 (Charles Birge – architect). The remaining property along West 86th Street (now designated as 340 West 86th Street) was sold to developer Harry Schiff."

The neighborhood is very attractive and excellent cross-town bus service is available on 86th Street and Broadway where there is also a subway station.  There are several movie theaters, stores and restaurants in this area.

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