The Grinnell is part of the newly designated
Audubon Park Historic District:
click map for more information and larger view
Audubon Park Historic District
The Grinnell (800 Riverside Drive)
The Riviera enjoyed her position as queen of Audubon Park for only a few months before the completion of the Grinnell, in July 1911. Although it is four stories shorter, and its cost was only $600,000, less than half the Riviera’s pricetag, the Grinnell possesses ample majesty of her own. Sitting on higher ground than the Riviera, her nine stories rise from a triangular block like an imposing fortress, towers on each corner extending her height another two stories. Instead of a moat, three streets set her off from the rest of the neighborhood, both physically and psychologically. This triangular lot, by the way, was once the Grinnell’s cow pasture.
Do you remember the leaf-and-berry motif from Rhinecleff Court? Here it is again, around the two story arched entrance of the Grinnell. An oft-told tale suggests that when the Grinnell was new, the entrance on Edward M. Morgan Place was the pedestrian entrance and this was the vehicular entrance, though the heavy granite sill and limited space for turning a vehicle in the courtyard would have made that impossible. A long passageway at this entrance, which leads into a central courtyard, cuts through apartment lines on both the first and second floors. To accommodate the grand entrance, Schwartz and Gross combined the interrupted lines into duplexes, one on either side of the archway. A few paces further up Riverside Drive is the entry to a third duplex apartment; this one with an exterior entrance.
When it was new, the Grinnell featured many of the standard amenities, with layouts “designed to meet the requirements of those accustomed to private houses” and “rentals 30% less that the Middle West Side.” Until World War II, the Grinnell had uniformed staff, twenty-four hour elevator service, and mail delivery to apartment doors – twice a day. Every apartment had a dumbwaiter so that deliveries could be made through the rear entrance and basement. The dumbwaiters also served to transport rubbish and soiled clothes to the basement, which contained a building-operated laundry. Until recently, large drying racks remained as a reminder of those days. Stories passed on by early residents report that the Grinnell’s management gave dances for the residents every spring – on the roof, with a full orchestra.
An interesting foot-note to the Grinnell’s history: In the late 1940s, Daddy Grace, an evangelist noted for his flamboyant appearance – he painted his fingernails red, white, and blue and favored cut-away coats and flowing hair – purchased the Grinnell in the name of the Church of the House of Prayer for All People, which he had founded. Daddy Grace took great pride in his new acquisition, featuring it on the cover of his magazine "The Grace," and, according to local residents, came monthly in his limosine to collect rents and check on the buidling. Some also remember that he rechristened 800 Riverside Drive, "The Grace," though no records confirm that name change.
800 Riverside Drive
is part of the newly designated Audubon Park Histori District
Gila Stein, who lives at 800 Riverside Drive, prints very neatly for a girl only 7 1/2 years old. On her new stationery, decorated with the picture of a swan, she wrote The New York Times...This year I am writing my letter myself. This year I go to Second Grade. I am 7 1/2 years old. This year I save $3.18 because of what my mother read to me out of The New York Times.
When you give out the money I hope some child will enjoy it. I hope a child liked it last year and the year before. I hope I can send you the same amount of money next year or even more. This is my own stationery. Love and kisses, Gila Stein
New York Times
December 10, 1952
The Grinnell is within
The Heritage Rose District of
New York City:
Celebrating our heritage with historic roses in West Harlem and Washington Heights