Opening up the newspaper on a leisurely Sunday morning in New York usually doesn't bring many surprises, one would think. Perhaps it was a pleasant one for Alexander Grinnell (#166) to come across an article about the Grinnell Apartment Building at Riverside Drive and 157th Street. Being an architect, prominent buildings in the city's history would catch his eye anyway. But there it is again that Grinnell name that makes us look twice at what we see (or hear on TV-as reported in the previous newsletter).
The New York Times Sunday, March 5
A glance at page 7 in the Streetscapes/Readers' Questions section of The New York Times, Sunday, March 5, 2000 hits us with this item:
Q. Newspaper advertisements say that our building, the Grinnell, was completed in August 1911. But we've been told it was designed by George F. Pelham in 1909 and completed in April 1910. Which is correct?
...Nicholas Bunning, Manhattan
A George Pelham did file a building plan in 1909 for the Grinnell bounded by 157th Street, Riverside Drive and Audubon Place (now Edward M. Morgan Place) but it was not carried out, and the building was completed in 1911 under a different permit.
The site was part of the estate of Dr. George Bird Grinnell, an author and naturalist who was called "the father of American conservation" in his obituary in The New York Times in 1938. Dr. Grinnell selected the site for the Bronx Zoo, and led the movement that designated Yellowstone a national park.
In 1908, the extension of Riverside Drive northward destroyed part of Grinnell's suburban grounds around Riverside Drive and 157th Street, and he decided to develop the land he owned. In 1909 he had Pelham file plans for a six-story building on the site of the present eight-story Grinnell and two six-story buildings on the site of the present 12-story Riviera, one block south.
But building records indicate that all three plans were abandoned after several months, and professional builders took over the projects. Max Marx and Mark Ash hired Rouse & Goldstone to design the Riviera, completed in 1910.
The Grinnell was ultimately developed by a corporation headed by William Fredenburg and Herbert D. Lounsbury, prominent brick manufacturers, who hired the architects Schwartz & Gross to design the eight-story building.
Simon Schwartz and Arthur Gross, who had studied together at the Hebrew Technical Institute, were just then becoming favored by apartment house developers and soon built a very successful practice. Perhaps the developers, with a better understanding of the most profitable improvement for the site, approached Grinnell and bought him out.
The revised plan for the Grinnell was filed at the Department of Buildings on May 5, 1910, and marked completed on July 29, 1911, consistent with newspaper ads you have uncovered.
Am I the only one that would not have known about the existence of the Grinnell building if our cousin Alex Grinnell had not written a letter to the editor and sent the clipping?
The Winter/Spring Grinnell Family newsletter arrived today and I'm very happy to see the association is alive and well. I'm also glad that the newsletter continues to inform and unite the disparate Grinnell flock. I'm enclosing an article (recent) from The NY Times that discusses the origins of NYC's "Grinnell" apartment building in the event that you might think it newsworthy. Keep up the good work!
Alex Grinnell GFA 166
As you can see, it was newsworthy indeed. I found it very interesting. This is what our newsletter thrives on, family stories, news, events, milestones in your lives. Please feel comfortable in contacting this publication with your contribution of family happenings, whether current or historical. We even like "skeletons in the closet" and the occasional " horsethief" ancestor. But I personally would especially like to hear tales of the whaling families from New Bedford. Got a story for us?
Webmaster's Note: The Grinnell Apartment Building is covered exceptionally well as part of two websites devoted to upper Manhattan's Audubon Park area, by Matthew Spady: The Audubon Park Historic District site, which includes a lot of information on the Grinnell family and the Grinnell Apartments, and Spady's blog, Audubon Park Perspectives.