137-139 Riverside Drive

The Clarendon


137-139 Riverside Drive


Date: 1906-07

NB Number: NB 850-1906

Type:  Apartment Building

Architect:  Birge, Charles E.

Developer/Owner/Builder: RH MacDonald & Co

NYC Landmarks Designation:  Historic District

Landmark Designation Report:Riverside Drive- West End Historic District

National Register Designation: N/A

Primary Style:  Neo-Renaissance

Primary Facade:   Brick, Limestone, and Terra Cotta

Stories: 12

Window Type/Material: See structure

Structure:  This twelve story apartment building is located at the southeast corner of Riverside Drive and West 86th Street, extending approximately 102 feet along the drive and ninety feet along the side street. The building is faced with red and black brick set in Flemish bond with limestone and terra cotta trim. The building is U shaped in plan with a courtyard facing east. The composition, organization and ornamental detail of this building, the Clarendon, are similar to that of its southern neighbor, the Dorchester. Riverside Drive Facade: This facade has three major horizontal divisions -a three story base, a seven story midsection, and a two story top – composed of seven bays of alternating paired and single sharply cut rectangular window openings. A small one-over-one double-hung window is located just to the north of the second bay from the north. Eight pairs of the original three pane wood casement sash with transoms remain on the Riverside Drive facade. The areaway is enclosed by a wrought iron pipe rail fence. The limestone clad base with a rusticated basement and large keystones above the first story windows is topped at the fourth story sill line by a decorative bandcourse. The midsection begins at the fourth story windows, which have simple stone surrounds with elaborate panels above, and rises to the banded tenth story. Other detailing includes decorative sills at the second story and raised brick surrounds with stone trim at the fifth story. The top section has decorative window surrounds at the eleventh story and terra-cotta facing at the twelfth story. Above an elaborate metal cornice is a mansard roof addition.

West 86th Street Facade: This facade is six bays wide and its overall design follows that of the Riverside Drive facade. The classically inspired entranceway to the building is composed of four double height Doric pilasters flanking window openings and supporting a simple entablature which projects slightly from the wall surface. “Clarendon” is carved within the entablature and a large cartouche with garlands is placed above the doorway. The entrance doors are recessed and a transom set flush with the wall is located above. A metal and glass canopy projects over the sidewalk. Eastern Elevation: The eastern elevation of the Clarendon is partially visible from West 86th Street. Materials of the West 86th Street facade return about six feet. Beyond, stone is replaced by tan brick and less ornament is used. There are three bays of windows visible with an extra window to the south of the second bay at the first and second stories.

Historic District: Riverside Drive- West End HD

Alterations: When the Clarendon’s owners refused William Randolph Hearst’s proposal for alterations to the upper story apartments, Hearst purchased the building and carried out the renovations unimpeded. This probably accounts for the increased height of the building through the addition of a copper covered mansard roof which extends along Riverside Drive and two bays to the east on West 86th Street. Most of the windows have one-over-one double hung aluminum replacement sash. There are several through-the-wall air conditioners. The entrance consists of recent metal and glass double doors with side lights and transoms. Some of the brick on the West 86th Street facade has been cleaned.

History: The Clarendon was designed by Charles E. Birge and erected in 1906-07 for R. H. MacDonald and Company. The site was previously occupied by the Episcopal Home of Mercy whose structure faced Riverside Drive and occupied eleven lots between West 85th and West 86th Street. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst moved to the Clarendon in 1907 and subsequently purchased the propertySelected References: “The Proposed Riverside-West End Historic District: The Home Section of the City” report prepared by Andrew Scott Dolkart for Landmark West! May, 1987, 5. New York City Department of Taxes Photograph Collection, Municipal Archives and Record Collection, C 719. “No Dark Rooms Here,” Real Estate Record & Guide 81 (Apr. 25, 1908), 754-757. Thomas E. Norton, Jerry E. Patterson, Living It Up: A Guide to the Named Apartment Houses of New York (New York, 1984), 103. Real Estate Record & Guide 82 (July 4, 1908), 14. The World’s Loose Leaf Album of Apartment Houses (New York, 1910), 128.

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