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Schwab House

285 West End Avenue/11 Riverside Drive

Schwab House

285 West End Avenue

By Carter B. Horsley

In 1907, steel magnate Charles M. Schwab moved into his new, 75-room mansion designed in French chateau-style by Maurice Hébert on the block bounded by 73rd and 74th Streets, West End Avenue and Riverside Drive.

The site had formerly been occupied by the New York Orphan Asylum and had been purchased by financier Jacob Schiff. According to Peter Salwen, Schiff's wife worried that "would never see her fashionable friends again if she had to live on the Drive" and reluctantly Schiff sold the property to Schwab, who was an associate of Andrew Carnegie's in running United States Steel.

View from the northeast

View from the northeast

In his book, "Upper West Side Story, A History And A Guide," (Abbeville Press, 1989), the cream-colored granite structure had 116-foot-high pinnacles and was impressive enough to lead Carnegie, who had recently built his own mansion on Fifth Avenue and 91st Street that is now the home of the National Museum of Design, to ask a friend, "Have you seen that place of Charley's...,It makes mine look like a shack."

View of entrance from the north

View of entrance and sunken plaza on West End

When he died in 1939, Schwab bequeathed his magnificent house set in lush gardens behind handsome fences to the city for the mayor's residence, but, Salwen recounts, "a proletarian Mayor LaGuardia indignantly rejected it" 'What me in that?'" (In 1943, the Mayor moved into Gracie Mansion in Carl Schurz Park on the Upper East Side.)

View entrance steps leading down to plaza

View of entrance looking west

The Schwab mansion was torn down in 1948. "One of Manhattan's last free-standing mansions, and one of the grandest ever constructed in the city,...its passing [went] largely unnoticed and completely unprotested," observed Robert A. M. Stern, Thomas Mellins and David Fishman in their book, "New York 1960, Architecture and Urbanism Between The Second World War And The Bicentennial," (The Monacelli Press, 1995).

The opulent Schwab edifice was replaced by a 17-story, 654-unit apartment building, appropriately named Schwab House, in 1950. The redbrick structure, designed by Sylvan Bien, occupies about 60 percent of the site with landscaped courtyards providing light and air for the building's indented form.

View of southside of full-block complex

View of south side of full-block complex

"By 1950 it was clear that the Upper West Side was not only declining as a desirable middle-class area but more seriously was in danger of slipping into a state of uncontrollable decay, of becoming a slum," Stern, Mellins and Fishman noted.

The neighborhood, of course, stopped deteriorating and now is one of the most desirable in the city and Schwab House with its prime Riverside Drive location and proximity to an express subway station and Lincoln Center is more desirable than ever. The relatively plain building was converted to a cooperative in 1984.

Entrance

Entrance

The building has an attractive entrance on West End Avenue, roof deck, 24-hour elevator operators and a health club.


For more information on 285 West End Avenue check its entry at CityRealty.com

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