Reginald Pelham Bolton

Reginald Pelham Bolton is considered the foremost authority on the history of Washington Heights and Inwood. Born in London, England on October 5, 1856 Bolton was the son of James and Lydia Louise Pym Bolton. He majored as a consulting civil engineer. In 1878 Reginald married Ethelind Huyck in Sussex. They had two children Guy and Ivy.

The Boltons moved to the United States and settled in Washington Heights at what is now 638 West 158th Street. In time he had not only become noted as an engineer but as an avid archaeologist.

Bolton’s family owned land in Inwood. Curtis and John Bolton, sons of John Bolton of Chestertown, Maryland, were the young first cousins of Robert Bolton of Savannah, the great-grandfather of Reginald Bolton.

The Bolton family had been in the cotton exporting and shipping business. The ravages of French privateers and the war with Great Britain (1812-1815) inflicted heavy losses on the firm and cargoes of cotton were seized and confiscated. As a result of this the Bolton brothers moved to New York City and started a new business in the shipping industry.

In 1817 the Boltons purchased a tract of land from the heirs of Jan Nagle who was one of the original settlers of the community. This property is now part of the Spuyten Duyvil Creek and Inwood Hill Park. The parcel was exchanged in 1829 for lands upstate. The only remnant of the ownership was the Bolton Road which is now a pedestrian path in Inwood Hill Park. The entrance to the Bolton Road is designated with a stone, painted black, on Payson Street between Dyckman Street and Beak Street

John Bolton became Alderman of the Ninth Ward. In 1834 he was one of the Committee of the Board that had to report, on the difficulties arising as to property lines due to the laying out of the City plan on its present rectangular lines.

Curtis Bolton became head of the firm of Bolton, Fox and Livingston which owned a fleet of clipper ships known as the “Union Line” sailing between New York and Le Havre. He was treasurer of the New York Institute for the Blind and a director of the Institute for the Deaf and Dumb. Both organizations shared the property on 163rd Street and Fort Washington Avenue. John Bolton passed away in 1838 and Curtis in 1851.

Reginald Bolton’s interest in archaeology had enabled him, with the help of his crew, to excavate many acres of rural land in northern Manhattan to find thousands of artifacts of the Weckquaesgeek Indians and Revolutionary soldiers. Bolton gained recognition for his knowledge of Revolutionary War sites and was asked to be a consultant for Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown in Virginia and Fort Ticonderoga in New York.

Through his efforts, Bolton became a Life Member of the New York Historical Society and of the Museum of the American Museum, Heye Foundation (now part of the Smithsonian Institution). He was an associate member of the Westchester County Historical Society and a Vice President of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society and of the City History Club.

The Boltons were members of Holyrood Church when it was on Broadway and 181st Street. Bolton was the editor of the monthly newsletter for the church which was obtainable by subscription for $1. per year. Holyrood Church is presently located on Fort Washington Avenue and 179th Street.

Bolton was Secretary for the Washington Heights Taxpayers Association which existed in the early part of the 20th Century. As a member of this group Bolton wrote a pamphlet in 1918 called “$5 Million Speedway, A Useless Driveway.” This was in reference to the Harlem River Speedways which was, in his opinion, a waste of $14,000 per year of taxpayers money. In 1937 the Speedway was extended to connect with the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive.

Bolton was also known to have authored many books on the history of New York City and its surrounding areas. One of these is called ìNew York in Indian Possession published in 1920 in conjunction with the Museum of the American Indian – Heye Foundation.

The book was well received largely due to the attempts it paid to local sections of New York City. Even though there are some minor errors in it most of Bolton’s interpretations and conclusions are generally accurate. The Museum, now a part of the Smithsonian Institution, is now located in the Customs House at Bowling Green.

His next book “Washington Heights Manhattan, Its Eventful Past” was published in 1924 by the Dyckman Institute. The information in this book had been gathered over a period of twenty-five years prior to its publication. The original maps used in the book had been given to the American Geographical Society, which at the time, located at the Audubon Terrace Museum Group Complex located on 156th Street and Broadway.

The Society’s collection is presently located at the Golda Meir Library of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. The book is out of print and may be found at out of print bookstores. In New York City there are three copies located at the Fort Washington, Washington Heights and Inwood Branches of the New York Public Library.

Bolton had co-authored a book with William L. Calver of the New York Historical Society called ìHistory Written With Pick and Shovel: Military Buttons, Belt Plates, Badges & Other Relics Excavated From Colonial, Revolutionary & War of 1812 Campsites. Bolton also wrote “History of the Defense and Reduction of Mount Washington” (1901), “Relics of the Revolution” (1912), “The Bombardment of New York” 1915, and “Indian Paths of the Great Metropolis” 1922.

In the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum on Broadway and 204th Street there is a relic room on the main floor in the back of the house. For a while it was known as the “Reginald Pelham Bolton Collection Room.” This collection is the result of digs and excavations around and near the Dyckman Farmhouse during the period from 1905 to 1916.

The Relic Room, as it is also known, was initially put together by Bolton with the help of Bashford Dean who was the curator of Medieval Armament of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The room remained untouched until 1991 when it was renovated and re-instated as a permanent collection for the 75th Anniversary of the opening of the house as a museum.

The Hessian Officer’s Hut in the rear of the property was also built by Bolton and his team in 1916 to show how the soldiers lived in these small but sturdy huts during the American Revolution. Many huts such as this dotted the community during the war.

Bolton had a passionate interest in the past. He preserved much of New York City’s earliest history and saved it from bulldozers and wrecking balls that had destroyed many of yesterday’s important relics.

While he was doing this Bolton promoted technological improvement. As a civil engineer Bolton innovated construction and engineering techniques. He had proposed a high speed underground railway system from the west in New Jersey and from the north in upstate New York to link with downtown Manhattan.

Bolton had contributed to the heating, lighting and water system designs of the cites first skyscrapers. In the late 1890’s Bolton reported that the cost of a sixteen story, high quality building that was steel framed and fireproofed that included all utilities and a moderate amount of exterior ornamentation cost between 36 and 40 cents per cubic foot.

In 1917 Bolton wrote a book entitled “A Municipal Experiment or The Hall of Record, Power Plant.” This book was an analysis comparing the use of small isolated steam power plants versus large public utility plants in New York City.

Reginald Bolton died on February 18, 1942 and his wife Ethelind died December 29, 1945. Both had been cremated at the Ferncliff Cemetery crematorium in Hartsdale, New York and the ashes are at Beechwoods Cemetery in New Rochelle, New York. Reginald Bolton’s funeral services were at the Daniel Coughlin Funeral Home at 4120 Broadway and his wife’s services were at the Walter Cody Funeral Home at 1093 Saint Nicholas Avenue.

Seaman-Drake Arch

The Seaman-Drake Arch on Broadway and 215th Street may be regarded as one of the most unusual structures in northern Manhattan today. It continues to amaze passers-by and non residents who are not aware of its significance, history and age.

The Seaman Family dates back to the colonial times when Captain John Seaman settled Long Island in what is now Hempstead. In 1653 Captain Seaman acquired 12,000 acres in the area.

Among the Captains descendants was Dr. Valentine Seaman, who with several colleagues, introduced the Smallpox vaccine to the United States in the early 1800ís. The vaccine was developed in England by physician Edward Jenner in 1796. Since then its introduction to the rest of the world had started the control and eventual eradication of the disease.

In 1851 the sons of Dr. Seaman, John and Valentine the younger, bought 25 acres of land which was between 214th and 218th Streets, and the Kingsbridge Road (now Broadway) north and west to the Spuyten Duyvil Creek. Their immediate neighbors to the south were the Dyckmans and the Ishams.

Valentine Seaman the younger built a house on top of a hill between what is now Park Terrace East and Park Terrace West. The house was used as a country residence for seasonal use. The original design of the house had a domed tower but was eventually changed to a square format.

In 1855 the arch was constructed as a gateway to the hilltop estate. Its measurements were 35 feet high, 20 feet deep and 40 feet wide. Iron Pivots for a large gate still exist in the passageway. On the rear of the arch are windows suggesting that there may have been quarters for a gatekeeper.

Sources indicate that the Seaman house and arch were constructed of local marble from a quarry on Broadway in what is known as Marble Hill. This vein of marble extends up to Tuckahoe, New York and was also used for the construction of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

James F. Seaman eventually became the principal occupant of the estate and married Ann Drake. In her will dated in 1883 Mrs. Seaman bequeathed here part of the estate to her nephew Lawrence Drake. The extent of the occupancy of the Drake family could not be determined as to who was at the estate at what period of time.

During this period the Drake’s designed a garden with shrubs, trees, charming walks and statues. The Suburban Riding and Driving Club had occupied the estate in 1897. Lawrence Drake, an avid auto enthusiast, was a member of the club.

In 1905 the estate was sold to Thomas Dwyer. Dwyer was a contractor who was involved with such projects as the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Riverside Drive and 90th Street and part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street.

Over the next few years the appearance of the property started to change. in 1912 the first of a series of low brick buildings began to surround the archway forming a kind of compound built by Dwyer. These became auto dealerships. In 1938 Dwyer sold the main house to developers. The only thing that remained of the old estate was the arch.

Seaman Avenue was opened in 1908 and was named for Henry B. Seaman a relative of the family. The Avenue runs north from Dyckman Street to 218th Street and runs parallel with the eastern border of Inwood Hill Park through Isham Park to the northern border of the old estate.

In the 1960ís the area immediately surrounding the arch was occupied by the Jack Gallo Auto Repair shop which has since changed ownership. In 1970 a fire in the arch left the stairs and plaster walls exposed and can be seen from the tops of the surrounding buildings and was never repaired. The marble facade is slowly decaying from age exposing the brick work due to pollution and acid rain. Until it collapses or is razed the Seaman-Drake Arch will act as a gateway to another era of the history of Inwood

The Washington Bridge

The Washington Bridge spanning the Harlem River was conceived and designed when the population of Manhattan started to move northward after the Civil War. In 1868 the Board of Commissioners of Central Park undertook a study to create a means of transportation between Manhattan and the Bronx. The Bronx was still considered part of Westchester County until the 1870’s.

In June 1885 the Mayor, Comptroller and the President of the Board of Aldermen of New York City appointed 3 Commissioners for the construction of such a bridge. The following year construction had started under the direction of William Jarvis McAlpine who resigned a few months later after establishing construction of the bridge. William Hutton had succeeded McAlpine to ensure that the job would be completed.

The bridge was designed by Charles Conrad Schneider who won first prize for the bridge contest. It has two main spans that are 510 feet each in length. Both spans consist of six arches composed of steel plated girders that are riveted together which makes the bridge the first of its kind to do so. The total length of the bridge is 2,375 feet and the width of the roadway is 66 feet. The pedestrian walkways increase the width of the bridge to 80 feet.

The Washington Bridge was referred to as the glory of the Harlem River. The New York Times described the bridge as follows: (The Washington Bridge) is one of the most imposing, beautiful and substantial to be found anywhere about the metropolis, and is especially interesting as a perfect and consistent edifice in the arched style of bridge architecture.

Construction was begun on October 1, 1886 and was completed in two years. The bridge was opened to pedestrian traffic on December 1, 1888. The bridge was formally opened to all traffic on February 22, 1889. The cost of the original structure was $3,000,000. It was initially scheduled to be opened for George Washington’s birthday in 1889 but due to bad weather and arguments amongst the bridges commissioners delayed the official opening to April 30th in time for the centennial of Washington’s Inauguration.

As traffic needs became greater the bridge was modified to accommodate more vehicles. In 1906, the first automobiles gained access to the bridge. During the 1940’s and 1950’s the roadway deck was modified to permit a 66 foot wide roadway with 6 traffic lanes and two 6 foot wide pedestrian lanes.

The bridge suffers an identity crisis. It shares its name with the George Washington Bridge which spans the Hudson River.

During the 1950’s the bridge was used by spectators to watch the rowing teams of Columbia University and Manhattan College. Regattas on the Harlem River were also observed from the bridge too. The original bronze lamp posts were removed for standard highway lights.

On April 28, 1989 the bridge had its centennial anniversary. Dignitaries from the Mayor’s office as well as local politicians and civic organizations from the Bronx and Manhattan were in attendance for the occasion.

by James Renner

Trinity Cemetery

Trinity Cemetery helped to shape the history of northern Manhattan to what it is today. Many of the persons whose remains are interred here shaped not only the history of the area but that of the United States.

The area’s first claim to history was on November 16, 1776 as the second line of defense during the Battle of Fort Washington. On that fateful day the vastly outnumbered Rebel army was forced back by the British forces from the south.

After the war the land was bought into private ownership. The last person to privately own the property was John James Audubon, the naturalist, who bought the land in 1839.

In 1842 Trinity Parish purchased part of the Audubon estate. This newly purchased  area (24 acres) extended from 153rd to 155th Streets, Amsterdam to Riverside Drive. The newly formed cemetery was established as a result of an ordinance passed by New York City prohibiting any further burials in lower Manhattan due to the fact that overcrowding in the existing cemeteries were the result of deaths caused by smallpox, typhoid and cholera. These were creating unsanitary conditions due to the high mortality rate. The first burial took place a year after the purchase.

As time passed Broadway was extended northward. The cemetery was forced to exhume graves and relocate them towards the Hudson River to make way for the newly expanded boulevard. The cemetery was we know it today is now divided into two divisions. The western division contains a majority of the older gravesites and mausoleums dating from 1843. The eastern division has more recent mausoleums and graves. Since the late 1970’s new mausoleums have been built along the Riverside Drive side of the cemetery.

Near these newly created mausoleums is a small artificial pond with miniature Canadian Geese and European Shell Ducks. In 1989 a gate and stairway were built to access the cemetery from Riverside Drive. In 1871 a bridge was built to connect both sides of the cemetery. The architects were Vaux,Withers and Co., the engineer was George C. Radford. The bridge was torn down in 1913 when construction of the Church of the Intercession was in progress.

On Amsterdam Avenue and 153rd Street is the cemetery lodge, which had been built in 1883 as a residence for the groundskeeper. The house is still used today by the employees of Trinity Cemetery as an office.

Many of the mausoleums, graves, vault markers and monuments were erected by many of New York’s 19th and 20th Century High Society. Most of these were lavishly built for them in death to show how they live in life. As one goes through Trinity some of the finest examples of of Neo-Gothic, Victorian and American Vernacular art and architecture for a graveyard can
be found in America. It is wise to note that some of the mausoleums and vaults are not marked as to ensure the privacy of those interred as well as to prevent grave robbing.

Different types of stone were used to construct the graves and mausoleums. Marble, brownstone and granite can only be found in various spots in the cemetery. As most people are aware marble starts to wear down over the years with lettering and ornaments starting to fade. Brownstone fares worse, after years of exposure it peels and crumbles. Mausoleums made of brownstone have a tendency of being broken at the edges just by using fingernails. Newer mausoleums in the western division have granite facing which has a longer lifespan than its predecessors.

As mentioned before Trinity is home to New York’s social elite of the past. One such example of someone here is Alfred Tennyson Dickens, the son of Charles Dickens who had come to New York to coordinate the centennial of his father’s birth. On the eve of the celebration Dickens suffered a fatal heart attack at the Hotel Astor and died. Since Dickens did not have next of kin in America he was buried at the cemetery with a gravestone donated from Trinity Parish.

John James Audubon (1780-1851), artist and naturalist, is best noted for his life-sized paintings of birds. Audubon’s grave is in the eastern division behind the Church of the Intercession. The New York Academy of Sciences erected a memorial in 1893 which is a fitting tribute to Audubon. On both sides of the memorial are likenesses of his work topped with a Celtic cross.

Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863) is located in the western half of the cemetery. He is well known as the author of the poem “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” which was written for his children as a Christmas present and was eventually published. Moore was the son of Dr. Benjamin Moore, the sixth Rector of Trinity Parish.

The Astor family has various members interred in Trinity. John Jacon Astor (1763-1848) started a fur and musical instrument business in New York. With the money the family earned, they bought property that later included the Hotel Astor and the Waldorf-Astoria. His son William Blockhouse Astor is also buried there too.

Eliza Joel of Morris-Joel Mansion fame is interred here too. Her colorful life and marriages to Stephen Joel and Aaron Burr made her quite notorious in the New York social circles. As a matter of fact neither one of her husbands is buried with her in the mausoleum.

As one walks through the cemetery and knows the history of New York City some interesting names appear on the gravestones. For example two of New York City’s Mayors Are buried here they are Fernando Wood and A. Oakley Hall. The Right Reverend Benjamin Trowel Underdone, the fourth Bishop of New York, is laid to rest here.

Some of the residents of northern Manhattan are buried here as well. These are the Guano’s and the Carman’s. Richard F. Carman owned property from 139th to154th Streets, Saint Nicholas Avenue west to the Hudson River. Some of the tenants who lived in the area called it “Chapmanville.” William Guano was another resident who owned property in Washington Heights is buried here too.

In 1969 the cemetery was designated as a historic landmark thus halting all in-ground burials with the exception of direct descendants of those already interred here such as the Asters if they so choose. At present there are at least 32,000 people buried in both divisions of Trinity Cemetery.

Located at 155th and Broadway is the Church of the Intercession which was constructed between 1911 and 1914. It is the finest example of Neo-Gothic architecture in New York City. The architect of the church is Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue who is buried within the church. Every Christmas the church celebrates the Clement Clarke Moore Candlelight Carol Service honoring the poet who wrote “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” which has become an institution since 1911 when Reverend Milo Gates started it.

Yeshiva University

Yeshiva University has become an institution of learning in many fields and a haven for those interested in keeping their ties to Judaism. Founded in 1896 as the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, Yeshiva College and University remains as the oldest center for Judaic studies and the most comprehensive educational institution of its kind under Jewish auspices in the United States. The original location of the Seminary was 156 Henry Street and is presently located at the main campus at 2540 Amsterdam Avenue.

Yeshiva College was founded in 1928 and is the Undergraduate School of Arts and Sciences for men of the University. Most of the student population come from 25 states and as many countries to attend classes.

The present campus was opened in 1928 and designed by the architectural firm of  Charles B. Meyers & Associates. The fanciful underpinnings overlaid with its Near and Middle Eastern details of turrets, towers, minarets, arches, buttresses and balconies enhance the flavor of the main building. There is also an unusual orange with marble striping which gives the main building a touch of Byzantine architecture.

The major courses taught at Yeshiva University are: Hebraic Studies, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Biomedicine, Law, Studies of Jewish Heritage and Rabbinics. Other Colleges affiliated with Yeshiva University are: Alfred Einstein School of Medicine, The Brookdale Center-Cardozo School of Law, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Sy Syms School of Business, The Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, and the Stern College for Women.

Yeshiva University also offers courses for High School students. The Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy for Boys is located at 2540 Amsterdam Avenue. The Yeshiva High School for Girls is located at 86-86 Palo Alto Street in Holliswood, New York.

The Yeshiva University Museum has exhibits consisting of Judaic history and customs. Artists from all over the world exhibit here. New exhibits are constantly scheduled and the public is invited to call in advance for schedules. Guided tours are by reservation.

The University has three publications for its students, faculty staff, alumni and friends of the University. These are: Yeshiva University Today published monthly, The Commentator published bi-weekly and Cardozo Life published twice a year.

Yeshiva University’s radio station WYUR has been off the air for several years. Negotiations are being made to upgrade the system that can be picked up by radios on campus and can be heard on a public address system in the buildings on campus.

Yeshiva University’s main office is located at 500 West 185th Street located within the campus on Amsterdam Avenue. The Yeshiva University Museum was formerly located on-campus and is now located at The Center of Jewish People at 15 West 16th Street.

The uptown campus is attainable by mass transit with the IRT #1 and #9 to 181st Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue. Surface transportation bus routes to the campus are M101, M3, Bx3, Bx11, Bx13, Bx35 and Bx36.

by James Renner