It’s hard to believe it, but it’s nowhere near as easy as it used to be to ride a horse in Central Park (unless you are a mounted policeman). The only nearby stables, the Claremont, ceased operations on April 29, 2007, and an equestrian era in the park came to an end.
Your webmaster must admit, while I don’t have a fear of horses, neither am I in great love with them. They are larger than me, they have big teeth, and they spook easily (sort of like the guys I went to high school with). Had I been born a century earlier than I was, though, I’d've had much more contact with the beasts and such prejudices, I’m sure, would have easily fallen away…
I encountered the old stables when walking east on West 89th Street from the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial on Riverside Drive. The concrete horseshoe and the wider-than-usual front door give it away as do the plaques that adorn the brick exterior.
From its wikipedia entry: Claremont was a very sophisticated yet homey environment. It was an unusual multistory barn, its floors connected by ramps, housed its horses in individual stalls in the basement and on the second floor. There was an indoor riding ring, but it was quite small and obstructed by posts.
The Academy was dependent on the structural condition of the bridle paths in nearby Central Park, as this was the primary designated area for horseback riding in Manhattan. At some point, the city allowed the bridle paths to be used by pedestrians, joggers, bicyclists and others along with discontinuing structural maintenance of the paths themselves. With the overuse of the paths in combination with the city’s discontinuance of maintenance, riders were no longer able to canter on the pathways, ending one of the pleasures of horseback riding which deterred new ridership. Due to declining patronage and increasing cost from renovations and taxes, Claremont closed forever at 5 p.m. April 29, 2007. It was rumored that the building will be converted into condominiums. According to Joanne Meszoly’s article in Equusmagazine’s July 2007 issue #358, the fate of the building is unknown.
Unless a new stables is opened in the Central Park vicinity, the park’s lengthy bridle paths, some of which go through obscure, hidden corners of the park, will be given over to joggers and runners; the former Claremont owner cited this as one of the reasons (most were economic of course) that he shut it down.
Also on W 89th: the West Side Community Garden; if you thought they were all on the Lower East Side and Loisaida, think again: this one’s on the ritzy Upper West Side. It was founded over 30 years ago on a vacant lot and acheived its present expanse in 1987. Though it is formally landscaped and plotted it is run purely by volunteers. Designer Terry Schnadelbach won the Philip N. Winslow award for best landscape design in 1991.
School with two names. It’s the Franklin School … no, it’s the Dwight School at West 89th and Central Park West. The elementary and secondary private school was founded in 1889 by Julius Sachs (of the famed Goldman Sachs banking family) and not long after, Yale University president Timothy Dwight established an association with it. It merged with the Franklin, or Anglo-American International School, in 1993 and moved to its present location here.
Though at present it has only a 400-strong student body it has an illustrious list of graduates, including Fiorello LaGuardia, Governor and Senator Herbert Lehman, Truman Capote, Robert Moses, artist Roy Lichtenstein, celebutante Paris Hilton and publicist/runner-overer Lizzie Grubman.
We’ve seen cherubs on a previous FNY page, and here at 17 West 89th are a pair of creatures rendered in stained glass and ceramic; from the waists up, they seem to be angels or cherubs with wings, but below that they have tails made of vegetation.
Page photographed July 2008 and completed November 20, 2008; Vicki Metzger assisted with this page.