THE westernmost north-south avenue in Manhattan north of West 72nd Street, Riverside Drive runs from West 72nd Street north to Broadway and Dyckman Street in Inwood.
Riverside Drive was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted as part of his concept for Riverside Park. It passes through the Manhattan neighborhoods of the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights, over Manhattanville in West Harlem by way of the Riverside Drive Viaduct and through Washington Heights.
The eastern side of Riverside Drive, once a series of luxuriously finished rowhouses interspersed with free-standing nineteenth century mansions set in large lawns, today is lined with luxury apartment buildings and some remaining town houses from the Drive’s beginning to 118th Street.
Among its famed residents were Damon Runyon, George Gershwin, Babe Ruth and fictional characters Oscar Madison and Paul Kersey of Death Wish.
I have yet to do a definitive walk on Riverside Drive, though in 2012 a Forgotten NY tour marched from 72nd north to 125th, a trip that took us a good five hours. (I don’t put myself or tourgoers on five hour specials anymore, as father time is beginning to affect my stamina.) It’s a fascinating road as it twists and tuns unlike most Manhattan avenues, and divided into two in sections with one side up a hill from the other. It’s also bridged over several cross streets such as West 96th, West 129th through 135th and West 158th. The viaduct from West 129th to 135th (seen on this FNY page)is the lengthiest and most photographed of all of them, but I have begun to notice the others, such as this one at West 96th. It enables traffic to get to the Henry Hudson Parkway directly without having to cross Riverside Drive.
I know little about it except that Bridgehunter calls it a steel arch bridge built in 1920. The large stone arches over the sidewalks, though, seem to point to the Beaux Arts era two decades before that.
On the right, almost out of the picture, is 243 Riverside Drive, known as the “Cliff Dwellers Apartments.” Friezes on the building depict mountain lions, buffalo skulls and rattlesnakes to symbolize Arizona cliff dwelling Native Americans: this building overlooks hilly Riverside Park across the street. Two terra cotta swastika-shaped symbols can be found on the upper corners at 243 Riverside at West 96th Street, which was built about 1914. The swastika, formerly a symbol of good fortune and prosperity, was co-opted and forever corrupted by the National Socialist Party of Germany beginning in the 1920s. It can be found on many older buildings around town that predate Nazi Germany.
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