|photo by Alice Lum|
Henderson Place—a cohesive group of 24 houses constructed in 1882 at East End Avenue and 86th Street--was among their earliest large commissions. Quickly thereafter they were responsible for Harlem’s Mount Morris Bank in 1883, the Astral Apartments in the newly-popular Queen Anne style begun in 1885, and Theodore Roosevelt’s Shingle Style country home, Sagamore Hill. High-end residences became the firm’s specialty.
Now it was time for Rich to design his own home. In 1895 Rich purchased two lots on West 91st Street—Nos. 255 and 257—in the quickly-developing Upper West Side. The neighborhood would soon fill with wide mansions and comfortable upper-middle class homes and Rich’s residence would be among the most eye-catching.
Completed in 1896 the two brick homes complemented one another in their similar neo-Georgian designs. The Rich home, at No. 255 was entered through a marble-arched Federal style doorway at street level with a carved pineapple—the 18th century symbol of welcome—in the keystone. Dropping below the top level of the entrance arch and nearly abutting the first floor lintel, a multi-paned oriel window vies for attention with the flanking openings. Dramatic splayed marble lintels contrast vividly with the dark brick and above an overhanging cornice sit two prim dormers.
|A pineapple, the symbol of hospitality and welcome, adorns the marble keystone of the entrance --photo by Alice Lum|
Five years later Rich was at the drawing board again, tweaking his plans. Alterations were made on both buildings in 1901.
|Rich simultaneously designed a harmonious home next door at No. 257. Unfortunately its one-time fanlight over the eastern window is lost -- photo by Alice Lum|
Six hours later the water was still rushing in a river down the streets, flooding the basements of mansions to the ceilings and finally caving in sidewalks. Milk trucks acted as ferries to transport families from their homes to the safety of the opposite side of the street.
Charles Rich, as much an engineer as architect, was furious; blaming the flood on the newly constructed subway with improper drainage. The newspaper said that Rich’s property was worth over $100,000.
“When the city allows men to build an underground tunnel without a pipe gallery,” he complained, “you may expect such disasters as this to be of common occurrence. In every civilized city where subways have been constructed they are properly equipped with pipe galleries, and I consider it an outrage that the same was not done in our subway.”
|The multi-paned upper sashes survive in most openings beneath dramatic splayed lintels -- photo by Alice Lum|
In 1919 Charles Rich decided to move on and filed his own plans for the conversion of his residence to an apartment building. The renovation cost approximately $12,000 and Rich retained ownership of what was now an income-producing property.
Apparently never satisfied, Rich was back at the drawing board again and on December 31, 1929 the house had been converted, once again, to ten “non-housekeeping apartments.”
|The once-grand home is in dire need of maintenance, including the precariously-leaning brick entrance post -- photo by Alice Lum|