The other day, I was driving up Broadway toward the northern tip of Manhattan when something caught my eye off to one side…
Poking up behind the auto body shops and brick storefronts…
…was that a crumbling stone archway?
Something seemed very out of place about this. I pulled over and looked it up on my phone…
…and learned that this…
…is all that remains of this:
This archway is the last remaining structure from the Seaman-Drake estate, which used to sit atop the Inwood hills over 100 years ago. I noticed several historical pictures of the property in the window of the Inwood Hills Spirit & Wine Room beside the arch. Here’s one of Broadway back in the day…
According to this great article from MyInwood.com, the Seaman estate was built by one John Seaman, the wealthy son of Dr. Valentine Seaman, who introduced the small pox vaccine to the United States. In 1851, Seaman purchased 25 acres of land in northern Manhattan and built his estate.
According to this 2001 NY Times article, the house and archway were both built of marble taken from a quarry at the bottom of the hill along Broadway (marble from this same vein was used to construct St. Patrick’s Cathedral).
The estate was later bequeathed to Lawrence Drake, Seaman’s nephew, and managed to survive into the 20th century.
Sadly, in 1912, a number of one-story buildings were constructed around the archway, while the estate itself was sold to developers in 1938.
Since 1960, the southern portion of the arch has been home to Jack Gallo Auto Body…
…and it’s really fascinating to peek in and see one enormous leg jutting through the ceiling, as if it somehow stomped its way into the building:
But for a really neat little secret, head up the drive under the arch…
…and turn through the opening:
Once an enclosed room, the roof over this wing of the arch collapsed decades ago, leaving the structure open to the elements.
Standing inside, it almost feels like a medieval turret covered in lush green ivy.
Even more surreal, the marble walls almost completely drown out the surrounding noise, creating a tranquil retreat from the honking cars and rumbling el trains of northern Manhattan.
In recent years, there’s been talk of incorporating the arch into a restaurant or club, but nothing has materialized.
For a number of really fantastic pictures of the Seaman-Drake estate (not shot through the glass windows of a liquor store!), be sure to check out the article on MyInwood.com.
I think the most interesting bit is the rear window inside the arch. A hundred years ago, the view would have been rolling hills and a palatial estate. Today?
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