Riverdale, in the north-west Bronx, developed as the southernmost piece of the Hudson River Valley. Originally part of Westchester County, Riverdale began just before the Civil War as a rural retreat for wealthy New York businessmen. Surviving Civil War-era mansions include Wave Hill, now a park and environmental center; Greyston, the former Dodge Estate, designed by James Renwick, Jr while he waited out the lull in construction on St. Patrick’s Cathedral caused by the Civil War; and the smaller houses and stables in the newly designated Riverdale historic district. Nearby are churches by Renwick and Upjohn. All the mansions share spectacular views of the Hudson and Palisades.
East of the river-front area is Fieldston, an early 20th-century development on the former Delafield estate, whose winding streets, following the local topography instead of the grid plan, are lined with romantically eclectic 1920s houses — Tudor, Cotswold Cottage, Spanish Colonial, Georgian — designed primarily by Dwight James Baum, master of the type (we see both his own house and his studio). The tour encompasses a moderately bracing 2-3 hour walk up and down the winding streets of this unusually beautiful neighborhood. An alternative is to make this a bus tour.
2. Jackson Heights
One of the country’s first garden suburbs – laid out in wheat fields in the middle of Queens – Jackson Heights was conceived and built as a planned, cooperative community. The construction of the Queensboro Bridge in 1909 had opened up the new borough to massive growth, much of it haphazard development. Edward MacDougall’s Queensboro Corporation made a modest beginning in 1915 building simple but greatly improved model tenements, which enjoyed much more light and air than their typical Lower East Side counterparts. But by the 1920s, MacDougal had begun to develop Jackson Heights as a sprawling, self-sufficient community centered around garden apartments – entire city blocks with shallow apartment buildings hugging the curb, thereby allowing enormous gardens to occupy the better part of the block. Two architects, the local George Wells and the nationally-known Andrew Thomas, designed a dozen major garden-apartment blocks in the romantic eclectic styles typical of the ’20s – variations on English, French, Italian and Spanish models, with red tile roofs, loggias, and tower belvederes, all surrounding lush interior gardens.
We visit the Greystone, Hampton Court, Chateau, Towers, and Dunnolly Gardens complexes — all handsome and solidly built, and originally organized as coops, among the first in the country. We also visit the early model tenements, the neighborhood’s eclectic churches (one of which began as a planned but later abandoned cathedral), its commercial spine along 37th Avenue, and the remarkable block of 82nd Street by the subway station, lined with Tudor-style commercial buildings more typical of a railroad suburb.
3. Bronx Art Deco: all-day bus tour
(see Art Deco Metropolis)
4. Five borough all-day bus tour
Contact us for details.