URRA GREETING CARDS ARE NOW AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AT:
There are 4 cards with envelopes per package.
The card depicts the much loved 1937 photograph taken by Berenice Abbott of 857 Riverside Drive, a house built by a member of the Underground Railroad and the only surviving structure of a little-known abolitionist community in Washington Heights.
built: 1851 | photographed: 1937 by BERENICE ABBOTT
The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Our History Matters.
The Abolitionist House at 857 Riverside Drive is in imminent danger of being demolished.
Please help preserve it as an educational center focused on the Abolitionist movement and the continuing fight for equality and social justice in the United States.
Now, more than ever, we must work together to ensure we understand, teach, and preserve basic rights and freedoms for all.
How It Started:
Sometimes all it takes is a little digging.
Upper Riverside Residents Alliance &
The Harris/Newhouse Home
A small group of Washington Heights neighbors learned that lesson in August 2020, when we formed the Upper Riverside Residents Alliance, unified by our concern for a small wood-frame house at 857 Riverside Drive, and the news that it was about to be bulldozed.
A developer who had purchased the house had applied for a demolition permit and won preliminary approval to replace this two-story, single-family home with a 13-story apartment tower—more than twice as high as any building nearby—jammed with 46 mini condominium units.
A little digging revealed that one of the project’s developers appears regularly on the Public Advocate’s Worst Landlords Watchlist, having racked up an average of nearly 500 open HPD (Department of Housing Preservation and Development) violations in 2019, and 620 in 2020.
We knew from a 1937 photograph by Berenice Abbott that the house, built in the Greek Revival–Italianate style, once boasted a wraparound porch and a cupola, and we hoped it might be restored.
Built in 1851, it was part of a little-known colony of abolitionists in northern Manhattan, then an area of woods and farmland.
Its first owner, Dennis Harris, was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and at the center of a well-documented fugitive slave escape when he lived in lower Manhattan.
After being suspended by his downtown Methodist church for anti-slavery preaching, the minister and entrepreneur moved his family, his business and his abolitionist fervor uptown.
In Washington Heights, he and his friend John Newhouse, who bought the home from Harris and lived there with his family for decades, established abolitionist churches in the area.
They also built and ran a sugar refinery, pier and steamboat line.
Harris had used his downtown refinery to smuggle escaped slaves to freedom.
Historians say the uptown refinery, steamboat and this house, too, so close to the river in a sparsely populated area, were likely used in further Underground Railroad activities.
In Upper Manhattan, where abolitionism is not thought to have flourished, little history — particularly little African-American history — has been recognized and preserved.
The house at
857 Riverside Drive
is the last surviving
remnant of this
in the story
of New York.
Today, the Harris-Newhouse home is a symbol of our community — a tolerant and diverse place that remains one of the few affordable, livable, and relatively low-rise neighborhoods in Manhattan.
The destruction of the Harris-Newhouse home, and its replacement by a 13-story sliver tower, would be a 135-foot-high assault on our community, casting a literal and figurative shadow on the diversity that is our neighborhood’s pride.
It would give the green light to high-rise development all along our stretch of the Hudson River, and eradicate the memory of the brave residents who helped transform the area into the vibrant corner of the city it is today.
So we’re digging in.
AND THIS COMMUNITY
ARE WORTH SAVING.
THE MARCH OF PROGRESS HAS NOT BEEN KIND TO CULTURAL LANDMARKS RELEVANT TO PERSONS OF COLOR IN UPPER MANHATTAN.
TO LEARN ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE ABOLITIONIST HOUSE AND NEIGHBORHOOD,
READ THE PROPOSAL TO EXPAND THE Audubon Park Historic District.
UPPER RIVERSIDE RESIDENTS ALLIANCE
(Save Riverside) is a GRASSROOTS ORGANIZATION DEDICATED TO PRESERVING OUR ARCHITECTURAL, HISTORICAL, & CULTURAL HERITAGE IN WASHINGTON HEIGHTS.
For our Introduction PDF, link to the HDC Audubon Park booklet, and team bios: ABOUT US.
Josette Bailey, President
Vivian Ducat, Vice President
Matthew Spady, Treasurer
Mitch Mondello, Secretary
The New York Times article
by John Freeman Gill
READ AND DOWNLOAD