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Request for Evaluation to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission


857 Riverside Drive, Manhattan Tax Map Block 2135 Lot 23

Built: ​c. 1851

Architect: ​Undetermined


Style: ​Transitional Greek Revival–Italianate


857 Riverside Drive, photographed in 1937 by Berenice Abbott. Courtesy NYPL


Report prepared by Joseph V. Amodio for the Upper Riverside Residents Alliance, a volunteer community organization

1 Eric Foner, email with author, October 7, 2020.

2 Unless otherwise noted, information on the manhunt for runaway slave George Kirk comes from Don Papson and Tom Calarco, ​Secret Lives of the Underground Railroad in New York City: Sydney Howard Gay, Louis Napoleon and the Record of Fugitives​ (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2015), 43-6. It was also confirmed with the following sources: George Kirk et al., ​Supplement to the New-York legal observer, containing the report of the case in the matter of George Kirk, a fugitive slave, heard before the Hon. J. W. Edmonds, circuit judge: also the argument of John Jay, of counsel for the slave​ (New York: Legal Observer Office, 1847), PDF retrieved from the Library of Congress​; “Court of Over [sic] and Terminer: Before Judge Edmonds and Ald Jackson and Johnson,” ​The New York Herald​, Oct. 23, 1846; “Case of the Fugitive Slave: Tremendous Excitement,” ​New-York Daily Tribune,​ Oct. 28, 1846; “The Slave Case,” ​New York Evangelist,​ Oct. 29, 1846, 17, 44; “The Police of New-York on a Slave-Hunt!” ​New-York Daily Tribune, Oct. 30, 1846.


3 Unless otherwise noted, information on Dennis Harris’ career in New York as a sugar refiner, speculative land developer and abolitionist comes from Matthew Spady, ​The Neighborhood Manhattan Forgot: Audubon Park and the Families Who Shaped It​ (New York: Fordham University Press, 2020), 67-73.


4 Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, ​Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women, Autobiographical Sketches​ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1895), 8.


5 Henry B. Blackwell to Samuel C. Blackwell, 8 May 1853, Blackwell Family Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College.

6 Steven H. Jaffe, “David Ruggles’ Committee of Vigilance,” ​Lapham’s Quarterly,​ May 21, 2018,, <​​> accessed Oct. 5, 2020.



7 Lucius C. Matlack, ​The History of American Slavery and Methodism from 1780 to 1849: And History of the Wesleyan Methodist Connection of America​ (New York, 1849), 288-91, 357-9, 367. See also Doctrines and Discipline of the Wesleyan Methodist Church​ (Ann Arbor, MI: N. Sullivan, printer, 1842), 3-4, 29-30; and Joelle Million, “Samuel Blackwell: Sugar Refiner and Abolitionist,” ​New York History Review​ (June 14, 2017), <​​>


8 “Court of Over [sic] and Terminer: Before Judge Edmonds and Ald Jackson and Johnson,” ​The New York Herald,​ Oct. 23, 1846

9 A Slave Hunt in New York: And a Rescue by the Underground Railroad,” ​New-York Tribune,​ Oct. 25, 1885.


10 Ibid.

11 Willis Fletcher Johnson, ​History of the State of New York, Political and Governmental, vol. 2, 1822-1864​, (Syracuse, NY: The Syracuse Press Inc., 1922), 287-90. See also Papson and Calarco, 46; and Tom Calarco, ​The Underground Railroad in the Adirondack Region​ (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2004), 178.

12 For details on his remarkable escape, see Henry Box Brown, ​Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown​ (Manchester, England: Lee and Glynn, 1851), <​​ >.



13 Johnson, 289.

14 Johnson, 287-90.

15 “A Slave Hunt in New York: And a Rescue by the Underground Railroad,” ​New-York Tribune,​ Oct. 25, 1885. The same story from the Tribune was reprinted in other regional papers, as in “A Slave-Hunt in New York: And a Rescue by the Underground Railroad,” ​Rochester Democrat and Chronicle​, Oct. 27, 1885.

16 Frank Moss LL.D., ​The American Metropolis, from Knickerbocker Days to the Present Time: New York City Life in All Its Phases​ (New York: Peter Fenelon Collier, 1897), 245-7.


17 ​“​The Arrest of the Slave George Kirk,” Ian Brabner Rare Americana website <​ oldItem=true​>


18 Tom Calarco, email with author, October 7, 2020.


19 Papson and Calarco, 118.


20  “Wesleyan Methodist Society,” New-York Daily Tribune, May 10, 1850.


21  Richard O. Boyer, ​John Brown: A Biography and a History ​(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973), 351


22 “Sympathy for Rev. Charles T. Torrey,” ​National Aegis,​ May 27, 1846.

23 “At a Meeting Held in King Street Chapel,” ​The Anti-Slavery Standard,​ March 9, 1848.  


24 “Wesleyan Methodist Society,” ​New-York Daily Tribune​, May 10, 1850.


25 Ibid.


26 “City Items,” New-York Daily Tribune, November 6, 1850.


27 ​Frederick Douglass, ​The Frederick Douglass Papers: Series Three: Correspondence, vol. 2, 1853-1865 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018), 35.

28 “United States Census, 1850,” database with images, ​


29 Spady, 67-9. See also City Register, “Kingsland to Harris,” (October 27, 1849), Liber 528, Page 298; “Kingsland to Harris,” (November 5, 1849), Liber 530, Page 105; “Morgan to Harris,” (December 11, 1850), Liber 557, Page 414; “Audubon to Dennis Harris,” (March 12, 1851), Liber 567, Page 178; “Audubon to William Harris,” (November 7, 1851), Liber 584, Page 558; “Audubon to Dennis Harris,” (November 12, 1851), Liber 589, Page 303; “Audubon to Dennis Harris,” (December 8, 1851), Liber 588, Page 320.


30 Ibid, 67-8. See also Spady, email with author, October 5, 2020.


31 Spady, email with author, September 30, 2020.

32 “Religious Items,” ​New-York Daily Tribune,​ October 4, 1851.

33 Reginald Pelham Bolton, ​Washington Heights, Manhattan: Its Eventful Past​ (New York: Dyckman Institute, 1924), 114-5.


34 “L. Delos Mansfield to Douglas, 12 August 1853,” ​The Frederick Douglass Papers: Series Three: Correspondence, vol. 2; 1853-1865​ (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018), 35, 37n.


35 Spady, 68-9.

36 “United States, New York Land Records, 1630-1975,” database with images, ​


37 “Mrs. Emma M. West” obituary, ​The New York Times,​ September 7, 1898; “New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, ​FamilySearch <​​>; Barbara Eldredge, “This Remarkable Flatbush Mansion Used to Be a Kings Highway Icon,” Brownstoner,


38 Wolfert was one of the pioneering five “head farmers,” sent to New Amsterdam by the Dutch West India Company. Besides farming, he also ran a brewery on the corner of Pearl and Fulton Streets, and was a member of the “Eight Men” council, an early New Amsterdam governing body. He purchased from the Lenape Indians 3,600 acres of land in what is now Brooklyn. A document described as the oldest surviving land deed for Long Island confirms the purchase. His name lives on in today’s Gerritsen Beach neighborhood in Brooklyn, and in the Stoothoff-Baxter-Kouwenhoven House, in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn, a rare surviving farmhouse from Dutch Colonial times that dates back to 1747. For info on him, see Henry Wysham Lanier, A Century of Banking in New York, 1822-1922 (New York: The Gillis Press, 1922), 82; “Wolfert Gerritsen (Van Couwenhoven),” Historical Society of the New York Courts, <​​>; Landmark Preservation Commission, ​Stoothoff-Baxter-Kouwenhoven House Designation Report​ (LP-0919) (New York: City of New York, 1976).



39 “In Court of Appeals: Samuel Orchard, Respondent, against Abraham M. Binninger and Dexter B. Britton, impleaded with James E. Brown, appellants” (New York: Howard & Stover, 1868), 123-4, <​ l+orchard+binninger+dennis+harris&source=bl&ots=CGp387JcK7&sig=ACfU3U1lNnXS5rWGwHkKlo

vJLsN5L5LnGA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjcu9n7io3sAhXkg-AKHUEjD_EQ6AEwAXoECAcQAQ#v= onepage&q=samuel%20orchard%20binninger%20dennis%20harris&f=false​>


40 George Bird Grinnell, “Memoir,” (unpublished), 10. See also “Audubon Park,” ​The Auk​ (July-August, 1920), 374. The building’s precise location is unclear—the structure doesn’t appear on existing maps, though the practice of employers providing housing for their employees was typical for the period.


41 Bolton, 115. See also Spady, 73; and Jennifer L. Most and Mary Beth Betts, ​Audubon Park Designation Report​ (New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, 2009), 10.

42 “Seventeenth Ward Democratic Whig Nomination,” ​Morning Herald​, April 14, 1840; and “Twelfth Ward,” ​The New York Herald,​ July 13, 1852.

43 For info on the Whig party and its inability to effectively deal with the issue of slavery, see Corey Brooks, “What Can the Collapse of the Whig Party Tell Us About Today’s Politics?”, April 12, 2016; and Gil Troy, “How an Outsider President Killed a Party,”, June 2, 2016; and Philip A. Wallach, “Prospects for Partisan Realignment: Lessons from the Demise of the Whigs,”, March 6, 2017.

44 “The Free Democrats of New York,” ​National Era,​ October 28, 1852; “Free Democratic General Committee,” ​National Era​, September 23, 1852; and “Lying by Telegraph,” New-York Daily Tribune, August 19, 1854.

45 Rev. Charles A. Stoddard, DD, ​An Historical Review of The Washington Heights Presbyterian Church (New York: New York Institution for the Deaf & Dumb, 1877), 6-7.

46 Spady, 67, and Stoddard, 8.


47 Stoddard, 7. For info on Plymouth Church, see “Social Justice: The Underground Railroad,” <​​>; and “New York City and the Path to Freedom: Landmarks Association with Abolitionist & Underground Railroad History,” New York City Landmarks Preservation Committee, June 19, 2020,


48 Mike Cummings, “In the Shadows No More: Divinity School Honors Minister James W.C. Pennington,” Yale News, September 30, 2016, <​ >; Gerald Renner, “Clergyman, Former Slave Among Giants of Abolition,” ​Hartford Courant​, February 25, 1996, <​​>; Tim Rowland, “The Tale of Former Washington County Slaves and Their Lost Land,” The Herald-Mail, January 18, 2020, <​ laves-and-their-lost-land/article_0ccf98d7-176a-501d-bfec-71a8296ca89d.html​>; and Philip S. Foner and Robert James Branham, eds., Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900 (Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press, 1998), 271-3.


FOOTNOTE 48 LINK HeraldMailMedia

49 “Public Meetings: Anti-Slavery Meeting at Washington Hights [sic],” ​New-York Daily Tribune,​ August 11, 1854.


50 Graham Russell Hodges, ​Root and Branch: African Americans in New York and East Jersey, 1613-1863​ (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 238-41.


51 Bertram Wyatt-Brown, ​Lewis Tappan and the Evangelical War Against Slavery​ (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997), 176.

52 Hodges, 238-9.

53 Christopher L. Webber, email with author, October 20, 2020.


54 Ibid, 238-41

55 Hodges, email with author, October 20, 2020; and Webber, email with author, October 20, 2020.


56 “Tribute to a Former Pastor,” ​The New York Observer,​ September 30, 1909. For info on some of Shepherd Knapp’s anti-slavery activities, see Benson J. Lossing, LLD, ​History of New York City:

Embracing an Outline Sketch of Events from 1609 to 1830, and a Full Account of Its Development from 1830 to 1884​ (New York: The Perine Engraving and Publishing Co., 1884), 651-3; and “Nebraska Territory: Defense of the Missouri Compromise, Protest Against Its Violation,” ​New York Daily Times,​ January 31, 1854.


57 Henry Whittemore, Our New England Ancestors and Their Descendants, 1620-1900: Historical, Genealogical, Biographical (New York: New England Ancestral Publishing Co., 1900), 36


58 “Auburn’s History,” Auburn Seminary website,


59 Hélène Quanquin, “Innovation as Moral Victory: Henry Blackwell and Sugar,” ​Driving Innovation in Anglo-Saxon Economies: Comparative Perspectives,​ Vol. 4, no. 1, 220-33 <​​>


60 ​The Independent, founded by three Congregationalist ministers in 1848, actively endorsed abolitionism and women’s suffrage. Contributors included Henry Ward Beecher (who served as editor from 1861 to 183, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. For Blackwell’s views on annexation, see Henry B. Blackwell, “Santo Domingo—The Case Stated,” The Independent, April 20, 1871; and Nicholas Guyatt, “America’s Conservatory: Race, Reconstruction and the Santo Domingo Debate,” The Journal of American History, vol. 97, issue 4 (March, 2011).


61 “New Sugar Evaporator,” ​The New York Times,​ April 2, 1863.

62 Dennis Harris will. See also “New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database,​

63 “A Huntington (L.I.) Girl Missing: Belle Ward Is Supposed to Have Eloped with Charles Whelp,” ​The New York Times,​ February 10, 1894.

64 Spady, email with author, September 30, 2020. See also U.S. Census records for 1900 and 1910.


65 "United States Census, 1900," database with images, ​FamilySearch​,, ​accessed October 10, 2020.

66 United States Census, 1920,” database with images, ​FamilySearch, 601%2C1039156701%2C1040173901%2C1589341177​, accessed October 7, 2020.

67 New York, NY Conveyance, Book 4558, pp. 515-21.

68 Lenora Taitt-Magubane, community resident for 33 years and a Nelson neighbor, interview with author, October 11, 2020.


69 Bolton, 115.

70 “The Washington Heights Church Burns,” ​The New York Times,​ March 27, 1908.


71 Peter Green, “Keeping the Faith,” Crain’s New York Business, March 18, 2019.'s_Churches_Print_Version.pdf?15713447 67


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