Feasting on turtle soup for lunch and playing cards in a breezy tavern were two of the ways harried New Yorkers in the 1820s escaped the hub-bub and heat of Manhattan without actually leaving the island. When the carriage house that was built in 1799 by Col. William Stephens Smith and Abigail Adams Smith, daughter of President John Adams, became a hotel several decades later, Upper Manhattan was still country, and still cool. Scotsman James Stuart, writing in his diary about the hotel in 1829, noted as much, observing that it was “a good house in an airy situation . . . placed upon the top of the bank, about fifty feet above the river; and the view of the river and of the gay sailing craft constantly passing, and tossed about by the eddies in every direction is very interesting.” He goes on to remark on the relative safety of the environs: “Near as we are to New York, and within 300 yards of the high road, there is neither a shutter nor a bar to a window in the house. Clothes are laid out to bleach all night without the slightest fear of their being carried off.”
When Rural Ruled Uptown
Manhattan harbors hotel gem from the 1820s.
HUMANITIES, November/December 2011, Volume 32, Number 6