Winner, Victorian Society in America Book Awards
A colorful tale of a singular New York City neighborhood and the personalities who make it special
To outsiders or East Siders, Riverside Park and Riverside Drive may not have the star status of Fifth Avenue or Central Park West. But at the city’s westernmost edge, there is a quiet and beauty like nowhere else in all of New York. There are miles of mansions and monuments, acres of flora, and a breadth of wildlife ranging from Peregrine falcons to goats. It’s where the Gershwins and Babe Ruth once lived, William Randolph Hearst ensconced his paramour, and Amy Schumer owns a penthouse. Told in the uniquely personal voice of a longtime resident, Heaven on the Hudson is the only New York City book that features the history, architecture, and personalities of this often overlooked neighborhood, from the eighteenth century through the present day.
Combining an extensively researched history of the area and its people with an engaging one-on-one guide to its sights, author Stephanie Azzarone sheds new light on the initial development of Riverside Park and Riverside Drive, the challenges encountered—from massive boulders to “maniacs”—and the reasons why Riverside Drive never became the “new Fifth Avenue” that promoters anticipated. From grand “country seats” to squatter settlements to multi-million-dollar residences, the book follows the neighborhood’s roller-coaster highs and lows over time. Readers will discover a trove of architectural and recreational highlights and hidden gems, including the Drive’s only freestanding privately owned villa, a tomb that’s not a tomb, and a sweet memorial to an eighteenth-century child. Azzarone also tells the stories behind Riverside’s notable and forgotten residents, including celebrities, murderers, a nineteenth-century female MD who launched the country’s first anti-noise campaign, and an Irish merchant who caused a scandal by living with an Indian princess.
While much has been written about Central Park, little has focused exclusively on Riverside Drive and Riverside Park until now. Heaven on the Hudson is dedicated to sharing this West Side neighborhood’s most special secrets, the ones that, without fail, bring both pleasure and peace in a city of more than 8 million.