When megabucks lawyer Isaac L. Rice built his four-story Georgian-Beaux Arts residence (below, in a NYPL photo) there in 1903, Riverside Drive was supposed to eclipse Fifth Avenue as the city’s most luxurious place to live.
That didn’t quite happen, though Riverside Drive certainly had its share of opulent homes—especially the 30 or so free-standing mansions that used to line the street.
Today, only two remain. One is the Rice mansion on 89th Street, across from the Soldiers and Sailors monument overlooking the Hudson River.
Called Villa Julia after Rice’s wife, the red brick, white marble mansion was spectacular in its day.
The entrance, on 89th Street, featured a two-story stone arch, and the grounds had a reflecting pool and colannaded garden.
Inside, Rice built himself a chess room—he was an avid fan of the game.
The Rices didn’t live there very long. They decamped in 1907 for the new Ansonia apartment building on 74th Street.
In 1954, the mansion was bought by a Yeshiva, which still owns it today.
It’s a bit shabby and not as impeccably maintained as it could be, but it’s still a lovely reminder of how the superrich lived in New York more than 100 years ago.