The most spectacular mansion on Riverside Drive

SchwabmansioncolorPennsylvania native Charles M. Schwab died with slightly less of a fortune than fellow Gilded Age steel magnates Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick.

But in 1906, Schwab eclipsed these two captains of industry in one regard: he built a larger, more magnificent Manhattan mansion.

While Carnegie and Frick built their palaces on Fifth Avenue, Schwab went west. He constructed his on Riverside Drive, on the site of a former orphan asylum.


His 86-room chateau, situated on an entire block between 73rd and 74th Streets and stretching all the way to West End Avenue, was perhaps the most ambitious private home ever built in Manhattan.

How loaded with amenities was it? The house boasted three elevators, a gym, an indoor pool, a chapel, and a bowling alley, as well as elaborate gardens and a nearly 200-foot tall tower offering spectacular views of the Hudson River.

21 Apr 1933, Manhattan, New York, New York, USA --- New York: Schwab Mansion. "I Wonder Why Life Has Been So Kind!" Steel Magnate Says As Golden Wedding Nears. Here's the great mansion of 73rd Street and Riverside Drive, where Charles M. Schwab and his wife will celebrate their Golden Anniversary on May 1st. There's a lot of difference between this and the home they first established after their marriage. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

It also contained its own power plant, to keep the 6,000 incandescent bulbs glowing.

SchwabheadshotWhen Schwab (left) and his wife moved in, Riverside Drive was an elegant thoroughfare poised to replace Fifth Avenue as the city’s priciest road.

Though other wealthy men also built freestanding mansions here, Riverside never became the “millionaire’s row” developers had hoped.

Still, Schwab and his wife held out in their chateau, which “became the scene of countless gilt and plush social affairs,” wrote the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1947.

SchwabmansionadnytimesAs time went on, other neighboring mansions were bulldozed and replaced by apartment buildings.

Before his death in 1939, Schwab offered his mansion to the city of New York, hoping it would be used as an official mayor’s residence.

Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia turned the offer down, finding the house too garish. (Instead, he made the more stately Gracie Mansion the mayoral home in 1942.)

SchwabmansiondemoAfter Schwab’s mansion was sold off in 1947, it was set to be bulldozed. But not before a fire sale.

“[N]ewspaper articles at the time mention salvage operations under way for wood paneling, a large organ, chandeliers and stained glass,” wrote the New York Times in 2003.

(Some of the artifacts for salvage, at left.)

What went up in its place? A massive red-brick apartment residence (below) opened in 1950 called Schwab House, after the stupendous home that symbolized Gilded Age wealth and power.


[Photos: MCNY; streeteasy]

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7 Responses to “The most spectacular mansion on Riverside Drive”

  1. wack60585 Says:

    Reblogged this on wack60585.

  2. Marie Says:

    Replaced by an ugly red brick building. What a shame.

  3. Susie Says:

    Wow! Love the historic photos!

  4. wensube Says:

    Any relation to the Charles Scwab of the investment company today?

    • wensube Says:

      Charles Schwab. Sorry for the misspelling.

      • Jon Phillips Says:

        There is no relation. Charles M. Schwab the Bethlehem Steel Magnate and high roller (compulsive gambler), built this mansion. Charles R. probably hoped they were related growing up, but, no, they’re not.

        Charles M. was like Bet a Million Gates (they both had served on the board of U.S. Steel under JP Morgan and then started their own companies, Bethlehem Steel for Charles M. and Texaco for Bet a Million) – he “broke the bank at Monte Carlo” but he spent like a drunken sailor as this mansion can attest and went broke long before it was seized in lieu of taxes and auctioned off. The Great Depression wiped out Charles M. and Bethlehem Steel.

  5. “Victory gardens” bloom across the 1940s city | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] was planted on Park Avenue. Another bloomed on the grounds of the magnificent Schwab mansion on Riverside Drive. A third sprouted in Midtown in the shadow of the Chrysler […]

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