This luxury building had a private dock for yachts

River House, the majestic Art Deco apartment building at the end of East 52nd Street, offers lots of amenities.

Residents of this tony co-op built in 1931 on the site of a former cigar factory enter and exit through a cobblestone courtyard with a private driveway behind a wrought-iron fence.

Multi-room apartments have panoramic views of the East River, and the 26-story building features the River Club, a members-only club with a gym, pool, and dining room.

Too bad one of the original selling points River House dangled in front of its earliest prospective tenants is no longer there: a private dock on the East River where residents could park their yachts.

It’s hard to believe, but this really did exist. Even though the building opened during the Great Depression, that didn’t stop residents from using the dock to sail back and forth to their Long Island mansions, as one Daily News article from 1940 shows.

The yacht dock’s demise began when the city decided to build the East River Drive (later the FDR Drive) along the river in the 1930s, cutting into the dock. City officials apparently tried to work out a compromise.

“At River House, the highway is all at one level, the same level as the original dockside landing,” wrote Christopher Gray in a 2005 New York Times column.

“The city built a high wall separating the landing from the highway—leaving plenty of light, if no view—and erected an elevated walkway to a new riverside landing just beyond the highway itself.”

Apparently it just wasn’t the same without the original dock, and residents either gave up their yachts or parked them elsewhere.

[Top photo: MCNY, 1931: 88.1.1.2083; second photo: MCNY 1931: 88.1.1.2058; third photo: MCNY, 1938; fourth photo: MCNY 1931: 88.1.1.2121; fifth photo: City Realty]

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6 Responses to “This luxury building had a private dock for yachts”

  1. Todd Thacker Says:

    Thanks for this. I’m amazed how peaceful that spot must have been prior to the FDR.

  2. Shayne Davidson Says:

    I think this building and neighborhood is the setting for the 1937 Humphrey Bogart film, “Dead End Kids.”

  3. Ricky Says:

    Do you have any idea what the tubes or stacks or I don’t know what they are that are on the roofs of the north and south wings? They are in the old b/w photo but not in the new color photo.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I don’t know, but there’s a lot of information about this building in books and newspaper archives…I will find out!

  4. Bill Wolfe Says:

    The architect was William L. Bottomley, who seems to have specialized in mansions and country estates, based on what I see on Pinterest under his name. I can imagine an heiress in a 1930s screwball comedy – say, Carole Lombard – arriving at the River House dock in her yacht.

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