Posts Tagged ‘Rice mansion Riverside Drive’

A sculpture on a Gilded Age mansion pays tribute to the owners’ six beloved children

September 16, 2021

When Isaac Rice and his wife, Julia, decided to build a mansion at Riverside Drive and 89th Street for themselves and their young family in 1901, they turned to builders who gave them a house with lots of architectural elegance.

The four-story dwelling, completed in 1903, was a mix of Georgian and Beaux-Arts styles, with an arched second-floor entrance, Spanish roof tiles, doric columns, and a porte chochere—likely for Mr. Rice’s new electric vehicles, according to a 1979 Historic Preservation Commission report.

But the couple also commissioned something especially unique on the facade: a bas relief sculpture that portrays six children as unique individuals playing, reading, and otherwise looking happy and engaged.

Though the identities of the children aren’t known for sure, it’s almost certain that they are the six kids of Isaac and Julia Rice. This marble ode to their offspring on such a visible part of the facade reflects the pride and joy they took in their large family.

The bas relief, carved into the first floor beside the porte cochere, is thought to be the work of Louis St. Lanne, a French-born sculptor who also designed a statue of a boy outside Isaac L. Rice Memorial Stadium in Pelham Bay Park, states the HPC report. The stadium was a gift to the city from Julia Rice after Isaac died in 1915.

Isaac and Julia Rice made many headlines in their day. Mr. Rice was a financier, inventor, and diehard chess enthusiast (he had a chess room in his mansion and is the genius behind a move called the “Rice gambit”).

Mrs. Rice, a non-practicing medical doctor, founded the Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise and campaigned in the early 1900s to put a stop to tugboat horns, factory whistles, and other sources of noise pollution in the Gilded Age city.

It seems that their children stayed out of the limelight. But a 2012 article about the Rice mansion by Marjorie Cohen in West Side Rag prompted a comment from a reader who said the Rices were her great-grandparents.

“Their six children were comprised of two boys and four girls,” the reader wrote. “The girls were nicknamed Dolly, Polly, Molly, and Lolly. My grandmother was Lolly, the youngest of the daughters. The six children were quite interesting in their own right!”

The Rices moved out of their mansion and into an apartment in the nearby Ansonia, on Broadway and 73rd Street, after the panic of 1907 forced Isaac to sell his house, according to Cohen.

Amazingly, the family only lived in their Riverside Drive mansion for about four years. More than a century later, it’s one of only two surviving freestanding mansions on a curvy former carriage drive that once featured dozens of them. Through all the changes over the years, their marble memorial to their children remains.

[Fourth image: Rice Mansion, about 1905; MCNY X2010.7.2.25109]

A last remaining mansion on Riverside Drive

July 9, 2012

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.