To outsiders or East Siders, Riverside Park and Riverside Drive may not have the star status of Fifth Avenue or Central Park. 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 wild life 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 long-time 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 18th century through the present day.
“From the moment I laid eyes on this area I loved it,” said author, Stephanie Azzarone at her most celebratory book launch party. “I would look at a building or historical monument and wonder who built it, and why, and when. Then I would feast my eyes on the gorgeous Hudson River and imagine all the boats and journeys and stories behind them all. I just wanted and needed to know everything. So I began to research. And before I knew it I had enough material to write this book.”
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 Park and 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 18th century child. Azzarone also tells the stories behind Riverside’s notable and forgotten residents, including celebrities, murderers, a 19th-century woman 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.