Carrere Memorial Stairs Restored At Riverside Park
“Riverside Park, a New York City scenic landmark, is a recreational oasis of green along the Hudson River waterfront, and we are pleased that New Yorkers can once again access it at the newly restored Carrère Memorial Stairs,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White. “I am grateful to Mayor Bloomberg and Borough President Stringer for allocating the funding to renovate this grand entrance to the park, while keeping with its historic design.”
“We are thrilled to play a role in the restoration of the Carrère Memorial Stairs, a historic architectural monument carved into the landscape of Riverside Park,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer. “Riverside Park is the natural sanctuary of the West Side - a place to read, run, walk dogs, and spend time with friends and family. With the restoration of this distinguished entryway, the park's millions of visitors will enjoy safe and easy access to its lawns, courts and scenic waterfronts.”
“The Carrère Memorial Stairs are such an important part of Riverside Park's landscape, not to mention a critical park entrance,” said Riverside Park Conservancy President John Herrold. “We have been looking forward to their restoration for a long time. It was worth the wait - they're beautiful!”
The John Merven Carrère Memorial Stairs are set into the Riverside Park retaining wall and provide access to the park at West 99th Street and Riverside Drive. The site is composed of a large elevated overlook terrace with a granite balustrade and a series of bluestone steps that connect to the park’s interior. The bluestone pavement on the terrace was completely replaced and, using the original construction drawings, the original star pattern was replicated. All of the stone was cleaned, and the mica schist retaining wall supporting the terrace was removed and rebuilt with a new brick backing wall. These restorations were designed by Parks Landscape Architect Margaret Bracken.
The stairs are named after John Merven Carrère, partner in the esteemed architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings. He was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1858 and, after attending high school in Switzerland, he studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he met his future partner, Thomas Hastings. Both men worked in New York City for McKim, Mead and White before opening their own firm in 1885. The partnership was highly successful and resulted in such New York City landmarks as the main building of the New York Public Library and the Frick Mansion. The firm also designed the William Cullen Bryant Memorial in Bryant Park (dedicated late in the year of Carrère’s death) as well as the original Hudson Park (now James J. Walker Park) in the West Village that included a classically-styled rustic stone pavilion, cascading fountain, sunken garden, reflecting pool and arched footbridges (all replaced in 1946 by a sandlot baseball diamond). A well-respected architect and active participant in New York City’s public life, Carrère was missed by his colleagues after his sudden death immediately after an automobile accident in 1911.
A committee of colleagues and friends raised money for the memorial which was designed by Hastings and dedicated in 1919. At the dedication, J.H. Freedlander, chairman of the memorial committee, stated that the “beautiful exedra and staircase would always mark the efforts and creative spirit of a noble man.” Of particular note was the waterfront location in Riverside Park and spectacular Hudson River views. Hastings’ construction drawings were approved by the New York City Art Commission in 1916 and were used extensively in the current restoration.
“In motion, a man has a chance.”
(1923 – 2007)