This unique New York City monument marks the site of one of the few private graves on public land within the five boroughs. It belongs to St. Claire Pollock (the namesake of nearby St. Clair Place), a child who died on July 15, 1797 in the fifth year of his life, probably from a fall from the cliffs of the parkland onto the rocks near the Hudson River.
In the two centuries that have passed since the tragedy of the "Amiable Child"--as he was described on his headstone--different accounts of St. Claire’s origins and family have persisted. George Pollock, the owner of the property on which the boy was buried, was either his father or his uncle. He was a linen merchant of Scots-Irish, or possibly English descent, who lived in a mansion on Strawberry Hill (later called Claremont) in the 1790s. He had sold his property to Mrs. Cornelia Verplanck, his former neighbor, by January 18, 1800 when he wrote as follows:
"There is a small enclosure near your boundary fence within which lie the remains of a favorite child, covered by a marble monument. You will confer a peculiar and interesting favor upon me by allowing me to convey the enclosure to you so that you will consider it a part of your own estate, keeping it, however, always enclosed and sacred."
Claremont Hill was the site of the Battle of Harlem Heights, fought during the Revolutionary War, on September 16, 1776. By 1806 it had been acquired by Michael Hogan, a former British Consul in Havana, who built Claremont Mansion (for which Claremont Avenue was named). Possible sources for the name are Hogan’s birthplace of County Clare, Ireland and his friend Prince William, Duke of Clarence, who would ascend the English throne as King William IV in 1830. Known as the site of a popular roadside inn by 1860, Claremont was acquired by the City from the heirs of Joel Post in 1873, for the development of Riverside Park.
In the 1890s Claremont Inn was host to numerous politicians, socialites and entertainers including the Morgans, Vanderbilts and Whitneys, Lillian Russell, and Admiral George Dewey. By 1907 the Inn had been transformed into a restaurant, serving the likes of Cole Porter and James J. Walker. It was destroyed by fire in 1950. The playground which now stands on the site was built shortly afterwards.
A century after the Tomb of the Amiable Child was laid, New York’s most famous monumental grave--Grant’s Tomb--was completed. The domed structure across Riverside Drive, designed by architect John Duncan and sculptor John Massey Rhind, was dedicated on April 27, 1897. The latter structure is as grand a testimony to the accomplishments of national leader as the monument to the amiable child is a modest and touching tribute to a young boy who never had the opportunity to grow into adulthood.
Amiable Child Memorial Details
- Location: Riverside Drive at West 124th Street
- Description: Funeral urn on pedestal marking grave
- Materials: Original headstone--sandstone; First replacement urn and pedestal--white Vermont marble; Second replacement urn and pedestal--light grey Barre granite
- Dimensions: Urn H: 2'4" W: 1'1" D: 1'1"; Pedestal H: 2'4" W: 2' D: 2'; Total H: 4'7" (approximate)
- Cast: 1967
- Dedicated: May 3, 1967
- Inscription: 1) pedestal, east face: "ERECTED TO THE MEMORY / OF AN AMIABLE CHILD / ST. CLAIRE POLLOCK / DIED 15 JULY 1797 / IN THE FIFTH YEAR OF HIS AGE"
2) "'MAN THAT IS BORN OF WOMAN / IS OF FEW DAYS AND FULL / OF TROUBLE. HE COMETH / LIKE A FLOWER AND IS / CUT DOWN; HE FLEETH ALSO / AS A SHADOW AND / CONTINUETH NOT.' / [space] JOB - XIV: 1-2"
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