This commemorative terrace and balustrade, part of the staircase inserted at 97th Street into the 19th-century, rustic perimeter wall enclosing Riverside Park, honors the distinguished architect John Mervin Carrère (1858–1911).
Carrère was born on November 9, 1858 to a prosperous American family then living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was educated at public schools in Lausanne, Switzerland, and studied at the Institute Breitenstein in Grenchen, Switzerland, and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France (1877-82). After graduating from the Ecole, Carrère was a draftsman with the esteemed architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White in New York City. In the mid-1880s he formed a partnership with architect Thomas Hastings (1860–1921) whom he had met in Paris and worked with at McKim, Mead and White.
The firm of Carrère and Hastings produced some of New York City’s finest and most notable edifices. Their early work was characterized by extensive ornamentation; their later work incorporated French Baroque and American Georgian elements, and displayed an increasing refinement indebted to classicism. The firm’s vast output included major civic buildings, private residences, public plazas and parks. Some of their better known works include the New York Public Library, the Frick mansion (today the Frick Museum), the Manhattan Bridge approaches and triumphal archway, Staten Island Borough Hall, Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan, and the landmarked bathhouse on Manhattan’s lower east side, which today is known as the Hamilton Fish Recreation Center. The work of Carrère and his partner helped shape the appearance of this growing city, as grand civic structures and public spaces were built in an era later dubbed the “City Beautiful Movement.”
In 1891 Carrère was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and served on the AIA’s board of directors until his death. Carrère was the chairman of the Board of Architects of the Pan-American Exposition in 1901 in Buffalo, New York. He was on a state commission in Ohio that redesigned a section of Cleveland, and served on similar commissions in Baltimore, Maryland and Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was a consulting architect to the Federal Government, and designed the annex to United States Capitol in Washington, D. C. that is used as a senate office building.
An active participant in the cultural life of the city, Carrère was a member of the Architectural League of New York, a Vice President of the National Sculpture Society, and served twice as president of both the New York Chapter of the AIA and of the Beaux-Arts Society. He was a founder of the Fine Arts Federation of New York City, a member of the National Institue of Arts and Letters, and served as a member of the New York City Art Commission.
On March 1, 1911 Carrère died as a result of an automobile accident, only two months before the official opening of the New York Public Library he had helped design. The day of his funeral on March 3, his body lay in state in the rotunda of the nearly finished library. Hastings continued to run the firm, later partnering with other architects.
This memorial was designed by Thomas Hastings, and includes a pink granite commemorative tablet on which is carved a parting curtain revealing the name of Carrère and the years of his birth and death. Commissioned at a cost of $9,000, the memorial was a gift to the City in 1916.
John Merven Carrere Memorial Details
- Location: Riverside Drive at 99th Street
- Architect: Thomas Hastings
- Description: Architectural terrace
- Materials: Milford pink granite
- Dimensions: H: 2'6" W: 4'2"
- Dedicated: 1919
- Donor: Gift
- Inscription: TO THE MEMORY OF/JOHN MERVEN CARRERE/1858-1911.
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