The outdoor photographs of the historic Claremont Inn on Riverside Drive at 121st Street in West Harlem, New York, 1804 until the early 1950’s, are well documented with images of the exterior decks and dinning areas.
We discovered a profound sense of intimacy within the space that was not expected with interior photographs, with covered table clothe and fresh flowers, each window a fabulous view of the Hudson River, canoe races, merchandise ships to 125th Street Pier and much more.
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That “glitterati” included the superstars of the day like Joseph Bonaparte, Lord Viscount Courtenay, Prince William, Duke of Clarence, King William IV, President McKinley, Lillian Russell, Cole Porter, Admiral Dewey, President Taft, lots of Vanderbilt’s and Astors and many more in West Harlem.
It all began with Michael Hogan, who made his fortune in shipping and was once the British Consul in Havana. Hogan bought up all of the land west of Bloomingdale Road (where Broadway is today) from 121st to 127th Streets and in 1804 built a house on his parcel of land near the site of The Battle of Harlem Heights.
There are two versions of why he named his house Claremont Inn: first is that it was to honor his birthplace, County Clare in Ireland, and second that it was named after the residence of Prince William, Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, a friend of Hogan’s from his days as a midshipman in the Royal Navy. Rumor had it that Hogan lived in his new house with an Indian Princess. Maybe.
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In 1807 Lord Viscount Courtenay, who later became Duke of Devon, lived in the house and from its vantage point overlooking the river, he watched the trial run of Fulton’s Steamship, the Clermont and other grand events. Courtenay decamped from the house not long afterwards, apparently “disturbed by events preceding the War of 1812.”
Another photo of the Claremont Inn taken in 1938 shows the Hudson River view from the outdoor patio that used to be a main attraction during the warmer season.
This section the Inn would have been on the west side of the local landmark that was on at 124th Street at looking West towards New Jersey and one can see the George Washington Bridge in the distance writes Harlem Bespoke.
In 1815, Joseph Bonaparte, ex-King of Spain and Napoleon’s brother, moved in. It is speculated that he may have entertained Lafayette, Louis Phillipe and Talleyrand on the deck above while he lived there. Bonaparte sold the house to Joel Post, a member of a prominent New York family and then, in 1842 or 43 it was bought to be converted to a road house. In the 1870′s it was acquired by the city as part of Riverside Park.
A fire burned down everything by the 1950’s.
Editor’s Note: The photographs above from the Claremont Inn are rare interior images from the estate that were extremely hard to find.