SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
The Shorpy Archive
6000+ fine-art prints suitable for framing. Desk-size to sofa-size and larger, on archival paper or canvas.
Join and Share

Social Shorpy

Syndicate content
Syndicate content
Syndicate content
Daily e-mail updates:

Member Photos

Photos submitted by Shorpy members.

Colorized Photos

Colorized photos submitted by members.

About the Photos

Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2018 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

New York, New York: 1931

New York, New York: 1931

December 15, 1931. "River House, 52nd Street and East River. Shoreline with clouds." 5x7 safety negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

River House 1931

Apartments were offered for sale in December 1930 ranging from $37,000 to $275,000. The latter was the triplex penthouse purchased by Marshall Field III. It is now a top floor simplex with roof patio (owned by a former opera star) and a duplex owned by a prominent art dealer. The duplex was formerly owned by the Gutfreunds (Salomon Bros CEO) and was featured in a Manhattan Inc. story about using a crane to bring in a 20 foot Christmas tree into the double height living room.

River House

River House was so luxurious that it had its own dock, for mooring your yacht. Those days came to and end with the construction of the East River Drive, now the FDR Drive, in 1941.

Despite the glamor of the associated with Beekman Place and environs, the East River was still rather gritty, with industry lining its banks.


So strange not to see the FDR Drive running along underneath these buildings.

The Whitneys

I previously mentioned 2 Beekman Place, the high rise building with its back to the river, just to the right of the coal silos. It came back to me that the penthouse belonged to Mrs. Betsey Cushman Whitney. She moved there because NYC rerouted an exit from the Queensborogh Bridge, forcing traffic on to East 61st Street. The Whitneys' town house was on that street and she couldn't handle the noise. She was a customer of mine but probably didn't know it. The purchasing was done by her personal assistant and her butler. The Beekman Place apartment had the reputation of being one of the grandest in the city. She and her husband, John Hay Whitney, also owned Greentree Farms, a famous race horse stable. She died in 1998.


The four story building, with the rounded end facing the East River near One Beekman Place (the highrise to the right of the coal silos), is 17 Beekman Place. It was the home of Irving Berlin. He lived there from 1947 until his death, at age 101, in 1989. The building now headquarters the Mission to the United Nations of The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

Back to the Future

So, I guess it wouldn't be a good idea to take the DeLorean out on the freeway in front of the River House, unless you wanted to end up in 1931 at the bottom of the river.


According to NYC-Architecture, "despite its vast size, River House contained only sixty-four apartments."

Residents have included Henry Kissinger, Clare Boothe Luce and Sigourney Weaver. It seems Gloria Vanderbilt wasn't good enough to live there.

Here's a floor plan for a place with a $39 million asking price. Of course, that was in 2006, so now it's probably more affordable!

Empire State building?

Is that it under construction in the background?

[The finished Empire State Building is to the left of the Chrysler Building in this photo. - Dave]

Start spreadin' the news

You'd never know this was shot during the Depression. It looks so sunny and promising. Optimism seems to glint right off the top of the Chrysler building.

435 East 52nd Street

River House today:

View Larger Map

The old RCA Building

The skyscraper looming in the background to the right of the River House tower is at 51st and Lexington, and up until the time that Radio City was built and opened, was the HQ for RCA and NBC. Later it was used by General Electric for its NYC corporate offices. And in the far left of this photo can be seen the Daily News building, on 42nd Street east of 3rd Avenue, which must have just recently opened in 1931. I've always been fascinated by the huge World Globe that is a feature in the lobby of the News building.

Well to do

I wonder how it cost to live in the River House in 1931?

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

Syndicate content RSS | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Photo Use | © 2018 Shorpy Inc.