Congratulations Tom on correctly identifying the house, which is 15 Ft. Charles Place on Marble Hill. Here is the original photo that the snippet was taken from. It is one of my favorite photos.
The photographer may have goofed as the boys in the foreground seem out of focus but fortunately the background is very clear. The view of the photo is looking north from Manhattan on the northern bank of the Harlem River Ship Canal. The photo is undated but looks to be shortly after the construction of the canal, which separated Marble Hill from northern Manhattan. A note on the back of the photo reads: “Uncle Fred and Uncle Frank at Spiten Divel about where Baker’s field is now on Manhattan side. Ship Canal built by U.S.”
Zooming in on the rubble pile on the lower right, you can see the chunks of marble that were dug up when the ship canal was blasted through the hillside:
This rubble pile was quite the attraction for geology enthusiasts:
The above photo comes from an article: “An Early Quarrying District on Manhattan Island” by Lawrence H. Conklin, which appeared in the November 1997 issue of The Mineralogical Record. The largest of the quarries at Marble Hill was the one owned and operated by the Boltons in the early 1800s. Technically, it was the Boltons who first separated Marble Hill from Manhattan when they dug a canal across Marble Hill that was used to power a stone-cutting saw mill. This 1867 map of Marble Hill shows that Bolton Canal clearly:
You can see that the canal would have cut off Marble Hill from Manhattan entirely were it not for a little bridge that allowed travellers to continue north toward Kingsbridge. I mention that bridge because you get a nice look at it in this Gustave Milbert drawing of the area:
This is looking west from The Bronx from the east bank of the Harlem River ca. 1820. The Harlem River is in the foreground and the Hudson and the Palisades are in the background. Just to the right of the sailboat’s sail you can see that bridge connecting the roadway over the Bolton canal. This canal was obliterated when the Harlem River Ship Canal was dug through.
Getting back to this month’s mystery photo, there is some interesting stuff just to the left and behind one of the boys:
Partially obscured behind the boy is a house standing on the bank of the new canal. To the left is something that looks like a wall and doorway out in a field. That house and doorway are more clearly seen in this 1861 drawing from Valentine’s Manual (view looking north):
The house and doorway are pretty much center. Can you believe that is Marble Hill in the background? The caption reads: “Residence of Isaac Dyckman, Kingsbridge NY 1861.” Just to be clear, this is not the same Dyckman house that is today the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum. The house depicted above belonged to the Isaac Dyckman, but was earlier owned by the Boltons (according to Conklin). The house shows up in other photos and drawings from the turn of the century. Here it is when it was used as a boarding house (you can see a few more homes on Marble Hill in the background, ca. 1905):
The below panorama shows the view looking west as if you were hovering above the ship canal just south of the Target parking lot. The house is on the right atop the rock face on the canal:
Here is a closeup of another great panorama. The Dyckman house is visible just poking behind the Broadway Bridge, and you can see how developed Marble Hill is on the right. This is circa 1902.
Zooming in on the background of this month’s mystery photo you can see a home under construction:
It seems that many of the homes on Marble Hill were built in this late Victorian period. Given how many of these homes still survive, it seems to me that the neighborhood is worthy of a historic district designation. I took a walk around Marble Hill the other day and I was reminded of just how unique it is for our area. I would definitely recommend walking around there if you have not had the chance. Check out some of these Victorian era architectural details: