Thursday, August 13, 2009

Claremont Academy to Ride Off Into the Sunset

The Claremont Riding Academy on West 89th St. between Columbus and Amsterdam Aves. is closing this Sunday after the weekend's riding is done. Opened in 1892, Claremont is the oldest continuously operated horse stable in the U.S. It was initially used as a livery stable, but was turned into a riding academy in the 1920s. Riding lessons are given in a small ring on the main floor, while stables occupy the basement and upper floors, which horses reach via ramps. Owner Paul Novograd said he was closing the business because pedestrian traffic was becoming too congested along Central Park's bridle trails, making it difficult to ride. Homes will be found for the roughly 45 horses that currently stable on 89th St.

The building that houses the Claremont Riding Academy is located at 175 West 89th St. on the north side of the street. It was designed 115 years ago by Frank A. Rooke, who also built The Gershwin Hotel on East 27th St. According to the AIA Guide to New York City, the structure narrowly escaped destruction in the 1960s when urban renewal advocates called for its removal from the neighborhood and replacement as part of a consolidated stable facility inside Central Park, but preservationists prevailed. 175 West 89th is now a New York City Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places, so any alterations will have to be approved by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission. We imagine that after washing away 115 years of horse smell, the four-story building could be worth a lot of money as a residential conversion project.

Last year we wrote about how luxury condo developers got the jump on the Landmarks Preservation Commission by removing the facade of the Dakota Stable on 77th st. and Amsterdam Ave. before the building could be landmarked, thus removing any reason for it to be landmarked. The stables at West 89th should avoid this fate because the building is already landmarked. Urban equestrians may now have to decamp to Brooklyn's Kensington Stables located in Prospect Park, which has well-used bridle trails. And although information is fairly difficult to come by, there is a horseback riding facility on Ward's Island.

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