Claremont Riding AcademyA fixture on the Upper West Side, the Claremont Riding Academy and stables is closing this Sunday after 115 years. It was built in 1892 and is the longest continuously operating horse stable in the country. The West 89th street stables were added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1980 and the New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation in 1992, so the building will remain, but its purpose will change. The owners site decreased membership and increased development in the neighborhood as the reason for the closure.
When I first moved to New York I lived around the corner from Claremont on West 90th street. Because of the one-way streets and the entrance to Central Park at 90th Street, it was not unusual for me to hear the clip-clop of horses outside my window, perhaps the last sound I expected to hear when I moved to the city. But along with the elegant horses came their unmistakable smell, causing me to wonder on particularly hot days just how "fragrant" the city must have been 100 years earlier when horses were the main form of transportation.
At the time I moved to 90th Street, Claremont bordered a community garden that spanned the length of the city block along Amsterdam Avenue from 89th to 90th Street. It was not an unhappy relationship between the gardeners and the stable which produced a lot of organic matter. Residents from nearby projects grew their own vegetables there, everything from greens and beans to corn and tomatoes, and interestingly, almost every plot included flowers. As the gentrification of the Upper West Side expanded north past 86th Street on gritty Amsterdam Avenue it wasn't long before developers bought up the garden and put up a high-rise apartment building in its place. At the time I wondered how the residents of the new building enjoying their balconies would peacefully coexist with the fragrant stables below. I guess that will no longer be a concern.