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The Saga of Rivercliff’s Storied Residents

Barons of Broadway #5

Welcome back to the illustrious world of Upper Nyack’s riverfront estates in the fifth installment of ‘Barons of Broadway.’ From the late 19th to early 20th century, affluent individuals transformed the area’s farmlands into opulent retreats. Today, we explore the continuing saga of Rivercliff, formerly known as Underclyffe Manor, and its remarkable occupants at 545 North Broadway.

Arthur Cornelius Koppell: A Jeweler’s Legacy

In 1941, Arthur C. Koppell, a renowned New York City jeweler, acquired Rivercliff with his second wife, Emily Day, a celebrated Broadway and Metropolitan Opera singer. Koppell’s penchant for antiques was showcased within Rivercliff’s walls, where he displayed an extensive collection. Koppel’s daughter married a Brooklyn Dodger baseball player, and the mansion became a backdrop for the wedding reception.

Irving Maidman: A Tale of Resilience

After Koppell, Irving Maidman, a Russian immigrant, emerged as one of Rivercliff’s notable owners. Despite early hardships, including growing up in a lower east side tenement, and making and losting two fortunes in real estate, Maidman’s entrepreneurial spirit thrived. He made significant contributions to Broadway, owning theaters and shaping the Times Square district’s landscape. At Rivercliff, Maidman’s vast art collection adorned the mansion’s rooms, reflecting his eclectic tastes and unwavering ambition.

An early photo of the Maidman family circa 1905. Irving Maidman is in the center of the photo.

Maidman’s Business Ventures

Maidman’s business ventures were as diverse as they were ambitious. From acquiring old theaters in the Times Square district, to founding the West Side Airline Terminal, to building his own theater called the Maidman Playhouse on 42ndStreet, his portfolio spanned industries and regions. He invested in real estate properties, including the Tappan Zee Motor Inn in Nyack, the former Miami Daily News Tower in Florida, the 32-acre Ford Motor plant in Edgewater, NJ, and the Robyn Brook Country Club in Rockland County. His purchase of the New York, Susquehanna, and Western Railroad, known as the “Suzie Q”, one of the smallest railroads in New Jersey, later caused problems when the SEC accused Maidman and his son of stock fraud.

Postcard of the West Side Airline Terminal on 42nd Street founded by Maidman.

Maidman’s acquisitions were not limited to commercial ventures; he also purchased ten closed railroad stations in Rockland County. Maidman leased the Blauvelt station for $1 to help found the Blauvelt Library. He once owned 500 acres on the western side of Clausland Mountain, making a deal to sell the property to Columbia University (the university had once used the property as a summer camp). Columbia planned to build 1,500 residential units. Under pressure from local environmental groups, both parties relented, and he sold the property for $1.5M. He donated $100,000 toward formation of what became Blauvelt State Park.

Postcard showing the Tappan Zee Motor Inn in Central Nyack

Unfortunately, his real estate exuberance resulted in an overextended empire and his wealth vanished during the 1970s.

A Life of Intrigue: Maidman’s Personal Story

Beyond his business pursuits, Irving Maidman’s personal life was marked by a tumultuous first marriage. His 1920 marriage to Annuta Kaufman ended in scandal in 1928 when he discovered her infidelity with a famous boxer, Sid Terris, during a summer retreat in the Catskills. Maidman’s divorce proceedings made headlines, revealing intimate details of his personal life and the betrayal he endured.

He married again in 1946 to Edith Shivitz, twenty years his junior. They moved from his Suffern estate to Rivercliff in 1948

Philanthropy

Maidman’s philanthropic endeavors left a lasting impact, from founding of the Rockland Center for the Physically Handicapped at Camp Jawonio to the founding of the Albert Einstein Medical School in the Bronx. 

The Maidmans (center) receiving an award from the Historical Society of Rockland County

Maidman’s devotion to his Jewish heritage was evident in his involvement with the founding of the Congregation Sons of Israel, a vibrant center of Jewish life on North Broadway in Nyack. In addition to his involvement with Congregation Sons of Israel, Maidman supported numerous Jewish charities and organizations dedicated to advancing education, healthcare, and social welfare within the Jewish community. 

Maidman’s Passing

In 1978, Maidman was badly injured when he was hit by a car on North Broadway. He never really recovered and died the next year at the age of 82.

Dr. William Hardy, Jr.: A Scientific Legacy

Like its earlier occupants, Dr. Hardy arrived to Rivercliff with a remarkable pedigree. While head of the of veterinary oncology at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, he uncovered evidence that a cat leukemia virus had all the characteristics of AIDS in humans. FAID responded to the drug AZT, and it later became one of the drugs used to treat human AIDS. Hardy made a career out of studying human and cat retroviruses. 

A 1992 newspaper photograph of William Hardy Jr. at Rivercliff

Designer Showcases

Rivercliff living room during the Hardy era.

Hardy offered Rivercliff for two charity designer showcases in 1992 and 1994. A benefit for the Nyack and Good Samaritan Hospitals featured twenty-five designer each producing a special setting of their choice in one of the rooms of the mansion. Local designer Karen Houghton designed the study/movie theater with the help of local artist Paul Tappenden.

Ad for the designer Showcase at Rivercliff, May 1992

For Sale Signs

Hardy apparently lived at Rivercliff with just his son and a dog named Bear. The house turned out to be more than he could handle despite his affection for the views of the Hudson River, of which he stated, “the view lowered his blood pressure by at least ten points.” He put the house on the market after the first designer showcase for $5.9M. Despite a booming real estate market before 1995, it failed to sell until later.

Renovation and Expansion

Purchased for $9M in 2014 by an LLC, the owners undertook a comprehensive renovation and expansion project, overseen by architectural firm T. M. Rybak and Associates. Renovations included new windows matching the historic windows, a new roof, updating of the guest quarters, and a full renovation of the third floor including a large balcony overlooking the Hudson River. The original estate contained an atrium above the main hall, which was enlarged during renovation. 

The custom iron work displayed in the gate to 545 Broadway runs the length of the property

During a second phase, the basement was renovated and expanded into a new wing reaching toward the Hudson River. This wing includes a home theater, bar, billiard room, laundry facilities, housekeeping quarters, a 1,500 square foot indoor swimming pool, guest suite, home gym with sauna, and terraced patios. A new garage was added. A new, large dock extends into river in the direction of Nyack Beach State Park. The new wing is clearly visible from the park. A new driveway runs down the steep slope to the dock. A detailed, custom iron fence and gate line the front of the estate on Broadway.

2019 architectural schematic of the riverside of Rivercliff

After renovation and additions, the house now covers 22,000+square feet. The owners added the neighboring properties at 547 and 545 North Broadway, remodeling the contemporary house on the later property to match the estate house.

Photos of the renovated main hallway and the central hall atrium.

An Ever Unfolding Story

The tale of Rivercliff, which commenced with Arthur Tucker’s Underclyffe and traversed through the hands of many illustrious owners, continues to unfold.

Also in Barons of Broadway series:

#1 The Magnificent Saga Of Larchdell

#2 Revisiting Underclyffe–A Lost, Gilded Age Mansion

#3 The Adriance Era At Underclyffe Manor

#4 The Flying Dutchman Lands at Underclyffe Manor


Mike Hays is a 38-year resident of the Nyacks. He worked for McGraw-Hill Education in New York City for many years. Hays serves as President of the Historical Society of the Nyacks, and Vice-President of the Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center. Married to Bernie Richey, he enjoys cycling and winters in Florida. You can follow him on Instagram as UpperNyackMike.


Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by Sun River Health. Sun River Health is a network of 43 Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) providing primary, dental, pediatric, OB-GYN, and behavioral health care to over 245,000 patients annually.




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