BY: Candace Taylor
Published: June 01, 2010, The Real Deal
When British actor Edward Sothern was cast in 1858 as slow-witted Lord Dundreary in a New York production of the popular play “Our American Cousin,” actor Joseph Jefferson — who was playing the lead role — reportedly gave him a now-famous piece of advice: “There are no small parts, only small actors.”
Jefferson, who is widely credited with coining the oft-repeated phrase, also dabbled in real estate, and a house he once owned at 103 Riverside Drive, between 82nd and 83rd streets, is now on the market for $21.5 million.
The landmarked 26-foot-wide house is listed with Vandenberg’s Dexter Guerrieri. According to city property records, it was purchased for $3.85 million in 1997 by the current owner.
Guerrieri declined to comment on the current owners other than to say the family is relocating.
The mansion is one of only a few remaining townhouses that look directly onto the Hudson, Guerrieri said.
“A house facing the river doesn’t come on the market very often,” Guerrieri said, noting that each of the six floors has windows overlooking the water.
The house was one of six homes built on spec around 1899 by architect and developer Clarence True, who built hundreds of houses on the Upper West Side in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
According to New York Times stories from the era, Jefferson frequently lent money to real estate purchasers. In 1902, he sued to foreclose on 103 Riverside Drive, and then spent $40,000 to purchase it in order to protect his interests.
A few years later, the row of houses became controversial when a judge required the owners to cut the fronts off their homes because they protruded onto city land.
In 1911, the house was purchased by popular Broadway actress Amelia Bingham. She festooned the facade with statues and placed a large bust of Shakespeare above the front door, making it a popular tourist attraction.
After Bingham died in 1927, the townhouse changed hands several times before being purchased in 1997. The house has a wood-paneled elevator and a fifth-floor home theater. The top floor has an independent one-bedroom apartment that can be used for a live-in nanny, maid or other staff member, the listing says.