Amiable Child Monument

By Sabrina  |  February 8, 2013  |  Points of Interest

One hundred yards north of Grant’s Tomb, the “Amiable Child Monument” consists of a small, simple urn on a pedestal surrounded by iron fence. On the west side of the pedestal facing the river where the boy died, is a Biblical quotation from the Book of Job: “Man that is born of woman is of a few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.” The east side of the pedestal, which faces the site of his family’s former home reads, “Erected to the Memory of an Amiable Child, St. Claire Pollock, Died 15 July 1797 in the Fifth Year of His Age.”

The Amiable Child Monument was erected by George Pollock, a wealthy linen merchant from Dublin, who is said to be either the boy’s uncle, or his father. Pollock built his home on Strawberry Hill, which was later renamed Claremont, although not after little St. Claire. The setting of the Revolutionary War Battle of Harlem Heights, fought on September 16, 1776, Strawberry Hill was located on what was then the highest physical point in Manhattan. The estate, in today’s geography, stretched east to west from Broadway to the Hudson River, and north to south from 125th Street to 96th Street. On July 15, 1797, St. Claire Pollock fell to his death from the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Hudson River. Servants found his body washed up on the rocks that evening. Preferring not to bury the child in a church graveyard, George Pollock decided instead to bury the child at the site of his death. Soon after the death of St. Claire, Pollock sold his estate. He asked the new owners to care for the grave, writing to them: “There is a small enclosure . . . within which lie the remains of a favorite child, covered by a marble monument. You will confer a peculiar and interesting favor upon me by allowing me to convey the enclosure to you so that you will consider it a part of your own estate, keeping it, however, always enclosed and sacred.”

The area became part of Riverside Park in the 1870s and in that time, the monument has been replaced twice due to deterioration; once in 1897 and again in 1967. The original memorial once stood on the cliffs overlooking the Hudson River, but because of changes in Manhattan’s geography, the current monument, built of Barre granite, is now located in a thickly wooded area at the eastern edge of the Bird Sanctuary at 123rd Street.

The Amiable Child Monument is unique because it may be the only single-person private grave on city-owned land in New York City. People are still drawn to the monument more than 200 years after the death of the “amiable child.” Both a book of poetry and a contemporary mystery novel were inspired by this historical site. Also, neighbors continue to decorate the grave of St. Claire Pollack with flowers and wreaths, especially near the date of his death.