Charles and Anna McDonald were a successful husband-and-wife real estate development team in the latter part of the 19th century, focusing much of their attention on the Upper West Side. On August 14, 1886, in an article describing the dizzying pace of construction in the neighborhood, the Record & Guide wrote, "Charles McDonald is preparing the foundations for five four-story brown stone dwellings on the north side of Eighty-fourth street."
The McDonalds commissioned architect Henry L. Harris to design the row. Relatively forgotten today, Harris was busy at the time creating rows of speculative houses. And like the McDonalds, he worked primarily on the Upper West Side. The recently-popular Queen Anne style was a favorite of the architect and he used it again for the 84th Street row, while liberally adding Renaissance Revival touches. Designed in a balanced A-B-C-B-A configuration, the residences were completed in 1887 at a cost of $18,000 each, or about $523,000 in 2023.
Irving Schoolhouse is a modern building, with sanitary plumbing, heating, and ventilation. Attention is called to its well-furnished rooms, to its laboratory and manual training shop, to its indoor and outdoor gymnasium, and to its private playground. Professional teachers not only teach in this school, but also prepare their pupils carefully for the following day's work.