Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The James F. Griffen House - 260 East 7th Street

 


Around 1848 a row of brick-faced homes was completed on the south side of Seventh Street, between Avenues C and D.  Three stories tall and 22-feet-wide, they displayed expected elements of the Greek Revival style--such as the wide fascia boards and dentiled cornices--but showed hints of the rising Italianate style, as well, in the molded window lintels and tiny brackets below the sills.  Most striking, perhaps, was the ornate ironwork of the stoop, which suggests that while the homes sat apart from the fashionable neighborhoods, they were intended for financially comfortable families.



Shipwright James M. Griffen moved his family into 260 Seventh Street (the "East" would come decades later).  The location just a block from the riverfront was convenient to his work.  Living with Griffen and his wife, the former Mary S. Wheaton, was Mary's mother, Olive, and two boarders, Nehemiah and Electa R. Miller.

Taking in boarders was common even within well-do-to families.  Miller was a real estate agent and the couple was affluent enough to own a summer home in Rye, New York.

New York, Past, Present and Future, September 1851 (copyright expired)

In 1854 an outbreak of cholera broke out in New York.  It grew to an epidemic, eventually killing 2,509 people.  It may have been cholera that claimed Mary S. Griffen on November 19, 1855.  She was 43 years old.  Her funeral was not held in the parlor, as was normal, but in the nearby Church of the Nativity on Avenue C.  A week later Olive Wheaton died at the age of 63.  Oddly enough (given that Mary Griffen's was held elsewhere), her funeral was held in the Seventh Street house.

Griffen left 260 Seventh Street in 1858, as did the Millers.  It became home to the Theodore Forster family, including the Forsters' grown sons, Charles, who was in the shoe business; Isaac, an upholsterer; and Henry and his wife, the former Sarah Nichols.

The family's financial condition was reflected in Isaac's 1862 donation of $45.67 to the Western Floating Hospitals and wounded soldiers.  The contribution would translate to about $1,200 today.

The house was again the scene of a funeral in 1862.  Henry and Sarah's son, Theodore, died on February 5, two months before his 12th birthday.  His casket sat in the parlor until his funeral on Friday morning.

Francis I. A. Boole followed the Forster family in the house in 1864.  The City Inspector, he had a highly responsible occupation.  He had previously held the civic positions as councilman for two years and alderman for six.  The Booles' residency would be short, just two years.  During that time they took in an interesting boarder, Harriet Ray.  The widow of Joseph Ray, she was listed in city directories as "clairvoyant."

In 1867 Nathan Rossman purchased the house.  He and his wife, Adelina (known by her family and friends as "Lina"), had four daughters, Mary, Caroline (known as Carrie), Hannah and Sarah.

Rossman ran a jewelry and china shop at 25 Avenue B.  Profoundly devout, in 1865 he was among the founding members of Chevra Agudeth Achim congregation and served as its president.  Its original 25 members in November 1865 came mostly from the Norfolk Street Synagogue.  The year the Rossmans moved into the Seventh Street house, the shul's membership had grown to 94.

The first of the Rossman daughters to leave was Mary.  She was married to Nathaniel L. Nathan on April 22, 1868 in the synagogue her father helped to found.  In Victorian prose, the announcement in New York Herald wished, "May the happy couple's ship of futurity have a peaceful and peasant passage over the stormy and turbulent sea of life."
 
Nathan Rossman's health began to fail around 1882, and on October 29, 1883, he died "after a lingering illness," according to The Jewish Messenger.  He was 68 years old.

Lina remained in the house, taking in boarders to help with finances.  In 1888, for instance, they included Aaron Hanover and his widowed mother, Sophia; and Gustavus A. Wolfe, who made his living as a clerk.

Lina Rossman sold the property in October 1891 to Sigmund Kraus.  (She moved to Brooklyn where she died on March 29, 1915 at the age of 95.)  Kraus paid $16,500 for the house, or about $484,000 today.  It was almost assuredly Kraus who replaced the entrance doors with modern, multi-paneled examples.

After Kraus sold 260 East 7th Street to R. Sadowsky, it was operated as a rooming house.  Living on the third floor in 1906 was Bertha Cohen, her 17 year old daughter, also named Bertha, and her widowed son-in-law Henry Diamond.

Henry was born in Austria and made his living as a tailor.  Now without a wife had died, he turned his attentions to her sister, Bertha.  Her mother refused to entertain the idea, angering Henry Diamond.  Her disapproval may have been caused, in part, my Diamond's dependency on opium.

It came to a head on September 8, 1906.  Diamond and his mother-in-law got into a loud, heated argument.  Neighbors called for Patrolman Coleman, who was hurrying up the stairs to arrest Diamond, when gun shots rang out.   When he entered the Cohen rooms, Bertha was dead on the floor and Diamond had shot himself twice in the chest.

He was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he told police he had shot Bertha "because she would not give him money and jewelry belonging to his deceased wife," as reported by The Evening Post.  The newspaper added, "A sister-in-law, Bertha Cohen, seventeen years old, denied this, and said that he had quarreled with her mother because the latter would not allow Diamond to marry her."

In court, Diamond expounded on his story.  On December 17, The Evening World said, "Diamond's wife had died, leaving him childless after seven years married life.  He wanted to marry the deceased wife's sister.  Diamond scolded his mother-in-law because his wife had left him childless, and then shot Mrs. Cohen."

Interestingly, drugs played a major part in Diamond's sentencing.  On the advice of District Attorney William Travers Jerome, Diamond pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter.  Jerome argued "that the man was an opium fiend at the time of the shooting and that it was unpremeditated," according to The Evening World.  He was sentenced to 20 years in Sing Sing prison, rather than being executed.

The following year Dr. Samuel Herzstein purchased 260 East 7th Street, and opened his medical office in the house.  A well-respected gynecologist, in addition to his practice he published academic articles, such as "Scarlet Fever Complicating Pregnancy, Labor, and Puerperium," published in the September 16, 1911 issue of the New York Medical Journal.

A month before that article appeared, Herzstein's marriage to Esther Kaplan had made news.  On August 23, 1911, The Paterson Morning Call wrote, "Can a mayor elected under the commission government plan perform a marriage ceremony?  He can.  This fact was proved by Mayor Frederick W. Donnelly within half an hour after he had been inducted into office today."  Trenton's new mayor married the couple "in the office of the board of health in the city hall," said the article.  It noted, "The bride was a widow and the bridegroom a widower."

The Herzsteins would remain in the house until the early Depression years.  By 1935 it was again being operated as a rooming house, not all of its residents being upstanding citizens.  That year 39 year old Lewis Hoffman was picked out in a lineup after having been arrested the day before for stealing $3,800 in clothing and furs from the R. W. Clothing Company in Brooklyn.


Although the house has never officially been converted to a multi-family structure, it has three apartments.  Unlike its once-identical neighbors along the row, other than the entrance doors, the venerable house has seen little exterior change.  And its remarkably handsome stoop railings survive mostly intact.

photographs by the author
many thanks to reader Joe Ciolino for prompting this post
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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The 1902 Marbury Hall - 164-166 West 74th Street

 

image vi cityrealty.com

In 1896 the Board of Estimate and Apportionment approved $30,000 "for a site at Nos. 164 and 166 West Seventy-fourth street...intended for the quarters of a new hook and ladder company."  But before the project went forward, a substitute site was selected on West 77th Street.  The change in plans created a prodigious opportunity for real estate developer Louis P. Sefton.

He purchased the two three-story buildings on the lots in 1901 and hired the architectural firm of Buchman & Fox to design an upscale residential hotel.  Completed the following year at a cost of $150,000 (nearly $5 million today), the seven-story Marbury Hall was a restrained example of the Beaux Arts style.  An impressive portico, upheld by polished stone columns, sheltered the entrance.  It was crowned by a stately broken pediment.  The openings of the lower five stories were treated differently floor-by-floor, while those of the sixth floor were flanked by the massive full-height brackets that upheld the stone balcony of the seventh.

photo by Wurts Bros., from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

Residence hotels like Marbury Hall offered the amenities of hotels--like maid service--but with long-term leases like apartment buildings.  The suites did not have kitchens, but instead the residents either ate in the upscale restaurant-like dining room, or ordered their meals delivered from the main kitchen.

The suites in Marbury Hall ranged from one to three bedrooms.  An advertisement in the New-York Tribune on September 21, 1902 called it "an exclusive residence hotel for small families and bachelors."  The ad touted uniformed Japanese attendants, valet service, and "domestic cuisine, with superior service."  Rents ranged from $540 to $1,700, or about $4,650 per month for the most expensive.

The New York Herald called it "A house with the atmosphere of a rich man's country house," adding, "Marbury Hall is the most sumptuously appointed establishment in this city.  The decorative effects and furnishings are in exquisite taste.  Its many distinguishing features have attracted unusual attention."  

On October 10, 1902, the New-York Tribune wrote:

This house has attracted unusual attention on account of its many distinguishing features as a place of permanent residence for an exclusive class of people...Its particular attraction seems to be its homelike atmosphere.  The furnishings are of a sumptuous character, but withal in good taste.  The house is managed by a young woman, and it is due to her artistic taste and womanly instincts that Marbury Hall is already an established success.

That manager was Catherine E. Sefton.  Louis P. Sefton and his wife were among the initial residents of his building.  Their tenants, expectedly, were professionals.  Among them was educator John Green Wight, a Civil War veteran and president of the Schoolmasters' Association of New York.  

Other initial residents were Dr. Carleton Lewis Brownson and his wife, the former Caroline Louise Barstow.  The Yale-educated Brownson was Dean of Faculty at the College of the City of New York.  Like Wight, he had served in the Civil War.

Carleton Lewis Brownson, Quarter-Century Record of the Class of Eighteen-Eighty-Seven, Yale College, 1915.

In 1909 Catherine Sefton hired Louise B. Decker as the bookkeeper.  Her salary was $35 a month plus board.  Six years later, in the spring of 1915, Louise's pay was raised to $60 a month.

Early that year Catherine Sefton became ill and went away "for a rest," in her words.  She later said, "When I returned, Mrs. Decker gave me a statement of the hotel's finances, and I saw from it that business seemed to have gone all to smash.  When I asked Mrs. Decker about it she replied that business had been bad everywhere."  Suspicious, Catherine told Louise Decker to take a two months' vacation.  She arranged a trip to Block Island, Narragansett Pier and Newport.  Catherine told a reporter from The Evening World, "No sooner had she gone than I called in a public accountant and placed the books in his hands.  In less than ten minutes he told me that I had been robbed."

On October 30, 1915, The New York Press headlined an article, "Tango Crazed Woman Seized As A Thief," and reported, "Accused of stealing to satisfy her longing for the tango parlors of Broadway, Mrs. Louise B. Decker, head bookkeeper of Marbury Hall...was arrested late yesterday afternoon by Detective Boyle."  The arrest did not go as expected.  "As the detective told her she was under arrest, Mrs. Decker raised her hand to her mouth and swallowed a quantity of nitrate of silver."  She was taken to the Polyclinic Hospital where the poisoning was caught in time.

Over a period of years Louise Decker had absconded with $10,000 of the hotel's money--more than a quarter of a million in today's dollars.  How she supported her lifestyle suddenly became clear to Catherine Sefton.  She told the New York Press,

Mrs. Decker has given dinner parties in Broadway's most expensive tango places.  She gave box parties at all the theatres.  She was well known at all the dance places, and I have heard that she has paid a professional dancer $10 to take her around to the tango parlors, and she paid the expenses of the evening.  She was always the best dressed woman about the hotel, and when I asked her about it, she said she had wealthy relatives who gave her a generous allowance.

From her hospital bed, Louise Decker did not seem especially repenting.  The New York Times wrote, "'I want to die, I want to die,' she murmured to Detective Boyle.  'I've been good to a lot of people.  Now they have gone back on me.  They are a lot of pikers, that's what they are.'"

Catherine E. Sefton sold Marbury Hall to Edward Arlington in January 1921.  The Brownsons were still living here at the time.  That year Carleton Brownson philosophized on the state of democracy in the Thirty-Fifth Year Record, Class of 1887, Yale College, saying in part:

We have found out that after all there is no magic in democracy unless the raw material of your democracy is exceedingly good.  And there is no short-and-easy method of making it so.  Consequently there is danger that the thing won't be done...All the same, I rather think that in the long run the world is still going to be ruled by the intelligent, however much they may be outnumbered.

Also living here at the time was the famous Rev. Dr. Charles Henry Parkhurst and his wife, Ellen Bodman.  The former rector of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church, he had been president of the New York Society for the Prevention of Crime.  He was noted for going into the streets at night in disguise and frequenting barrooms, gambling houses and brothels, presumably to collect evidence.  He had famously waged war against Tammany Hall from the pulpit, and denounced women's suffrage as "self exploitation indulged in by short-haired women and encouraged by long-haired men."

Rev. Dr. Charles Henry Parkhurst.

Ellen Bodman Parkhurst died on May 26, 1921.  Four years later Rev. Parkhurst retired to Lake Placid.  He explained to a reporter from his apartment on April 22, 1925, "New York isn't what is used to be.  Not that the people aren't just as good.  It's the noise, dirt, automobile smoke and crowds."  Nevertheless, Parkhurst retained his Marbury Hall apartment.  The Sun noted, "He has not given up his legal residence in New York, however, and will return to the city from time to time."

The crime-0bssessed Parkhurst would have been outraged over two new residents in 1929.  Real estate operator Alfred Cohen and his wife Gladys were married in June and moved into Marbury Hall.  One month later, on July 25, detectives who were acting on a tip, searched their apartment.  The New York Times reported, "An opium smoking layout and a half pound of alleged opium were found in their apartment."

Cohen had been arrested on a charge of possession of narcotics on February 25, 1928.  Now he and Gladys "disclaimed all knowledge of the layout and alleged opium," said The New York Times.  The article added, "Mrs. Cohen wept continually."  Both were arrested and charged with possession of narcotics.

Once touted as "the most sumptuously appointed establishment in this city," in 1945 Marbury Hall was converted to house "residents for missionaries of a religious organization," as documented by the Department of Buildings.  The ground floor now held the lounge, reception room, library and dining room; and upstairs were 18 "study and bedrooms" per floor.

In 1972 the building became home to the Phoenix House Foundation.  The non-profit is today among the country's preeminent substance abuse prevention and treatment service organizations.  It operated from the building for nearly 45 years, selling it for $26.8 million in February 2016 to Greystone Development and Prime Rok Real Estate.

A gut renovation by Barry Rice Architects completed in 2020 resulted in two apartments per floor.  Because the building, now known as The Marbury, sits within a historic district, the exterior retains its 1902 appearance.

many thanks to reader Matthew Hall for prompting this post
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Monday, August 15, 2022

The Lost Isaac Michael Dyckman Mansion - 505 West 218th Street

 

An undated postcard shows the mansion, carriage house and expansive greenhouses.  Note the female strolling in the garden at left, near an ornamental statue.
 
James Frederick D. Smith was one of ten children of Caleb Smith, Jr. and Hannah Dyckman.  Born on New Year's Day 1813, at the age of seven, he was sent to live with his grandfather Jacobus Dyckman and unmarried uncles, Isaac and Michael, in his mother's childhood home on Broadway at 204th Street.   Jacobus died in 1832, leaving his vast upper Manhattan holdings to Michael and Isaac.  Following Michael's death in 1854, just James and his uncle Isaac lived in the venerable farmhouse with their servants.

As James's wedding to his distant cousin, Fannie Blackwell Brown, neared in October 1867, Isaac Dyckman gave him a large parcel of land at the tip of northern Manhattan, presumably as a wedding present.  Smith began construction on a lavish French Second Empire mansion on the grounds, described as having 17 rooms, plus "a stable, a greenhouse, sheds, barns, and a lodge."  Smith and Fannie Brown were married on December 18, 1867, as their opulent estate was under construction.

Isaac Dyckman died just one month after the marriage.  The Minneapolis newspaper The Appeal reported, "At that time Mr. Isaac Dyckman had probably more real property in his hands than any other single property owner of Manhattan has ever seen."  With no surviving siblings, his will divided the property among nephews and nieces.  His favorite nephew, however, received the major part."

But that legacy came with a major proviso.  Because neither Issac nor his brother Michael had married, the Dyckman name was threatened to die out.  To prevent that, Smith's inheritance was subject to a startling condition:  he had one year to change his name to Isaac Michael Dyckman or the bequests would be revoked.

It did not take Smith long to decide.  On March 20, 1868 he legally became Isaac Michael Dyckman.  In return, he inherited valuable real estate not only in Northern Manhattan, but on the still undeveloped Upper East Side, downtown Manhattan, and Yonkers.

The newly named Isaac and Fannie Dyckman had two daughters.  Mary Alice was born in 1869 and Fannie Fredericka (known familiarly as Freda) two years later.  The estate on which the girls grew up featured manicure lawns, formal gardens and orchards.  

In order to administer his vast holdings, Isaac Michael Dyckman established a real estate office downtown, and by 1889 the family had a townhouse at 15 East 71st Street where they spent the winter social season.

Alice was married to Dr. Bashford Dean of Columbia College on November 9, 1893.  Freda was her maid of honor.  A reception followed in her parent's townhome.

image from the collection of the Columbia Low Library collection

Fannie Fredericka's wedding three years later took place in the summer.  And so, not surprisingly, it was held in the Kingsbridge mansion.  She married the well-known architect Alexander McMillan Welch.  On June 3, 1896, The Sun reported, "About 700 guests attended the reception which followed the ceremony."  Mysteriously, there was no mention of Alice.  Fannie's maid of honor was her new sister-in-law, Alberta M. Welch and Alice's name appeared nowhere in the detailed newspaper accounts.  Fannie and Alexander moved into the East 71st Street house with her parents and, presumably, shared the uptown estate as well.

Alice (top) and Freda Dyckman on their wedding days.  images via Dyckman Farmhouse Museum

On May 2, 1899 the New-York Tribune reported that Isaac Michael Dyckman had donated $10,000 (about $337,000 today) to Columbia University.  "The fund will be known as the Dyckman Fund for the encouragement of Biological Research," said the article.  The Evening Post added, "This he did in memory of his two uncles, who were early alumni of that institution."

Exactly one week later, on the evening of May 9, 1899, Dyckman died in the East 71st Street house at the age of 87.  The Yonkers Statesman commented, "His death was unexpected, and was due to a sudden breakdown of his constitution."  In reporting his death, The New York Times said, "He was a man of large wealth, and was much interested in benevolent matters."  His funeral took place in the East 71st Street house.

Ironically, because James and Fannie had not born a son, Isaac Dyckman's scheme to continue of the Dyckman name failed.  On May 11, 1899 the New-York Daily Tribune said, "On Monday, however, he died, leaving only two daughters.  So the estate again passes to an alien name, although it remains in the Dyckman family."

In 1904 the Kingsbridge estate was being hemmed in by development, and dynamiting for a new ship canal disturbed the tranquility.  On September 11, 1904 the New-York Tribune reported that Alexander M. Welch, as executor of the Dyckman estate, was in negotiations with a syndicate to transform the property into an amusement park.  A month later, it appeared that a deal had been struck.  The plans for the $1.5 million, 31-acre Wonderland had been drawn up by the architectural firm of Kirby, Petit & Green.  The Real Estate Record & Guide reported it would exceed "anything at Coney Island."

The proposed Wonderland.  Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide, November 19, 1904 (copyright expired)

The deal, however, fell through.  The mansion was used as a Catholic boys' school until 1921.  That year Columbia University used a gift of $700,000 from George F. Baker, the chairman of the Board of the First National Bank, to purchase the property as a site for an athletic complex.  On May 4, 1922 the facility was dedicated as Baker Field, in honor of its benefactor.

The estate soon saw the development of playing and practice fields, and a wooden stadium was completed in 1928.  The Dyckman mansion was used as the team's field house, called the Manor House.

But Victorian villas made poor field houses.  In 1945, football player Lou Little told a reporter from the New York Sun, "I doubt if the Manor House is haunted, but the place sure is a monstrosity."  Director of Athletics Ralph Furey chimed in, "That's right.  The old house has outlived its usefulness, and will be the first thing demolished when we get around to rebuilding up here."

The journalist described gave a brief history of the venerable structure, adding:

But now the big rambling place with its dark, winding stairways, is lonesome and deserted, most of its seventeen rooms empty.  But one room has a touch of life and color, for here the uniforms and instruments of the college band are kept.  The house on Saturdays also sees the concessionaire's boys coming in to count up, amid scattered piles of game programs, after selling their wares through the stands.

The demolition began around 1949.  image from the collection of the Columbia Low Library collection

In 1949 or 1950 the mansion was demolished to be replaced by the brick Chrystie Field House that survives on the site.


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Saturday, August 13, 2022

Milbank House - 11-13 West 10th Street

 


Born in Albany, New York around 1806, Richard Henry Winslow was a direct descendant of Governor Edward Winslow, Governor of the Plymouth Colony.  He came to New York City around 1831 and went into the brokerage business.  His prominence came with the discovery of gold in California and the subsequent "great railway era."  On New Year's Day, 1849, he and James F. D. Lanier (who lived directly across the street) formed a partnership, originating the railroad bond system.  According to The New York Times later, "At this time, Western railroads hardly existed even in idea." 

Investors realized large profits and by 1852 Winslow & Lanier was negotiating "$1,600,000 in a single day, while sales varying $100,000 to $500,000 a day were of common occurrence," wrote The New York Times on March 9, 1861.   The daily sales would equal more than $18 million in today's money.

In 1847 Winslow erected a 28-foot-wide home on the fashionable block of Tenth Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.  His massive wealth allowed him the luxury of purchasing the vacant lot next door for his 27-foot-wide garden.  The brick-faced Greek Revival residence was three-and-a-half stories tall above a brownstone English basement.  A wide stone stoop led to the entrance, originally framed by stone pilasters upholding a substantial entablature.

The house was originally three bays wide with an ample garden to the right.

Winslow and his wife, the former Rachel Ann Robertson, had three daughters, Emma Henrietta, Julia Adelaide, and Geraldine Augusta.  In 1853 Winslow hired architect  F. de Moulnier to design the family's country residence, Compo House, in Westport, Connecticut.

The Winslow country estate.  from the collection of the Library of Congress.

In 1856 the Winslows moved permanently to Compo House, quite possibly because of Milbank's failing health.  It forced him to retire in 1859, and, according to The New York Times, he "continued steadily to decline."  Richard Henry Winslow died at the age of 55 on February 14, 1861.

The inventory of the furnishings within the Winslow townhouse reflected the family's wealth and luxurious lifestyle.  Interesting, all the Winslow furniture was, without exception, of rosewood.  A listing in May 1857 mentioned, "Magnificent suits of rosewood furniture, richly and elaborately covered, in crimson and gold satin damask, consisting of sofas, tete-a-tetes, arm Volaire, Predue and parlor chairs, solid rosewood centre tables, beautifully carved rosewood etageres with mirror backs, rosewood seven octave pianoforte, made by Chickering," and on and on.  The inventory noted, "Billiard room--Billiard table, balls, cues, chandeliers, chairs, &c."

The house was initially leased to affluent families.  Merchant Augusts C. Richards was here in 1856 and '57, followed by Hanson K. Corning who remained a few years.  Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1810, he was the principal in Corning, Bents & Co.  The New York Times described him as "one of the most highly respected merchants of this City."   The Cornings moved to Madison Avenue in 1861.

The house next became home to Bartholomew O'Connor and his widowed mother, Hannah.  O'Connor's father, Michael, had died around 1809.  Bartholomew was active in the Roman Catholic Church and in Irish causes.  

An intimate friend of O'Connor was Irish-born Daniel Joseph Devlin, a respected businessman and City Chamberlain.  During the Civil War, he was among those who recruited and financed the Irish Brigade of the Union Army.  He, as well, helped found the Society for the Protection of Destitute Roman Catholic Children in the City of New York.  Upon Devlin's death on February 22, 1867, his body was brought to the O'Connor home, where his funeral was held.  The entire Common Council attended the ceremony.

The O'Connors moved permanently to Staten Island in 1867.  The house was leased for a year to real estate agent William Dehon King, and then to Sarah B. Cadle.  

The spacious garden provided extra light and ventilation to the mansion.  A rental advertisement on April 9, 1875 described it as, "three rooms deep, windows in middle rooms; marble mantels and grates in all the rooms," and noted the garden was 27-feet by 100.

For several years it was operated as a high-end boarding house.  Mary K. Buckminster, a widow, had only four boarders in 1879 (the fewer the boarders, the more exclusive the house).  Frank Andrews was an organist, Lorenze Reich was a dealer in imported wines, W. A. Hayward was a manufacturer of "badges and medals," and Maria Phahler was a dressmaker.

The boarding house was being run by Mary Walters in 1883 when she became victim to "a boarding house raider," as described by the New York Herald.  Charles Raymond was arrested on March 31 and charged with "robbing fashionable boarding house keepers."  Well dressed and impeccably mannered, he told Mary he was arranging accommodations for his parents, who were arriving from Nebraska.  "He was particularly desirous to have comfortable apartments for his mother," said the article.  After inspecting the rooms, he rushed off to meet his parents at the train station.  It was not until then that Mary realized he had pocketed valuable items.  Raymond had repeated his scheme a dozen times before being caught.

A year later, on October 1, 1884, the house was targeted again.  James Wilson sneaked into the house "and picked up $200 worth of clothing," reported the New York Herald.  "Annie Gillen, a servant in the house, discovered him in the parlor, and, dropping his plunder, he fled, but only to run into the arms of a policeman."

The residence was again a single-family home when family of Jarvis Slade moved in.  It was also the end of the lavish garden.  In 1888, a one-story addition was added to the house, designed by eminent architect Ernest Flagg.  At the same time he updated the outdated Greek Revival architecture with a more Italianate style doorway, ironwork, and segmentally arched openings.  Perhaps because of the unlucky connotation of "13," the family now used the address 11 West 10th Street.

The handsome entrance was part of the 1888 remodeling.

Born in 1816, Slade "came from an old New York family," according to The New York Times.  He and his wife, the former Hannah Thomas Patten, had eight children.  

Seventeen-year old Henry Lewis Slade created headlines in 1891.  He was in love with Olivia Hoe, the daughter of millionaire Robert Hoe, but, according to The Sun, "Mrs. Hoe, the girl's mother, was opposed to the match."  And so the couple sneaked away to St. Mark's Church on September 29 and "were married without notice, it is said, to their family."  Rev. Dr. J. H. Rylance knew that the bride's mother was against the marriage, but, said The Sun, "as he saw that the two were firmly decided upon marrying, and as they were of lawful age, he agreed to perform the ceremony."  The fury of Olivia Hoe's parents could only have been doubled when her sister, Laura, and Ernest Trow Carter, who came along supposedly as witnesses, were married immediately afterward.

Marshall Perry Slade graduated from Harvard in 1881.  He updated his classmates in in the Secretary's Report in 1892 saying in part, "As I have no intention of marrying, my residence will probably continue to be, for the next five years, under the parental roof at 11 West Tenth Street, New York."  He would not change his mind until seven years later at the age of 38 when he married Jane Rosetta Carson.

Hannah Patten Slade died on September 27, 1893 at the age of 68.  Her funeral was held in the 10th Street house three days later.  Another funeral would be held in the parlor just over five years later.  Jarvis Slade died on January 3, 1899 at the age of 83.  His funeral was held on January 6.

Still living in the house were Elizabeth Almy Slade, George Patten Slade and his wife, the former Cornelia Wheeler Strong.   They remained for about two years, selling it in 1901 to Joseph Smith Auerbach.  He and his wife, the former Catharine Hone, had four children, John Hone, Kathryn Hone, Helen Hone (who died in infancy), and Helen Dunscomb.  One by one, the Auerbach children were married, John in 1909, Helen in 1911, and Kathryn in 1913.  

As World War I raged, in the fall of 1918 Joseph and Catharine offered up their home to the Red Cross.  On October 11, 1918 The Sun reported, "With more than 1,000 Red Cross Nurses always quartered in New York on their way to or from the front, it is necessary for Father Knickerbocker to bestir himself and show them how much he thinks of such brave women...Last night, with music and speeches and modest feasting, the new Nurses Home at 11 West Tenth street, was opened."  The article said, "It is a large house, large enough to have a big dancing room--nurses take to dancing, it seems to furnish the kind of relaxation they need.  There is a reading and writing room; and every afternoon tea will be served by the Junior League."

The Auerbachs would not return to West 10th Street.  On January 3, 1919 The Sun reported that they had sold the house to Jeremiah Milbank.  Nine years earlier the millionaire had purchased the houses at 118 and 120 West 13th Street "as a gift for the Ladies' Christian Union."  Now he did the same with the Auerbach house.  The Sun explained that the Ladies' Christian Union "is to establish a young woman's home as a memorial to Mr. Milbank's wife," adding, "The Ladies' Christian Union at present maintains five homes in the city."  

Before the end of the year the one-story extension had been raised to full height, the architect closely matching the detailing of the venerable original house, including the bracketed 1888 cornice.

A variation in brick color testifies to the additional floors above former the one-story wing.

The facility was known as the Milbank House, and was continually run by the Ladies' Christian Union, providing housing to unmarried women until 1994.  (At which time, according to The New York Times, "$130 a week gave young businesswomen tiny rooms and served them two meals a day in elegant surroundings.")  The former mansion sat empty for two years, until New York University purchased it in June 1996 for $3.9 million to house its Global Law School program.  

At the time of the sale, real estate broker Arlene Nance commented, "It has the most magnificent, sunny parlor, which should be landmarked, and a library with books donated by Irving Berlin.  Although a lot of people suggested it, [the Ladies' Christian Union] would never cut up that gorgeous twin parlor."

New York University, not necessarily known for its sympathetic treatment of historic interiors, did not greatly alter the Milbank House.  That changed after Bear Stearns executive Warren Spector and his actress wife, Margaret Whitton purchased it in 2007 for $34.5 million.

The couple renovated the massive 16,560-square-foot mansion, eliminating any hint of the 19th century in favor of clean 21st century lines and surfaces.  Spector placed the mansion on the market in 2018 at just under $60 million, reducing it to $50 million the following year.

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Friday, August 12, 2022

The Jennie Kelso Ewell House - 47 East 74th Street

 


Prolific real estate developer Jeremiah C. Lyons began construction on a row of eight five-story dwellings on East 74th Street between Park and Madison Avenues in 1898.  The architectural firm of Buchman & Deisler had designed them in two balanced groupings of four--A-B-B-A and C-B-B-C.  The westernmost house, an A model at 47 East 74th, was a dignified neo-Renaissance style residence faced in limestone.

A Doric portico upheld a two-story faceted bay decorated with a broken pediment at the second floor and crowned with a carved stone balcony.  The fifth floor sat between an intermediate cornice and the bracketed pressed metal terminal cornice. 

Lyons sold 47 East 74th Street in 1899 to Moses Newborg, the president of Newborg & Co., brokers.  It is unclear whether he and his family ever lived in the house, but in April the following year he resold it to Jennie Kelso Ewell.  The daughter of Andrew Varick Stout, president of the Shoe and Leather Bank, she had married his partner, John Newton Ewell, who  had died in 1885.  The couple had two children, Douglass Ewell (who died in 1897) and Caroline Elizabeth, known as Carrie.

Jennie's summer estate was in Northeast Harbor, Maine.  She shared it and the East 74th Street house with Caroline and her husband, DeWitt Parshall.  The couple had been married in a fashionable Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church ceremony on November 20, 1895.  Born in 1864, Parshall was a landscape artist.

Pashall's Grand Canyon is typical of his works.

Among Jennie's faithful servants was her coachman, Charles Heil, hired in 1885.  When she gave up her horses for a motorcar, he learned to drive and stayed on as her chauffeur.  On the evening of November 15, 1909 he took the Pashalls to dinner, and was returning to the Lenox Garage on East 74th Street when disaster occurred.

At Lexington Avenue and 75th Street, 9-year-old Joseph O'Connor darted into the street into the path of the automobile.  Although Heil was going "at a moderate rate of speed," according to a witness, he "was on the wrong side of the street and had no lights."  The New York Times reported, "The front wheel of the machine passed over the boy's head before the chauffeur brought it to a stop.  Jumping out, Heil lifted the boy up and carried him to the sidewalk.  Then, apparently becoming panic-stricken with fright, he threw the boy down, jumped back into his machine, and put on full power."

Bystanders called for him to stop, and O'Connor's playmates ran after the vehicle to get the license number.  Police easily traced it to Jennie Ewell and to the Lenox Garage.  There they found Heil "completely unnerved and weeping bitterly."  He claimed he had hurried to the garage to get help.  He was arrested on a charge of felonious assault.

Jennie Ewell told a reporter that in the 24 years he had been in her employ, he had never had an accident.  Nevertheless, the press coverage was not kind to the 51-year-old.  The New York Times headline read, "Boy Left dying By Fleeing Autoist."

It was Carrie who appeared in the society pages most often.  On February 19, 1910, for instance, the New York Herald announced, "Mr. and Mrs. DeWitt Pashall gave a reception yesterday afternoon at their home, No. 47 East Seventy-fifth street."

Jennie Kelso Stout Ewell died in Northeast Harbor, Maine, on July 26, 1916 at the age of 73.  Her funeral was held there and her body returned to New York and buried in Greenwood Cemetery.  She left an estate of over $7.5 million by today's conversion, all of which went to Carrie.

The Pashalls remained in at 47 East 74th Street until May 1920 when Carrie sold it to railroad executive Herbert N. Curtis.  The Pashalls moved to Santa Barbara, California.  

It was not long before Curtis's name appeared in the papers for a surprising and, perhaps, shocking reason.  On March 18, 1921 the 67-year-old bachelor appeared before Surrogate Judge Cohalan in hopes of adopting Mary Lois Fox "a professional entertainer, 29 years old," according to The New York Times.  He explained, according to the newspaper, "he met Miss Fox six years ago through his sister and that she taught him modern dancing steps for two years.  He has assisted her in placing negro songs before the public, he said."  Curtis told the judge he "wants to make her his foster daughter, he says, that she may be a comfort to him in his old age."

Judge Cohalan refused saying, "If that is your reason for wanting to adopt this young woman you won't do it with the aid of this court.  It is a parody on all laws of society, and if I were to be a party to such an adoption we would have a lot of old roues coming in here wanting to adopt young girls."

Mary Fox's attorney chimed in, saying that "the elderly man's interest in her was purely platonic and that his attitude had always been that of a father."  He said that Mary "expected to be married soon" and hoped to be able to treat Curtis "as her father and to have him live with her and her husband."  Mary Fox interjected that she "met him in a church choir."

Cohalan was unmoved.  The New York Times reported that he "decided that Miss Fox should wait until after her marriage and then she could either become the foster daughter of Mr. Curtis or she could adopt him as her son."

Curtis leased the house for the winter season of 1924-25.  On October 6, 1924 The New York Telegram and Evening Mail reported, "Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Parmentier will close their country place at Greenwich, Conn. this week, and will occupy for the winter the house at No. 47 East Seventy-fourth street."


The house was sold in 1945.  It saw a series of residents over the next decades, until being converted to apartments, two per floor, in 1999.

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Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Remarkably Restored 1845 38 East Fourth Street



In early 1830's, the first of the aristocratic homes that would line the East Fourth Street block between Lafayette Place and the Bowery appeared.  Mary Waldron, the widow of Oliver Waldron, Jr., was a little late to the party, erecting a speculative, 25-foot-wide residence on the south side of the block in 1844-45.  The elapsed decade was reflected in the architecture.  The brick-faced house was Greek Revival in style, as opposed to its earlier Federal style neighbors.  Three-and-a-half stories above a brownstone English basement, its low-key outward appearance belied the opulence of the interiors.

Among the early residents of 372 Fourth Street (renumbered 38 East 4th Street in 1865) was Morris S. Hopper, a merchant, listed here in 1845.  In 1851 the family of Gilbert Allen occupied the residence.

Mary Waldron's estate sold the house in 1853 to Anna M. Rutgers, who leased it to the affluent Dr. William W. Dwight.  Born in South Hadley, Massachusetts, Dwight had graduated from Yale University in 1826.  He seems to have occasionally treated police prisoners, supplying the Board of Aldermen with bills "for medical attendance at the Third District Watch-House."  Dr. Dwight died on July 11, 1861 at the age of 55, and his funeral was held in the parlor the following day.

Lawrence (or Laurence) Maher and his wife, Bridget, purchased the house in 1865.  The appearance of the couple on the refined block may have caused comment over teacups in the neighboring homes.  Maher listed his occupation as "liquors," which could have meant he ran a saloon, or at best a wine and liquor store.  An incident in November 1865 suggests the former.

Thomas Moore ran a gambling parlor at 700 Broadway.  On November 14, 16-year-old Beverly Gibson had a bad stroke of luck there, losing $600 playing faro.  (It was a massive loss, equal to about $10,300 today.)   The teen had been a sailor in the Confederate Navy, and was the son of a Confederate surgeon-general.  Even worse than losing a fortune, that money did not belong to him.

Earlier, Gibson had picked William W. Smith's pocket of $920 "while walking in the street," according to The New York Times.  Suspecting the police might be after him, he boarded the Good Hope heading for California, but Police Sergeant Garland overtook the ship off Bedloe's Island and arrested the boy.  The New York Times reported, "Sergeant Garland called upon Moore and politely requested him to return the money won from Gibson, but Moore refused to comply."  Thomas Moore was also arrested, and "Lawrence Maher, of No. 38 East Fourth-street, became his surety."  (The term meant that Maher bailed him out of jail.)

Two years after the incident, the Mahers sold the East 4th Street house to Henry Iden.  (Incidentally, Laurence Maher's life would come to a gruesome end on August 11, 1880.  He and Thomas Hogan were driving "a loaded beer-wagon," according to The New York Times, when somehow both of them "fell beneath the wheels and were killed."

Iden leased the house to Lewis and Bertha Schneider, who operated it as a high-end boarding house.  Among their tenants in 1873 were Max Bottstein, a shoe merchant; and engraver Anton Hilgenreiner.

The elevated class of the Schneiders' boarders was evidenced in a court case in 1876.  Renting rooms that November were the recently widowed Eusebia Fitzgerald and her adult son, Horace.  Three weeks after they arrived, on December 16, the Los Angeles Evening Express reported, "Mrs. Fitzgerald, a wealthy lady from San Francisco, and a step-sister of Gen. Ewing of California, charged Mrs. Bertha Schneider, a boarding house keeper of No. 38 East Fourth street, with robbing her of diamond jewelry valued at $6,000."  (The actual amount was $4,000, or about $104,000 today.)

Saying that Bertha "keeps a fashionable boarding-house," The New York Times described her as "an honest-looking German woman, apparently about fifty years of age."  Eusebia Fitzgerald, said the article, "is a woman apparently a little more than thirty years old, with light yellow hair, and a face which, though fair, is not by any means beautiful."

The women faced off in court on December 16.  The New York Times said Eusebia "seemed rather nervous and excited while giving her evidence, and several times manifested a decidedly combative disposition when closely questioned by counsel."  She told the court she had come to New York to settle her husband's $800 life insurance policy.  She had shown the cash to Bertha on December 11, "and soon afterward missed it."  Three days later, she said, "Mrs. Schneider came into her room and seized her diamonds."  According to her, Bertha told her they "were perfectly safe," and she "would give them up as soon as the board was paid."  Horace Fitzgerald took the stand and corroborated his mother's story.  

Bertha's testimony, not surprisingly, was starkly different.  She said Colonel St. Martin had brought her to the house, introduced Eusebia as his sister-in-law, and paid her the first week's board.  When the second week's rent was not forthcoming, Bertha asked for it several times.  Eusebia Fitzgerald showed her several $100 bills on December 13 as proof that she had the money, and said she would pay her rent when she returned from shopping.  "She went out and when she came back she said she had lost her money," said Bertha.  Eusebia then went to Colonel St. Martin and declared Bertha had stolen her jewels.

Ellen Dillon, a servant girl in the house, appeared on behalf of Bertha.  The New-York Daily Tribune reported she "testified that Mrs. Fitzgerald offered her $500 to state that she had seen the jewel box containing $4,000 worth of property in the possession of Mrs. Schneider."  And while Eusebia had testified that she had known Colonel St. Martin "for many years," he told the court they had only met in July.  Furthermore, acquaintances of Eusebia and her late husband said that there was no life insurance policy.

The case lasted nearly a week.  Then, on December 21, 1876 Judge Bixby exonerated Bertha Schneider and dismissed that case.  The Salt Lake City Deseret News reported, "Mrs. Fitzgerald was very indignant, and threatens libel suits against the papers for writing her up so extensively."

In 1881 Ms. H. Bulliganer took over running the boarding house.  A colorful tenant that year was Professor St. Leon, who advertised in the New York Dispatch, "Professor St. Leon, late of London, Astrologer and Clairvoyant, reveals everything.  No imposition.  No. 38 East Fourth street."  His "office" fees were 50 cents, and "consultation by mail" was $1.00.

Henry Iden enlarged the house in 1883 by raising the attic to a full fourth floor.  It was purchased by tobacco merchant Jacob L. Kahn in December 1890 for $29,000--around $891,000 in today's money.

By now the once refined residential block was much changed.  Almost all of the wealthy homeowners had migrated northward.  Some of the homes were now being operated as boarding houses, others had been converted for business or razed for commercial structures.  On June 18, 1897 the New York Journal and Advertiser would note that to the east side of Kahn's house "is a saloon, and next to that a Chinese laundry."

Born in Germany, Kahn had gone into the tobacco business in 1877.  In 1895, five years after moving into the East 4th Street house, he went head-to-head with a formidable opponent, the Tobacco Trust.  The Trust was bent on monopolizing the industry, intimidating retailers to purchase only their stock.  In December 1900 The Tobacco Worker explained, "Having a large business and an extensive stock, [Kahn] found it absolutely necessary to carry the goods which were now in control of the Trust."  But he balked at being bullied, and went to extreme measures to obtain other goods.  One by one, Trust spies discovered who his suppliers were, and threatened them.  "Nothing daunted, Kahn hunted up other jobbers," said The Tobacco Worker.  "Many a night Kahn, after closing up his store for the day, would take a midnight train out of New York and start out on a hunt for cigarettes.  In this manner he succeeded, despite all the efforts of the Trust, to keep supplied."

As part of the District Attorney's investigation against the Tobacco Trust in 1897, Jacob Kahn was scheduled to testify in court.  And as the date of the case approached, he discovered he was dealing with a fearsome adversary.  On June 18, 1897 the New York Journal and Advertiser wrote, "Jacob L. Kahn, probably the most important witness for the people in the Tobacco Trust case...to prove that rebellious dealers have been persecuted by the Trust, that spies have been employed to annoy them, and that efforts have been made to break up their business, was the victim of a mysterious casualty in front of his home, at No. 38 East Fourth street, yesterday morning."

Just after midnight, as Jacob approached his stoop, he was attacked "by two thugs and was felled to the pavement."  He suffered two deep cuts to the face when he "struck the pavement with fearful force."  The attack did not dissuade Kahn, who appeared in court as scheduled.  (The weeks-long trial ended in a hung jury on June 29.  The members were so heated in their disagreement, according to The World, that "the struggle in the jury-room" required a physician to be sent in to tend to at least one of them.)

The Kahn family remained in the house for years.  By 1915 Semon Kahn was working in his father's business as a clerk.  The property was sold to Dr. Benedict F. D'Angelo in 1933.  The family would retain possession through 1967.  During that time the once-proud home was brutalized.  The stoop was removed, as was the cornice which was replaced by a brick parapet.  The parlor floor entrance was converted to a window, and the entrance moved to the former basement level.

Astounding change would come in 2007.  Two years earlier the Fourth Street Inn, LLC had leased the house.  Now, having purchased it, the concern completed a remarkable restoration of the facade, rebuilding the stoop, and recreating the Greek Revival doorway.  The Lafayette House, a 15-room inn opened in October 2007 "with no fanfare at all," according to Fred A. Bernstein of The New York Times.

The stoop, Greek Revival style entrance, and decorative ironwork were all fashioned in 2007.

Although the parapet (with a newly-added cornice) gives the house a rather high forehead, and the parlor windows, which were undoubtedly full height in 1845, have been shortened, 38 East 4th Street has essentially regained the appearance it had when the stylish broughams of the block's wealthy residents passed by.

photographs by the author
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