Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Hicks Building -- No. 1178 Broadway

By the time of the Civil War the once-respectable residential neighborhood around Broadway and 28th Street had degraded.  Saloons and gambling parlors defined the area which would in later years be known as the Tenderloin.  Thomas Thornton ran a saloon at No. 1178 Broadway in the first floor of an old brick-faced house.  When the infamous Draft Riots broke out in July 1863 in response to the unfair military draft lottery Thornton’s saloon would become a target.

For three days terror reigned in New York City with carnage and destruction unlike anything seen in the country before.  Innocent people were murdered, and draft offices, newspaper buildings and the homes and neighborhoods of the black population were burned.  When the mob moved up Broadway to 18th Street, the grocer across the street from Thorton, Richard Murphy, passed out free whiskey to appease them—a full 19 gallons in all.  But, according to Adrian Cook in his The Armies of the Streets: The New York City Draft Riots of 1863, Thomas Thornton was less lucky. 

“The mob broke in, drank al the liquor in the bar, carried off the kegs and demijohns full of alcohol, and robbed him of $200.”  Thornton’s loss in cash alone would be about $4000 today.

Efforts of reformers and politicians like Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt made a change in the Tenderloin in the last decade of the century.  In 1891 H. Phillips, listed as an “importer and tailor,” ran his business from No. 1178.  History and Commerce of New York, 1891 said “Mr. H. Phillips is a gentleman of German birth, and for a number of years a resident of this city.”  Meanwhile, the Gaelic Society and the Municipal Council of the Irish National League leased rooms upstairs for their headquarters.

Broadway by now boasted numerous handsome hotels and respectable businesses were moving in to the area.  On July 13, 1901 the Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide reported that change was about to come to the corner of Broadway and 28th Street as well.  Elias J. Herrick had commissioned architects Clinton & Russell to design a five story brick and stone “lofts and stores” building costing $80,000.

Herrick’s family had been in American since before 1653 when Sir William Herrick was first mentioned at Beverly, Massachusetts.   William Herrick’s son, Joseph, settled around New Amsterdam, where he married Margaret Hicks of Long Island.

Two and a half centuries later Elias J. Herrick had garnered a fortune as one of the leading producers of flour in the United States.  Heavily involved with charities and philanthropies, he now turned his attention to real estate development.

He demolished the two brick houses at Nos. 1178 Broadway and 17 West 28th Street for his new commercial building.  His architects were busy men at the time.  Concurrently they were working on the Graham Court Apartments, the Broad Exchange Building downtown, the American Exchange National Bank Building, the 18-story Atlantic Building and the Astor Apartment building.

For Herrick they designed a five-story Beaux Arts structure that used a mix of materials—terra cotta, brick, limestone and cast iron.   The banded limestone piers of the two-story base continued up the Broadway elevation and at the eastern end of the 28th Street façade.  Above the second story cornice on 28th Street the central section was faced with beige brick—a significant cost savings to Herrick.  Only in this section were the openings not framed in cast iron, with ornate spandrels, engaged columns and, at the second story, angled bays.  Festooned cartouches crowned each pier above the second floor where a delicate wave crest design finished off the cornice.  Above it all a fanciful parapet with festooned oculi, urn-topped pedestals and a shallow arcade along 28th Street sat like a diadem.

The family tie to Margaret Hicks was never lost among the Herricks.  Elias’s son bore the name Edward Hicks Herrick.  The new building, completed in 1902, was christened The Hicks Building.  Herrick’s first tenant was perhaps his most important.  The Evening Post Record of Real Estate Sales reported in February 1902 that the Corn Exchange Bank had taken “the ground floor of the new Hicks Building, at the northeast corner of Broadway and Twenty-eighth Street.”

J. F. Reinhardt was among the earliest tenants in the upper floors.  Turn of the century wardrobes involved traveling clothes, visiting clothes, business attire, evening wear, sports outfits, and a host of other categories.  The closets of even the wealthiest were taxed with the amount of clothing.  Reinhardt offered a solution by storing and maintaining seasonal apparel.  An advertisement in June 1903 in the New-York Tribune offered “gentlemen’s clothing taken care of and stored for the season.”

In the days before electric refrigeration hotels, restaurants and homes were faced with another necessity—ice.  The American Ice Company moved into No. 1178 Broadway.  Run by Wesley M. Oler, the successful firm was targeted by Attorney General Julius M. Mayer for running an “Ice Trust” and price fixing.  On December 21, 1906 the New-York Tribune explained that through its manipulations, the firm increased the price of ice from rivers and ponds from $1.20 a ton to ten times that much.  “It is said that by the time the ice reached the poor customers of these pushcart dealers it cost them at the rate of from $10 to $14 a ton.”

On December 20 Wesley M. Oler was served in his office at 1178 Broadway with a copy of the charges.  Oler said the charges were baseless and had no statement for reporters “except to say that Mr. Mayer probably thinks his explanation of his action from his point of view is correct.”

A delicate wave pattern rolls above the exquisitely-carved festooned cartouches.

At the time that Wesley Oler was planning his defense the building was home to several travel-related agencies.  Leon H. Cilley placed an alluring advertisement in the June 1906 edition of The Four-Track News-An Illustrated Magazine of Travel and Education. Representing the Maplewood Hotel in Maplewood, New Hampshire, he marketed it as a “Social and scenic center.  High altitude.  No hay fever.  Superior 18-hold golf course.”

S. E. Churchill offered competition and in June 1906 advertised accommodations at several resorts, including the sprawling Hotel Hamilton.  That same month The Mathewson resort hotel published an advertisement in the New-York Tribune.  Like Churchill and the Maplewood, the Mathewson’s New York office was in the Hicks Building.  The ad boasted modern improvements over the past season.

Lavish turn-of-the-century resort hotels were enticing even to middle class Americans, The New York Observer June 1906 (copyright expired)
“Improvements for 1906 include a large number of new bathrooms, surf bathing, no annoyance from mosquitoes, excellent roads, good fishing.  Golf and tennis.”  The ad also noted “pure water from Mathewson spring.”

Spring waters at summer resorts was rapidly becoming a marketing tool.  Another agent in the building was taking advantage of that draw as well.  Hiram Ricker & Sons were the agents for the Poland Spring hotel and resort.  Poland Spring would remain in the building for years; by 1916 focusing more on its bottled water than the resort business.

A related firm was The Travellers’ Company.  It, too, would be here for several years, offering travel tickets, hotel and resort and restaurant recommendations for vacationers.  And Mabie & Gillies, who started out offering “private funds for private house mortgages and centrally located business property loans,” would also stay on.  By 1908 the firm, now known as Webster B. Mabie & Co. was dealing in commercial real estate.

New York’s apparel and millinery business would, for the most part, bypass No. 1178 Broadway.  One exception was the high-end men’s hat manufacturer Hawes von Gal.  With factories in Danbury, Connecticut and Niagara Falls, Canada, the firm boasted in 1912 “Best made and best known is a strong combination.”  Its popular bowler in 1913 retailed for about $75.00 in today’s dollars.

The style of illustration for Hawes ads at the time was astonishingly similar to J. C, Leyendecker -- The World's Work October 1912, (copyright expired)

In the building with Hawes at the time were the Amsterdam Advertising Agency (which included Poland Water on its list of clients); A. H. Rice Co., “manufacturers of sewing silks and braids at Pittsfield, Massachusetts;” the Arizona-based Pioneer Mining & Smelting Co.; and real estate agents M. Rosenthal Co. (which signed a lease in 1916) and M. L. Harris.

In October 1917 the estate of Elias Herrick commissioned architect I. E. Denslow to do “alterations” on the building.  Details of the $4,000 in improvements are unclear; however they most likely focused on modernizations inside.

The smattering of apparel firms in the building by 1920 included the Imperial Cloak Company and A. Kandel’s silk manufacturing operation.  On Friday November 25, 1921 Kandel ran into trouble while heading home to Brooklyn.

He and his wife were to attend a social function so Mrs. Kandel had asked him to remove certain articles of jewelry from a safe deposit vault.  He placed them in a small chamois bag which he pushed into his coat pocket.  He then boarded the elevated train to Brooklyn.  He later told police he “recalled being jostled during the trip.”

When he arrived home he found that the bag and his cash were gone. Included were a diamond ring valued at $2,800 and a pendent worth $1,820.  In all Mrs. Kandel lost about $7,500 in jewelry (nearly $97,000 today) and her husband was out $53 in cash.

No. 1178 was still being referred to as The Hicks Building in advertisements as late as 1922.  By 1930 the former bank space was occupied by the United Cigar Stores.  And things would not improve as the decades passed.

The street level was obliterated in the second half of the 20th century and is now humiliated with garish vinyl awnings of wholesale shops.  Clinton & Russell’s handsome entrance to the upper floors on the 28th Street, however, survives; as does almost all of their design above the first floor.

photographs by the author

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Albert Shattuck House -- No. 19 Washington Square No.

As wealthy New Yorkers established Washington Park (later renamed Washington Square) as a refined residential neighborhood, Brooklyn resident Henry Ibbotsen joined in.  In 1835 he started construction of a brick-faced Greek Revival residence adjoining the magnificent Federal-style mansion of George P. Rogers, built seven years earlier.

Completed in 1836, the house was trimmed in brownstone and featured floor-to-ceiling parlor windows, a grand stoop leading to the entrance, and a rusticated brownstone basement.  If Ibbotsen, a wealthy agent for Sheffield cutlery, ever intended to live at No. 20 Washington Square North (later renumbered No. 19), there is no evidence that he did so.

In 1838 Edward R. Biddle had moved in.  A commission merchant, his stay in the mansion would be brief, lasting until around 1840.  He was followed by crockery merchant Henry Chauncey whose family remained in the house until the mid-1850s.

The house became home to Morris Ketchum, a banker and financier.  With his son, Edward, he headed the banking firm of Ketchum, Son and Company, and was a director of the Illinois Central Railroad.  He died in the house on New Year’s Day 1880 and his funeral was held in the parlor a few days later.

Wealthy lawyer and banker Eugene Kelly, Jr. and his family followed the Ketchum family in No. 19.  He updated the house, hiring McKim, Mead & White in 1886 to design a masonry extension at the rear.  It was possibly Kelly who gave the mansion the Italianate updates that survive today.

At some point the house received an updated entrance with foliate brackets, and Italianate stoop newels, railings and fencing.  In all probability a cast iron balcony once stretched below the parlor windows.

The Kelly family was accustomed to helping strangers; not always with a happy outcome.  In 1893, according to The Evening World, “one Thomas Welsh, was sent to the island for forcing himself upon Mrs. Kelly, even writing her an abusive letter.”  Later that year, her husband would be ill-used by someone he tried to help.

Kelly befriended a 19-year old named Frank M. Vernon, who then moved on.  In December 1893 Kelly received a letter from a Chicago undertaker notifying him that Vernon had died and requesting $108 for the funeral.  Kelly responded with a letter asking for details of the death, and included the money.

On December 22 a letter arrived from A. E. Peltzer & Co.  It spoke of the deceased in glowing terms, calling him “a remarkably bright young man, well read, etc.”  It dramatically spoke of his death, “Vernon suffered intense agony, but bore it bravely and spoke of you as his friend and benefactor.”

The writer added that Vernon’s watch and ring were being shipped to Kelly.  The package arrived by American Express, C.O.D. $50.  After Kelly paid the money, he found only a pack of playing cards in the box.

19-ytear old Frank Vernon tried to scam one of NYC's wealthiest citizens -- The Evening World, March 8, 1894 (copyright expired)
Frank M. Vernon’s scam would most likely have worked had he not gotten overly-greedy.  Kelly reported the incident to police and Vernon was arrested in St. Louis in March 1894.  The Evening World commented that the Kelly family "has had unpleasant experiences with swindlers they have befriended.”

The family name scandalously appeared in the press later that year when Eugene Kelly Jr. was arrested for a highly unseemly crime--street fighting.  Around 2:00 a.m. on October 16, 1894 the banker and Harry Andrews were taken to Jefferson Market Police Court “on counter charges of assault.”  Police found them at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 14th Street in a slug fest.  “Neither would press the charge and both were discharged by Justice Voorhis.”

On the whole, publicity surrounding the Kelly family was more upstanding.  Eugene Kelly, Jr. was a subscriber to the erection of the Washington Arch in 1896; the same year that his wife, Margaret, supported the construction of a sanitarium for the St. Joseph’s Home for Consumptives.

Following Kelly’s death, the house sat empty for a few years.  Then, on April 24, 1901, the New-York Tribune reported “The private dwelling house No. 19 Washington Square North, long occupied by the late Eugene Kelly, the banker, as a home, has been sold to Mrs. Shattuck, wife of Albert R. Shattuck, for about $65,000.”

Banker Albert Richardson Shattuck was fabulously wealthy, having made his fortune in New Orleans.  He was married to Mary Strong, daughter of the former New York City mayor William L. Strong.  Moving into the mansion with the childless couple was Mary’s widowed mother, Mary A. B. Strong.

The refined entertainments in the Shattuck house included a series of three French lectures in 1902.  The final lecture, held at 11:00 on the morning of March 4, was “An Hour of French Poetry,” given by Professor Edouard Lance.

The socially correct Mary A. Born Strong was humiliated and incensed over the actions of her son, Captain Putnam Bradlee Strong that year.  Strong resigned the United States Army and embarked on a world-wide tour “in company with Miss Maye Yahe,” as reported in the New-York Tribune.

Mary Augusta Yohe, known as Maye Yahe, was not only an actress, she was a divorcee.  She had recently divorced Lord Francis Hope (who gave her the Hope Diamond).  Now in June 1902 newspapers reported that Strong had disappeared along with $100,000 worth of Maye’s jewels.

The beautiful actress stole Capt. Putnam Bradlee Strong's heart; then he stole her jewelry -- The Era Almanack, 1894 (copyright expired)

The Shattucks and Mrs. Strong were in Lenox when the scandalous story broke.  They were all drawn into the story when his mother received a suicide note from Putnam Strong, along with the pawn tickets for the jewelry.

Shattuck returned to New York and told a reporter that “he could not explain the affair, and did not know where his brother-in-law had gone.”  The New-York Tribune reported “It is understood that it was at his direction that the Pinkertons took up the search for Strong, although they yesterday denied all connection with the affair.”

Mary A. B. Strong would not forget her son’s unforgivable behavior.

In the meantime, Albert Shattuck was highly interested in the new automobiles that were taking the place of horses on the streets of America.  He became Chairman of the Good Roads Committee of the Automobile Club of America and often spoke and wrote articles concerning automobile safety.

The pastime nearly put Shattuck in bad standing with his wife in September 1904.  “While driving through Springfield [Massachusetts] this morning on an automobile trip from New-York to Boston, A. R. Shattuck, of New-York, lost a small bag containing jewels worth several thousand dollars,” reported the New-York Tribune on September 17.  The newspaper explained “The bag belonged to Mrs. Shattuck, and contained, among other things, her wedding ring.”

Luckily for Shattuck, it was found by two young brothers, sons of George P. Houghton of Springfield, who returned it.  “Mr. Shattuck gave the family $300.”

A small article appeared in The Sun on December 9, 1917.  It reported that “Heir looms and jewelry, said to be worth more than $10,000, was reported to the police yesterday as missing from the home of Albert R. Shattuck, 19 North Washington Square…The robbery is thought to have been committed while the family was at dinner Friday evening.” 

The Shattucks were convinced they knew who the robber was.  Just after serving dinner, their French butler, Henri Boilat, “tucked a bag under his arm and buttoned an overcoat over his livery,” said The New York Times later.  He told a female servant he was going “just around the corner” and casually walked out of the house.  He never returned, nor did the jewelry (the value was raised to $12,000 later) including Albert Shattuck’s diamond-studded gold pocket watch.

The theft, amounting to more than $210,000 today, was unsettling; but Albert and Mary Shattuck had no way of knowing it was just the foreshadowing of a horrific ordeal to come.

Albert and Mary had purchased Edith Wharton’s Lenox, Massachusetts estate, The Mount, in 1912.  It was here, on July 27, 1921 that Mary A. Born Strong died at the age of 79.  She left an estate of over $400,000 and her hard feelings over Putnam Strong’s earlier indiscretions were reflected in her will.  A New York Times headline read “Mother’s Will Hits At Captain Strong” and the article explained that Mary Shattuck received about double that of her brother.

In the meantime, Henri Boilat had been living in Paris and had become an "Apache"—the French term for a gangster.  Five years later and half a world away, he still remembered the Shattuck mansion and the loot he had so easily made off with.  On April 2, 1922 he was back.

Boilat, whose real name was Gabriel Alfone Mauray, pulled together a group of five thugs in Paris for the sole purpose of robbing the Washington Square house.   Around daybreak on April 2 they entered the front basement door with a passkey.  Mauray knew that the servants would all be in one spot—the servant’s dining room—at noon for lunch.  He and his men hid in the basement for hours waiting for the right time.

At noon they broke into two groups.  The first group focused on the servants and the second on the Shattucks.  The New York Times recounted the terror initially faced by the servants.

“Just as the five were seated, a door flew open and two men, their faces concealed by black handkerchiefs with eyeholes, entered with pistols and gave orders both in French and English for the servants to throw up their hands and line up against the wall.”

Mary Shattuck was upstairs in her living room and Albert was in the library.  “Mrs. Shattuck saw two masked men tiptoeing in with pistols  She shrieked before they could utter a threat.

“Mr. Shattuck, who is 69 years old, rushed in from the library.  The two pistols were turned on him”

With one gun just inches from Albert Shattuck’s temple, one of the thieves warned “We’ll kill you both if you call for help.”

The Shattucks were taken to the wine cellar where they were bound with ropes.  Before long the five servants were with them, bound, gagged, and locked in the cellar.  While the robbers ransacked the upstairs, one of the maids was able to wriggle her hands free.  The Shattuck’s doorman, Victor Tirosi, later told police “The vault was small, dark and air-tight, so that they were gasping for breath because of the exhaustion of air.”

The maid untied another servant and eventually all the prisoners were loose.  The butler, Charles Zaung, was able to work the combination from the inside and open the vault.  Both the butler and doorman ran from the back of the house to get help. 

Police swarmed the house and four of the robbers ran down the front stoop and disappeared.  Large, heavy bags filled with silver and other bulky items were abandoned on the floor inside.  The uproar drew scores of people from Washington Square to see what was happening.  All the time the fifth bandit was still in the house.

Policeman Morris Greenburg was about three blocks away when the last burglar headed out of the house.  The crook waved a handgun at the crowd outside and they quickly made way.  As he ran, he realized that Greenberg was behind him, so he shed an overcoat weighed down by $5,000 worth of jewelry.

The robber dived into a dark cellar with Greenberg directly behind.  Eugenio Diaset, a 27-year old French sailor, was arrested and he confessed his part in the robbery.  The Times said that the jewelry recovered was estimated to be about one-fifth of the entire haul—later estimated to be about $80,000.

A physician was called to the Shattuck home to check on Mary Shattuck, whose nerves were understandably shattered.  Albert, now twice the victim of his former butler, was determined that Mauray and his confederates be caught.  His mission turned into an obsession and he and Mary sailed to Paris soon after the robbery—she in an attempt to distance herself from the Washington Square house and he in an effort to find the robber.

Shattuck returned to New York briefly, then returned in July to continue to spur the French police in the search for the criminal.  He offered a reward of $15,000 to any detective bringing about the arrest of Mauray, alias Boilat.  Mary had remained in France, “for the reason, it is said, that she still was too unnerved when her husband returned to this country to go back to their Washington Square home,” explained The New York Times on July 22, 1922.

“Mrs. Shattuck has said that she never will able able to rest at ease in the Washington Square mansion so long as Boilat is at large,” a family friend told a reporter.  “She is afraid that she always will suffer from the fear of the former butler coming back and forcing her and her husband through the same ordeal that came near causing four deaths in the last robbery.”

The Washington Square house remained closed until, one by one, the thieves were caught and sentenced.  Each received sixty years in prison, except Mauray, the ringleader, who was sentenced to death.  His term was later commuted to life imprisonment.

It all took a dreadful toll on the Shattucks.  In 1925, a year after Mauray was tried, Albert sailed from London back to New York.  Mary was in Paris.  He arrived in June and went to The Mount rather than the Washington Square house.  A few weeks later he suffered a severe heart attack.  A telegram was sent to Mary who arrived the first week of August.  She stayed at his bedside almost constantly until the afternoon of November 5, 1925 when he died.  The New York Times said “Most of Mr. Shattuck’s friends believe that the shock of the robbery at his New York home on April 2, 1922, undermined his health and hastened his death.”  It added “At the time of the robbery Mr. Shattuck was 70 years old and it is understood that the shock of the robbery and the subsequent strain made inroads on his health.”

As a side note, the newspaper mentioned “The Shattuck home in Washington Square was often referred to as one of the most artistic in the city.”

Mary Shattuck retained possession of the mansion, somewhat surprisingly, until August 1931.  After exactly three decades in the house, she sold it to the Theatre Operating Company.  In reporting the sale, The New York Times said “The four-story, vine-clad dwelling stands as a symbol of the past in a district which has been invaded by tall apartment houses.”  Mary sold the house for $125,000—a significant amount during the Great Depression; equivalent to about $2 million today.

Newspapers reported that “The new owners plan to hold the property for the time being, but in some circles it was considered likely that the land eventually would be the site of a tall residential structure.”  Instead, with the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the elegant Shattuck mansion became a nightclub—The Washington Square Club, run by Barney Gallant.

Neighbors were not pleased.  “For some time past the peace and quiet of the residents of Washington Square North has been disturbed by the operation of the premises at 19 Washington Square North,” reported The Times on December 28, 1933, “which if continued will cause serious damage to owners of realty property around Washington Square North by greatly depreciating the rental value thereof.”

In January 1934 the Rhinelander Real Estate Company purchased the house.  It applied for a restaurant and liquor license, but was refused by the State Alcoholic Board.  The company was undaunted.  A week later, on February 6, The Times reported “The former Shattuck home at 19 Washington Square North…will be conducted, it was ascertained yesterday, as a private club for one year by Barney Gallant.

By establishing the Washington Square Club as a private club, the owners could circumvent the public restaurant requirements.  The name was changed to the Washington Square Restaurant.

The magnificent mansion finally met the fate of many of New York's surviving grand homes.  On October 19, 1944 it was announced that “The old Shattuck family home at 19 Washington Square North, the scene more than two decades ago of one of the most sensational robberies in the city’s police history, will be converted into an apartment house.”  The interiors were sensitively divided to create high-end apartments, and the Washington Square Gallery moved into the basement level.

In the 21st century the house was purchased by New York University and converted to the NYU Abu Dhabi Offices.  Here lectures, research workshops, exhibitions and other programs are staged as part of the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute.

The handsome mansion is carefully maintained.  Few passersby or students visiting the building can imagine that one of the most sensational crimes in Manhattan history played out within its walls.

photographs by the author

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Phelan & Collender Bldg -- No. 738 Broadway

In 1841 the handsome brick-faced house at No. 738 Broadway was owned by Isaac Jones.  He and his wife, Mary Mason Jones, had moved into No. 734 Broadway in 1839.  There Mary reigned as the queen of New York society in the years before the rise of socialites like Caroline Schermerhorn Astor and Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish. 

James Westerfield leased No. 738 from Jones in the 1840s; but soon subtle changes were being seen in the neighborhood.   The Protestant House of Mercy took over the house in 1855.  On November 10, 1860 The New York Times remarked “Within its walls 187 girls and women have found refuge, and of this number 63 are believed to be doing well.  Twenty were confirmed drunkards when they were received; six have died, and nine are married.”

Along with vice, commerce was inching up Broadway into the once-refined residential neighborhood.  Among the first houses to fall to the new trend was No. 738.   In 1866 real estate investor Augustus M. Selden commissioned architects John Warren Ritch and Evan Griffiths to replace the house with an up-to-date loft and store building.  Completed in 1867, its five-story white marble Italianate façade was a near match to other loft buildings being constructed further downtown.  They would be the prototypes for dozens of cast iron facades in the years to come.

The facade would reappear in cast iron in dozens of similar Soho structures.

Around 30 years earlier Christopher O’Connor had arrived in New York.  He brought with him the knowledge of billiard table construction at a time when the game was nearly unheard of in the U. S.  He founded a billiard table manufacturing company and soon partnered with Hugh Collender, creating O’Connor & Collender.  Then in 1854 another Irish immigrant, Michael Phelan was brought into the firm.  Their consistent improvements to the construction and action of the billiard table, coupled with the fine craftsmanship and materials used, took the company to the pinnacle of success.

After Phelan bought out O’Connor, the firm took the name Phelan & Collender.  Now it moved into the new building at No. 738 as its new “warerooms” and offices.  The Great Industries of the United States wrote “This new and admirably appointed warehouse, at 738 Broadway, New York, is five stories in height, and covers a ground area of twenty-five feet wide by one hundred and six in length, the first and second floors being for the business offices and warerooms, the third for the ivory room, and the fourth for the stock room.”

The company’s massive pool table factory engulfed the entire block on Tenth Avenue between 36th and 37th Streets.  According to The Great Industries of the United States, “From seven hundred to one thousand billiard tables are here made in a year, besides an immense amount of balls, markers, cues, etc.”  There, the same year that the Broadway building was completed, the firm constructed one of its most magnificent pieces.

Across the front of the mammoth 10th Avenue factory reads "Ware Rooms 738 Broadway"  Great Industries of the United States 1874 (copyright expired)

On May 15, 1867 The New York Times reported that “Messrs. Phelan & Collender forwarded yesterday to Gen. Grant, at Washington, a superb billiard-table, which was ordered for his personal use when he was here.”  The newspaper said that it was similar to the others produced in the factory, “but in elegance of ornamentation we presume this has never been approached.”

“The case is of solid blistered and highly polished black walnut; at the joints are plates of gold; at the corners, gilded, are the arms of the United States; on the sides, the General’s monogram; and at the ends a gold plate with the patent and other formal inscriptions.”  The high-end details extended to the accessories as well.  “The appointments of the table are choice and tasteful.  The pockets are of silk netting, the cues white ash inlaid with black walnut, the legs beautifully turned and ornamented like the body.”

While the firm put the value of the table at about $1,400 (nearly $23,000 today), the newspaper assumed it would be “a present from the firm of whom Gen. Grant ordered a plainer and less expensive one.”  The Times felt it necessary to comment on Grant’s pool game, saying he was “by no means a brilliant operator, [but] handles his cut very nicely for an amateur.”

The table depicted above in 1874 was one of the firm's more modest models.  Great Industries of the United States 1874 (copyright expired)

The game had taken hold and by now richly decorated Victorian “pool saloons” had opened throughout the city--enough that later that year the proprietors came together at Phelen & Collender’s offices to standardize the prices for play.  “Some of the room-keepers were in favor of charging 75 cents per hour, but the majority thought that the better policy would be to charge the same as in Boston, Washington and other cities where the time system has been introduced, and it was thereupon resolved that the price should be 60 cents,” reported The New York Times on August 23, 1867.

To solve the problem of space in middle-class homes and, no doubt, to end many a husband-and-wife disagreement, Phelan & Collender developed the "parlor billiard and dining table."  Great Industries in the United States said that "by means of portable leaves and an easily-operated crank, it is made to subserve the purposes of the two tables in one."

The financial success of Phelan & Collender was reflected in the loot stolen by burglars from the office safe here on July 15, 1869.   In addition to the $205.50 in cash were “a few diamond rings, valued at $500,” a gold and silver medal won at the American Institute, another of solid gold presented by the State Society of California, and a quantity of silver plate.  Also taken from the office was a solid silver and gold model of a steam engine, valued at $2,000 and “kept as an ornament in the office” and a small silver billiard table, worth $100.  In total the thieves made off with the equivalent of about $50,000 in plunder in today’s money.

In 1870 Michael Phelan, who came to America penniless with his family when he was just seven, was wealthy beyond his wildest dreams.  That summer he was sailing his yacht in New York’s Lower Bay when the steamer Herald ran full-steam into it.  Phelan was thrown overboard.  The millionaire billiard table manufacturer would never fully recover.

The Sun wrote a year later “Although able to be at his place of business nearly every day, he was always suffering.”  In September 1871 he was confined to bed and within three weeks he died.

An accounting a few weeks afterward listed the physical assets of the company at $79,345.62.  Hugh W. Collender agreed to pay $40,000 for his partner’s half share.  He rapidly changed the company name to H. W. Collender.

An advertisement, shortly after the firm's name was changed, carefully depicted billiards as a respectable family pastime.  The Tribune Almanac and Political Register, 1871 (copyright expired)

When George F. Slosson beat world billiard champion M. Vignaux in March 1882, Collender helped put together a nation-wide fund raising push for him.  The Times reported on March 12 that “The friends and admirers of George F. Slosson have determined to signalize his recent victory over Vignaux at billiards b y presenting him as large a purse of money as can be raised by national contribution.”  It added “H. W. Collender, No. 768 Broadway, New-York City, will receive subscriptions for this purpose.”

Three years earlier Collender had merged his business with that of J. M. Brunswick & Balke Company.  In 1884 they changed the names to the Brunswick-Balke-Collendar Company, or simply the B.B.C. Co.  By the second half of the 20th century the Brunswick Corporation would be a billion dollar conglomerate.

The massive Tenth Avenue Phelan & Collender factory was destroyed by fire in 1883 and it appears that within the year Hugh Collender left No. 738 Broadway and the business offices and showrooms were consolidated into the J. M. Brunswick & Balke space at No. 724 Broadway.

In April 1885 the store and basement were leased to Henry V. Allien & Co. for five years at an  initial rent of $3,000.  A sword cutler and military outfitter, since the end of the Civil War Allien & Co. made mostly ceremonial and officer’s swords.  Later that year Snowden & Bloch, leasing space upstairs, paid $205 to have an iron bridge installed, connecting No. 738 to No. 47 Lafayette Place, directly behind.

The garment industry was beginning to engulf the neighborhood by now and in 1891 the owner of No. 738, Frederick Bauer, hired architect T. Englehardt to update the interiors; no doubt to attract potential commercial tenants.  The $500 in upgrading included an elevator and when the second floor loft became available in 1895, the improvements were obvious.  An advertisement in Clothiers’ and Haberdashers’ Weekly promised “steam heat, electric light, rapid elevator, etc.”

By 1893 the Saulson Cutting and Grading School had moved in.  Pointing out that “it is one of the highest salaried professions,” the school advertised in The Sun on February 23 that year.  “The cutting and grading of gentlemen’s garments taught by an exact science; mathematicians and cutters can be convinced of this fact by calling.”

In 1897 the building was filled with apparel firms, including J. Bernard’s Sons, clothing manufacturers, on the third floor; Davidson & Blankfort; and Carl Buschner, manufacturer of "tassels and drapery" on the fourth floor.  (Davidson & Blankfort was a gentlemen’s clothing manufacturer and in the spring of that year their tailors walked out on strike.)  

On July 27, 1898 fire broke out in J. Bernhard’s Sons shortly before 8:00 at night.  As horse-drawn engines galloped up Broadway, the fire extended upwards into Carl Buschner’s factory.  The New York Times reported “Two alarms were sent in, filling Broadway with fire engines, hose carts, and hook and ladder wagons for two or three blocks and stopping cable cars for more than half an hour.”  The resultant damage was $12,000 to stock, fixtures, and the building.

As the turn of the century came and went, Henry H. Roelofs & Co., hat sellers, operated from the ground floor shop.  J. Bernard’s Sons remained in the building until 1903 when David W. Bernard filed for bankruptcy.  The company was described at the time as “wholesale dealers in Summer clothing.”

The Greenwald Display Fixture Company manufactured and sold “clothing cabinets, wall cases, floor cases and general store equipment.”  On July 12, 1910 “by mutual consent” partners Isador Shafran and Harry Schwartz removed themselves from the company.  Moie Greenwald continued the business here using the same name.  The following year he “made connections with M. I. Himmel & Sons” of Baltimore to represent their line as well.

The Clothier and Furnisher reported “One of the features of their showing at 738 Broadway will be the all-in-sight wardrobe, which has the revolving fixture, giving two hanging rods with the carrying capacity of 120 suits in a floor space of 7 feet by 4 feet.”

A sidewalk bridge is evidence of the last restoration touches in early 2015.

Another fixture company, the See & Ell Clothing System, moved into the second floor loft in 1912.  Upstairs, Morris Findlestein and Hillel Pinefsky operated their Universal Clothing Company, making wearing apparel.

J. Wall was leasing the fourth floor of the building in 1920 when, on January 21 that year, he noticed a personal advertisement in The Sun by “E. P. M.”  The writer inquired as to where “he could buy some very fine bethabera.”   The ad referred to the highly elastic “Bethabera Wood” which a year earlier the Federal Reporter described as “of close texture, hard and resilient and comes from British Guiana.”  The wood was imported into the United States solely for the purpose of making fishing rods.

Wall immediately placed his own advertisement.  “If he will call and see me some afternoon between 2 and 4:30 o’clock I might spare a few pieces of choicest quality, thoroughly seasoned.  I am not a dealer, but an amateur in making rods.”

By the time Bernard S. Deutsch purchased the building in September 1926, the garment district was already moving out of the Broadway neighborhood.  The rental income that year was $12,000, just under $160,000 today.  But there were still a few apparel firms hanging on.

S. Hindleman, a tailor, was in the building as the Depression cast its pall over the nation.   And he seems to have been keeping his head above water.  On April 1, 1932 the Society of Independent Arts opened an exhibition in the Grand Central palace which was deemed an “anti-depression strategy.”  The idea was for struggling artists to trade their artwork for goods and services in lieu of money.

The New York Times reported that the preview of the exhibition “had not been on for an hour before the first barter was effected.  A modernistic drawing by A. S. Baylinson, secretary of the society, was bought by S. Hindleman, a tailor of 738 Broadway, for a suit of clothes.”

Hindleman suggested to reporters that he “was beginning a modern art collection and tentatively selected a half dozen other pictures.”

But before long there were no longer any apparel-related firms in the building.  In the late 1930s Knickerbocker Crafts was here, developing photographic film.  In 1938 it offered “Free de luxe album, negative file and two enlargement coupons” with each order.  Its advertisement promised “prompt service.”

The building was so damaged by fire in the spring of 1941 that demolition seemed imminent.  On May 15 William D. Kilpatrick purchased the charred structure, only to resell it the following day.  The Times noted that “as part of the contract of sale the buyer agrees to erect at least a two-story taxpayer on the site.”

But instead, the new owner repaired the damage and the venerable marble building survived.  It was purchased by the American Bible Society a decade later.

In the 1980s the Noho neighborhood was rediscovered and rusting cast iron buildings found new life as record shops, restaurants and trendy stores moved in.  No. 738 Broadway was well-known to the New York University students for Buss & Co. on the first floor.  The store sold vintage clothing, mostly army surplus, which New York Magazine termed “Surplus Chic.”

Artists and students moved into the former loft spaces upstairs.  One of them did not fit the expected mold.  Craig Medoff was a 32-year old investment banker who, in March 1992, was the suspect in a rape case.  Around 3:30 in the morning of March 4 police officers knocked on his door.  Medoff opened the door “wearing shoes, pants and a military-issue armored vest.”  He had no intention of going peacefully with the police.

Before the sun came up he was “charged with three counts of attempted murder of police officers, first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy, wearing a flak jacket in the commission of a crime and criminal possession of a weapon,” reported The Times on March 5.

In 2013 the building was restored and converted to eight condominium units by the Chetrit Group.  Designed by architect Karl Fischer with interiors by Andres Escobar, the apartments were listed at between $6 and $7.5 million.

The lofts where cloaks and hats were once manufactured are unrecognizable.  photograph
Today the building where wealthy gentlemen shopped for high-end billiard tables may be a bit overly-restored for some; however its survival on this remarkable block of Broadway is a delight.

non credited photographs by the author