Friday, April 3, 2020

The Cross & Bastine Bldg - 232 West Broadway




On February 26, 1870 the Record & Guide reported that M. A. Marcy had hired New Jersey-based architect M. H. Scott to design a "two-story brick store" on the site of a coal yard at the corner of North Moore Street and West Broadway.   Completed before the end of the year, Scott had wasted no unnecessary money on the building's decorative elements--yet without sacrificing architectural style.   The segmentally-arched window heads, ribbon-like freize and corbel table below the pressed metal cornice were all executed in brick.  They all reflected the modish neo-Grec style.

There were two cast iron storefronts--one which engulfed the entire West Broadway side and another at the rear on North Moore Street.  (The West Broadway address, No. 132, would be renumbered 232 in 1897.)

The building's first occupant was Cross & Bastine's wood graining shop.  Victorian architects and cabinet makers cleverly masqueraded cheaper woods as expensive rosewood or mahogany, for example.  Cross & Bastine also etched or engraved supplied designs on glass or wooden panels.


Real Estate Record & Guide, October 3, 1874 (copyright expired)
In the 1890's Achille Bataille & Co.'s "West Broadway Wire Works" office and showroom were located in the building.  Its factory was located significantly north on Hudson Street, one block south of West 14th Street.  The "wire work" was more substantial that it sounds today.  The firm manufactured the brass and wire railings for "banks, offices, cemeteries," as well as elevator enclosures and folding gates, wire fencing and similar architectural items.

At the turn of the century Italian-born Michael Pascarella operated his wholesale paper operation here.  He shared the building with M. Tortakoff's laundry business, which was most likely located in the rear space.  Pascarella would remain for several years and the large sign erected atop the building in 1907 most likely advertised his business.  It cost $230 to install, or about $6,500 in today's money.

Pascarella lived in Emerson, New Jersey and his successful paper business garnered him a comfortable lifestyle.  In September 1910 he purchased a new automobile and proudly invited three friends to take a test ride.  Joining the party was Pascarella's teen-aged son.

On September 4 New-York Tribune reported that when they were about six miles from home the younger Pascarella "said he knew how to run it and he was allowed to try his hand."  Things did not end well.  "When near the Old Hook Cemetery, between Westwood and Emerson, something went wrong with the steering gear."  The boy ran his father's new car off the road and up a steep embankment where it then "turned turtle."

The newspaper said "The five occupants were made prisoners under the car, but all miraculously escaped injury."  They were rescured by men in a "passing machine."  The Tribune ended saying "The new car is now in a Hackensack garage, a wreck."



In 1911 ex-City Chamberlain Charles H. Hyde was facing a charge of swindling a client.  Israel Tilden, a law student and clerk, applied for a change of venue, claiming that Hyde was so hated locally that he could not receive a fair trial.  To support his application Tilden presented the court with an affidavit alleging that local businessmen had disparaged Hyde, assumed he was guilty, and called him unflattering names. 

The problem for Tilden and his client was that at least a dozen of the men learned of the affidavit and told reporters they had never made the remarks attributed to them.  Among them was Michael Pascarella.  


Tilden had reported that Pascarella had said "My opinion is that he [Hyde] is no better than the rest and ought to be convicted."  But Pascarella told the assistant district attorney that he had never met Tilden nor made the statement.  The Sun added that he "says that he cannot read English and never read anything about Hyde or the 'others' in any newspaper."

The Pascarella paper business was gone by the onset of the Great Depression.  A restaurant moved into both levels in 1931, followed by a fish processing and packing factory in 1942.  At mid-century the building held a single store along with storage space on the first floor, with an office and more storage upstairs.  In 1952 the building next door at No. 230 was demolished and would remain a parking lot for years.


The original configuration of the storefront, as well as the initial cornice, can be seen in this tax photograph taken around 1941.  photo via the NYC Dept. of Records & Information Services.
Much had changed in the Tribeca neighborhood by the last decade of the 20th century.  The little corner building was home to One Dream theater by 1991 and it would remain in the space for years.




Then major change came in 2009 when construction started on a six-story structure next door which incorporated No. 232.  Completed in 2010, the combined buildings now form a sumptuous single family residence.

photographs by the author

Thursday, April 2, 2020

200 Years of History - 34 White Street




Around 1805 the two-and-a-half story frame house at the northeast corner of White and Church Streets was completed.  The 25-foot wide residence would have had a peaked roof with dormers.  It unclear who erected the house; but it was occupied by Abraham Moore for several years.  Because Moore was well known in city politics, it is highly doubtful that house originally held a ground floor store.

By 1851 the ground floor had been converted for a grocery store.  It was operated by Gerhard Dieckman in 1853, who lived in the upper floors.  He was too savvy to be taken in by two would-be crooks that summer.  On August 18 the New-York Daily Tribune reported "Officer Trury of the Fifth Ward, yesterday arrested two men, named Charles King and Thomas Brooks, charged with attempting to pass a counterfeit bank bill at the store of Gerhard Dyckman [sic], No. 34 White-street."

Dieckman remained for a few years, but by 1859 the store had been taken over by Christopher Burmester.  On the night of January 18 Burmester neglected to lock the door to the cellar and between 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning fire broke out there.  Because it was "discovered at an early moment," according to the New-York Daily Tribune, it "was extinguished before much damage was done."  

But firefighters quickly suspected an arsonist had entered through the unlocked door.  The New York Herald noted "The fire was subsequently found to have originated amongst some empty barrels...and the fire is supposed to have been the act of an incendiary."

The store continued to see a turnover in proprietors.  Henry Miller ran it and lived upstairs in 1861.  That year the family's pet ran away.  An advertisement in The New York Herald on October 16 read: "$10 Reward--Lost...A King Charles Dog, with white breast.  The above reward will be given by returning him to No. 34 White street, corner Church."  That the dog was beloved was evidenced in the reward--nearly $300 in today's money.

It unclear who was operating the grocery store on March 4, 1864 when The New York Times reported that the house had been sold for $15,500 (about $256,000 today).  The upstairs portion was home to the family of George Reeves and while he was a grocer, his store was at No. 44 Whitehall Street.

The store space was apparently divided by 1873.  Michael J. Gallagher, who lived in Brooklyn, ran a dry goods shop from the address while Henry A. Haack operated the grocery.  Like many grocers, Haack also sold products like wine.  It got him into trouble on August 23, 1875.  The following day The Evening Telegram reported that he had been arrested "for selling liquor on the Sabbath."  He was held in jail overnight before appearing before a judge.

Major change to the building came in 1876 when owner William Watson began significant renovations.  When they were completed in 1877 the house was now a full three stories tall and was faced in brick.  Up-to-date neo-Grec iron lintels and sills were attached to the openings and a cast iron storefront had been installed.


The stylish lintels and sills were the last word in architectural trends.

The former grocery store space was now transformed to a restaurant.  Neither of the partners, Moses King nor Louis Miller, lived in the building.  King's home was on Third Avenue and Miller's on Franklin Street.

The property continued to be in the Watson family for years.  In 1901 the title was transferred to Henry R. C. Watson, presumably a son.

By 1903 the ground floor space was no longer being described as an "eating house," but as a "saloon."  And there was more going on inside than the casual chatter and beer drinking.  Two detectives named Delaney and Rice received a tip that spring, according to The Morning Telegraph, "that a handbook was in operating in a saloon at 34 White street."   A "handbook" operation was a system of betting on horse races.

The two undercover men set out to investigate during the first week of May.  "They had no difficulty in finding the saloon, and a ticker in a corner," said the newspaper.  Detective Delancy explained later that he "hugged that ticker for about an hour, and pored over the quotations on oil, sugar, railroads and horse races."  He said "I acted as much like a sport as I knew how and Kusker eventually approached and asked if I didn't want to be something on the races."

"Kusker" was 24-year old Edward Kusker who, despite his young age, ran what police described as "his gigantic gambling operation."  Delaney feigned "mature deliberation" and then said he "wanted to make a killing on Early Eve, in the sixth."  He pulled out a marked two-dollar bill.   The Morning Telegram wrote "Kusker, says the detective, accepted the bet, and the next thing he knew he was a guest of the City of New York."

In January 1904 Alfred E. Davison purchased the building.  He updated the structure, including a new metal cornice with brackets and a neo-Classical frieze.



Levi Y. Richardson, described by a newspaper as "a wealthy stationer" moved the Ryan Stationery Company into the renovated building.  The firm had been established years earlier and acquired by Richardson that year.  Things were going well for Richardson, who had married his wife, Mary, in 1901.  They lived in a fashionable Brooklyn neighborhood.

But early in 1907 Richardson began consistently staying out late at night.  On April 18 Mary rummaged through his suit pockets and found two love letters from "two young women, one of them prominent in Brooklyn society," according to newspapers.  They left no doubt as to his dalliances, both referring to the happy days that would come after his divorce.  "In the morning, it was alleged, she charged him with duplicity, and he confessed, fell on his knees and with tears in his eyes, kissed Mrs. Richardson again and again," recounted the New-York Tribune.

But his remorse was short lived.  He asked Mary for a divorce and when she replied that she "despised divorces," he exploded.  The New-York Tribune reported on June 11, "One night, she charged, he threw a glass powder jar at her and laid violent hands on her."  After he subsequently moved out, Mary filed for separation on the grounds of "advanced cruel and inhuman treatment and abandonment."

The bad press apparently ruined Richardson's business.  That summer he filed for bankruptcy.  The Sun reminded its readers "A report published in the papers of June 11 of a suit brought in the Supreme Court, Brooklyn, by Mrs. Mary Richardson against her husband...because she found two love letters from other women in his pockets caused considerable comment at that time."

The Ryan Stationery Company survived at the address, taken over by Cornelius Steers in the summer of 1907.  He was successful and on April 25 the following year Walden's Stationery and Printer commented that he "has built up a promising business."

Although clothing manufacturer Perfect Pants Company was in the building until 1913, and outerwear firm The Ranger Sales Co. was here in 1921, it continued to house printing firms.  In 1921 Alvo Printing took the third floor and would stay for years.  


Boys' Life magazine, June 1921 (copyright expired)

Alvo Printing was joined in the building in 1927 by Joseph Eismann, "printers' machinists."


The building was painted white in the 1940's.  from the collection of the New York Public Library
As the 20th century drew to an end the Tribeca neighborhood turned trendy.  By 1994 the Baby Doll Lounge was in the space once occupied by Edward Kusker's saloon and gambling den.  On August 22 that year Anya Sacharow wrote in New York Magazine "TriBeCa hipsters slum at the Jim Jarmusch-ish Baby Doll Lounge."  It would remain in the space past the turn of the century.



In 1997 the upper section was converted to apartments, one per floor.  On February 1, 2006 Petrarca Vina e Cucina opened at street level, described by The Times as "Arqua's wine bar spin-off."

photographs by the author

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Josephine Shaw Lowell House - 120 East 30th Street






In 1870, three years before he would become head of the piano firm J. & D. Walker, William H. Walker looked to lease his charming brick-faced dwelling in the Rose Hill neighborhood.  His ad on April 4 in The New York Herald offered:

To Let--furnished, Three-Story House No. 120 East Thirtieth street, near fourth avenue; all the modern conveniences.  Apply to W. H. Walker, at Piano Warerooms of J. & D. Walker, 47 East Twelfth street.

A mix of Greek Revival and Italianate styles, the house was one of a string of six similar homes designed with minor differences.  Handsome Italianate ironwork fencing protected the areaway and continued up the double-wide brownstone stoop which it shared with No. 118.  Paneled pilasters flanked the double doorway and upheld the corniced entablature.  A three-sided oriel at the parlor level no doubt provided a charming, pleasant window seat inside.  Molded architrave frames, slightly arched at the second floor, surrounded the upper openings.

The houses shared a stoop and entrance frame.  The Philanthropic Work of Josephine Shaw Lowell, 1911 (copyright expired)

Seven years earlier Josephine Shaw had married railroad executive Charles Russell Lowell III.  Born into a wealthy Massachusetts family, she had lived both in France and Italy.  Her parents urged her and her four siblings to study and to work to improve their communities.  

Remarkably, when her husband was called into military service during the Civil War, Josephine refused to leave his side.  She followed his division, aiding wounded soldiers at the front.  On October 19, 1864, a year into their marriage, Josephine was eight-months pregnant.  Yet she stayed on with the Union Army and her husband, now in Virginia.  That morning Lowell was wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek.  His wounds were such that General Sheridan ordered that he be promoted to brigadier general that day.  On October 20 he died at the age of 29.


Josephine Shaw Lowell.  The Philanthropic Work of Josephine Shaw Lowell, 1911 (copyright expired)
The 21-year old widow and mother-to-be returned to Staten Island.  Josephine focused on the rearing of her daughter, Carlotta Russell Lowell, born a month later.  She also turned to public works, working for "the alleviation of human misery," according to historian William Rhinelander Stewart in 1911.

Because she wanted Carlotta to attend Miss Brackett's School in New York City, in 1874 Josephine's father, Francis George Shaw, purchased No. 120 East 30th Street for her.  She continued her tireless work here and in 1876, at the age of 32, she was appointed the first woman commissioner of the New York State Board of charities by Governor Samuel J. Tilden.  She was reappointed by Governor Alonzo B. Cornell in 1881.

Josephine's father died the following year.  The New York Herald reported "To his daughter Josephine Shaw Lowell he gives the house at No. 120 East Thirtieth street, New York."  Although her mother, Sarah Blake Shaw, inherited the Staten Island mansion, she soon opted to rent the house next door to her daughter at No. 118.  In May 1887 the women hired architect H. R. Marshall to connect the two dwellings internally.  His plans called for altering walls and a "door cut through between front halls."  

William Rhinelander Stewart commented "there was constant going and coming; the three women, Mrs. Shaw, Mrs. Lowell, and her daughter were one family.  A friend said of them 'I had never before been with people who talked over the affairs of city and State exactly as they would those of their own family, and on Decoration Day, when the flag hung across the doors of those two houses, one knew what it meant to the women within.'"

Josephine's work in state-wide reform organizations did not distract her from causes closer to home.  She was enraged during the 1889 Christmas shopping season as department store proprietors kept counter employees working late with no compensation.  A reader of The Sun wrote to the editor on December 18, saying in part "The movement undertaken by Mrs. C. R. Lowell of 120 East Thirtieth street...for the employees in dry goods and other establishments that keep open late during  the holiday season, is one that should have the support of the public generally...Wishing Mrs. Lowell and her associates 'God speed' in their humane and equitable task."

Her name consistently appeared in newspapers as she lobbied for improvements in the lives of the underprivileged.  On October 18, 1890 the Record & Guide reported that she had originated a petition for "establishing a park and children's playground" in the infamous Hell's Kitchen neighborhood.

Josephine's parlor was the scene of a notable political meeting on June 16, 1893 following the signing of the Russian Extradition Treaty.  Many Americans feared that it threatened the safety of Russian political exiles who had sought refuge in America.  The New York Times reported "A number of well-known ladies and gentlemen of this city who believe that the extradition treaty recently entered into by the United States and Russian was signed because of misunderstanding and misrepresentation, met yesterday afternoon at the home of Mrs. C. R. Lowell, 120 East thirtieth Street."

The Evening World called it "a small but earnest gathering of patriotic men and women" who hoped "to plant the seeds of protest against the new Russian treaty, which is threatening the liberties of more than one good citizens of this republic."  Before the meeting was over the Society for the Abrogation of the Russian Extradition Treaty had been formed.

Josephine was equally intent on women's rights.  On April 23, 1894 The New York Herald reported "Mrs. Charles Russell Lowell, of No. 120 East Thirtieth street, has long figured in the ranks of New York's ardent suffragists, and though she had held a 'parlor meeting' at her house several weeks ago, she again on Saturday bade her friends to partake of her hospitality and listen to the remarks of Mr. Frederick Hollis in opposition to the arguments that have been advanced by the City Woman Suffrage League and the orators of the many drawing room meetings during the last few weeks."

Carlotta followed her mother's lead in civic involvement.  On December 14, 1896 Mayor William Lafayette Strong appointed her a School Inspector.  She was also involved in the New York Kindergarten Association.

Sarah Blake Shaw died at No. 118 in December 1902.  In reporting on her death, The Sun mentioned "Mrs. Shaw was a member of the famous group of Abolitionists who lived in and about Boston.  William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips and Theodore Parker were among her personal friends."  It added that Josephine "has written extensively on subjects pertaining to charitable and humanitarian work."  Sarah's estate was valued at about $4.58 million in today's money.

Josephine continued her sometimes controversial work.  On November 28, 1903 she held a meeting in the 30th Street house "to arrange for a mass meeting at which protests will be made against the deportation of John Turner, an English labor organizer and social reformer," according to the New York Evening Post.  The Government had labeled Turner "an anarchist."

Josephine was juggling her work for Turner with her determined efforts as part of the Women's Municipal League to have Mayor Seth Low reelected.  On October 18 The New York Herald said Josephine's house "is like one of the old houses of the aristocratic literary set on Beacon or Charles street in Boston.  One almost expects to see the Charles River as he looks out the rear windows.  It is this house that Mrs. Lowell has converted for the time into a campaign bureau...Porters come and go carrying materials of the campaign into downtown tenements or into uptown mansions, wherever there is a possibility of winning a vote."

Josephine Shaw Lowell died on October 12, 1905.  Carlotta immediately left the house she had grown up in and she and her aunt, Ella S. Barlow, leased it within weeks of Josephine's death.  On November 7, 1905 The New York Press reported "when they return from their honeymoon Mr. and Mrs. Bryce Metcalf will reside in No. 120 East Thirtieth street.  Mrs. Metcalf, who was Miss Susie Hall, was married last week."

Unlike Josephine Lowell, Susie Bryce's name appeared in newspapers not for any activism, but for purely social reasons.  On January 24, 1906, for instance, The New York Press announced "Mrs. Bryce Metcalf, No. 120 East Thirtieth street, will be 'at home' to-day."  Society columnists followed the Metcalfs as they moved between their townhouse and country place, Cedarwild, in Ardsley, New York.

Following the Metcalfs in No. 120 in 1917 was Mary Fanton Roberts, "known to the world of letters as editor of 'The Touchstone,' a magazine of art," according to the New-York Tribune.   She moved her editorial office into the house and focused tremendous attention on the rear garden.

Two years later the New-York Tribune said that backyard had been "the same sad little patch of would-be grass that usually forms the groundwork for an overhead laundry line in places where the owners are not the practical dreamers we find Mrs. Roberts to be.  It had a homely, rickety fence alongside, and, worse of all and almost discouraging even to Mrs. Roberts, it backed up directly against a great factory from which pasteboard boxes had a way of crashing down on tender plants and getting lost in the branches of the few trees that then ornamented the grounds."

A corner of Mary Fanton Roberts's garden.  New-York Tribune, July 6, 1919 (copyright expired)
Landscaping, shrubs and flowering plants, statuary and an Italian birdbath transformed the unattractive space into an urban oasis.  "Already neighbors in that block who have heard of the fame of Mrs. Roberts's gardening...have engaged landscape gardeners to 'fix their yards up' because the spirit of competition has set in," said the article.

Carlotta Lowell and Ella Barlow sold No. 120 in 1921.  John Nelson Cole paid $60,000 for the house, just under $845,000 today.  He most likely purchased it in anticipation of his impending marriage.  His engagement to Helen Dodd was announced on January 14, 1922.


The houses still shared a stoop in 1941.  The entrance pilaster of No. 118 was salvaged to create the new single entrance frame in 1972.  photo via the NYC Department of Records & Information Services.

George Eghyan was living in the house in 1933 when he was a victim of a high profile swindler.  Edward Jockin convinced him to pay $840 "in the belief that Jockin has smuggled a large quantity of silver bars out of Mexico and had cached them in Germany."  He promised Eghyan a share "of the booty" for helping retrieve it.  Eghyan was not the only victim of the shady proposition.  Former General Motors Corporation head William C. Durant and former New York Police Commissioner Richard E. Enright also lost "substantial sums of money," according to The New York Sun on April 3.


The charming house with its significant history was converted to offices in the basement and first floor in 1972, with one apartment each on the upper floors.  In 1980 the offices were renovated to a duplex apartment.

photographs by the author

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Charles T. Dillingham House - 320 West 88th Street


The windows of the upper bay were originally curved.

Clarence True was arguably the most prolific architect working on the Upper West Side in the 1880's and '90's.  He notably played with historic styles, often blending them to create whimsical hybrids but always adapting vintage architecture for modern use.  In 1890 he was commissioned by William E. Lanchantin to design five 20-foot wide rowhouses on West 88th Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive.  Completed in 1891, each of the residences was individual yet they flowed together as a grouping.  In their design True had brought the Elizabeth Renaissance into the 19th century.

Like its neighbors, the center house, No. 320, was faced in brick and brownstone.  It was distinguished by a bay--faceted at the basement and parlor levels and then rounded above--which rose the full height to the attic level.   A complex carved frieze of back-to-back griffins ran along the roofline of the entire row.  The roof was shingled in slate tiles and the single pointed dormer was given a checkerboard motif of brick and tile.


Each of True's houses was individual, but harmonious with its neighbors.  No. 320 is in the center.
On April 2, 1891 Fanny C. and Charles T. Dillingham purchased No. 320 for $22,750--just under $660,000 in today's money.  Dillingham was the principal in the large publishing firm and book store, Charles T. Dillingham & Co.  He was described by The Sun that year as "the leading book jobber in the United States, a smart, active, and energetic business man."

Dillingham had been in the book business since 1870 when he co-founded Lee, Shepard & Dillingham.  Five years later he took over the business.  Until the year before purchasing the 88th Street house he had been perhaps as well noted for a much different enterprise--baseball. 


Winged griffins standing back-to-back form the carved frieze.

Dillingham was a stockholder and director in the New York Amusement Company which owned the New York Baseball Club.  But upheaval within the ranks of the players, exacerbated by a catastrophic losing season in 1890, left the club hemorrhaging cash.  It resulted in what The Sun called "the disastrous baseball war" and in Dillingham's resignation after he "soon became tired of putting his hand in his pocket."


In 1889, a year before its disastrous season, the club it took what today would be the World's Series.  original source unknown
The financial losses in his baseball club investment came at a time of what what Dillingham described as "dull trade, low prices, [and] strong competition."  Only months after moving into his new house, his business failed.


The Sun, December 11, 1892 (copyright expired)
After more than two decades in business, Charles T. Dillingham & Co. held a liquidation sale in December 1892.

The 88th Street house next became home to confectioner Alex E. Cohen and his wife, Catherine.   The couple apparently lived happily here until the summer social season of 1899.  They leased a cottage at Long Branch, New Jersey and on the evening of July 28 they and friends went to "a hop" at the Ocean Hotel.  Apparently unaware of a heart ailment, Catherine overexerted herself.

The New York Press reported "She had danced for some time when she complained of feeling ill.  Almost immediately she fell to the floor, and before physicians could be summoned she was dead."  The newspaper somewhat coldly entitled the article "Finished Waltz: Fell Dead."

Alex Cohen retained ownership of the 89th Street house for a while, but moved out soon after the tragedy.  He leased it to Miles M. O'Brien and his family.


Miles M. O'Brien, History of The Tammany Society, 1901 (copyright expired)

O'Brien's wife was the former Thomasine Leahy.  The couple had four sons, Miles Jr., Jay, Thomas and Tivar.   O'Brien had come from Limerick, Ireland in 1868 at the age of 26.  He obtained a job as a clerk in the H. B. Claflin Company store, working his way up within the organization.  After twenty-five years with Claflin, he went into banking and, after his appointment in 1885, simultaneously served on the Board of Education.  In 1900 he was made president of the Board.

Because of his responsible position and public reputation, O'Brien was no doubt somewhat humiliated when he had to appear in the West Side Court on April 9, 1901 following his son's arrest.  The following day The Morning Telegraph entitled an article "Love Songs Bring Rich Boys to Grief" and detailed how Thomas O'Brien and four friends had been arrested "because they sang a few Spanish love songs under their sweethearts' windows in Riverside Drive."

The article explained "The young men have been in the habit of serenading, and complaints have been made to Capt. Schmittberger, of the West 100th street station, by residents in the district, on the grounds that the singing disturbed them."  After the young Romeos told their story to the judge, he dismissed their cases "on the promise that they would sing no more."

On May 25, 1903 Alex E. Cohen sold the house to real estate operator Mabel Suydam.  She continued to lease it to the O'Briens.



It was Miles O'Brien who came up with the idea of free baths for poor children in the tenement districts.  He also initiated night schools and free lecture courses within the public schools.  Perhaps because of his own humble beginnings, he constantly worked for the underprivileged and was an ardent supporter of the High School of Commerce.  He lobbied for adequate pensions for teachers and, according to the Irish-American Advocate later, "in countless smaller says raised the standard of the city's educational system."

In September 1910 O'Brien became ill.  Three months later, on Christmas Eve, he died in the 89th Street house from intestinal disease.

No. 320 was purchased by Alderman William C. Towen.  As was common at the time, the title was put in the name of his wife, Mary.  Towen's name was often preceded by the title Commodore in the newspapers. He had been Commodore of the Brooklyn Yacht Club (for which he his sloop yacht the Tammany was flagship in the Lipton Cup race in 1908).  The couple's only daughter, Florence Tarbell Towen, had married Vincent Stuyvesant Lippe in April 1909.

The couple's residency would be relatively short-lived.  On March 19, 1912 William Towen died.  Three months later, on June 26, the New-York Tribune reported that Mary had sold No. 320 to Elizabeth A. Cohen.

Elizabeth, who was familiarly known as Eliza, was the wife of Thomas J. Colton, president of Behrman & Colton.  Their only son, Louis, was a director in the firm which Millinery Trade Review said was involved in "the importation and manufacture of artificial flowers and fancy feathers."    

Like his predecessors in the house, Thomas J. Colson was as well a highly visible Tammany Hall associate.  On May 23, 1909 the New-York Tribune had entitled an article "Plums For Tammany" which reported on the "fat commissionerships" formed "to condemn lands for the Askokan dam water supply system for New York."  Included in the list of commissioners was Thomas J. Colton.

A year before the couple purchased No. 320, on July 12, 1911, Mayor William Jay Gaynor had appointed Colton president of the board of the newly formed Board of Inebriety.  

The well-intentioned group was charged with establishing "a hospital and an industrial colony for the care and treatment of inebriates."  It was a bit far-reaching in its powers.  Whenever any "male person" was arrested for intoxication, "the board must be notified by telephone and the name and address of the person arrested noted," explained The New York Times on July 13, 1911.  If a second arrest happened within twelve months, the board had the power to commit the offender to the hospital or colony "for a period of not less than one year nor more than three years."

The Board of Inebrity fell apart in March 1918 after squabbling between its directors and the Mayor and two other city officials resulted in Colton and four other directors walking off the job.  With only two directors left, Gaynor simply dissolved the group.

On April 28, 1920 Elizabeth Colton died.  Her funeral was held in the house two days later.  Louis, his wife, and their daughter Mary Elizabeth (known as Betty), continued to live at No. 320 with Thomas.

Betty was introduced to society during the 1924-25 winter season.  On January 20, 1925 The Evening Mail reported that "Mrs. Louis M. Colton will give a luncheon next Saturday at Sherry's for her debutante daughter, Miss Betty Colton."

Thomas J. Colton died on March 9, 1935.  He left an estate of just under $775,000--or about $14.5 million today.  Of that Louis received $5,000 outright and "life estate in $443,557," as reported by the Buffalo Evening News.

The Coltons left 89th Street soon after.  In 1936 Harold Arneson was living here when the New York Post's drama critic Vilas J. Boyle stopped him outside the Longacre Theatre to get his opinion of the new play Howdy Stranger.  She mentioned in her review that "The applause was pretty terrific at the end, but there was a lot of undertoned scoffing."  Apparently one of those scoffers was Arneson, who commented simply "A couple of good gags still don't make a farce comedy."

By the mid-1950's the house had been converted to four apartments.  Rose Raymond lived in one of them from at least 1953 through 1955.  An accomplished pianist, she gave private lessons in her apartment.




There are still four apartments in the residence.  Other than replacement windows and the sad loss of the dormer tiles, it has fared much better than its siblings, all of which have lost their stoops.

photographs by the author

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Lost Lewis M. Rutherfurd House - 175 Second Avenue


The stylish mansard roof was added in 1884.  photo from Old Buildings of New York City, 1907 (copyright expired)

Peter Stuyvesant, the Director General of the West India Company in New Netherlands, purchased land for his farm, or bouwerij, far to the north of the settlement on March 12, 1651.   The deal included, actually, two properties—Bowery (as the Dutch word became anglicized) #1 on which Stuyvesant constructed his home, and a portion of Bowery #2.   In the first decades of the 19th century the Stuyvesant family had retained a large portion of the original farm and several Stuyvesant homes dotted the area.

In 1845 Peter Gerard Stuyvesant, a grandson, erected an imposing mansion on the northwest corner of Second Avenue and East 11th Street, directly opposite the burying ground of St. Mark's Church.  Two stories of red brick rested upon a rusticated limestone base and lacy Italianate cast iron balconies clung to the openings of the second story.  The entrance was centered on the Second Avenue side behind a commodious grassy lawn.

Stuyvesant apparently entertained grandly.  The January 7, 1846 entry in Mayor Philip Hone's diary read:

I dined yesterday with Peter G. Stuyvesant in his splendid new house in the Second Avenue, near St. Mark's Church.  Our party consisted, beside the host and hostess, of David B. Ogden, John A. Stevens, Herman Thorn, Hamilton Fish, Henry Barclay, John T. Brigham, George Laurie, John C. Hamilton, Mr. Kean, and myself.


Peter G. Stuyvesant from Portraits of the Presidents of The [Saint Nicholas] Society of the City of New York, 1914 (copyright expired)

The hostess mentioned by Hone was Stuyvesant's second wife, Helena Rutherfurd.  The couple had no children, but had reared their grandniece, Margaret Stuyvesant Chanler,  who was married to the respected lawyer and astronomer Lewis Morris Rutherfurd.  Their toddler son, Stuyvesant Rutherfurd, was a favorite of his great uncle.

As The New York Times later wrote, "Peter Gerard Stuyvesant did not live long to enjoy his palatial residence."  He died at the age of 69 on August 16, 1847.

The terms of his will forced Margaret and Lewis Rutherfurd to make a difficult decision.  Apparently concerned about the continuance of the family name, Stuyvesant had left one-third of his substantial estate to their four-year old son on the condition that his name be changed from Stuyvesant Rutherfurd to Rutherfurd Stuyvesant.  

And so it was.  The boy and his family would move into the Second Avenue mansion.

Lewis Morris Rutherfurd was born on November 25, 1816.  He was a direct descendant on his mother's side to Lewis Morris, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  He practiced law with John Jay and, following Jay's death, with Hamilton Fish.  But his interest in science drew him away from law and he spent several years in Europe studying optics under Professor Amici.  


photo via Popular Science magazine, January 1893 (copyright expired)
Decades later, in 1893, Popular Science magazine wrote "After his return home he built upon the lawn of his home at Eleventh Street and Second Avenue, New York, an observatory which has been called the finest and best-equipped private astronomical observatory in the country."  Later he invented another telescope especially converted for photography.  His pioneering astronomical photographs were ground breaking.


This photograph by Rutherfurd appeared in the 1873 book by Hermann Wilhelm Vogel, Die chemischen Wirkungen des Lichts und die Photographie: in ihrer Anwendung in Kunst, Wissenschaft und Industrie (copyright expired)

Rutherfurd Stuyvesant was 18-years old when the Civil War broke out.  Many of the sons of the wealthiest families stayed home, away from the dangers of battle.  It was a situation that would result in a three-day rampage of carnage within the city in 1863.  It is unclear whether Rutherfurd purposely avoided military service or, if he were truly unable to serve as he said.  In either case, just three weeks after the firing on Fort Sumter, he made public apologies and gave financial support.   His letter to Marshal Lefferts dated May 3, 1861 was published in The New York Times:

Sir:  Being deprived, by ill health, of the great pleasure of sharing in the dangers and fatigues so well endured, and in the credits, so well merited, of the Seventh [Regiment], I desire to testify my admiration for them as soldiers, and any affection for them as comrades, as well as my devotion to the sacred cause for which they are armed.  With this intent, I have procured and forwarded to your address a pair of mountain howitzers, with their equipments and ammunition, which I desire to present to the Regiment, with my best wishes.
                                           I am, very respectfully yours,
                                                        Rutherfurd Stuyvesant

Two years later, on October 13, 1863, Rutherford Stuyvesant married Mary Pierrepont.  She was the daughter of the prestigious and wealthy Henry Evelyn and Anna Jay Pierrepont of Brooklyn. 

Following the war the Rutherfurd family resumed their lives as members of fashionable society.  On December 10, 1868, for instance, the Evening Telegram reported "Lewis M. Rutherford [sic] and family, No. 175 Second avenue, will spend the winter in Savannah."  The newspaper updated its readers a month later, getting the name of the esteemed scientist even more wrong.  "The family of Louis Rutherford, Esq. of 175 Second avenue, are travelling for pleasure through the Southern cities.  They will probably return home in the spring."

On New Year's Eve 1879 Mary Stuyvesant went into labor.  Tragically, neither she nor the infant survived childbirth.  

Five years later Rutherfurd Stuyvesant hired the architectural firm of Renwick, Aspinwall & Russell to alter his childhood home to an apartment house.  The massive alterations included a nearly seamless 22-foot addition on 11th Street, a handsome full-height mansard with "fire-proof slate roof," as detailed in the plans, and the relocation of the entrance to 11th Street.


The original entrance had been located below the pedimented window to the right.  photo by George F. Arata from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
Although now an apartment house, the former mansion was still upscale.  The New York Times reported "There are eight apartments in the house, each having eight rooms, and their size, with fourteen-foot ceilings and old-fashioned carved work around the ceilings, in addition to the ample halls, is not equaled in any of the expensive modern apartments."

It appears that Rutherfurd's parents lived on here until Lewis Morris Rutherfurd's death on May 30, 1892 at the family country estate, Tranquility, in New Jersey.  Other family members took lavish apartments, as well.  Rutherfurd's brother, Lewis Morris Rutherfurd, Jr., and his wife the former Anne Harriman, were living here in 1898.  (Following Rutherfurd's death in 1901 Anne married William Kissam Vanderbilt in London on April 29, 1903.)

George E. Waring, Jr. and his wife had an apartment here by 1897.  A sanitary engineer and civic reformer, he had designed the drainage system for Central Park--considered the largest project of its kind at the time.  When more than 5,000 citizens of Memphis, Tennessee died from yellow fever in 1878, Waring had been sent there to design the sewer system which ended the epidemic.  

Following the Spanish-American War in 1898, President William McKinley appointed Waring to study the sanitary conditions in Cuba.  This time the engineer became a victim.  He returned to New York carrying yellow fever.


George E. Waring, Jr.  from Life of Col. George E. Waring, Jr. (copyright expired)
Waring showed symptoms during the last week of October 1898.  Only a few days later, according to The New York Journal on Sunday, October 20, "It was not until Friday afternoon that Colonel Waring himself knew the nature of his malady."  By that evening the end was near.  Mrs. Waring and her son sat in an adjoining room throughout the night.  Then, according to Albert Shaw's 1899 Life of Col. George E. Waring, Jr., "His death took place at 7:35 o'clock at his home, the Rutherford apartment house, at 175 Second Avenue."

The Health Department descended on the building.  On November 1, 1898 The Sun reported "Col. Waring's widow, her son, John P. Yates, and the nurse who attended Col. Waring up to the time of his death, returned yesterday afternoon to the apartment house at 175 Second avenue...The work of disinfecting the house was completed yesterday morning by a corps of men from the Health Department."


The Renwick, Aspinwall & Russell addition, in the foreground, was nearly seamless.  photograph from the collection of the New York Public Library
Another Rutherfurd relative living in the building at the time was Helena Rutherfurd Ely and her family.  Helena Rutherfurd had married attorney Alfred Ely II in June 1880.  The couple maintained a 350-acre country estate, Meadowburn Farm, in New Jersey.

Their sprawling apartment was the scene of three receptions in December 1900 to introduce their daughter, also named Helena Rutherford Ely, to society.   Five years later, on December 3, 1905, The Sun reported "Miss Helena Rutherford Ely and Richard Worsam Meade will have a big wedding at Trinity next Saturday afternoon."  A reception followed in the Second Avenue apartment.

Congressman William Sulzer would garner more attention than any other resident.  He was living here on the top floor in 1912 when he was elected Governor of New York.  Shortly after the election The New York Times reminded its readers, "Congressman William Sulzer's home, at 175 Second Avenue, is one of the famous old residences in the city...The Sulzer home is famous in the history of New York as having been for years the residence of Lewis Morris Rutherfurd, the eminent scientist and astronomer."

Rutherfurd Stuyvesant had died three years earlier.  "Winthrop Rutherford [sic] a son, now takes general charge of the property," said the article.  But the writer had a gloomy prediction for the future of the old mansion.  "It is not likely that this interesting Stuyvesant and Rutherfurd landmark will remain much longer.  The fashionable Second Avenue of half a century ago has gone, and the changing conditions of the neighborhood are already having an effect upon the old place."


In 1935 signage on the corner of the building tells of its impending demolition.  photo from the collection of the New York Public Library
On March 2, 1917 the heirs sold No. 175 to St. Mark's Hospital for $82,500--more than 1.6 million in today's dollars.  The hospital remained in the converted dwelling until 1935 when it was razed to make way for a six-story apartment house that survives.