Friday, July 1, 2016

The L. Alavoine & Co. Facade -- No. 712 Fifth Avenue

To the right of No. 712 is the former Coty Building with its wall of Lalique windows.

In 1875 the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church erected its $1 million building on northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 55th Street.  Organized in 1808 as the Center Street Presbyterian Church, the congregation had moved to Duane Street in 1836 and to Fifth Avenue and 19th Street in 1836.  The new location, in the midst of the developing mansion district, would be its final move.

Eight years earlier the church enticed Irish missionary Rev. Dr. John Hall to take the position of pastor.  He moved his family from Dublin that year.  The wealth of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church was reflected in his salary.  He was initially paid $6,000 in gold (approximately $100,000 in 2016); a salary which would eventually increase to $15,000.

On August 16, 1886 John S. Kennedy filed plans for a $75,000 parsonage to be built next door to the church, at No. 712 Fifth Avenue.  The plans described it as “four stories high, and be built of brick and brownstone.”

Rev. Dr. John Hall was a potent force in the high society congregation.   For more than a decade the parsonage was the scene of high-end receptions, church functions and society evens. 

Hall became ill in March 1898, “suffering from prostration,” however doctors assured the public he would recover.  On March 29 The Sun reported “He passed a very comfortable night, and his condition was noticeably improved by it.”  But Hall did not recover.  He died later that year, in September.

The house was never again used as a parsonage.  The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church leased it to William Baylis.  The millionaire and his family lived here until 1906.  By now the incursion of commerce into Millionaires’ Row was well underway.  Within the year Charles A. Gould would abandon his mansion next door, at No. 714, and convert it to a commercial building.

On May 9, 1906 The New York Times reported that the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church had leased its parsonage to L. Alavoine & Co., society art dealers and decorators.  The announcement said the firm “will make few changes in the front of the house, which will continue to have the outward appearance of a private dwelling, but on the rear of the lot an art gallery will be erected.”

But apparently Alavoine & Co. and the church were not done with negotiations.   In August L. Alavoine & Co. announced that planned alterations would cost $20,000.  But by spring 1907 nothing had been done.

Then, on March 23, 1907 the Record & Guide reported “One building will be demolished at 712 5th av for the five-story store and office building…which the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church Congregation…are to build from plans by Albert S. Gottlieb.”  The announcement noted that the building was being constructed for the use of its tenant, L. Alavoine & Co.  “The front will be of limestone and brick…and the cost is estimated at $50,000.”

Completed in 1908 Gottlieb’s handsome neo-French Classic building mimicked the 18th century row houses of Paris.  The architect carefully carried on the proportions, the mansard roof and cornice line of the abutting Gould mansion.  Corinthian pilasters, wrought iron grills at the upper openings, carved swag panels and balustrade decorated with great stone urns created a high-end residential look.

L. Alavoine & Co. had been in business in America since 1853.  The firm not only sold valuable paintings and artwork to New York City’s wealthiest citizens, it decorated their homes as well.  In fact, its influence was so noteworthy that when millionaire James B. Haggin began alterations to the massive George Crocker mansion at No 1 East 64th Street in 1912, L. Alavoine & Co. was listed as architects on the plans.

Not long after moving into No. 712 Fifth Avenue L. Alavoine & Co. welcomed a subtenant.  In 1909 high-end Paris jeweler Pierre Cartier opened his New York City branch store here.  Within seven years his business would demand a building of its own; and in 1916 he negotiated a deal to take over Morton Plant’s superb mansion at the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street.

The French owners of L. Alavoine & Co. were most likely instrumental in space being leased to L’Union des Arts as war broke out in Europe.  On April 8, 1917 The New York Times explained that the charity “contributes to the assistance and protection of artists, painters, sculptors, and literary men who are victims of the war.”  The organization was patronized by some of Manhattan’s wealthiest socialites, among them Mrs. Vincent Astor, Mrs. Jules Bache, Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, Mrs. O. H. Harriman, Mrs. Frederick Havemeyer and Mrs. Frederick Vanderbilt.

With the war over, space in the building was leased to another high-end art dealer, Arthur H. Harlow & Co.  Harlow had established the firm in 1911 at No. 569 Fifth Avenue.  Like L. Alavoine & Co. the artworks handled by Harlow ranged from Old Masters, like Rembrandt etchings, to more modern paintings like works by Cezanne.

Arthur Harlow opened with an exhibition of American Impressionist painter Paul Dougherty. The New York Herald, February 27, 1921

Edouard Ferman, president of L. Alavoine & Co. died on May 23, 1933.  Although the firm gave up the ground floor space to A. Schmidt Sons, another art dealer and decorator, in 1934, it continued on in the Fifth Avenue building.  In 1936 L. Alavoine & Co. launched its most impressive exhibition to date: five complete French rooms were temporarily installed.  On November 8 The New York Times opined “In these paneled interiors, brought over entire from Old World palaces, a rare opportunity is offered to see French decorative art at its best.”

By the time L. Alavoine & Co. decorated the Jesse Isidore Strauss residence on Park Avenue, the Art Deco style was all the rage.  photograph from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

That same year Arthur H. Harlow & Co. moved from No. 712 Fifth Avenue to Rockefeller Center.  L. Alavoine & Co. and A. Schmidt Son remained nearly until mid-century.  In 1948 A. Schmidt Son discontinued business, selling at auction its stock of French and English furniture, paintings, Georgian silver, porcelains, tapestries and Oriental rugs.

In its place Louis Carr Gallery moved in.  Unlike its predecessors, the gallery dealt in modernist paintings “of the last decade” according to its opening announcement.  The art and antiques tradition continued in the building as Associated American Artists Galleries moved in during June 1956 from across the avenue at No 711; and the Albert Landry Gallery opened in January 1959.

Change would come after Harry Winston sold the building in October 1963.  The jeweler, whose business was at the southwest corner of 56th Street at No. 718, also owned No. 714.  The purchaser was Gotham Development Corporation for the Italian Rizzoli-Editore Corporation.

After gentle renovations, Rizzoli opened its vast bookstore with green marble floors, polished walnut woodwork and cultured atmosphere.  No run-of-the-mill bookstore, it offered Fifth Avenue shoppers one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts in 1959.  Available here were the 30-copy edition of Picasso’s Cocu Magnifique, with 12 signed etchings for $36,000; or Chagall’s The Circus, priced at $6,500. For the less extravagant shopper, Salvatore Dali’s Alice in Wonderland could be purchased for $750.

In 1983 the magnificent Art Deco Bonwit Teller building designed by E. J. Kahn diagonally across the avenue was demolished to be replaced by the splashy Trump Tower.  Paul Goldberger, writing in The New York Times said “the overall effect was to change the nature of the avenue, replacing the dignity of the old masonry buildings with the glitter of the new.”

On the tail of Donald Trump’s spectacle came the threat of another.  In 1984 rumors of plans to demolish Nos. 712 and 714 to create an L-shaped 44-story skyscraper circulated.  Preservationists scrambled to protect the buildings, noting in part that the Coty Building next door contained three stories of irreplaceable and priceless Rene Lalique windows.

Although both buildings were granted landmark designation; it applied only to the facades.  In 1985 the architectural firms of Kohn Pederson Fox Associates and Schuman Lichtenstein Claman & Efron designed a 56-story tower for Solomon Equities “to slip behind the facades of the landmark Rizzoli and Coty Buildings.” 

The new trend of “facadism” was highly controversial.  While it maintained the historic face of the Fifth Avenue block, the two buildings were now, as described by Paul Goldberger, “a doormat for the tower, a small stoop cowering before a ponderous skyscraper of entirely different scale.”

The facades serve as false fronts to the soaring skyscraper behind.

The L. Alavoine & Co. building, as well as the Coty Building, survive in the form of stage sets in front of the looming skyscraper.  But, at least, the early 20th century commercial personality of the block has been preserved.

photographs by the author

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Federal Survivor at No. 206 Bowery

In the early decades following the Revolution the Bowery saw the rise of brick-faced Federal style homes.  While many were upscale residences, the house at No. 206 Bowery was constructed with a shop on the first floor and residential space above for its merchant family.  Completed around 1810 the two-and-one-half story building included the expected elements of the Federal style—Flemish bond brickwork and a peaked roof with high dormers.

William Messerve was one of the earliest owners of the house.  He found himself in trouble in April 1824 when the City Inspector presented the Common Council with an “Ordinance of Correction” of a nuisance.  That nuisance on Messerve’s property was listed simply as “a privy.”

Shortly thereafter Messerve was gone and Walter and Sarah Smith Keeler lived at No. 206 Bowery.  On August 9, 1828 their first child, William Ervin Keeler, was born in the house.  Two years later his sister, Cornelia, arrived.

Walter Keeler operated his shoe store at ground level for years.  By 1837 he seems to have shared the space with another shoe dealer, Smith & Thomas.  That year Charles M. Thomas signed a petition, along with many other businessmen along the Bowery and nearby streets, to protest the proposed extension of Centre Street which would result in the “destroying, mutilating, and injuring every street, lot and building in its course.”

The drafters of the petition used to the Great Fire of 1835 which had destroyed 17 blocks and caused $20 million in property damage to help make its point.  “The severe and awful calamity which befell this city two years ago, it is well known to your honorable body, reduced many from a state of affluence to beggary.”  The businessmen argued that taxing these bankrupt property owners for “public improvements” would be cruel and they deemed the proposal “a project fraught with evil.”

In 1840 John Cooper replaced the Keeler family at No. 206.  His family would live upstairs for more than a decade while he operated his “fancystore” below.  Feminine shoppers dropped in to purchase a variety of items, from sewing needs to gloves and hosiery.  Like Keeler, he shared the ground floor with another business and in 1841 Andrew Oakley listed his dentist office here.

Cooper advertised in A. E. Wright's Commercial Directory in 1840 (copyright expired)
Cooper would remain here at least a dozen years.  Then, by 1854, Thomas Bruns ran his engraving shop here, sharing space with William Wood’s umbrella and parasol store. While Wood continued selling his umbrellas here at least until 1867, C. Casey’s “Ladies’ Dress Trimmings” had replaced Bruns by that year.
The Southern Quarterly Review, 1854 (copyright expired)
The Bowery neighborhood was still respectable in the decade following the Civil War, despite the influx of immigrants into the area.  In the 1870s M. Freeman was a merchant tailor here.  Like their female counterparts, the dressmakers, merchant tailors catered to the upper classes.  But within the decade things on the Bowery changed.

Freeman advertised as a "professed pants maker" Important Events of the Century, 1876 (copyright expired)

The upper floors of No. 206 were altered to become a lodging house.  Unlike boarding houses, which provided meals, or even rooming houses which offered common space like a parlor; lodging houses were simply a place to sleep.  In 1886 the Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Statistics of Labor explained “All that is required is that the lodger be not too offensively unclean, or so drunk as to make trouble and bring in the police.”  It noted “Most of the upper Bowery places are in good order, and patronized mostly by street salesmen and clerks, whose small wages will not admit of better quarters.”  The Report showed that 75 men could be accommodated at No. 206 Bowery.  Each would pay 25 cents per night.

While 28-year old shoe salesman Abraham Plonsky was apparently not “so drunk as to make trouble,” on May 15, 1896; he was the cause of an even worse offense.  He was caught trying to set fire to the building and was arrested on the “attempt at arson.”

The personality of the Bowery neighborhood continued to change.  Arthur Berman ran his pharmacy at No 206 in the first years of the 20th century.  In January 1907 he commented on the neighborhood to a reporter from the Druggists’ Circular “First it was American, then Irish, then German, and now it is Jewish.”

Berman moved his drugstore to Amsterdam Avenue by the 1920s and the Bowery store saw a string of divergent stores.  Hebald Bernhard’s jewelry store was here in 1909; The Sterling Lighting Appliance Co., Inc. in 1918; and the Gold Sign Company in the first years of the Depression.

Above the Gold Sign Company tenants like 28-year old John McLean rented rooms.  Like many down-and-out Bowery denizens during the Depression, he applied for $5 relief from the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor.  On November 16, 1935 he presented letter of recommendation from an officer of The New York Times, on the newspaper’s letterhead.

The letter was signed by J. P. Anderson and introduced the bearer as Reginald J. Iverson, former “chief radio telegrapher” for The Times.  The problem was that the officer was “non-existent,” according to officials of the newspaper, and J. P. Anderson was still employed there.  Instead of receiving charity, McLean left the office in handcuffs, held in $1,000 bail on forgery charges.

By 1939 Anthony Casabana conducted “a combination barber school and barber shop” in No. 206 Bowery, according to the Industrial Bulletin that year.  The Tri-City Barber School would remain in the building at least through 1946.  Also in the building at the time was Ace-Hy Plastics Co. which sold cheap novelties.  Its key chains, intended as “prizes, premiums and souvenirs,” dangled “Scotties, skulls, boxing gloves, fielder’s mitts” and other items.

The buildings on either side of No. 206, constructed at about the same time, have suffered more severe alteration.
The Bowery neighborhood became the restaurant supply district in the last quarter of the 20th century.  Today No. 206 Bowery is overwhelmed in tawdry signage above the modern storefront.  And yet the personality of the Federal structure survives after more than two centuries.

photographs by the author

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Church of Our Lady of Sorrows -- 105 Pitt Street

Political and social unrest in the German states prompted thousands of immigrants to settle in New York City beginning in the late 1840s.  By 1855 only Berlin and Vienna had larger German-speaking populations.  The new citizens clustered on the Lower East Side, creating what would become known as Kleindeutschland, or Little German.

In 1857 Rev. Bonaventure Frey, a Capuchin priest, founded the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows for the German Catholics.  Thirty years later The Evening World would comment “In those years immigration had begun to increase to such an extent that its effect was very appreciable, especially in the east side district.”  Rev. Frey’s new congregation was original an offshoot of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church.  The New York Times later remembered “the first parish mass was said in a billiard room at 121 Pitt Street.”  But within a decade its separation from St. Mary’s was authorized by Archbishop Mc Closkey “who saw and appreciated the needs of the German Catholics in that part of the city,” as explained by The World.

Three lots were purchased on Pitt Street, just off the corner of Stanton Street, in 1867 and German-born architect Henry Engelbert was hired to design a permanent church building.  The cornerstone was laid on August 15, 1867.  Completed in 1868, the structure exhibited a jumble of styles, the effectiveness of which can easily be argued.

A split staircase let to the paired entrance doors nearly a story above street level.  Romanesque arches, Gothic corbels and a square, somewhat stumpy bell tower joined with various niches and openings to create a dizzying visual display.  The Evening World called it “a handsome structure of the Byzantine style.” 

On Sunday, September 6, 1868 Archbishop John McCloskey dedicated the new church, which was capable of seating 1,200 worshipers.  Apparently not overly-impressed, the New York Herald gave the event a single sentence.

The newspaper was more moved six months later when the organ was dedicated on April 30, 1869.  It was built by Felix Barckhoff, who had arrived in American from Westphalia, Germany just four years earlier.  The Herald remarked “This pretty little church, in Pitt Street, was crowded to its utmost capacity last night.”  The evening featured several choral groups “with several well known artists,” and solo performances on the instrument.

The New York Herald deemed the organ “a genuine novelty and success, the solo stops being true to their orchestral original and the mixture being of an entirely different quality from what we have heard on other more pretentious organs.”  The article summed up the evening saying “Few churches in this city presented such a brilliant appearance last night as that of Our Lady of Sorrows.”

While the church was widely known for its German congregation; the funerals of Irish immigrants were frequently held here; possibly because the deceased had no church of their own.  In October 1873, for instance, the funeral of Mary Ronan, “wife of Michael” was held at Our Lady of Sorrows.  She was a native of Limerick, Ireland.  And two months later Patrrick McGill’s funeral was held in the church.  He had come from County Donegal.

Connected to the church was the Capuchin Convent, also founded by Rev. Frey.  And in 1874 a new school building was completed on the corner of Pitt and Stanton Streets, next door.  On December 14 that year the church ladies staged a “grand fair” in the hall of the school to offset the construction costs.  Church fairs were a common means of fund-raising in the 19th century; and The New York Herald promised “a number of tables well covered with objects of art and virtu will surround the spacious hall, and tasteful draping depend from the walls and ceiling.”

The newspaper reported that shopper could find articles “some of great value and rare curiosity, and there is little doubt that with the efficient corps of lady attendants the fair will be an entire success.”

By the 1890s another immigrant group, the Italians, was edging into Little Germany.  Although services in Our Lady of Sorrows were still celebrated in German, the new arrivals often dropped into the open church to pray.  One of these was Michael Marricini, who stopped in on the afternoon of November 23, 1893.

Many residents of the surrounding tenements struggled to survive; and unexpected babies could be a significant financial hardship.  There was no better place than a church to leave an infant which its parents could not afford to care for.  As Marricini knelt in the silence of the church, he heard “a feeble wail.”  The New York Times reported the following day “In a seat near his he found a girl baby, about a month old, which had been abandoned.”

A slip of paper was on the pew near the infant, on which was written “Anna Skimbaer, Katolik.”  The little girl was wearing a polka dot dress.  Little Anna was taken to Police Headquarters.

In the summer of 1899 the 30-year old building received a make-over.  A sculpture by Joseph Sibbel, representing the Blessed Virgin holding the dead Christ was installed over the doorway.  Eleven feet long and six feet high, the beautiful work of art filled the lunette above the entrance.  Inside the church the lantern received eight mural paintings by William Lamprecht.  The New York Times reported in August that “The entire church is being modernized and decorated.”

By 1913 the number of Italian congregants prompted Rome to send two Italian priests to Our Lady of Sorrows.  In a rather bigoted remark The Fortnightly Review reported in 1917 that they “now conduct regular services for the Italians on Sundays and holydays in a church which was built by and for Germans, and once entirely devoted to their needs…This fact shows once again that many of our Italian immigrants can be saved or regained for the faith if earnest and intelligent efforts are made in this direction.”

The Fortnightly Review was congratulating Our Lady of Sorrows on its 50th Anniversary.  In doing so it went on to insult another group—the Jews.  Pointing out that a change in the complexion of the neighborhood “is owing to the Jewish invasion of the lower East Side, which set in about 1879 and has not yet reached its climax,” the article worried for the fate of the Pitt Street church.  “It is to be hoped that this ‘invasion’ will not ultimately convert Our Lady of Sorrows Church, once German, now practically Italian, into a Jewish synagogue.”

Twenty-five years later, when Our Lady of Sorrows celebrated its 75th Anniversary, The Fortnightly Review would have been pleased to see that the services were still Roman Catholic, and still being conducted in German and Italian.  The church built to accommodate 1,200 people, however, had less than half that many.  The New York Times was diplomatic in reporting “Many descendants of the original German families and the early Italians were present yesterday among the 500 persons who thronged the little church.”

The neighborhood continued to change and Our Lady of Sorrows adapted to meet the needs of its new congregants.  By March 10, 1966 when the basement of the church was used for a meeting of the Committee of Welfare Families of the Lower East Side, English and Spanish had replaced German and Italian.

Today, other than an ill-advised coat of paint over the brick, Henry Englebert’s church is little changed since it opened in 1868.  Now known also as Nuestra Senora de los Dolores, it offers masses in Spanish as well as English.  And it continues to serve the newcomers to America as it did nearly 160 years ago.

photographs by the author

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The New York Institute of Music -- No. 560 West End Avenue

The turret window panes would have originally been curved to conform to the rounded shape.

William Earl Dodge Stokes was as colorful as he was wealthy.  For decades the multimillionaire would shake society with his marriages, divorces, law suits, an apparent illegitimate child and his being shot by a rebuffed actress.  But he is also best remembered for his tireless development of the Upper West Side.  Stokes envisioned Broadway (known as The Boulevard at the time) as rivaling the fashionable Champs Elysees in Paris and his residential structures in the neighborhood followed suit.

In 1889 Stokes’s architect of choice was Joseph H. Taft; and he was being kept busy.  That year, in March, Taft worked on designs for 20 upscale houses on the west side of West End Avenue, between 86th and 88th Street; and within a few months he designed five more on the opposite of the Avenue, Nos. 560 through 568, between 87th and 88th Street.

That last project, completed in 1890, was anchored by No. 560 on the northeast corner of West End Avenue and 87th Street.   The brick and stone mansion rose four stories above a high basement and was decorated with deeply-carved panels, elaborate Flemish Renaissance dormers which nestled into the steep tiled roof and engaged towers which terminated in bell-shaped caps.  While the entrance was centered on the 100-foot long 87th Street side; the residence took the more impressive West End Avenue address.

Despite the narrow West End Avenue width, Taft managed to squeeze in a second tower.

On August 18, 1892 Peter Gilsey, Jr. quietly married Caroline Dreyer in City Hall.  It was followed by a one-line announcement published by Gilsey’s wealthy and high profile family.  The Evening World, in response, wrote “The above was the dry announcement published this morning of a most romantic marriage.”

The newspaper recounted that six months earlier the 27-year old Gilsey had stopped into Hamper’s candy store at No. 9 Wooster Street.  “Caroline Dreyer dealt out the saccharine wares of the establishment.  Just turned nineteen, with snow-white complexion, chestnut hair and large brown eyes, tall, graceful, well-developed, moderately educated—such was Caroline Dreyer and Peter Gilsey, jr., fell in love with her.”

The socially-mismatched couple eventually won over the support of Peter’s uncle, John Gilsey; the first step in the family’s acceptance.  By 1901 Peter Gilsey was listing his home address as No. 560 West End Avenue.  The couple would stay in the mansion until 1905.

The array of sumptuous carvings culminated in the gable panel.

That year Bessie Clay took over the house as home to her West End Conservatory of Music.   The New-York Tribune reported “The first regular recital of Miss Clay’s conservatory will, it is announced, be given on Wednesday, November 23.”

Well-known and respected in the music world, Bessie Clay’s facility offered musical instruction by some of the nation’s preeminent instructors.  Students from out of town boarded in the house as well, the New-York Tribune noting on September 24, 1905 “The Institute also offers special home care and social privileges to resident students.”   By the time of its opening, the school’s name was changed to the New York Institute of Music. 

The Sun, October 22, 1905 (copyright expired)

The Musical Courier described it in 1907 saying it “is one of the most attractive schools of music in Greater New York, and in the country at large, for that matter.  Beautifully situated in the Riverside section, surrounded by churches and handsome residences, it appeals at once to persons of refined and artistic tastes.  As to the methods of Miss Clay and the faculty, including some of the world’s noted pedagogues, it is enough to say, that nothing is left undone to make students realize that thoroughness is the foundation of their musical equipment.”

Among the esteemed faculty was violin instructor Victor Kuzdo, who had trained internationally-known concert violinists like Efrem Zimbalist. Bessie Clay’s relationship with the violinist changed from professional to romantic and in 1910 she transferred title to the mansion to Kuzdo.

New-York Tribune, October 15, 1916 (copyright expired)

One of the students living here in 1911 was 19-year old Ada Forman.  She arrived from South Pasadena in September.  The Evening World said “She is said to be the daughter of a wealthy California man who died recently.”

In addition to her musical studies, Ada enrolled in the New York Normal School of Physical Education on West 59th Street.  She was there on November 8.  While she was sitting on a fourth floor window sill, “chatting and laughing” with an instructor, Miss Carter, tragedy struck.  According to the teacher, “she suddenly toppled backward, clutched at the window frame, shrieked wildly and…disappeared through the opening.”

The Evening World reported “She turned completely over in the air and crashed through a skylight over the swimming pool in the basement.  The girl was found lying half in the water, on the edge of the pool.”  Doctors held out little hope of her survival.

Within two weeks, however, Bessie was restoring a sense of normalcy among the girls.  On November 26 The New York Times noted “Miss Bessie B. Clay of 560 West End Avenue gave a dance on Friday evening for a number of Southern girls who are spending the Winter with her.”

In the meantime, Victor Kuzdo was running the Institute.  Bessie’s name appeared second in importance in the advertisements; and Victor had other plans in mind.  A few days after the dance he purchased the four-story mansion at No. 145 Riverside Drive between 86th and 87th Streets, just a block away from the school.   The New York Times reported “Mr. Kuzdo conducts the New York Institute of Music, now at 560 West End Avenue, but it will soon be removed to the Riverside Drive house.”

It seems that Victor smelled profit in the West End Avenue mansion when the Wittnauer Realty Company began buying up the other residences on the block to build a 12-story apartment house.  But greed got in the way of his plans.  The New York Times explained that the “builders tried to buy the dwelling…to incorporate in the site, but they figured that the price was prohibitive.”  Kuzdo’s plans to move the school to Riverside Drive fell through.

The progression of Victor’s and Bessie’s relationship was complete by 1916.  Musical America mentioned on May 13 “Mrs. Victor Kuzdo, nee Bessie Clay, was hostess at a studio musicale at the New York Institute of Music, 560 West End Avenue on Friday Evening, May 5.

Victor Kuzdo sold No. 560 West End Avenue to Helen B. Warrington that year.  He had priced it at $75,000—in the neighborhood of $1.7 million in 2016.  In return he negotiated a four-year lease on the property for the school. 

At the termination of the lease, the New York Institute of Music vacated its home of nearly two decades.  The mansion was converted to 12 “high class” apartments.  An advertisement on September 19, 1920 offered “non-housekeeping 2 and 3 rooms, bath and foyer…brand new.”  Rents were placed at between $1,800 and $2,300 per year.  The description of “non-housekeeping” notified potential tenants that there were no kitchens.  It was a condition that prompted the owner to offer them as “bachelor apartments” by 1922.
New-York Tribune, December 10, 1922 (copyright expired)
Despite the building’s repeatedly being sold and resold—in 1922, 1929, 1939, 1945 and 1946, for instance, little was changed to the exterior other than the stoop being removed and the entrance lowered to street level.  The last remnant of W. E. D. Stokes’s grand block of homes happily survives because Victor Kuzdo's attempt to squeeze a developer backfired.

The stoop was removed during the 1919 renovation to apartments.

 photographs by the author