Friday, February 12, 2016

The King of Greene Street -- Nos. 72-76 Greene St.





On May 27, 1872 Isaac F. Duckworth sold two properties on Greene Street, numbers 72 and 74, to Bostonian Gardner A. Colby for $72,000.  Colby had purchased the “house and lot” at No. 76 Greene Street for $35,000 only a few days earlier.   The negotiations involved in the transaction are tantalizing to imagine.  Duckworth, a well-known architect, would soon design the “commercial palace” for Colby that replaced the old buildings.

The 62-year old Gardner Colby was no stranger to the dry goods profession.  In the 1850s he established Gardner Colby & Company in Boston; and during the Civil War filled several Government contracts for uniforms and other clothing.  By now he was also President of the Wisconsin Central Railroad.

The $107,000 that Colby paid for the property alone—more than $2 million today—reflected the change in the neighborhood.  Where Federal-style brick houses had stood now vast factory and warehouse buildings were rising.    Within days of transferring the property to Colby, Duckworth filed plans for the new structure—two “seven-story iron first-class stores.”

Construction began on August 8, 1872 and was completed within nine months on April 30, 1873.  Duckworth and Colby appear to have cut back the plans at some point.  The original plans and sketches called for a two-story mansard roof; yet the building as it appears today is five stories and there is no record of removing the upper floors.

Even without the mansard, Duckworth’s French Second Empire cast iron façade was a masterpiece.  The complex design included free-standing Corinthian columns, balconies, and a projecting central bay.   Pedestrians looking up would be greeted with fully-decorated undersides of the balconies.


As intended, the new building filled with dry goods firms.  Among the first were the importing company Cohen Brothers, and the wholesale silk firm of D. Hass’s Son.   T. Kaatz & Co. manufactured headwear and in June 1881 advertised for “Good cap makers on fancy caps; also good sewers to learn.”

Fire broke out in the furrier business of S. Hirsche early on the morning of March 18, 1884.  Damage to Hirsche’s stock was substantial—about $2,000---but the "fireproof" iron-fronted building escaped with only $700 in damages.   Within a week Gardner Colby had commissioned architect and builder J. D. Miner make the repairs.

Gardner Colby's monogram is emblazoned on the ground floor facade.
Edward Haas had already had more than his share of trouble at the time.  He had been partners with his brother, Louis H. Haas, until 1877.  In January that year he was arrested by the Federal Government on fraud charges.  In June 1878 he resumed business; but when the Government obtained a judgment against him for nearly $50,000, he turned the business over to his father-in-law.  After Haas settled with the Government in January 1881 for $15,000 he resumed business under the name D. Haas’s Son.

He had moved into the new Greene Street building, hoping for a new start.  But a bizarre turn of events would crush his hopes.  During the last week of June, 1884, he began losing his eyesight.  Haas’s doctors advised him to give up the business and he quickly began liquidating.

His condition quickly deteriorated and within two weeks he his sight was nearly gone and he had become paralyzed.  On July 20, 1884 The New York Times reported that he “has been confined to his bed for two weeks past” and that “Mr. Haas had become completely blind and paralyzed, and would probably live only a little while longer.”  It was a tragic end to a tumultuous life.

Another cap manufacturer here was Solomon Simonson.  When he refused to raise their pay, 60 workers went on strike in the first week of 1889.  It was not a friendly walk-out.  One particular employee, Adolph Gletzenstein, decided to remain on the job.  He was visited at his home at No. 86 Ludlow Street by three strikers who tried to persuade him to join them.

The Sun reported on January 10 that “their ‘persuasion’ consisted of threats and blows.”  The men were arrested for “conspiring against their employer’s business and assaulting a non-union workman.”  They countered by saying that Gletzenstein “drove them out of his house at the point of a revolver.”

The balcony railings were, most likely, lost in the installation of the fire escapes.
The hard conditions of apparel workers at the time were reflected in the factory inspection reports.  In 1893, David Stern & Co., manufacturers of children’s and infants’ wear, employed 137 workers.  Of these 25 were men, 85 were women, and the others were minors—six females and four males under 16 years old.  Their average work week was 55.5 hours during the weekdays and 7.5 hours on Saturdays.

A year earlier Stern & Schloss, infant wear manufacturers, moved in after their building at No. 32 Howard Street was gutted by fire.  The company was founded by Aaron Stern and Joseph Schloss, and now included another partner, 30-year old bachelor J. Mortimer Dittman. 

Dittman visited his sister in Bayswater, Long Island on Saturday August 26, 1893.  He headed back to his home at No. 75 West 52nd Street on the Long Island Railroad late that night.   Just before midnight, as the train was approaching Long Island City, it ran full speed into a special train from Manhattan Beach.

The Evening World called it an “awful wreck” and The Sun deemed it “the worst railroad disaster that ever occurred on Long Island.”  Eleven persons were killed immediately, two died on the way to the hospital and two more died within days.   Among them was Mortimer Dittman, who died on the scene before doctors could arrive.  He was identified by a letter and a check in his coat pocket.

Large garment factories continued to occupy the building.  In 1896 M. Hemingway & Sons, “boxing and winding silks,” employed 67 women, eight of whom were under 21 years old; and David Stern & Co., makers of cloaks and suits, had a working staff of 117.  In the first years of the 20th century John and James Dobson, manufacturers of “high pile fabrics and broad silks,” were here; as was Ernest and Herman Levy, ribbon manufacturers.

In 1917 Frank E. Hatch Company took the store and basement.  The firm invented, improved, manufactured and sold machinery related to the paper box industry.

Frank E. Hatch manufactured box-making machines, like this scoring machine.  The Weekly Underwriter, 1913 (copyright expired)
The Crescent Girdle Banding Co. moved into the building in January 1919 and would remain at least through 1922.  It was in 1922 that Philip Nathan & Co., manufacturers of cotton underwear, took the third floor in the building.   On the night of June 18, 1924 Nathan & Co.’s premises were broken into “by tools and explosives.”  The thieves made off with $8,429.49 in merchandise.  At approximately $117,000 in 2015 terms, it was a lot of underwear.

By the time of the Nathan & Co. break-in, the apparel industry had already begun migrating uptown.  Nathan & Co. was gone in 1934 when the Artistic Doll Corp. took over its former third floor location, as “additional space.”  The trend of non-apparel firms continued in 1950 when Timbertone Decorative Co. took the fourth floor.

The last quarter of the century saw Soho's discovery by artists who transformed old factory space to studio lofts, and ground floor stores into galleries and trendy shops.  In 1983 Second Coming, a vintage clothing store opened at street level; and in 1985 Rentschler Gallery, the first of a series of art galleries opened.

By the time the building was sold in 2012 for $41.5 million its impressive cast iron façade had earned it the nickname “The King of Greene Street.”  The new owners, a partnership of the Chicago firm L3 Capital and the Washington D. C. ASB Capital, announced its plan to renovate and restore the structure to “mixed retail, office and residential space.”


The project, executed by McKay Architecture/Design, resulted in the seven-story building Duckworth had originally planned; although instead of the two-story mansard, a modern two-story penthouse sits back, hidden from street view.  Although the balcony railings have been lost; Isaac Duckworth’s cast iron masterpiece shines again under a cost of creamy paint; easily deserving of the name “The King of Greene Street.”

photographs by the author

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The 1891 Cecelia Flats -- No. 116 Waverly Place





In 1887 the three story brick home at No. 116 Waverley Place had had a long string of upscale owners.  But none were as memorable as Anne Charlotte Lynch who lived here in 1845.  She helped set the future tone of Greenwich Village as a literary center with her weekly salons.  Following the European trend, hers were reportedly the first in America.

Some of the foremost writers of the day appeared in Anne’s drawing room, including Fitz-Greene Halleck, Margaret Fuller, Herman Melville, Horace Greeley, William Cullen Bryant and Bayard Taylor.  It was here in 1845 that Edgar Allan Poe gave the first public reading of his newly-published poem “The Raven.”

But when the children of John G. Warren, now deceased, sold the old home to James Cunningham in April 1887, its fate was sealed.  Cunningham, who lived next door at No. 114 Waverley Place, was a well-known real estate developer.  He spent $2,000 on the property for which he had much bigger plans.

Waverley Place was named in 1833 in honor of Sir Walter Scott who had died the previous year.  It was the result of a petition by Greenwich Village admirers of the author and his 1814 novel Waverley.  By the time Cunningham purchased the old house, the second “e” was informally disappearing and by the first decade of the 20th century would be gone forever.

In April 1891 architect Louis F. Heinecke filed plans for Cunningham’s project—a “five-story and basement brick and stone flat.”  The projected cost of the apartment house was set at $20,000; or about $540,000 in 2016.

At a time when many “flat buildings” for middle class residents were encrusted with a conglomeration of bearded faces, ornate terra cotta panels and other decorations, the upscale Cecelia was refined and restrained.  The Romanesque Revival brownstone base featured a handsome portico upheld by polished marble columns and pilasters.  A quaint iron railing gave the illusion of a balcony above.


The openings of the second floor, trimmed in brownstone, were classically-inspired with Doric pilasters, entablatures and a single triangular pediment.  Ornament in the higher stories included terra cotta panels and carved brownstone lintels.  Above it all a complex, modillioned cornice announced “Cecelia,” not only the building’s name, but that of its owner, Cecelia Cunningham.


Among the first residents was Patrick McCabe, an Irish immigrant who had made a name in New York politics in the past few decades.  He had held many political offices including City Marshall, Excise Inspector and Chief Clerk of the nearby Jefferson Market Courthouse.

McCabe suffered from diabetes and his condition became serious toward the end of 1893.  The New York Times remarked “At one time Mr. McCabe weighed nearly 250 pounds, but he was brought down by his illness to nearly 125 pounds.”  He died in his apartment in the Cecelia on Sunday night, March 18, 1894 and his funeral was held in St. Joseph’s Church on Sixth Avenue three days later.

Another early resident was Dr. Dennis L. Shea.  He was educated at New York University’s Medical School and worked at St. Vincent’s Hospital before opening his own practice.  On Valentine’s Day 1899 the 34-year old married Anna J. Weeks.   The newlyweds moved to a brick home at No. 151 West 10th Street where they had a daughter.  Tragically, Dr. Shea contracted meningitis a little over a year after their marriage and he died on July 24, 1900.

Another physician in the Cecelia was Dr. J. H. O’Connell.   His medical acumen was well-respected and he was several times called upon by local officials.  Such was the case in July 1897 when the new Convict Labor Law was enacted.  The law replaced the former “forced labor” with “productive labor in the prisons”—the forerunner of prison programs like license plate making.

Critics complained, somewhat surprisingly, that the new program resulted in insanity.  “Since the convict labor law went into operation, causing much enforced idleness among the prisoners, there has been a significant change for the worse both in the physical and mental health of the convicts at the Kings County Penitentiary as well as in their general conduct,” reported The Sun on June 21.  The newspaper said there “have been more attempts at suicide and more violent outbreaks” than in any previous years.

Dr. J. J. O’Connor was appointed by a commission to look into the sanity of the prisoners.  On July 20, 1897 he declared “no less than seven of them [were] maniacs.”  The sub-headline in The Sun remarked “Idleness Said to be One Cause.”

Like Patrick McCabe, O’Connell attended St. Joseph’s Church.   While Father Dennis P. O’Flynn was conducting the 10:00 mass on December 16, 1900, he noticed that John Kennedy was breathing heavily in the front pew.  His head had fallen back and his face had lost its color.

The 74-year old retired trucker lived on Morton Street with his wife and two daughters.  His doctors warned him against excitement; but that morning he was afraid of being late for church and had scurried down Sixth Avenue.

Without missing a beat in the mass, Father O’Flynn directed Father Malony to help the old man into the vestibule.  Dr. O’Connell followed.  According to the New-York Tribune the following day he “told Father Malony that Kennedy was beyond human help, and the priest anointed the dying man and administered extreme unction.”

All the while the mass continued.  At the end of the service Father O’Flynn announced to the congregation that Kennedy had died.

James Cunningham seems to have overextended himself around this time.  In February 1904 the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank initiated foreclosure action against Cecelia Cunningham and later that year not only was the Cecelia sold at auction, but so were the Cunningham house at No. 114 and the house at No. 118, also owned by the couple.

Before 1932, when this photograph was taken, the old house at No. 114 where the Cunninghams had lived, had been converted to studios.  from the collection of the New York Public Library

The respectable tenants of the Cecelia were no doubt shocked when the apartment of Thomas Butler was visited on April 8, 1905 by an undercover detective.  Law enforcement was battling a rash of illegal gambling dens; among most popular being “handbook joints” where horse betting was carried on.

The following day The Sun reported that Acting Inspector Hogan “turned up the collar of his overcoat and otherwise disguised himself as a race player went to a place where he suspected a handbook was being run at 116 Waverly place.  He was admitted without suspicion, and he says that he got $5 down on a horse in the fifth race.”  Thomas Butler went to jail.

Dr. J. H. O’Connell was still in the building at the time.  In the summer of 1906 Father O’Flynn was overcome by the heat while calling on a parishioner.  “At first his condition was not regarded as serious, but later general debility set in and his condition became alarming,” reported the New-York Tribune on August 12.   O’Connell attended his parish priest; and declared on August 11 that “he had little hope of his recovery.”  Father O’Flynn was given last rights.

At least two of the women living in the Cecelia added to the independent and forward-thinking reputation of Greenwich Village females.  In 1909 Minnie Kaufman was attending New York University’s Law School; and sociologist Mabel Boyd was in the building for at least two years between 1914 and 1916.  Both women had ventured into nearly men-only professions.

Commercial illustrator Frederick J. Casavant, Jr., his wife and two-year old son lived here as World War I drew to a close.  A native of Brandon, Vermont, he had studied at the Art Students League and was a member of the Illustrators Club.   The Sun called him “among the best known of the younger illustrators in the city.” 

Casavant contracted pneumonia in winter of 1919 and died in his apartment at the age of 32 on January 21. The Sun noted “Mr. Casavant devoted himself to commercial drawing and to work for magazines.”

Casavant’s widow and son would have to find new housing.  The Real Estate Record & Builders’ Guide reported five weeks later that Alexander J. Hammerslough has purchased the Cecelia.  “The house is to be extensively improved into studio apartments with modern improvements for occupancy about October 1.”

In 1930 Mrs. George King lived in a fifth floor apartment here.  Temporarily staying with her was her niece, the 30-year old former Ziegfeld star, Allyn King.  She had gained prominence when she was 20 years old and understudied Ina Claire in the Follies.  Three years later she became a star in her own right when she played in Ladies Night.

But in 1927 Allyn King received a shock when her managers forced her to resign, saying she had gained too much weight.   She set forth on a drastic effort to lose weight.  According to The New York Times later, “She then placed herself on a strict diet, eating for breakfast a thin butterless slice of Graham toast, a glass or orange juice and a cup of black coffee.  For lunch she ate either an apple or a pear, and her supper consisted of a few lettuce leaves and a tomato, or a mixture of celery, spinach or olives.”

Allyn apparently expected immediate results, for when she saw no visible weight loss in a few days, she resorted to reducing pills.   Her mother found her a few days later unconscious in her apartment on East 86th Street.

The entertainer was placed in a private sanitarium in South Norwalk, Connecticut where she remained for two years.  Upon her release she came to her aunt’s apartment on Waverly Place.   Although she seemed improved, her mother was cautious, saying Allyn was sometimes “moody” and that “she was never permitted to go anywhere alone”

Nevertheless Allyn resumed her vocal training, taking two lessons a week.  Her vocal coach thought she would be able to broadcast a short radio recital soon.

But her fragile condition turned tragic.  On the morning of Saturday March 29, 1930 Georgia King noticed a rear window open.  She looked down into the rear courtyard and “saw a crowd gathered below, around her niece’s huddled form,” wrote The New York Times.  The newspaper gave the heartening news “She will recover, it was said at Bellevue Hospital.”

The prediction proved overly-optimistic.  Allyn King died in the hospital the following morning.  Her funeral on April 1 was attended by more than 200 people, many of them well known names in the theater.


In 1934 Otto E. Krist and his wife were frantic when their 18-year old daughter, Louise, went missing.  Louise had “leanings toward poetry and music,” according to The Times, and was last seen on June 1 after attending a Village “poetry party.”

The Missing Persons Bureau blanketed the Village and surrounding areas with missing posters and her photograph was published in the newspapers.  Finally, on June 18, a restaurant owner recognized Louise from the newspaper photo.  Patrolman Robert Gleason approached her and her older companion.   After insisting they were Mr. and Mrs. Robert White; Louise finally confessed her identity when confronted with the photograph.

She had met “Prince” Childe de Rohan d’Harcourt at the poetry party and for two weeks they had been living in cheap hotels and the apartments of friends.  The 38-year old, of course, did not have a noble title; but he did have an extensive criminal record.

Robert d’Harcourt was charged with seduction while Louise vehemently professed their love.  Calling him “Count Dear,” she said they intended to be married and only the fact that they had just $2 between them had so far prevented it.   In the meantime, d’Harcourt said he had been trying to borrow the cost of a marriage license and told reporters “that he was the ‘supreme self’ and a genius”

Louise was arraigned in Woman’s Court on June 19; while her prince appeared in the West Side Court.  The Krists apparently felt that the best thing for Louise was to simply marry the man; her chances now of finding a suitable suitor were, frankly, over.  “Her parents,” reported The Times, “who sought in vain to induce her not to talk to reporters, were said by the police to favor the plan of an immediate marriage also.”


The Cecelia survived the 20th century with little outward alteration.  A most startling renovation came in 2014 when it was converted to a 10,200-square foot single family home, designed by architect Dirk Denison.   With upscale amenities like a roof-top swimming pool, it was placed on the market in 2015 for $35 million.  It became more affordable when the price tag was reduced to $26.5 million early in 2016.

Irish-born Patrick McCabe would not recognize the renovated interiors.  photo Brown, Harris, Stevens


non-credited photographs by the author

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Perry Hose Company No. 23 -- No. 48 Horatio Street





Fair Ireland’s farm sat slightly north of the village of Greenwich, bounded approximately by what would become 13th Street, Greenwich Avenue, West 11th Street and Greenwich Street.  Although the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 laid out lot lines and streets; the property would remain mostly undeveloped into the 1820s.

But the burgeoning population of Greenwich Village resulted in brick and wooden houses appearing in the 1830s.  By mid-century the now-developed neighborhood required fire protection.   John B. Ireland’s old stable stood on Horatio Street, between Eighth Avenue and West Fourth Street.   It had been converted for use by the Perry Hose Company No. 23, and in 1855 the Board of Assistant Aldermen described the facilities saying “House ordinary.”

At the time New York City’s fire fighting force was composed of a disorganized collection of volunteer companies.  When a fire broke out, young men in the neighborhood called “laddies” would scramble to the fire house.  Nearby fire houses would vie with one another to arrive at the fire first, or to become more skilled at extinguishing it.   The fire houses were often given catchy names like Oceanus and Empire.  The company at No. 48 Horatio Street, Perry Hose Company No. 23, was named in honor of Commodore Matthew C. Perry who commanded a number of ships in several wars, most notably in the Mexican-American War and the War of 1812.

Although the company was “entitled” to 25 men, it had only 11 volunteers in 1855.  Their blue-collar professions included plaster manufacturer, cartman, carpenter, feed store proprietor, stair builder and painter, among others.

In 1856 the City purchased the property and began construction on a new firehouse.  Somewhat ironically, Commodore Matthew Perry died in 1858, the year after the new house was completed.

The extremely attractive Italianate building following the accepted fire house design—a central truck bay flanked by balanced openings.  The hose engine and horses would be housed on the ground floor.  The second and third floors would be a combination living quarters, hay loft and equipment rooms. 

The red brick façade was trimmed in brownstone and capped with a handsomely bracketed cornice.  Eye-catching were the bay enframement with its classic pediment and the arched first floor openings.  In 1858 the city appraised the building at $6,100—about $181,000 in 2016.  A year later the roster had grown to 19 men, at which time the Aldermen deemed the house “in good order.”

The firehouse was barely completed before it was nearly destroyed.  As Independence Day approached in 1857 a fireworks display was planned in nearby Jackson Square.  A Mr. Edge from Jersey City brought the crates of fireworks to the firehouse “for safekeeping” and they were placed in the back room on the first floor. 

A few days later Sergeant Jacob I Sebring of Precinct No. 9 reported “Yesterday afternoon, about 6-1/2 o’clock, the Enginehouse of Perry Hose Company No. 23, located in Horatio-street, was discovered to be on fire.”  The fireworks had been set off, resulting in panic throughout the neighborhood.

Sebring continued “They were intended for public exhibition on Jackson-square.  The programme, however, was suddenly changed, and instead of imparting joy to the multitude, spread terror and dismay through the immediate neighborhood.  It was no doubt caused by incendiaries, as two boys were seen to climb into the rear window of the building, the explosion taking place immediately after.”

The two mischievous youths, unfortunately for them, were nabbed by Sergeant Sebring “on suspicion.”

In 1860 the City of Cleveland planned extensive celebrations for the unveiling of a statue to Commodore Perry.  The Alert fire company extended an invitation to Perry House Company No. 23 to attend.  Initially the company accepted; but on September 3, just days before the event, the Cleveland Morning Leader printed the disappointing sub-headline, “Not Coming.”

The newspaper reported “The Perry Hose Company of New York…have been compelled to abandon their excursion to Cleveland on the Tenth, ‘because of the shortness of time for preparation, and the exorbitant rates charged by a concerted monopoly of railroad companies.’”  The Morning Leader added, “The Alerts had prepared to meet the Perry Hose in a fitting style.”

Around the first week of February 1861 the fire fighters held a ball.  Such annual social events were common within professional groups.  Among the guests was John Kerrigan, brother of Congressman Kerrigan. The high-end affair was crashed by members of the Dead Rabbit gang—one of the notorious and dangerous gangs of the Five Points section.   Kerrigan was later outspoken in the newspapers, delivering “what is said to have been deserved chastisement to Fatty Welsh and Johnny Aaron, known as leaders of the Dead rabbit organization, who visited a ball of Hose Company No. 23, and acted in an outrageous manner,” as described by The New York Times.

Insulted, Fatty Walsh and Johnny Aaron plotted revenge.   They got their chance about a week later when they encountered Kerrigan on February 12 on Mulberry Street.  “Immediately an attack was made upon him with stones, which he managed to avoid by running,” reported The Times.  But he was “followed, however, by a yelling crowd of about twenty-five or thirty dead-rabbits.”  As Kerrigan neared City Hall Park he feared the rabble was about to overtake him, so he stopped, pulled a revolver, and shot twice.   Although he did not hit any of the ruffians, the gunshots had the desired effect and the gang retreated.

The Civil War had an effect on the Perry Hose Company’s roster.  On August 19, 1863 Henry Ebbultzer was drafted into the Union Army; and two years later on March 15 Perry E. Wood’s name was pulled in the draft lottery.

On October 15, 1865 a grand parade of firefighters was held in Philadelphia.  Among the companies from New York City to participate was Hose Company No. 23, under its foreman Alexander Davidson.  The following day Philadelphia's Daily Evening Bulletin reported that the Perry Hose Company “had fifty men on parade.  They were equipped in the New York style.  The handsome carriage was profusely decorated with flowers and a very creditable display was made.”

It was the last time the Perry Hose Company members would be together.  The Act of 1865 did away with the mish-mash of volunteer companies and created the professional Metropolitan District fire department that covered Brooklyn and New York.  Earlier that year, in May, the organization of the “Paid Fire Department” was announced.  Alexander V. Davidson, foreman of Perry Hose Company No. 23, had been named Secretary of the new Department.

On December 10, 1865 the fire houses deemed no longer necessary under the new organization were put up for auction.  John Conolly bid on several of the buildings, including Hose Company 23—offering $200.  The insultingly-low bid was turned down and the City retained possession; leasing it rather surprisingly to Alexander V. Davidson for $325 a year.  (His rent was increased to $350 the following year.)

Davidson leased the former firehouse for just two years.  By order of the Commissioners of the Sinking Fund a large amount of city-owned property was liquidated at auction on October 21, 1867.   No. 48 Horatio Street “with brick building” sold for $7,400; significantly more than John Conolly had offered two years earlier.

As an interesting side note, Alexander V. Davidson went on to become Deputy Sheriff, then Sheriff in 1882.  His career came to an ignominious end when he was indicted on three charges of grand larceny on March 21, 1884.  Davidson skipped town, and when he was still on the lam in 1886 the contents of his impressive house at No. 8 Van Ness Place were auctioned.  Among the items sold was “the inlaid marbletop table which used to belong to the Perry Hose Company No. 23, in the days of the old Volunteer Fire Department,” according to the New-York Tribune on February 16.

The building became the property of Henry Tonjes, a real estate operator who lived two doors away at No. 44 Horatio Street.  In the mid-1870s he leased it to H. H. W. Neslage who ran his livery stable here.

In the 1880s the building was shared by Fiss & Doerr, horse auctioneers; and A. De Cordova, “horses and cabs.”    By 1890 Fiss & Doerr had moved their horse auction stables to a much more commodious facility at Nos. 147 to 151 East 24th Street.

The building continued to house livery stables and horse-drawn trucks into the 20th century.  At the turn of the century I. Moore & Co., “horses and trucks,” was leasing the space from William Minnerly, who had owned it at least since 1889.

By the end of the First World War the upper floors had been fitted out as rented rooms.  James Sanders was living here in 1920 when he and Josephine Nolan were arrested for breaking into an apartment building in Brooklyn.  

The property was purchased by Adolph Leiser who renovated the first floor as a store and “dwelling” space on the upper floors.  The ground floor became home to A. Leiser & Co., purveyors of “a complete line of scene painters’ colors and supplies” for theatrical stage set designers.

One of Leiser’s employees, Paul Wichert, lived in an upper floor apartment when Adolph Leiser died on September 29, 1937.  Wichert received a generous $3,000 in his employer’s will—nearly $50,000 today and an enormous windfall during the Great Depression.

William F. Wrieden lived in an apartment here in 1947.   The 39-year old was arrested on July 30 that year for promoting a “pony meter.”  The Attorney General’s office described the phony gadget as “guaranteed to pick the winning horse at any track.”  

Wrieden had been a busy man.  Not only was he awaiting trial for eight counts of grand larceny, Assistant Attorney General Harry Kirshbaum told reporters that his office “was still investigating dozens of complaints against Wrieden, including the passing of thirty-four bogus checks.”

In January 1955 the Horatio Street property changed hands for the first time in 35 years when it was sold by the Leiser estate.  Nevertheless, A. Leiser & Co. remained in the ground floor at least until 1958.


In 1989 the old firehouse received a tender makeover when it was converted to a single-family home on the upper floors, and a garage and apartment on the ground level.  

photographs by the author