Saturday, August 8, 2020

Charles C. Haight's 1878 275 Canal Street

On October 19, 1870 millionaire Henry E. Pellew purchased the empty "gore lot" at No. 275 Canal Street from Jonathan Edwards.  It would be eight years before he developed the plot, hiring the 37-year old architect Charles Coolidge Haight to design a loft and store building in 1878.  

Pellew was a highly respected and influential businessman.  On February 12, as Haight was working on the plans for his new building, Pellew was a pallbearer at the funeral of Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., the father of the future President of the United States.

Completed within the year, No. 275 Canal Street exhibited strong elements of the Romanesque Revival style to which Haight repeatedly returned over the next decades.  It was most evident in the arched openings of the fourth and fifth floors.  The Queen Anne style made its appearance in dog tooth brickwork panels between the second and third floors and the fanciful pierced cornice designs flanked by stone gablets.

Stone capitals adorn the pilasters and clustered columns of the fourth and fifth floors.  The stone eyebrows of the fourth floor are mimicked in black brick at the fifth.  The Queen Anne style cornice is extraordinary.

The building became home to Eastman, Bigelow & Dayton, "silk and fancy drygoods" merchants.   The firm had begun as Eastman, Sheldon & Townsend in 1845; but after Sheldon was lost at sea on a return voyage from Europe in 1855, the Alden B. Bigelow and Milton P. Dayton joined Albert L. Eastman to form the new organization.

The New-York Sketch Book and Merchant's Guide noted that the firm's "chief feature" was ladies' dress trimmings.  "Their assortment of these goods is always large, and of the newest styles" it said, adding "Their stock also comprises a complete assortment of Taffetas and Satin Ribbons, Bonnet Ribbons, Kid Gloves, Embroideries, &c., &c."

The firm had been in its new home only about a year when valuable silk velvet ribbon disappeared.  The stolen goods were valued at more than $700--or about $18,500 in today's money.  A break in the case came around October 15, 1879 when a customer informed the firm that "quantities of black ribbon, known as 'the Black Friar' brand in the original packages as imported, and bearing the trade-mark of the firm, were being offered for sale at a much lower rate," according to The New York Times.

The ribbon was tracked down to the shop of merchant tailor I. M. Witkoski. and an elaborate plot was discovered.  The goods were initially stolen by a janitor, who sold them to a mattress maker, John Gurney.  Gurney then resold the goods to Benjamin M. Wilkoski, the brother of the the shop's owner.

In court Wilkoski freely admitted he had purchased the ribbon and was reselling it; but said he had no way of knowing the goods were stolen.  He testified that "he had taken them from a man for whom he had made several suits of clothes, in payment for the clothing."  Judge Gildersleeve was unmoved and on November 17 sentenced the tailor to three years in State Prison.

The 1890's saw Casse, Lackey & Co., makers of window shades (renamed Pinney, Casse & Lackey in 1892); the Leopold Ascher Co., makers of paint and shaving brushes; and William Harvey, manufacturers of canes and umbrella handles, in the building.
The Beta Theta Pi magazine, October 1893 (copyright expired)
William Harvey's factory employed 8 men, 18 women, 14 girls under 21 years old and 4 girls under 16 in 1893.  They worked long hours--59 hours during the week and 9 on Saturday.  The firm reorganized around 1898 when it became the Harvey & Watts Co.

In June 1899 Henry Pellew commissioned architects Horenburger & Straub to make structural improvements to No. 275, including new iron girders.

Of the 31 employees in Leopold Ascher's brush factory in 1902, only five were men.  One of them was John Barkey, who lived in Brooklyn and walked to and from work over the Brooklyn Bridge.  Barkey was one of thousands of workers who used the pedestrian crossing, creating what was known as the "Brooklyn Bridge crush" at rush hours.

On the evening of October 21, 1902 Barkey became caught up in what the New York Press described as a "fighting, impatient crowd."  As a streetcar passed, Barkey was forced against it by the mass of pedestrians.  The article explained that "as the car was in motion he could stay on his feet no longer and fell under the car.  As soon as he came in contact with a wheel that tore off his toes, he dragged himself under the feet of the passing throng."

Barkey screamed in pain until Patrolman J. Flood "rescued the man from under the heels of the crowd."  He was taken to the Hudson Street Hospital where his toes were amputated.

In 1902 Pinney, Casse & Lackey Company merged with the Columbia Shade Cloth Company, located next door at No. 273 Canal Street.  The Charles E. Matthews office furniture company took its place in No. 275.

Batten's Wedge magazine, February 1906 (copyright expired)

Charles E. Matthews remained in the space at least through 1913.  The 1920's saw the Reliance Lighting Fixture Corp., manufacturers of electric light fixtures under the brand name Relifco; and the Allied Fruit & Extract Co., makers of food items like maraschino cherries, in the building.

Sixty-three years after their father had purchased the property Marion and Charles E. Pellew sold No. 275 Canal Street to the Myr-Mil Holding Company in November 1933.  The new owners made alterations which did away with factory space.  Completed in 1935, the changes resulted in a store and showroom on the ground floor and additional showrooms on the upper floors.

Among the tenants in the 1940's was the Royal Sundries Corp., which sold novelties like the Marvo Cigarette Roller.  An advertisement in The Billboard on October 6, 1945 touted its "metal sides" and offered the item "in quantities" for 5 cents each.

In 1961 a drug store operated from the ground floor.  On February 20 that year the Long Island Star-Journal entitled a front page article "3-Alarmer Snarls Traffic" and reported "The fire which broke out shortly after 5 A. M. in a five-story commercial building at 275 Canal street soon raged through three floors of the structure."

While damaging the interior, the blaze left Charles C. Haight's striking facade intact.  The building was renovated again in 2020 to create office space above the ground floor store.

photographs by the author

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Alfred Zucker's 1892 246 Greene Street (a.k.a. 20-22 Waverly Place)

By the 1830's the neighborhood around Greene Street and Waverly Place, a block west of Washington Square, had filled with elegant mansions.  On November 16, 1890 publisher Martin Young heard a noise in his cellar of his home at No. 22 Waverly Place.  Upon investigating he caught four boys aged 10 through 15 in the process of stealing brass.  Their names reflected the changing demographics of the area--Angelo Teeini, Sebastian Farconelli, Joseph Cella and Giovanni Lafarzia.

That was not all that was changing as the century drew to a close.  Loft buildings were rapidly replacing residences and  Young's was among the last of the private homes still surviving.  

A month earlier, on October 25, 1890, the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide published a supplement entitled "The New Mercantile District" which began saying "The sudden impulse given to building improvements in the section of the city that lies in the vicinity of Washington square has been generally observed during the past two or three years."  One of the most visible architects in the movement was Alfred Zucker.  Within a two year period between 1891 and 1893 he would design Nos. 12, 18, 24-26, and 28-30 Waverly Place, and the massive stone structure at the corner of Waverly Place and Greene Street, No. 246 Greene (which would engulf the site of Young's house), all of them within a single block.

He designed No. 246 Greene Street for developer Simon Goldenberg.  The plans, filed in February 1891, called for an 8-story "brick, iron and stone warehouse" to cost $140,000 (or just over $4 million today).  Completed in 1892, it was an imposing blend of Renaissance Revival and Romanesque Revival styles.

Each section of the tripartite design was delineated by an intermediate cornice.  Zucker made ample use of brownstone quoins at the ground floor, then used dark brown brick at the second and third floors to imitate stone blocks.  The ruse was continued on the fourth through sixth floor to create the appearance of quoins around the three-story arches.  The openings of the two-story upper section were grouped within arched cast iron frames; the piers between them decorated with terra cotta bands and rosettes.

The building became home to Asch & Jaeckel, wholesale furriers, whose large operation filled the entire building.  The salesrooms were on the ground floor with factory, design and office spaces above.

An advertisement boasted that the firm "completely occupied" the building.  Fur Trade Review, June 1892 (copyright expired)
Just as apparel firms do today, Asch & Jaeckel used live "fit models" when working on new items.  Soon after moving into their new accommodations it placed an advertisement in The Sun on June 24, 1892 seeking "Young Lady as figure; 36 bust; none other need apply."

By 1895 the firm had branched out into other forms of women's apparel, as well.  On February 17 it advertised for "Drapers, experienced on Waists and Suits."  (Waists, or shirtwaists, were a tailor blouse and the most popular item of women's apparel in the 1890's.)

Furriers were frequent targets for sneak thieves and November 30, 1897 Asch & Jaeckel was a victim.  That day Detective Sergeants Aloncle and Carey noticed two notorious criminals, Annie Drayton, alias May Murray or "Big May," and Flossie Maitland in Madison Square.  When the women hailed a hansom cab, the cops followed.   The New York Times reported "The women stopped at the fur store of Asch & Jaeckel...and after remaining inside about fifteen minutes re-entered the cab and drove to the fur store of Adolph Frimal, 1,713 Broadway.  Here they also staid but a few minutes and, coming out, ordered the cabman to drive to an up-town hotel."

Before that happened, however, Sergeant Carey commandeered the cab and ordered the driver to go to Police Headquarters.  Once there the vehicle was searched.  "Two sealskin sacques [i.e., short jackets] were found concealed under the seat, and the matron found a valuable cape concealed on the person of 'Big May.'"  The Times said that Annie Drayton was "considered one of the cleverest shoplifters in the country."  The two jackets taken from Asch & Jaeckel were valued at $327, about $10,400 in today's money.

Both women were able to raise the staggering $3,000 bail through a bondsman.  But when their court date rolled around in March 1898, they had disappeared.  The bondsman was given twenty-four hours to produce them, but when he returned to court on March 10 "he admitted that he could not find them," reported the New York Herald.  The judge ordered that the bail be forfeited--costing the man more than $95,000 in today's money.

While the drama played out, Joseph J. Asch and Hugo Jaeckel parted ways.  Each established his own firm.  Jaeckel moved to No. 37 Union Square and Asch erected his own handsome building at Nos. 23-29 Washington Place.  The Asch Building would become a part of American labor history on March 25, 1911 when 145 women workers in the Triangle Waist Company, locked into rooms on the top three floors, perished.

The building vacated by Asch & Jaeckel now filled with hat manufacturers and apparel-related tenants, among them hat manufacturer M. S. Mork & Co., which sought "Straw Hat Operators" in November 1899.  The ad promised "We guarantee $7.80 to $12 a week, ten months' season; good operators can earn double their guarantee."  The higher end of the range would be about $382 per week today.  Also in the hat business were Higson & Co., "manufacturers of fur hats," and William Read & Co.

In 1902, following the death of Simon Goldenberg, his estate sold the property.  The change of landlords did not affect the tenant list.  Taylor & Seeley were selling agents for out-of-town hat makers like Beltaire Bros. & Co. of Danbury, Connecticut and the Gilman Hat Company of Haverhill, Massachusetts.

The American Hatter, February 1902 (copyright expired)

The wealth of the partners of Taylor & Seeley was evidenced in April 1903 when E. S. Seeley listed his home on Bedford Avenue for sale.  The 25-foot wide, three story brownstone had 16 rooms and three baths, along with an Otis elevator.  He described his home as "handsome, luxurious, convenient and up to date."

Sharing the building with Taylor & Seeley were S. Alsberg & Co. and Alsberg & Moritz, both clothing manufacturers; and Lasky & Levi, makers of caps.  In 1906 the two related firms of S. Alsberg & Co. and Alsberg & Moritz combined to create Moritz, Alsberg & Co.  

The firms would remain in the building until about 1912, joined in 1909 by Pursch & Co., clothing makers; and H. Hauptman & Co., in 1910.

In 1912 the tenant list included Goldfinger & Katz, whose workforce of 35 made cloaks; J. L. Alberts, makers of cotton underwear (it employed 4 men, 45 women, and three children that year); and Tochterman & Schehr, makers of leather purses and bags.

In 1914 the 36-year old widow Annie Feinman had worked for J. L. Alberts for about four and a half years.  She earned $1.50 per day (just under $40 today) as a sewer.  Possibly distracted from her work for a moment on September 11 that year, she drove the needle of her machine through her left ring finger.   When blood poisoning later set in, the top part of finger was amputated.

Annie, her doctor, her supervisor and the doctor's nurse were summoned to answer a barrage of questioning by the State Workmen's Compensation Commission a month later after she filed for benefits.  The doctor was asked, for example, if Annie showed evidence of alcoholism, hypochondria, hysteria or malingering.  She was eventually awarded $10.26 in March 1915.

The personal lives of well-to-do citizens were fodder for juicy newspaper articles at the time.  Harry Long ran a trimmings business in the building in 1915 when his wife, Florence, suspected him of sexual dalliances.  She hired private detectives to follow him and their findings became luridly public in January 1916 when Florence took him to court.

Much of Zucker's original cast iron storefronts survive along street level.
The Sun entitled an article on January 4 "Mysterious Blonde In Long Divorce Case" which began "A mysterious 'blond woman, 5 feet 6 inches tall, aged 30 and weighing 125 pounds,' has been found guilty of improper conduct with Harry Long."  The article continued, "she and Long went to the Terra Marine Hotel, Huguenot Park, Staten Island, Saturday, June 19, and remained until the following Sunday night."

The scandal no doubt had a detrimental effect on Long's business.  Additionally, he was ordered to pay $200 a month for support of the three children, whom he was allowed to see one-half day each week.

Following World War I the apparel business migrated northward, past 34th Street.  In the 1930's the Greene Street building was home to Howard Failing, a wholesale paper dealer.  Like Harry Long, the scurrilous details of his divorce were widely published in newspapers.  But in his case, it was his wife, Flora, who was the inconsistent lover.

Around 1934 the Failings moved to the upscale suburban neighborhood of Scarsdale, New York.  A neighbor, Ruby T. Brewster, wife of Le Roy Brewster, testified that things had been going well in her marriage until the Failings moved in.  Then, in November 1935 "My husband left to go to Florida, presumably to be in a warmer climate on account of his sinus trouble.  However, he left with a woman, Mrs. Failing."

Flora divorced Howard Failing in the summer of 1936; and in the spring of 1937 Ruby, "citing a honey-haired ex-neighbor as the case of all the trouble," sued her husband for divorce.   On April 29, 1937 the Daily News said that Ruby Brewster, "a Westchester matron with strong feelings about blondes, clamped a legal stranglehold yesterday on the $1,000,000 moneybags of her hubby."  The article noted that Ruby was trying to beat her husband to filing for divorce to keep him from cutting her off from his wealth.

Any prospect of more scandal related to marital discord in the Green Street building ended in 1946, when New York University converted it to class rooms.  Known today as Kimball Hall, it houses computer labs, lecture and classrooms and a student lounge.

photographs by the author

The 1832 Asa B. Meech House - 108 Washington Place

The flurry of building in Greenwich Village in the late 1820's and '30's prompted mason and builder John Nichols to purchased seven lots on West Washington Place.   (West Washington Place was separated from Washington Place to the east by Sixth Avenue at the time.)  He sold a few to other men also engaged in the building craft and they cooperatively erected a row of handsome Federal style houses along the row.

No. 35 West Washington Place was completed in 1832 and, like its neighbors, was faced in Flemish bond red brick.  It rose two-and-a-half stories tall, its attic story punctured by two dormers.  The brownstone basement level was protected by Federal-style iron fencing with anthemion finials. 

The initial purchaser quickly resold the house in 1833 to Asa B. Meech, the principal in the commission business Asa B. Meech & Co. and his wife, Elizabeth.   The couple had been married in Buffalo, New York in 1819 where Meech had begun his career in "a general mercantile business" with partner Hiram Pratt.  Around 1825 he founded Asa B. Meech & Co., only the second forwarding and commission firm in that city.

Meech had been in New York City five years at the time of his purchasing the house.  He had wasted no time in establishing himself in the city.  By the 1840's he was an alderman and as well owned much property in Greenwich Village and downtown.

The couple remained in the West Washington Place house for 14 years before moving back to Buffalo in 1847.  Before leaving they transferred a large amount of property on Christopher and West Fourth Streets to Rufus Meech, presumably their son.

The next family in the house took in roomers in their home, a practice that was common in the mid-19th century.  Their 1853 ad made it clear that they wanted their domestic peace to remain intact--not even offering food except on Sunday:

A small private family have an elegant suit of rooms handsomely furnished, pleasantly situated, to let to single gentlemen; where there are no children.  Rooms supplies with hot and cold water, and will be taken care of...Meals on Sunday if required.

An advertisement five years later gave a better description of the accommodations the roomer would enjoy.  Nearly the entire second floor was rented furnished, encompassing a "front Parlor, front room...and Bedroom adjoining, with use of bath room."  Again, the ad was explicit in saying "private family; no boarders."

By 1861 the house was home to the Labatut family, who continued to rent rooms.  On December 12 that year they advertised "Gentlemen or a family desiring a comfortable home, with a French family, can obtain handsome accommodations on moderate terms; house contains all the modern improvements."

The roomer who answered that ad did not work out--possibly because of his interest in the ladies.  Four months later he was looking for another home:

A gentleman bachelor, who is suffering from the consequences of a paralytical attack, wants a Room, with all comfort, and plain Board for himself and servant man, who occupies the room with him, in a private family who have no other boarders, and where he can find sufficient ladies society for social intercourse, he being entirely unoccupied."

Caroline Labatut seems to have been widowed by now.  She had three grown children, George, William and Mary.  The title to the house was in William's name and, interestingly, he sold it to his sister in April 1877.  Family relations did not get in the way of the transaction and Mary paid $12,700 for the property--about $320,000 in today's money.  

It was most likely at this time that the house was dramatically updated.  The attic floor was raised to full height and capped with a neo-Grec cornice, the parlor windows were extended to the floor, and stylish neo-Grec double entrance doors were installed.   Upon Mary's marriage to Arthur C. Runyan the couple moved nearby to Christopher Street. 

A Mrs. Howe was renting rooms from Caroline in 1879 when she became the victim of a purse snatcher.  On September 14 The New York Herald wrote "James Riley, an Ulster county lad, who had been sent to this city by his father to seek his fortune, failed to get any work."  In despair, said the article, he "snatched a pocketbook from Mrs. Howe, of No. 35 West Washington place, on Friday night."  The wayward boy was held on a charge of highway robbery.

By the early 1890's, with Washington Place now spanning Sixth Avenue, the house had the new address of No. 108 Washington Place.  Caroline was charging $2 and $3.50 for "nicely furnished double rooms" in 1891.  The higher rate would equal about $100 today, presumably for a month.

On April 24, 1893 Benjamin W. Buchanan and his wife took rooms on the top floor.  The 69-year old had been an attention with the New York Supreme Court for 35 years.  Around Christmas he had been diagnosed with dropsy (known today as edema) and dyspepsia.  Subsequently, according to The Evening Post, "For some time past he had been extremely feeble and could not eat.  He was also troubled with insomnia."

It did not help that Caroline Labatut was having work done on the house.  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said on April 28 "He could not rest.  For two days plumbers have been at work in the house and disturbed him during the day.  He had become melancholy on account of his trouble."

At around 6:00 on the morning of April 28 Benjamin got up and dressed.  He told his wife he was not feeling well and was going to the roof to get fresh air.  "He said that it would brighten him up and left the room," reported the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

A few minutes later "a little newsboy," Charles Brazzo was passing by the house.  "He saw a man standing on the edge of the roof at 108," reported the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.  "The man drew a razor across his throat and jumped from the roof.  He struck the railing on the stoop and bounced out on the pavement."  The newsboy ran for a policeman, who summoned a doctor.  But Buchanan died on the sidewalk within minutes.  The Evening Post remarked "The gash in his throat was sufficient to have caused him to bleed to death."

Caroline Labatut died in 1897.  Mary Labatut Runyan retained possession until 1916 when the 22-foot wide house was sold to Dr. James F. Navoni.  The Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide commented that he "will alter the premises into an apartment dwelling."  On August 6 The New York Herald added "It formerly was occupied by three families, but will be altered into a duplex apartment."

Navoni's renovations included a grouped studio window and balconette at the second floor.  New York Herald, August 6, 1916 (copyright expired)
Greenwich Village had become the center of New York City's artist community and Dr. Navoni responded by installing a studio window on the second floor.  His tenants reflected the trend.  In 1917 artist Sania Rosental Brown lived here, and in 1918 Impressionist and Modernist Frank Osborn was living and working in a studio apartment.  Both he and Brown exhibited at The Society of Independent Artists in 1917.

The Federal style ironwork along the areaway survives.
A different sort of artist moved in that year when Mrs. J. W. Ashley signed a lease in May on the basement and parlor level duplex.   Isabel E. Ashley was known to silent movie fans as Isabel O'Madigan.  She played the role of Mrs. Archibald in two movies that year, Bab's Matinee Idol and Bab's Diary.  

Isabel's husband, James W. Ashley, had been an actor as well, but was now engaged in theatrical management.  In 1918 James was traveling with Ladies First and was in Cleveland when he mailed off a love letter.  There were two problems--the letter was not to Isabel and rather than sending it to the intended 122nd Street address he inadvertently sent it to Washington Place.

In December Isabel sued for divorce, exposing the contents of the letter for all to read:

I sent you all my love, kisses, a million tons of love. I  love you, worship you, idolize you, my baby wife.

Despite the damning evidence, Ashley denied his wife's charges, blaming their troubles instead on her.  The Daily Argus reported that he "says that she is too much devoted to card games and costly gowns for his liking."  Isabel sought $25 per week in alimony, about $425 today.

Another resident involved in the theater was Philip Moeller, who lived here by the early 1920's.  A stage producer and director, playwright and screenwriter, he had helped organize the Washington Square Players and co-found the Theater Guild of New York.  He hosted meetings of the guild in his apartment here.

Guild members pose in Moeller's Washington Place apartment.  Moeller is second from left in the back row.  The Billboard, December 23, 1922 (copyright expired) 
On May 12, 1941 The New York Sun reported that No. 108 had been sold to J. Clark Bingham and Marion L. Bingham for $22,000 (about $382,000 in today's terms) "who will remodel the house."  Their renovations resulted in a duplex in the basement and parlor and one apartment each on the upper two upper floors.

A period mantel (top) survives in the otherwise sleek interiors.  via
That configuration lasted until 1972 when an alteration created two duplexes.  While a few of the 1832 details survive, the the sleek, nearly gut renovation left little of the original interiors.  

photographs by the author 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Lillian S. Thomas Dodge House - 6 East 67th Street

In 1880 the prolific architect James E. Ware designed three matching rowhouses for real estate developer Ira E. Doying at what was then numbered 4 through 8 East 67th Street.  Completed the following year, the brick-faced homes rose four stories above high English basements.  Designed in the Queen Anne style, they featured a two-story angled bay and grouped openings at the fourth floor which morphed into a pointed gable.  At 27-feet wide, the homes were intended for well-to-do owners.  In September 1882 Doying sold No. 4 to Victory Henry Rothschild for $90,000--more than $2.3 million today.  

The Rothschild house can be glimpsed at the far right side of this photo.   Architectural Record 1904 (copyright expired)

Rothschild (who preferred to go by his first initial and second name) was born in 1835 in Germany, one of seven children.  He arrived in America in 1852 at the age of 17 and headed to Oakland, California.  The young man's business sense took him to the Midwest and the South until the Civil War prompted him to move to New York City.  His brother Marx came from Germany and the pair partnered in Rothschild Brothers, which manufactured "negligee shirts."  By now the firm was named V. Henry Rothschild & Co.

V. Henry and his wife, the former Josephine Wolf, had five children, Irene, Victor Sidney, Gertrude, Constance Lily and Clarence.  America's Successful Men of Affairs called the 67th Street house "handsomely appointed" and noted that Rothschild's "fine library, and collection of paintings bear witness to his artistic tastes."

V. Henry Rothschild, from America's Successful men of Affairs, 1896 (copyright expired)

It was not long after moving in that Rothschilds flexed those artistic tastes further by doing major redecorating.  On August 23, 1884 The Record & Guide reported "Mr. V. Henry Rothschild is about to have elaborate interior decorations made to the front parlor of his house, No. 4 East Sixty-seventh street, in the Louis XVI style, on which he will expend some $6,000."   The owners had hired well-known architect Alfred Zucker to make the renovations, which cost the equivalent of just over $160,000 today.

America's Successful Men of Affairs said "Mr. Rothschild is essentially a home man and has never been what is generally called a club man.  He has, however, long been a member of the Harmonie and Players' clubs and the Board of Trade & Transportation."  

The Harmonie Club was a social organization for wealthy Jewish men.  Because Jews were not accepted into the mainstream clubs, they formed their own.  Another such club was the Progress Club, of which Marx Rothschild was a member.

Marx was there on the evening of March 8, 1904 when he suffered a heart attack.  The New York Times reported "He lived with his daughter, Mrs. Mark J. Straus, at 77 East Eighty-ninth Street, but it was not deemed prudent to carry him so far after he was stricken."  He was brought, instead, to his brother's home.  He died there the following morning."

Jewish families--no matter how wealthy--were also not included among the "cottagers" of Newport and other fashionable summer resorts.  So, again, they established their own enclaves.  Among them was Long Branch, New Jersey where the Rothschilds were visible among summer society.  V. Henry, as well, erected what were called the "Rothschild Cottages" there.

On May 17, 1911 the Long Branch Daily Record reported that Rothschild had died in the 67th Street house.  It mentioned his treatment of his employees (of which there were now about 7,000) by erecting "communal settlements" for them near the two large factories in New Jersey and New York State.  The article added "In philanthropic work Mr. Rothschild took an active interest...He was one of the founders of the Mount Sinai Hospital and a director of the Montefiore Home."

Rothschild's estate was reported at nearly $3.25 million in today's money.  Josephine received about one-third of that amount, but was "requested to make gifts to Mount Sinai Hospital and the Montefiore Home in which her husband was interested," according to The Sun.

Josephine remained in the 67th Street house until her death on April 27, 1917.  The family retained possession for a few years.  Then a two-day public auction of the contents of the house was held on June 17 and 18, 1921.  The auction listing noted "Massive furnishings, cabinets, bronzes, complete massive cut-brass fenders and andirons, paintings by noted artists, draperies, rare works of art."

The house to the left retains its 1881 appearance.

The following year, on March 25, 1922, the Record & Guide reported that "Mrs. Lillian S. Thomas has purchased the house," noting that among her millionaire neighbors were Elbert H. Gary, chairman of the board of the United States Steel Corporation, and George J. Gould.

Born Lillian Sefton, Lillian had begun her career on the stage.  She married Vincent Thomas in 1905.  One of her friends, Margaret Ayer, was the daughter of Harriet Hubbard Ayer, the founder of a women's "toilet preparations" firm.  Harriet died in 1903 and Lillian now urged her new husband to purchase the rights to the the name.  The pair embarked on expanding the business and, following Thomas's death in 1918, Lillian managed to make it one of world's major cosmetic companies. 

Before moving into the 67th Street house she had the architectural firm of Clinton & Russell remodel it.  They removed the stoop, pulled the facade nearly to the property line, and produced a 1920's take on Beaux Arts--a style that had essentially fallen from favor a generation earlier.  But Clinton & Russell's treatment of the style was much more restrained than the fussy, garland-draped confections of the turn of the century.  

The ground floor was nearly unadorned.  Its centered entrance given a simple frame over which was a carved cartouche.  Pierced stonework below two of the second floor windows pretended to be balustrades.  Only at this level were there ornamental keystones.  The third and fourth floor openings wore iron railings and the fifth floor took the form of a copper mansard with three stone dormers.

By the time the renovations were completed in 1923 Lillian had remarried.  Her husband was Robert Leftwich Dodge, described by The New York Times as "a graduate of the Beaux Arts in Paris [who] spent most of his life abroad."  It added "His stained-glass paintings are to be found in the Library of Congress and many other public buildings, and at Vassar College."  Living with them was Lillian's daughter, Mary Sefton Thomas.

Lillian had expanded into a full line of women's cosmetics.  In 1922 she applied for the trademarks Odo-R-Off, a deodorant, and LaJoconde, the brand name of "toilet creams and toilet powders."

That same year she and Robert gave Clinton & Russell a second project--the design of their country home on a 86-acre estate to be called Sefton Manor on the North Shore of Long Island.

Sefton Manor (original source unknown)
In 1930 developer Michael E. Paterno demolished the Fifth Avenue mansions at the southeast corner of 67th Street and erected an apartment building.  He placed the entrance on the side street rather than the avenue.  After a lengthy court case, he won the right to the address No. 2 East 67th Street—which meant that the house at No. 2 became No. 4; and the change of addresses dominoed down the block.  The Dodges' stationery and cards now read No. 6 East 67th Street.

That same year Lillian found herself in hot water with U. S. Customs.  She and Robert had sailed to Europe that January, returning on the Ile de France in April with 12 trunks and two crates.   They declared $17,000 value on the contents.  But agents opened each of the trunks and crates and disagreed on the valuation.

On April 18, 1930 The Brooklyn Daily Times ran a front-page headline: "Mrs. R. L. Dodge Faces Huge Fine In Customs Case."  The article said "Officials engaged in examining the seized property say the estimate placing the value at $200,000 'is conservative.'"  Lillian had not been shopping only for gowns.  The article said that "jewelry filled two large suitcases."  It included "a waist length diamond necklace with diamond tassels, many diamond and emerald watches, bracelets, rings, pendants and brooches."

Having her new things held up in Customs was a potential problem for Lillian.  "Mrs. Dodge is quoted by Customs officials as saying she was willing to pay the fine provided she could have the goods in time to use at parties during the Easter season."  The staggering fine was reported at between $160,000 to $200,000--upwards to more than $3 million today.

The Dodges also maintained a home in Paris.  All three residences were routinely the scenes of lavish entertainments.  But the Long Island mansion would be the setting of an especially important event in 1932.  On May 7 the New York Evening Post reported "Mr. and Mrs. Robert Leftwich Dodge of 6 East Sixty-seventh Street, Sefton Manor, Mill Neck, Long Island, and Paris, announce the engagement of Miss Mary Sefton Thomas to Mr. Frans Blom."  It added "The wedding will take place at the Mill Neck country home of Mr. and Mrs. Dodge about the middle of June."

The Dodges were at Sefton Manor on July 16, 1940 when Robert died at the age of 68 "after a long illness," as reported by a newspaper.  The New York Times noted "Mr. Dodge painted murals in the Library of Congress in Washington and in the administration building of the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago.  Examples of his work in stained glass are to be found in many churches and in the chapel of Vassar College."

Lillian sold No. 6 in 1945 and within four years it became the Czechoslovakian Mission to the United Nations.  In 1962 the house was shared as the Missions of Byelorussia and Ukraine, and two years later it was home to the Cuban Mission.

The strong resentment of Cuban ex-patriots and Communists resulted in sometimes violent protests outside the United Nations and in front of the Cuban Mission.  The arrival of  Major Ernesto Che Guevara at the U.N. on December 11, 1964 was met by an anti-Communist demonstration.  It was accompanied by a 3.5-inch bazooka shell from being fired at the United Nations Headquarters.

The New York Times reported "Later, eight demonstrators, who described themselves as Cuban exiles, showed up at the Cuba mission at 6 East Sixty-Seventh Street.  They carried signs protesting the appearance of Major Guevara at the United Nations."  Police barricaded both sides of 67th Street and part of Fifth Avenue.

The Dodge house today is home to the Permanent Representative of the Slovak Republic to the United Nations.  Other than replacement windows, it looks outwardly little different that it did immediately following its remarkable make-over in 1923.

photographs by the author
many thanks to Luci Murphy for suggesting this post

The 1900 Benjamin Birkenfeld House - 318 West 105th Street

Real estate developer John C. Umberfeild's aggressive building project which began in 1899 would fill the entire southern blockfront of West 105th Street between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue.  Designed in near-matching pairs by Janes & Leo, the sumptuous Beaux Arts style residences were completed the following year.

Like its neighbors, No. 318 would have been comfortable on a Parisian street.  Elaborate scrolled brackets on either side of the ground floor window upheld an iron-railed balcony.  A gently-bowed two story bay was flanked by Corinthian pilasters upon pedestals.  Above the floor-to-ceiling windows of the second floor carved garlands of fruits and flowers draped from the graceful French pseudo-balconies of the third floor.  The slate shingled mansard was punctured by stately dormers with arched pediments.

Umberfield sold the 22-foot wide house on July 20, 1902 to William A. Stanton, who held it for just a year.  It then became home to Benjamin Birkenfeld, a partner in Birkenfeld, Strauss & Co., makers of ladies' muslin and flannel undergarments.

On September 9, 1906 Birkenfeld headed to City Island with three women in his automobile, presumably family members.  Unsure of the route, when he noticed a friend's car in the Bronx neighborhood of Morrisania and he waved him down for directions.   Along with his chauffeur Jacob Leitner had three friends in his automobile.

The New York Herald reported "After the needed information was given, the two cars started down Crotona avenue at a high rate of speed.  In fact, according to by-standers and Policeman Lynch, of the Tremont station, the two machines were racing."  As the cars neared 108th Street, Leitner's chauffeur saw an approaching crosstown streetcar.  His speed made it impossible to stop in time, so he drove faster in hopes of clearing the tracks in time.  That did not happen.

The streetcar struck the car which, according to the newspaper, was "smashed like an eggshell.  The occupants of the machine were thrown out into the roadway."  Luckily no one was seriously hurt.

Birkenfeld sold No. 318 in 1908 to Hugh Mullen, a partner in the women's undergarment and hosiery importing and manufacturing firm of Brown, Durrell Co.  The family moved in just in time for the announcement of the engagement of daughter Genevieve Lillian.

On November 8, 1908 The New York Times reported simply that her engagement to Guyon I. C. Earle had been announced and "The wedding will take place in January or early in February."  Other newspapers were more interested in the juicier details of the groom's family.

On December 30 The Buffalo Evening Times reported "Unconverted to the matrimonial ideas Guyon Crocheron Earle was decided to be married in the old-fashioned way, and yesterday he obtained a license in the City Hall.  He said his intended bride was Miss Genevieve Lillian Mullen, daughter of Hugh Mullen, who is in business at No. 11 West 19th Street."

Noting that the groom-to-be was the son of General Ferdinand P. Earle, the article added he was "a brother of Fredinand Pinney Earle, who gained notoriety by putting his wife away to marry Julia Kittner, whom he called his 'real soul mate,' his 'affinity.'"  The Sun, too, focused on the romantic history of Earle's brother, entitling its article "Brother of Ferdinand Pinney Earle Gets License To Wed."  The wedding took place in the West 105th Street house.

Interestingly, Guyon Crocheron Earle had grown up in the Morris-Jumel mansion in Washington Heights, once the headquarters of George Washington and where Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr met before their fatal duel.  The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record explained that the house was "built by a relative of his ancestor, Capt. William Morris."

Nos. 318 (left) and 320 were designed a near mirror images.
More routine were the newspaper announcements of W. Stanley Mullen's engagement to Kathryn E. Comisky six years later, on May 1, 1914.

Shortly after their son's marriage the Mullens gave up city living in favor of the suburbs, moving to a new home in Forest Hills Gardens, Queens.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle called the Mullens' new home "a fine example of Colonial architecture."  April 6, 1916 (copyright expired)
The new owners quickly leased rooms in the residence.  When the property was offered at auction on February 11, 1918 it was described as a "five-story apartment building."  It was purchased by Hyman Freund, who resold it in 1920 to the 319 West 105th Street Corp. (which, not coincidentally, was headed by Hyman Freund).  Later that year it was converted to non-housekeeping apartments--meaning there were no kitchens.

Perhaps the most celebrated of the tenants was Alabama-born actress and singer Roberta Curry.  She appeared on Broadway in the 1925 Dearest Enemy and the 1927 White Eagle.  On June 28, 1928 the Alabama newspaper The Union-Banner reported "Radio fans, and they are many in this section, were thrilled to the nth degree on Monday evening to hear again, Roberta Curry's voice over the ethereal waves."  The article continued "Many letters of appreciation...have been forwarded to the artist at 318 West 105th Street, New York City."

A tenant with less positive notoriety, at least in the minds of Government officials, was Robert De Saulmier.  He was living here by 1940 and would remain for at least a decade.  During those years he was constantly tracked by Congress's Special Commitee on Un-American Activities as a registered member of the Communist Party.

A renovation completed in 1943 resulted in two apartments per floor.  In the late 1950's it was home to the International Foreign Mission Association of North America.  Simultaneously Tahseen Mohamed Basheer, the press attaché of the United Arab Republic Consulate lived in an apartment here.

In 1972 photographer Aubrey Balkind opened his apartment for a five-week course in the basic techniques and equipment for beginning photographers.  The two-hour classes included weekly field assignments; the course costing $40 (around $245 today).

Somehow the 1900 fireplace and overmantel survived in this much reduced apartment.  photos via
Other than an unsympathetic replacement entrance door and an unnecessary coat of gray paint over the limestone, the former Birkenfeld house is little changed on the outside.  Leo & Janes's 1900 interiors have not been so fortunate.

photographs by the author