Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The 1847 Thomas Ward House - 866 Broadway




Citizens of New York were understandably terrified when in 1793 a yellow fever epidemic broke out in Philadelphia.  Just two years earlier the disease had claimed 100 New York victims.  So far the disease had not reached Manhattan, but Philadelphia was reeling and eventually 5,000 people, one-tenth of its population, would succumb.   

And then in July 1795 the first yellow fever death in New York City came.  Within a single week in August twenty-one victims died.  Panic ensued and those who could afford to leave the city did so, moving to the fresh air of remote hamlets like Greenwich Village.  Entire businesses moved north, following their patrons, or opened what were considered temporary branch offices.   Realizing that if the epidemic were not gotten under control it would have to move, in 1806 the Manhattan Bank Company purchased a rural plot of land, one acre square, from Edward Williams.   

As it turned out the bank did not have to relocate and the land running north along Broadway from what would become East 17th Street sat vacant for decades.  But by the 1830's the expansion of the city was nearing the area.  A banker, Samuel Ruggles, spearheaded the creation of Union Square in 1832.    Completed in 1842, it was an exclusive enclave of upscale homes surrounding a tranquil, fenced garden with a central fountain.

The Manhattan Bank Company began construction of four speculative brick-faced homes in 1847.  An ample 25-feet wide and four stories tall, the Greek Revival style houses were completed the following year.


Dr Thomas Ward purchased No. 866 from the bank in 1849.  
The high-end nature of the residence was evidenced in the fact that it was plumbed for lighting gas and boasted running water--both hot and cold.  If the physician ever used it for his home and practice, it was short-lived.   In the spring of 1850 he leased it to Customs House agent Jules C. Coutan and his wife for occupancy the following year.

The couple currently lived at No. 255 Greene Street, where Mrs. Coutan also ran her "young ladies' school."  She gave the parents of her students a full year's notice concerning the change in locations on May 25, 1850.  Her announcement in the New-York Daily Tribune read "Institution for Young Ladies--Madame Coutan respectfully informs the parents of her pupils that on the 1st of May next she will remove her institution to 866 Broadway, near Union-square  The classes will reopen on Monday, May 5."

Private schools for well-heeled young ladies were highly important in the 19th century.  The future socialites were schooled in music, languages, art and deportment.  A fluency in French was crucial for ladies who would spend months in Paris each year.  

Despite the relatively small scale of the house, the Coutans accepted out-of-town girls as boarders.  An advertisement on September 10, 1851 described "Madam A. Coutan's French and English Boarding and Day School for Young Ladies, No. 866 Broadway near Union-square."

The Broadway neighborhood around No. 866 at the time was already changing as the upscale homes were being transformed for high-end businesses like dressmakers, merchant tailors and art galleries.  Thomas Ward was aware of the trend and around 1852, when the Coutans left, he converted the ground floor to a retail shop.  Philo Cole moved his family into the upper floors and his business into the shop.

An announcement in the New-York Daily Tribune on June 13, 1853 informed customers "P. Cole has removed his stock of Dry Goods from No. 689 Broadway to No. 866 Broadway, three doors above 17th-st., where he invites his customers and the public generally to give him a call.  Our stock will comprise a full assortment of staple and fancy Dry Goods, Gentlemen's Furnishing Goods, &c."

Philo Cole was following the northward migration of his customers.  He, like the other Broadway merchants near Union Square, catered to the carriage trade and carried costly, imported goods.  An ad on September 18, 1854 announced "Just received, a large lot of Irish linens, table linen, damask napkins, blankets counterpanes, black silks, large lot of lace collars."  

The range of his stock was head-spinning.  In April 1866 he advertised not only "French skirts, newest style; also skirts made to order, of every variety;" but in a separate ad "staple and fancy dry goods, sheetings, shirtings, table linen, boys' wear, under wear, hosiery, kid gloves, mourning goods, colored and black silks, matting, druggeting and oilcloths." (Druggeting was a decorative woolen cloth mat placed under tables to protect costly carpets.)

The Coles augmented the family income by renting unused rooms.  An advertisement in May 1855 offered "Furnished rooms to let in a small family, in suits or single, with gas, hot and cold water.  Inquire of P. Cole, 866 Broadway."

It appears that Cole temporarily considered moving again in 1861.  Dr. Ward advertised "To Let--House No. 866 Broadway, or Furnished Rooms, with full or partial Board.  Will let for either a dwelling or business purposes."  But his long-term tenant seems to have changed his mind.  Four years later Cole's dry goods store was still here, advertising his newly arrive assortment of "linen sheets, bed ticks, mosquito netting, white and colored blankets, and a full assortment of housekeeping Dry Goods generally."

Nevertheless, it was about this time that Ward sold the property and Philo Cole did move on.  Soon afterward Madame Maurice moved her dressmaking establishment in.  Successful modistes were skilled designers who often employed a small staff of workers.  They followed the Paris fashions closely and almost always styled themselves as "Madame."  The best dressmakers amassed their own personal fortunes.

Madame Maurice lost her patience with one client who failed to collect an expensive gown as the summer season of 1871 began.  Her pointed announcement in The New York Herald on July 28 warned "Mrs. Howard is requested to call for her dress before the 3d August next, otherwise it will be sold to pay expenses."

At the time the ground floor of the former house next door, No. 864, had been home to A. Iauch's "French Confectionery and Restaurant" for at least four years.  By 1873 he had purchased and expanded into No. 866.  He operated, as well, the A. Iauch's Hotel and Restaurant in the fashionable summer resort of Long Branch, New Jersey.

Iauch was a member of the Swiss Benevolent Society of New York, a group of successful businessmen intent on helping their less fortunate immigrant countrymen.  On January 29, 1876 at 8:00 p.m. the group gathered for a meeting "at Mr. Iauch's, 864 and 866 Broadway."

He had ceased renting rooms in the upper floors around this time, leasing space instead to small commercial concerns.  A school for instructing apparel workers operated here in 1877, offering classes in "The Shoulder and Breast Combination French Geometric system, for drafting ladies' waists and basques.  Teaching will commence August 1.  866 Broadway."

Downstairs the patrons sipping chocolate and enjoying French pastries were mostly the feminine shoppers who visited the Broadway and Union Square shops--like Gorham Silver, Tiffany & Co. and Lord & Taylor.  In 1884 New England: A Handbook for Travelers noted that "Iauch...keeps [a] ladies' restaurant which is much frequented."

Four about two years, beginning in 1884 The New York Dramatic News and Society Journal was published here.  A subscriber paid $4 a year, or about $103 today, to get what advertisements promised were all the latest "telegrams and correspondence from every Theatre and Opera House in the United States and Europe.  Also contains notes relative to the Legitimate, Variety and Amateur Stage and Society."

A. Iausch's restaurant was gone in 1885 and the two ground floor spaces were again separated.  No. 866 became home to D. B. Bedell & Co., purveyors of expensive cut glass, fine china and similar household items.  On March 21, 1885 The Record & Guide commented on the cut glass wares "worthy of admiration" available.  "Olive trays, fruit bowls, butter tubs, with several odd designs in finger and salad bowls, are constantly being received by D. B. Bedell, 866 Broadway."

Shopping at D. B. Bedell & Co. was not an inexpensive prospect.  And Victorian decorum demanded a range of specialized plates and containers for different dishes.  Bedell's French and English porcelain, like Royal Worcester, consisted of "dinner, fish and game sets, separate plates, oyster plates, chocolate pots, single cups and saucers, salad bowls, glassware, jardinieres" as well as "flower vases, china lamps, clocks, asparagus plates and a variety of Fancy Articles."

In 1896 a decorated dinner set cost as much as $250, more than $7,500 today.  Twelve hand-painted plates were priced at $75, nearly $190 each today.

As Christmas approached that year the New-York Tribune nudged shoppers toward D. B. Bedell & Co.  "That glassware should be a favorite form of present in the glacial period of the year is a practical recognition of the 'eternal fitness of things' not always met with in the selection of gifts."  After enumerating many items in the store's "finer selection of rich cut glassware," the article added "There is a new kind of American pottery made in Ohio and of which this firm has the exclusive sale in this city.  It is artistically shaded in rich, dark green and browns, and the oddly shaped pieces have each a miniature bunch of leaves or flowers painted on them before they are glazed."

That "new kind of pottery" which the article failed to name was Rookwood, manufactured in Cincinnati.  The journalist called it "certainly exquisite, and few importations on the market to-day can equal it in beauty of colorings or in the novel shapes of bowls, vases and jugs."  It was high praise at a time when art pottery was just emerging and moneyed shoppers still look to England and Europe for high-end tableware.

The Evening Telegram, December 22, 1898 (copyright expired)

As the shopping district continued to move northward, D. B. Bedell & Co. closed its doors in 1899 and moved to No. 256 Fifth Avenue.   The store became home to Morse Brothers menswear store and, by 1903, Fuller's Detective Bureau operated from an upper floor office.  The firm was well-established, having been founded in 1876.

A distraught woman (or, most likely, her husband) visited the office in the spring of 1903 after having lost a valuable piece of jewelry.  The bureau took the case and, while the client most likely envisioned investigators scouring pawn shops, it instead placed an advertisement in the New-York Daily Tribune on May 9:

A handsome reward will be paid for following article lost in this city between Sunday, 3d, and Thursday, 7th inst.:  Pearl necklace, containing about 80 pearls, with three pearls pendant and diamond studded clasp.

The firm, headed by J. M. Fuller, remained at No. 866 for several years, marketing its expertise in 1904 as "banking, legal, commercial and private investigations; any section."  In 1908 it offered services abroad as well.  Entitling its advertisement on May 31 "A Detective," it described "Services including all legitimate civil and criminal investigations.  American and foreign agents."

By 1915 the Broadway block was no longer upscale and small manufacturing shops moved into the building.  That year the Princess Art and Embroidery Works took space, as did cloak makers Cohen, Nelson & Gussow.

In November 1921 the P. R. W. Holding Company purchased No. 866.  Its main tenant at the time was the Bay State Fibre Co., sellers of cut-rate furniture.  An advertisement in The Evening Telegram on June 16 that year offered "Reed and fibre furniture--warehouse overstock; priced at less than cost to manufacture."

The Evening World, July 6, 1921 (copyright expired)
The Bay State Fibre Co. would have to find new accommodations the following year when the New York Telephone Company took the ground floor and basement for "a branch office."

In 1923 the owners made alterations which resulted in an office (presumably to the telephone company's specifications) on the ground floor and factory space above.  At the same time a fire escape was installed outside.


The 1923 fire escape fronted the upper floors were signage attached to the facade advertised the tenants in this tax photo form the 1940's.  The Broadway Book Centre occupied the ground floor.  NYC Department of Records & Information Services.
The Union Square neighborhood suffered serious decline in the 1960's and 70's.  The park itself became dangerous and overgrown as the city teetered on the edge of bankruptcy.  In 1986 No. 866 was home to a Blimpie's restaurant which would be the scene of a horrific crime in September that year.

Neil Scott, a 20-year-old Harlem resident, was hired by the Ahluwalia family who owned the franchise restaurant in August 1986.  But his violent temper did not make for a good fit.   He had been repeatedly chastised for being both late and rude to customers.  The last straw came when he got into an argument with one of the owners, pulled out a knife and slashed him.  The wound required 13 stitches.  But rather than press charges, the family simply fired him.

The restaurant was shut down by the Health Department for code violations for a few days in September.  When it reopened on September 16 Scott appeared at around 3:25 in the afternoon.  He asked one of the owners working behind the counter for his job back.  When he was rebuffed, he pulled out a pistol and began firing.  Four of the Ahluwalia family members were hit.  Two did not survive.


By the turn of the century the Union Square neighborhood was in the midst of a renaissance.  The Parks Department had completely renovated the park and business had returned to the several formerly boarded up buildings.  In 2000 No. 866 received a make-over which resulted in a spruced-up storefront and two apartments in the upper floors.

photographs by the author

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Thomas E. Stillman Mansion - 9 East 78th Street


photo by Chauncey Primm

Thing were going very well for Brooklyn attorney Thomas E. Stillman at the turn of the last century.  Born in Manhattan in 1837, he was one of five sons of Alfred Stillman.  Now the head of the law firm Stillman & Hubbard with offices at 40 Wall Street, the 1906 Memorial Cyclopedia of the Twentieth Century would call him "one of the best known and most successful lawyers of the city."  He and his wife, the former Charlotte Elizabeth Greenman (she went by her middle name), had four daughters, twins Jessie and Helen Elizabeth, Mary Emma, and Charlotte Rogers.

The Stillmans maintained country homes in Tuxedo, New York and New London, Connecticut.  With Thomas now essentially retired in 1899, he and Elizabeth laid plans to move from Brooklyn to Manhattan.  That February Stillman purchased the 35-foot wide plot at No. 9 East 78th Street, just east of Fifth Avenue, from Stanley Mortimer.   He paid a significant $81,667 for the undeveloped lot--more than $2.5 million today.

The Stillmans commissioned architect Charles Coolidge Haight to design the residence.  His choice of the neo-Renaissance style, a favorite of Upper West Side architect Clarence True, was unusual on the east side of Central Park.  

When Haight's office released this rendering in 1899, the house was under construction.  Because both flanking lots were empty, draftsmen filled in the blanks with imaginary homes.  Architectural Record, February 1899 (copyright expired)

Completed in late in 1900, the dignified Indiana limestone mansion rose four floors over an American basement. The entrance portico, supported by paired stone Ionic columns formed a balcony at the second floor. Competing with the portico for prominence was a two-story three-sided bay capped with another carved balcony at the fourth floor.  The fifth floor took the form of a dormered mansard mostly hidden behind a stone parapet.

The interiors reflected the Stillmans’ wealth and sophistication.  The Italian Renaissance reception hall was paneled in elaborately carved Santo Domingo mahogany. Fluted columns with bronze capitals graced the entrance of the main hall, which was covered in red velvet to set off a costly collection of paintings.

A mahogany staircase with a solid bronze balustrade wound up the four floors. Red velvet within by antique metal borders graced the walls of the library.  The woodwork here was of imported Circassian walnut.

Fronting 78th Street was the French salon, decorated in the Louis XVI style. The walls were covered with a greenish-blue damask woven in Italy for the room.  A paonazza marble mantel was complimented by satinwood woodwork.  

The Louis XVI Salon -- The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 5, 1906 (copyright expired)

Connected to the salon was the music room in the newly-popular Colonial Revival style.  Here mullioned windows looked out to the inner court.  Rosewood pillars inlaid with brass led back to the main hall and a wide passageway led to the dining room–also Colonial Revival--with antique quartered oak and a beamed ceiling.

Only months after the family moved in tragedy struck.  Elizabeth Stillman died in her bedroom of pneumonia on February 20, 1901 at the age of 57.  

Living on in the house with their father were the still-unmarried Charlotte and Mary.  Both women were active in philanthropic and social causes.  They were, for instance, highly involved in the White Rose Mission, a "Christian, nonsectarian Home for Colored Girls and Women."  It had been formed in 1897 by Victoria Earle Matthews, a social reformer and former slave.  On April 13, 1902 the New-York Daily Tribune reported "Mrs. William J. Schieffelin, Mrs. Henry Howland, Miss Grace Dodge and Miss Stillman have arranged for a drawing room talk earlier in the day [of April 22] at the house of Thomas E. Stillman, No. 9 East Seventy-eighth-st., for the benefit of the White Rose Mission."

Newspapers followed the movements of Stillman and his daughters as they sailed to Europe or to their country homes.  On February 28, 1904, for instance, the New-York Tribune reported "Thomas E. Stillman, Miss Mary Stillman, Miss Charlotte Stillman...were at Tuxedo last week."

Stone carvers created intricate Renaissance panels.  photo by Alice Lum
That would be among the last of Mary's trips with her father and sister.  Her engagement to Edward S. Harkness, son of Standard Oil mogul Stephen Harkness, had been announced.  The groom was 30-years-old and Mary was about six months younger.  

Perhaps because of their ages, or because of the couple's disdain for ostentation, theirs would be a "home wedding" in the Stillman mansion.  The New-York Tribune reported on November 6, 1904 "Only relatives and close friends have been invited, but a few extra cards have been sent out for the reception which follows."

The wedding took place on November 15.  Among the "close friends" attending were the John D. Rockefellers and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s, the extended Sloane families, Augustus D. Juilliard and his wife, the Henry M. Flaglers, and William J. Schieffelin and his wife.  

Charlotte was her sister's maid of honor.  The Sun reported that the ceremony took place "amid floral decorations which were profuse and beautiful...in a drawing room hung in reseda brocade and finished in carved satin wood, resting on Italian marble."

An awning had been erected from the entrance to the curb under which a "soft carpet" was laid for the arriving guests. Policemen and detectives were posted to prevent “curious loiterers” and other detectives were inside to watch over the wedding presents of gold, silver and jewelry that were displayed on six large tables.

As Mary was in her bedroom dressing, a horse-drawn cart driven by an elderly black woman, accompanied by a small boy, pulled up at the awning.  Police rushed in to move the woman along.  Ignoring them, the she handed the reins to the boy and instructed him to move the cart down the block.  The woman marched up to the front door where a liveried servant attempted to stop her with no more success than the police had had.

Thomas Stillman came to see what the commotion was, only to recognize a former servant, “Aunt Celia,” who had helped rear the children back in Brooklyn.  When she approached old age, Stillman had bought her a farm in New Jersey and built her a comfortable house.  The old woman had no intentions of missing the wedding and had brought along two presents: a home-grown pumpkin, which she claimed was the largest in New Jersey, and a barrel of red apples.

Like a cherished, long-lost member of the family, Aunt Celia was ushered upstairs to Mary’s room where she watched the bride dress in her white chiffon gown.  She then followed closely along as the wealthy socialites filed into the drawing room for the ceremony, where she wept “after the fashion of old people on joyous marriage occasions,” according to The New York Times.

After the wedding, the aged black woman noticed that a place of honor had been made on one of the gift tables for her offerings.  Items like silver candelabra and gold spoons had been moved aside for the great orange pumpkin and the red apples.  The New York Times reported that “not a guest passed out of the house without taking a last look into this most picturesque array of wedding gifts that ever decorated a fashionable New Yorker’s home.”

Charlotte and her father continued their social routine, sometimes joined by one or more of the married sisters.  On February 12, 1905, for instance the New-York Tribune noted that "Thomas E. Stillman and his daughters, Mrs. William Ambrose Taylor [Jessie] and Miss Charlotte R. Stillman, were also passengers on the Deutschland.  They will join Mr. and Mrs. Edward S. Harkness in March.  The Stillmans will spend the summer at their New-London place."

The following summer Thomas and Charlotte were in Europe.  They completed what The Times called "an extensive automobile tour of Switzerland and Italy, before returning to Paris.  On July 19, 1906 the newspaper reported, "Thomas E. Stillman, the well-known New York lawyer, accompanied by his daughter, Charlotte; his granddaughter Elizabeth, and a party of friends...started from Paris at 10 o'clock yesterday for Lisieux in an automobile driven by an Italian chauffeur named Carsughie."

The group had gone 200 miles when they stopped for lunch.  Shortly afterward, a horrific incident occurred.  According to the chauffeur, he was suddenly "overcome by an attack of vertigo and was temporarily blinded."   The New York Times said "The automobile rushed forward unguided" at a high rate of speed, before smashing into a heavy miller's wagon.  In the car was Charlotte; the attorney’s granddaughter, Elizabeth; Andrew Carnegie’s niece; and other friends.

The car, which flipped over, was demolished and Stillman was thrown into the road. He never recovered from his injuries, dying in a French hospital two months later.  A little over two weeks afterward the funeral was held in drawing room of No. 9 East 78th Street.  On September 26 The New York Times remarked "Many well-known lawyers and business men of the city attended the services."

Still unmarried, Charlotte remained in the house.  She continued to occupy the Tuxedo and New London homes; but often traveled with the Harknesses, as well.  They were frequent guests at Charlotte's homes, and she at theirs.

Charlotte was at the Connecticut estate in 1908 when she fell seriously ill.  On June 22 the New-York Tribune reported "Mrs. William Armstrong is in New London, where she has been called by the illness of her sister, Miss Charlotte Stillman, who has typhoid fever."  Two months later, on August 27, the newspaper noted "Mr. and Mrs. Edward S. Harkness have returned to New London, Conn., from Lenox, where they have been with Mrs. Harkness's sister, Miss Charlotte Stillman, who is recovering from a long and serious sickness."

It was no doubt her medical condition which prompted Charlotte to take an apartment at the Devon on West 55th Street for the following winter season.  That she would not return to the East 78th Street mansion seemed evident when the house house was leased to the multi-millionaire Stephen C. Clark "for a term of years" in December 1910.

Following the expiration of Clark's lease, the house was rented to William T. Hyde who, as reported in the Real Estate Record & Guide "recently sold his expensive residence at 11 East 70th st., just east of the new H. C. Frick residence."  Living in the Stillman mansion was an expensive prospect.  Rent on the 10-year lease was $10,000 per year; or about $260,000 today.

As it turned out Hyde stayed only about five years.  In 1919 the Stillman estate sold the house to Edward Daniels Faulkner, wealthy owner of the upholstery firm of Johnson & Faulkner.  Before he and his wife, the former Marianne Gaillard, moved in, the French jeweler Pierre Cartier leased the house for the winter season.

Edward and Marianne had married in 1885.  Their summer home, Pinecroft, was at Woodstock, Vermont.  Like Edward and Mary Harkness, the couple enjoyed using their massive wealth for the benefit of others rather than for show.

Edward Daniels died in September 1926, leaving an estate of more than $6 million.  The Sun called his will "one of the most unusual" on record."  He divided the ownership of his firm--valued at about $2 million--among his employees, "who served me long and faithfully."

Marianne received $3 million outright (more than $42 million today), and another $1 million was set aside "for the establishment of a fund for the study, treatment, alleviation and cure of arthritis, to be known as 'The Faulkner Fund for the Cure of Arthritis.'"

The widowed Marianne spent less time in Manhattan, preferring Pinecroft.  She not only established the Edward D. Faulkner Clinic, but the Faulkner Trust to aid Woodstock residents in need, the Woodstock Recreation Center, and funded the Faulkner House at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital in Hanover, New Hampshire.  An endowment to the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center is still active.

In 1946, after Marianne sold the 78th Street house, it was converted to three apartments per floor.  The mansard was remodeled as a rather featureless blank-faced penthouse level.  That level contained three apartments as well.

The following September the showrooms of V'Soske, Inc. opened here.   The decorator shop featured the hand-woven carpeting of designer Stanislav V'Soske.

Perhaps the most celebrated of the tenants of No. 9 East 78th Street over then next decades was noted sculptor Elizabeth Richard.  Her apartment and studio were here in 1953 when she became engaged to Franz Matsch, Austrian Consul General.


The exterior appearance of the original four floors of the Stillman house is remarkably unchanged. Despite the architecturally regrettable penthouse, the residence retains its architectural dignity.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The 1897 Richard S. Barnes Mansion - 316 West 75th Street



Despite being one of ten children, Richard Storrs Barnes enjoyed a privileged upbringing.  Born in 1854 in Brooklyn, his father, Alfred Smith Barnes, was the principal in the leading textbook publishing house in the nation, A. S. Barnes & Co.  Richard was educated at the Gunnery School in Washington, Connecticut; the Williston Seminary in East Hampton, Massachusetts; and finally at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.

He initially entered his father's business, moving to Chicago to manage that branch of the firm.  In 1880 he married Hattie Day Barbour of Harford.  Around the time of his father's death in 1888 he returned to New York; Richard's brother, Alfred C. Barnes took over the family business.

While Richard remained a director in the company (which grew into the conglomerate American Book Company); he branched out into myriad professional interests.  He became treasurer of Braunworth & Co., printers, and secretary and treasurer of the Barnes Real Estate Association.  He invested heavily in mining and was treasurer of the Automatic Fire Alarm Company.

Richard and Hattie had three children, Goodrich (who tragically died at the age of 12), Hattie Louise and Roderic Barbour Barnes.  Their Washington, Connecticut country home, Westlawn, was a sprawling Queen Anne-style riot of gables and porches and chimneys.

Westlawn's many angles assured that the slightest breezes were captured.  photo via the Gunn Historical Museum
In 1895 ground was broken for the Barnes's new city home at No 316 West 75th Street, just steps from Riverside Drive.  Richard had hired one of Manhattan's premier mansion architects, C. P. H. Gilbert, to design a 38-foot wide residence--nearly double the width of a standard home.  Construction took two years and resulted in an impressive five-story residence faced in cream-colored Roman brick and trimmed in limestone.

Gilbert splashed his Renaissance Revival design with Beaux Arts touches--like torches, swags and lions' heads above the fourth floor openings, and the eye-catching oculus over the service entrance.  While other architects strove to downplay doorways where deliverymen and servants came and went, Gilbert fronted this one with grand iron gates and carved Renaissance style gateposts and lavished its round window with cornucopia.

Sadly abused as a repository for trash today, the service entrance was given grand treatment by C. P. H. Gilbert.  Note the individualized carvings of the gate posts.
The second floor featured tall French windows with balconettes.  The center opening of the rounded bay wore an elaborate stone hood, the tympanum of which overflowed with foliate carvings and a crest.  (Close inspection reveals a dog standing proudly above that crest.)  The bay provided a stone-balustraded balcony to the fourth floor.  A stone cornice supported by foliate brackets completed the design.

The Barnes family proudly displayed an American flag from the balcony of their new home.  Architectural Record 1899
The Barnes family's upscale lifestyle was reflected in Richard's entering steeds in the fashionable New York Horse Show, in his memberships in the New England Society of New York, the Metropolitan Club and the Down Town Association. 

The names of Manhattan's wealthy routinely appeared in print as they boarded steamships headed to Europe.  But that was not the case when Richard and Hattie climbed aboard the Hamburg-American vessel Moltke on January 10, 1903.  They were embarking on a pleasure cruise--a forerunner of today's popular ocean cruises.  The New-York Tribune reported the ship would visit the principal islands in the West Indies and Nassau.  The ports of call would be familiar to vacationers taking a cruise today--St. Thomas, San Juan, Kingston, Jamaica and Nassau among others.

Richard Storrs Barnes - photo via the Gunn Historical Museum

On September 17, 1904 Richard and Hattie announced the engagement of Hattie Louise to Alfred Severin Bourne.  The New-York Tribune noted as well, "Mr. and Mrs. Barnes, whose country home is Westlawn, Washington, Conn., spent the early part of the summer in Europe."  While Bourne's family was immensely wealthy (the newspaper called their Oakdale home "one of the finest country places in Long Island"), there were indications that the young man was a bit of a playboy. 

The 21-year old groom-to-be had inherited $1 million from his godfather, Corman Clark, that year and another half million on the interest that had accumulated on the fund prior to his coming of age.  The New-York Tribune put a positive spin on his dropping out of school by saying "He entered Yale about a year ago, but preferred a business career."

Hattie Louise had debuted into society the previous winter.  In the summer of 1904 Alfred's parents celebrated his "coming of age" at Oakdale with events that rivaled the most lavish of debutante entertainments.  The Sun commented "There were luncheons, dinners and dances ashore and afloat."

The wedding took place in the West End Collegiate Church on West End Avenue just two blocks north of the Barnes residence the following spring.  The social importance of the event was evidenced by the guest list.  The New-York Tribune reported on April 17, 1905, "Some of those invited to the wedding were President and Mrs. Roosevelt, Admiral and Mrs. George Dewey, Rear Admiral and Mrs. W. S. Schley, Bishop and Mrs. Potter, General and Mrs. Stewart L. Woodford, Mr. and Mrs. W. Bayard Cutting, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Bliss and Mrs. W. S. P. Prentice."  The reception took place in the 75th Street mansion.

Roderic married Rose Marie Naething six years later, in September 1911, in the fashionable Church of the Heavenly Rest on Fifth Avenue.  Roderic would go on to a promising career as an architect.

Rose Barnes on her wedding day. New-York Tribune September 17, 1911 (copyright expired) 

On Christmas Day, 1913, Richard Storrs Barnes died in the 75th Street house at the age of 59.  The Bookseller estimated his estate to be "at least $500,000."  That amount would approach $13 million today.

Hattie remained in the residence and following her period of mourning resumed her social activities.  Her name appeared in society columns as she visited fashionable watering holes like the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Perhaps the most unusual gathering which she hosted in the residence occurred in the spring of 1917.  The highly-popular evangelist Billy Sunday was in town and on May 17 he enthralled a crowd of 18,000 with his unorthodox retelling of the story of how Jesus reformed the tax collector Zaccheus.  According to The Sun's report, he said in part:

There were a lot of the old guys discussin' Jesus--and they were mostly leaving the dis off--and Zaccheus, who was a rich gazabo of a Jew, wanted to get a good look at Him, so he shinnied up a tree.  Well, when Jesus passed right under the three old Zac slid down and Jesus said to him: 'This day I'll abide at thy house.'  He didn't even wait for Zaccheus to invite Him.  He just said He'd come on over for dinner with him."

The reverend paused to consider the wife of Zaccheus.  "Gee, I'll bet she was a fine kind of woman not to mind havin' all that bunch drop in on her just at dinner time and nothing to eat but some canned goods."


But before that gargantuan event, the preacher had been at the Barnes house.  "In the morning Billy delivered a short talk before 300 women and a few men in the home of Mrs. Richard S. Barnes, 316 West Seventy-fifth street.  Following the evangelist Mrs. Sunday said a few words."

Hattie became involved with the Women's American Oriental Club of New York City.  It was founded in April 1915 "to promote friendliness and mutual understanding between women of the Orient and women of America."  By 1920 she was its president.

Although heavily abused, the carved newels still stand guard.
In the meantime, Hattie Louise's husband's playboy ways had caught up with him and landed the family name in scandalous newspaper reports.  The New-York Tribune's article on December 29, 1918 started out complimentary enough.  "Mr. Bourne is a member of the New York Yacht Club, St. Anthony Club and the National Golf Links.  His father, Frederick G. Bourne, formerly commodore of the New York Yacht Club, is one of the best known yachtsmen in the United States."

But then the article got to the juicier parts.  Bourne had been carrying on a relationship with Grace B. Clark, who freely visited the best shops of Manhattan, charging her purchases to Bourne.  The illicit affair became public when Grace's bill with the dressing making house of Hickson, Inc., became inordinate--approaching half a million in today's dollars.

Pressed for payment, Bourne made a deal to pay $500 a month.  But then he stopped payments with a balance of $11,199 still due.  Hickson, Inc. sued, Bourne did not attempt to defend himself, and the newspapers eagerly printed the shocking story.

Hattie Barnes was 64-years old when she sold No. 316 to the H. M. C. Realty Company, Inc. in 1924.  The handsome mansion she and her husband had built more than a quarter of a century earlier was converted to "non-housekeeping apartments," meaning they had no kitchens.

The building had few notable tenants.  In the 1940's bandleader Jimmy Victor lived here.  His advertisement in Billboard magazine in October 1948 announced "Now arranging 1949 indoor and outdoor dates, Jimmy Victor's Show Band."

In the 1950's an apartment here was used as the headquarters for the New York Regional Advisory Board of the Society of St. Dismas.  The group described its goal as "to aid imprisoned and released prisoners."  To that end it furnished reading material to penal institutions and aided released prisoners to find employment and homes.

Gay activist Brenda Howard lived in the building in 1972 when she was arrested on June 7.  Firefighter Michael Maye was accused of beating a member of the Gay Activist Alliance on April 15 that year.   Before his court hearing, she and two other activists created that The New York Times called "a disturbance" in the courtroom.  Apparently Brenda was less combative than her companions.  While her charges were later dismissed, the other two were held to stand trial on charges of "assault, resisting arrest, harassment and obstructing government administration."



The former elegance of the Barnes mansion manages to triumph over window air conditioners, a commercial-style doorway, and decades of dirt. 

photographs by the author

The Lost Thompson's Restaurant - 33 Park Row



With the restaurant's name emblazoned four times (one in terra cotta and one in electric bulbs) patrons seeking out the "beanery" could not miss it.  from the collection of the New York Public Library

On October 28, 1912 the Syracuse Journal ran the headline "'Sinkers' Meehan, Noted New York Lunchman, Dead."  The article began saying "Over the door of one of the most famous restaurants in this city there was posted to-day a sign which read: 'Closed in consequence of the death of John T. Meehan."  That the news would be of interest so far upstate was not surprising.  He ran the venerable Dolan's Coffee and Lunch Room" at 33 Park Row, founded by his uncle Patrick Dolan.

Dolan's was famous as a "beef and" restaurant.  Its menu offered downtown businessmen items like corned beef, boiled ham, pork and beans, pickled tongue and oyster pie.  The Syracuse Journal noted that the cafe had drawn "everybody worth while, from P. T. Barnum and Horace Greeley clear down to the very youngest of the judges of the highest courts sitting to-day."

On January 21, 1913 the New-York Tribune reported that Francis Husted had purchased No. 33 Park Row, "the ground floor of which is occupied by Dolan's famous 'beef and' restaurant, run by 'Johnny' Meehan, who died recently."  Husted paid the equivalent of $4.85 million today for the valuable downtown property.

Three months later The Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide announced that Chicago restaurateur John R. Thompson had signed a 21-year least on the property with two 21-year renewal options.  The article noted "Mr. Thompson, who conducts four restaurant and lunch places in this city, three on Broadway and one in Grand Central Station, will erect a three-story building there for his exclusive use."

The indefatigable Thompson had started in the restaurant business in 1891 at the age of 26.  By the time he leased the Park Row property his chain of self-service lunchrooms totaled 68.   His operations were aimed at providing office workers with nutritious food in clean surroundings at low prices.  And fast.

There were no waiters in Thompson's Restaurants.  Customers purchased foods like cold corned beef, cold boiled ham, smoked boiled tongue or hot frankfurters (a menu strikingly similar to Dolan's) at a counter.  They then took their trays to "one arm" chairs lined up along the wall.  There were no tables; instead customers ate at what was similar to turn-of-the-century school desks.


An interior view of a similar "one arm" restaurant shows the desk-like chairs, counter and self-service coffee urn.  original source unknown

In May 1913 Chicago-based architect H. R. Wilson filed plans for the new structure.  The American Architect placed the projected construction cost at $100,000--just over $2.5 million today.   The completed structure was clad in white terra cotta.   Steel framing allowed for vast expanses of glass.  The first and second floor openings were framed by a single continuous foliate sheaf, echoed at the third floor.  The cornice took the form of a deeply-overhanging sloped terra cotta roof.
Interestingly, this shot appears to have been taken only seconds before or after the photo at the beginning of this article. photo by Wurts Bros. from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York 
While office workers came and went, gulping down pie and coffee, Thompson continued his colorful lifestyle and sometimes controversial business dealings.  

On March 8, 1914 The Sun reported that "John R. Thompson, millionaire restaurant owner" had wired the president of the National League "an offer to buy the Chicago Cubs" the day before.  Thompson told reporters that he and his associates "mean business and are ready to pay any reasonable price."

Thompson's self interest clashed with patriotic efforts in 1918.  On January 26 that year President Woodrow Wilson, in an effort to conserve food for the war effort, called for one meatless day, two wheatless days and two porkless days each week.   Thompson refused to comply.


Americans, for the most part, embraced the restrictions to aid the war effort.
While the New York restaurants (Thompson added a fifth Broadway location in 1915) seem to have been unaffected; such was not the case in Birmingham, Alabama.   On May 24, according to The Sun, "The Thompson restaurant, operated by John R. Thompson, Incorporated, of Chicago, was practically wrecked this afternoon by a crowd of angry citizens because, it is said, the company refused yesterday to join other city restaurants in voluntarily eliminating wheat products."

The manager was chased down the street by the crowd until he found refuge in a police station.  Angry protesters carried placards that read "For Germans Only," "The Kaiser's Restaurant" and "German Cafe."

From 1917 through 1918, sugar was heavily rationed and the shortage extended for several years afterward.   Thompson took matters into his own hands.  On May 27, 1920 it was reported "John R. Thompson, millionaire owner of a string of 'one-armed' restaurants, will sail from New York Saturday for Czecho-Slovakia, where he will buy 10,000,000 crowns' worth of sugar to prevent further shortages for his restaurants."

But none of that sugar would arrive at No. 33 Park Row.  The following year Thompson's Restaurant was gone and small real estate offices had taken over the building.  The situation remained as such for years, joined by 1927 by the Yale Land Company.   In June 1941 the agents of the American Export Lines opened offices here.

Around 1949 the building was home to by City Hall Hardware Shop.  Shelves of paint cans, displays of shovels and drills, and drawers of nuts, nails and bolts filled the space where patrons had grabbed a corned beef sandwich and cup of coffee.


City Hall Hardware Shop's display spilled onto the sidewalk at mid-century.  photo via NYC Department of Records & Information Services
In 1971 newlyweds Joe and Rachel Friedman leased the basement of No. 33 where, originally, they opened an audio hardware store selling mostly Panasonic and Sony components.  Before long they branched out into vinyl records, and soon their J & R Music World record store took over the operation.   

Upstairs was a restaurant, the Chew and Chat.  Unlike Thompson's, it struggled with cleanliness.  Closed down for health violations early in 1976, it reopened in February that year.

By 1982 J & R Music World had engulfed the entire building.  The basement held classical records and the first floor was entirely opera.  The top floor was dedicated to jazz where, according to Billboard magazine on May 22, 1982, 15,000 different jazz titles were housed.


The Park Row block front was a visual cacophony of garish signage in the late 1970's.  original source unknown

J & R Music World had four locations in 1996, leasing the entire Park Row block front from No. 1 to No. 34 Park Row.  No. 33 Park Row was now "the classical outlet," according to Billboard on June 15 that year.   Amazingly, H. R. Wilson's 1913 terra cotta facade was still greatly intact.

Shocking its landlord, the Steinberg family, J & R announced in 2013 that it wanted to end its lease.  The J & R store at No. 1 Park Row was the first to close, in April 2014.

On May 10, 2018 Tim McKeough, writing in The New York Times, announced that London-based architect Richard Rogers had designed a 25-story, 31-unit condo building on the corner site which included No. 33 Park Row.   The architectural medley of little buildings on the site , including the terra-cotta clad Thompson restaurant, are now gone.


A rendering of the building, incomplete at this writing, was released by Nöe & Associates in 2018.  via New York Times May 10, 2018