Friday, April 29, 2016

"The Studio Building" -- No. 71 East 77th Street



A copper Tudor style cap originally crowned the corner tower.

In the early 1890s East 77th Street, between Madison and Park Avenues, was lined with narrow brownstone-fronted rowhouses.  The 18-foot wide, three story house at No. 71, built in 1877, was now home to architect Alexander Bing, partner with his brother in Bing & Bing.

But with the new century, the upscale tone of nearby Fifth Avenue spilled down the side streets and wealthy New Yorkers remodeled old townhouses into modern upscale residences.  At the same time another trend was sweeping Manhattan—cooperative artists’ studio buildings.  Throughout the city structures were being designed with artists in mind.  Vast, double-height windows offered northern light for the studios; while comfortable living spaces often sat to the rear.

In 1927 a group of investors joined the movement when they demolished the two brownstones and a carriage house at Nos. 69 through 73 East 77th Street, including the old Alexander Bing house.  They hired the architectural firm of Caughey & Evans to design a ten-story apartment building on the site.   In the 1920s an architectural rage swept the country, resulting in entire communities of quaint and romantic neo-Tudor cottages, apartment houses, and civic buildings.  The Studio Building at No. 71 East 77th Street would follow the trend.

The architects produced a charming concoction faced in variegated brick trimmed in limestone.  The three-story base featured diamond-patterned brick diapering, square-headed drip moldings, and openings framed in stone quoins and inset quatrefoil panels.  The upper floors followed the studio pattern, with double-height windows—with diamond panes—flanked by single-height residential spaces.  A crenellated parapet and Tudor-capped corner tower completed the romantic design.


The Studio Building was successful even before the doors were opened.  On June 13, 1928 The New York Times reported that Mrs. James MacKenzie took space “in the Studio Building under construction at 71 East Seventh-seventh Street.”  And three months later Douglas L. Elliman, the leasing agent, reported that 50 percent of the building, “nearing completion,” was rented.  The firm boasted “Most of the suites have three exposures, not often found in apartments designed on an inside plot.”

The name of the new structure did not last long.  Instead of artists—who may have been put off by the southern exposure rather than the sought-after northern light—moneyed businessmen and their families moved in.  Like most of the higher-end apartment buildings on the East Side, The Studio Building quickly used only its address as its identifier.
Among the first of the residents were wealthy widow Hildreth Sisson Riddle and her daughter, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth, who had attended the private Wheeler School in Providence, was introduced to society in 1928.  Shortly thereafter, on January 5, 1929, Hildreth announced her engagement to John Ashley Merriman.

The wedding took place on June 8, 1929 at Laurimore, the summer estate of Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle.  With her daughter gone on her honeymoon, Hildreth left the city as well.   Two weeks after the ceremony, on July 25, she gave a “farewell luncheon” at the Casino in Central Park.  Society columns noted that Hildreth was sailing on the Roma to Europe.

The newlyweds made their home in Great Neck, Long Island; and it is probably no coincidence that upon her return from Europe in the spring of 1930 Hildreth “bought an English type house on Mitchell Drive in Kennilworth, Kings Point, Great Neck,” according to The Times on April 19.

In the meantime, newspapers followed the comings and goings of other residents.  In March 1929 Paul Marcy White returned from his honeymoon with his bride, the former Ann O’Gorman.  Ann was the daughter of former New York Senator James Aloysius. O’Gorman.

And on October 8, 1931 Victor and Emily House returned to their apartment here after summering in Europe.  Victor was a partner in the law firm House, Hothusen & McCloskey and the couple kept newspaper columnists busy following their widespread and frequent travels—wintering in Hollywood, Florida and summering in Vermont in 1932, for instance.  Between those trips, Emily took time to give birth to a daughter on Saturday, July 23 in the city.

When at No. 71 the Houses continued their busy social schedule.  In December that year they hosted a dinner for Mr. and Mrs. Lucien Courtois of Tours, France, for instance. 

On September 17, 1933 The New York Times reported that Victor and Emily had returned to No. 71 “from a motor trip through the White Mountains of Canada.”  They would stay long enough for the birth of another daughter on June 27, the following year.

Another highly-respected couple living at No. 71 East 77th Street were retired U.S. Navy Captain George Earl Gelm and his wife, the former Marjorie Hempstead Cook.   Through her mother, Marjorie was descended from Sir Robert Hempstead, a founder of Hempstead, Long Island.  The couple was married in 1898.

George had also served as editor of The Naval Observer.  He earned the Navy Cross, the Victory Medal with citations, and the campaign medals for service in the Spanish-American War and in the Philippines.  Upon his retirement in 1928 the Gelms settled in New York.

By the late 1930s Marjorie’s health was failing.  After an extended illness she died on April 28, 1941.  George Gelm remained in the apartment until his death on March 19, 1944.

Of a less distinguished pedigree but equally moneyed was Gloria Mead, wife of prize fight manager Eddie Mead.  Gloria held a New Year’s Eve party in 1941.  Guests in Upper East Side New Year’s parties would be expected to arrive bedecked with diamonds, furs and expensive jewelry.  Gloria’s party was no exception.  It was interrupted by three gunmen who, after terrorizing the guests, made off with $25,000 in jewelry and apparel.

Other distinguished residents included bachelor Dr. William Harris, a pioneer and specialist in radiology.  His summer home was in Poundridge, New York.  Through his travels in Europe in the 1920s, he learned the treatment of x-ray therapy for fighting cancer of the larynx and brought the process back to America.  It became his specialty.  Another esteemed physician in the building was Harvard Medical School-educated Dr. Lucius Albert.  He was attending surgeon at the Metropolitan Hospital and Consulting Surgeon at the Northern Dispensary, as well as Assistant Professor of Surgery in the New York Post Graduate Medical School.

The irregular configuration of the apartments is hinted at by the double-height diamond-paned studio windows and the smaller openings along the sides.
At mid-century banker Oliver Wolcott Roosevelt and his wife, the former Verdery Akin McMichael, lived in a fourth floor apartment here.  A cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, Oliver was First Vice President of the Dry Dock Savings Institution and deemed by The New York Times as “prominent in banking and savings circles.”

The 60-year old was the victim of a bizarre accident on July 14, 1953 which nearly cost him his life.  At around 8:20 that night, according to Verdery, he was passing by a window as he walked from the bedroom to another room, and simply fell out of it.  The courtyard where he landed was below ground level, making his fell a full five stories.  The Times said ‘He struck a metal guard rail, partially demolishing it, but his glasses were not broken.”  Oliver Roosevelt did not fare as well as his glasses.  Critically injured, he was taken to Roosevelt Hospital with severe body injuries.

Throughout the rest of the century the apartment building would continue to house prominent residents.  Theatrical and literary agent Mark Hanna lived here until his death on August 15, 1958.  He had been the personal agent of Helen Hayes and throughout his career represented writers, actors and musicians such as John O’Hara, Benny Goodman, Gypsy Rose Lee, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Dorothy Kilgallen.

Among the only artists—if not the only one—to live in the building constructed with artists in mind was the highly-acclaimed Hobart Nichols.  His landscapes were acquired by many American collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and he was for a decade President of the National Academy of Design and of the Salmagundi Club from 1922 to 1924.  He died in his apartment here on August 14, 1962 at the age of 93.


Tucked away on a block which is an architectural cornucopia of dates and styles, No. 71 East 77th Street survives unchanged.

photographs by the author

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The 1858 No. 113 Chambers Street





When Sarah Lloyd Broome married wealthy merchant James Boggs she was already 31 years old.  The couple moved into a fashionable home at No. 113 Chambers Street.  During their 27-year marriage they would have seven children.   The first three died in infancy; but the others survived, Mary Rebecca, John Broome, James Samuel, and Julia.  Like most wealthy Manhattan families, they had a country estate, Chevilly, which they purchased in 1821.

Mary’s wedding to banker Richard Ray took place in the Chambers Street house in 1832.  They moved to an elegant home at No. 3 University Place.  (Her sister, Julia, and brother-in-law, Lewis Howard Livingston, would live next door at No. 5 University Place.)

Two years later, in 1834, James Boggs died in the Chamber Street home of stomach ulcers.

In 1836 Mary and Richard took their two infant daughters to Europe.  There, on March 21, Richard Ray died suddenly.  Mary had already received a substantial inheritance from her father, including $16,000 in cash (a little less than half a million in 2015 dollars).  Now she inherited her husband’s properties, including buildings on Pearl Street, Water Street, Chambers Street, and 20 undeveloped lots between Eighth and Eleventh Avenues.

Following Sarah Lloyd Broome Boggs death in 1849 in No. 113 Chambers Street, Mary Rebecca Ray inherited the family home.  The property stretched through to Reade Street where the private stable stood. 

According to Barbara Broome Semans and Letitie Broome in their 2009 John Broome and Rebecca Lloyd: Their Descendants and Related Families, “Mary R. Ray evidently had difficulty in settling Sarah Boggs’s estate.”  Nine years after her mother’s death, Mary was still grappling with legal entanglements.  In the meantime, she leased the house and stable to nurserymen Wm. R. Prince & Co.  On March 18, 1854 they advertised “a most superior collection of large sized Fruit and Ornamental Streets &c., at reduced prices.”

In 1857 Mary had the Chambers Street house and stables demolished and began work on a store and loft building.  The resultant structure, completed in 1858, was similar to the other modern structures transforming the neighborhood.

The matching Chambers Street and Reade Street facades were Italianate in style.  Clad in stone above the store level, they featured mitered quoins; deep, shelf-like lintels on brackets; and cast iron cornices flanked by hefty console brackets.

The tall ground floor on both sides was fronted in cast iron.  The fluted columns and capitals were chosen from the catalog of foundry of Badger’s Architectural Iron Works.

Most of the firms leasing in the building were related to the cutlery and hardware business.  Among the hardware dealers were Graham & Haines, W. F. Shattuck & Co., the Livingston Horse Nail Company, and Marcus C. Hawley & Co.  Cutlery merchants included Broch & Koch and the Electric Cutlery Company. 

Edward Phelan was the only surviving partner of W. F. Shattuck & Co. in 1876.  He left the building at around 6:00 Wednesday evening, March 25, headed for his home in Brooklyn.  But first he stopped at Sweeney’s Hotel at the corner of Chatham and Duane Streets to meet with his bookkeeper, P. S. Biglin.

Phelan, described by friends as “a gentleman of spotless reputation,” never made it home that night; and the following day he did not appear at his office.  At around 4:00 that afternoon a body was seen in the East River at the foot of Corlears Street.  He was identified as Edward Phelan by the gold Masonic keystone that bore his name and the lodge and chapter to which he belonged.

The New York Times reported “Suspicion that the deceased met with foul play is entertained by his friends, there being marks of violence on his face.”  His missing pocketbook added to that theory.  “As his affairs were in a prosperous condition, the idea that he committed suicide is scouted,” said the newspaper.

By the late 1880s John H. Graham had taken control of Graham & Haines; renaming it John H. Graham & Co. The high esteem in which he was held among the hardware merchants was evidenced on August 6, 1889.  That afternoon, during a “well-attended meeting of hardware men” in the Hardware Board of Trade he was unanimously nominated to represent “hardware and kindred trades” on Mayor Hugh J. Grant’s committee that would represent New York at the Paris World’s Exposition.

In the building at the time was the Berkeley Arms Company, which employed John C. Smart at $50 a week.  Smart lived with his wife, Amy, and teen-aged daughter, Madeline, in Harlem at No. 278 West 118th Street.  His unhappy domestic relations would bring about unwanted publicity for his employer.

In the summer of 1893 Smart stormed out of the 118th Street house and did not return.  On August 5 he faced a judge after Amy sued him for “cruelty and abandonment.”  Smart defended himself, saying “his wife’s temper and petty persecutions drove him from home.”  To illustrate his point, he told of one occasion when she hid his dress suit from him, and that “neither coercion nor cajolery” could induce her to tell him where she hid it.

By the time the Smarts’ sorrowful home life was being aired in the newspapers, John H. Graham had diversified into the rabidly popular bicycle fad.   Cycling had swept the nation and Graham now offered bicycle accessories along with hardware.   During the New-York Cycle Show in Madison Square Garden in January 1895 he exhibited the “Midget” bicycle bell.  He told reporters it was “the most satisfactory bell on the market.  The ‘Midget’ weights but three ounces, and has a clear and piercing tone.”

Surprisingly, while the cast iron column capitals have been lost, interior shutters at the second floor survive.

As the century drew to a close No. 113 Chambers Street continued to house cutlery and hardware firms.  Am Gas Engine Co., sold gas engines as did the Clerk Gas Engine Co; George B. Edwards dealt in “gas and oil stoves;” and Frank B. Hedenberg sold “weather strips, etc.”  

But John H. Graham & Co. would be the building’s most veteran tenant, remaining here until the early 1940s when it relocated to No. Duane Street.  The vast array of items the company offered included not only bicycle accessories and hardware, but automobile accessories (like lamps), horse clippers, tea bells, ice skates, cherry stoners, and manure forks.

In the 1920s the tenant list became more varied.  The American Grinder Manufacturing Co.; hinge manufacturers Lawrence Brothers; and Riker-Spiegelmann & Co., were relatively new occupants.

In 1921 scandal arrived at No. 113 Chambers Street.  Thomas K. Gibbons, Vice President of Riker-Spiegelmann & Co., was 24 years old, successful and wealthy.  In July that year he met Virginia Lee Dickens, whom the New-York Tribune described as “twenty and pretty and hopes to become an actress.”

Ten days later, according to Virginia, Gibbons proposed marriage.  When she declined, he proposed three or four more times until she finally accepted.

Virginia told reporters later than she came from a respected and wealthy Baltimore family and had graduated from a college “which bears a high reputation.”  Since childhood she had exhibited a talent for acting through society plays in Baltimore.  She came to New York to begin her stage career “with her parents’ consent,” and had only been here a month before meeting Gibbons.

Now, on November 22, 1921 The New York Times reported that Virginia, whose stage name was Jerry Dickens “has just learned that he has a wife.”   The Tribune added that “She has suffered about $100,000 worth in consequence, she estimates.”  That was amount of the suit she filed against her suitor.

The New-York Tribune noted that Thomas Gibbons “says the suit is a joke and that he never proposed to Miss Dickens.  He is married, but is not living with his wife.”

Gibbons’s unflattering publicity for ruining Virginia Lee Dickens’s reputation was nothing compared to the problems he encountered five months later.   On April 20, 1922 he appeared before Judge Talley in General Sessions court to answer to charges of assault on a police officer.

Patrolman James J. Shanley had attempted to arrest Gibbons.  It ended with the officer suffering a broken jaw.  “The policeman thinks he was hit with a jimmy,” explained The Evening World the following day.

Thomas K. Gibbons would not be going back to his office at No. 113 Chambers Street for quite a while.  The judge sentenced him to three years, saying “I cannot allow policemen who are endangering their lives to feel that a man who attacks them can go unpunished.  I could send you to State’s Prison.  You have no police record.  I will send you to the penitentiary.”


By the third quarter of the century the venerable loft buildings in Tribeca found new lives as galleries, cafes and shops.  In 1991 the upper floors of No. 113 Chambers were converted to two spacious apartments per floor.   Today the cast iron storefronts on both sides survive; although their once-elaborate capitals have broken off.  Above, the nearly 150-year old stone facades are intact; relics of a time of significant change on Chambers Street.

 photographs by the author

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mansions for Sisters -- Nos. 109 and 111 East 79th Street





In 1900 retired banker Arthur T. J. Rice had lived in the 20-foot wide brownstone rowhouse at No. 109 East 79th Street for several years.  Rice had been associated with the Broadway National Bank for 45 years, having joined the institution as a clerk at the age of 18.

Retirement did not slow down Arthur Rice.  The New York Times remarked on August 30, 1900 “Mr. Rice, who, although sixty-five years old, was fond of salt-water bathing and could swim quite well.”  He had left the 79th Street house around 2:00 the previous afternoon “for the purpose of refreshing himself by an ocean bath.”

Hours later Frances Rice and their son, Arthur J. Rice, waited dinner for the banker.  A knock on the door brought tragic news.  At around 5:00 Arthur Rice had entered the ocean at Brighton Beach.  He did not venture far out, staying within the life lines where the water was only about five feet deep.

But a rogue wave smashed into Rice, dislodging his false teeth.  He was knocked under the water.  Beachgoers saw him go under; but thought he was simply “taking a duck.”  When he did not emerge, rescuers flew into action.  Unfortunately, they were too late.  Arthur Rice’s false teeth had become lodged in his throat and he choked to death.

Frances Rice remained in the aging house for about eight years.  She sold it in December 1908 to Edith T. Martin; the Real Estate Record & Guide reporting “the buyer will erect an American basement dwelling on the lot.”  Simultaneously, Edith’s sister, Alice Martin McCoon, purchased the identical house next door at No. 109.

Two years earlier, on December 9, 1906, James Henry McCoon had died “very suddenly” of pneumonia in his home at No. 45 West 48th Street.  Now Alice Martin McCoon and Edith Martin laid plans for side-by-side residences.

The wealthy sisters commissioned architects Foster, Gade & Graham to design mirror-image mansions.  Plans were filed in April 1909.  Each house was projected to cost $40,000—just over $1 million in 2016 dollars.  A few days later the New-York Tribune reported “The houses are to be of limestone, in the English Gothic style, finished with mullioned casement bays of Tudor pattern, and having dormers in the peaked roofs.”

The newspaper got the architectural style slightly wrong; it being in fact what today is accepted as French Renaissance.

Wurts Bros. photographed the houses shortly after their completion.  From the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
Alice moved into No. 109 with daughters Edith, Alice and Carolyn Frances.  An apparently modern woman, she drove a Stearns motorcar in 1914.  As the girls grew up and their introductions to society neared, Alice took them abroad.  She was obviously planning a summer trip in May 1920 when she leased the house furnished to jeweler Pierre Cartier for the season.

Edith Martin sometimes leased her home, as well.  When millionaire Fulton Cutting, Jr. decided to relocate from Boston to New York City in 1919, he leased No. 111.  A year later, on May 7, 1920, Edith renewed his lease.

The McCoon women were active socially.  In addition to the dinners and dances in the house for their debutante celebrations, the girls were involved in philanthropic causes.  In 1922, for instance, Edith was chairman of the junior auxiliary of the Manhattanville Nursery Association.

Living in the house with Alice and the girls were two servants.  One of them, 33-year old butler Walter Carney, was not who he seemed.  Arriving with unimpeachable references and a high-class demeanor, he was hired in 1925.  But on May 2, 1926 The New York Times reported that he had made off with $900 in Alice’s jewelry.  He had, it turned out, simply written the references himself.

1927 was an important year for the McCoon household when both Alice and Carolyn Frances became engaged.  Following Carolyn’s wedding to Robert Thomas Stone in the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on Park Avenue at 84th Street, on November 19, a wedding breakfast and reception followed in the 79th Street house.

Alice Martin McCoon died at No. 109 East 79th Street in 1930.  Her $500,000 estate would top $7 million today.  Six years later the McCoon house was converted to furnished rooms—as many as five per floor.

Edith T. Martin died in No. 111 East 79th Street on October 2, 1939.  When the house was sold on October 1940 The New York Times got the history horribly wrong.  “This house was constructed from plans by Stanford White at a reported cost of about $116,000,” the article said.  The buyer, Marta Pedersen Rankin, announced she would occupy the mansion “after making improvements.”

Edith Martin’s home survived as a single-family residence until 1953, when it was converted to spacious apartments, two per floor.  Three years later No. 109 was officially converted to apartments.  In 1961 the Albert Landry Galleries moved into the lower floors of No. 111.

The McCoon house (left) lost its fourth-floor balustrades, and throughout both is a mish-mash of replacement windows.

During the apartment conversions, the shared stoop was lost and the entrances moved to below sidewalk level.  Haunting, faded glory still shrouds the handsome townhouses where sisters lived side-by-side.

photographs by the author

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Unlikely Survivors -- Nos. 354 and 355 Central Park West




While magnificent palaces facing Central Park rose along Fifth Avenue in the 1880s; Central Park West sat mostly undeveloped.  The problem was that land holders, sensing that the park-front lots would be highly desirable, priced them out of reach.  Somewhat unexpectedly, Riverside Drive became the West Side's mansion thoroughfare, instead.  

Along Central Park West first the Dakota, and then other scattered multi-family buildings were erected.  They sat in a half-built landscape of board fences and overgrown lots.   But in 1892 developer-builder Edward Kilpatrick made an exception by laying plans for five private homes—Nos. 351 to 355 Central Park West at the northwest corner of 95th Street.

Kilpatrick commissioned Gilbert A. Schellenger to design the row.  Like the other architects busy on the Upper West Side at the time, he turned to historic styles which he then liberally splashed with his own modern touches.  The resulting merchant-class homes, completed in 1893, were generally Renaissance-inspired.  The corner house, No. 351, stood out, being a story taller than the other four and grander with its impressive 95th Street entrance.

Nos. 352 through 355 were nearly identical, designed in an A-B, A-B pattern.  Each was accessed by a shallow stoop, about four steps tall, and featured a two-story faceted oriel.  Schellenger drifted into Romanesque Revival in Nos. 352 and 354 with arched parlor openings and medieval-style carvings below the bays.  Faced in beige Roman brick and trimmed in brownstone, the residences were light and cheery compared to the dark brownstone fronts of the previous generation.

The brick homes sat on limestone bases.  No. 351 at the corner hogged the attention.  photograph from the collection of the New York Public Library
Brothers Julius P. and James C. Cahen were among Kilpatrick’s first buyers.  The brothers were in business together, partners in J. P. Cahen and Brother.  Although their father, Dr. Salmon P. Cahen was a highly-respected physician and an officer in the West-Side German Dispensary; they opted for the silk trade.

On April 5, 1894 The New York Times reported that James C. Cahen had purchased No. 354 for $25,000 and that Julius had purchased No. 355 for the same price.  The newspaper may have simply gotten the address wrong; but Julius bought and moved into No. 353, on the south side of James, instead.  The brothers each paid the equivalent of $680,000 in today’s dollars.

Purchasing No. 355, instead, was William F. Carroll and his wife, Catherine.  The title was transferred to Catherine C. Carroll on June 4 that year.  Carroll was active in real estate on the Upper West Side and it is unclear whether the couple lived in the house; or merely leased it.

In either case, the families in Nos. 354 and 355 Central Park West lived respectable and quiet lives in their 10-room homes.  Julius Cahen became secretary of the Board of Trustees of the West-Side German Dispensary (James was its president).  His wife focused her attentions on the New York City Mothers’ Club, rising to President in the first years of the new century.  The goals of the organization were “to promote the education of women in the wise care of children and to uplift and improve the condition of mothers in all ranks of life.”

The New-York Tribune ran a weekly column entitled “Things to Think About,” which presented readers riddles and puzzles to solve.  Those who sent in the solution would be rewarded with their names printed in the newspaper and their choice of a small prize.  One puzzle was related to “Little Men and Little Women.”  It was apparently a favorite pastime in the Cahen household.

On June 11, 1905 14-year old Harold A. Cahen won the prize for the previous week.  His little sister, Edith, who was five years younger, would get her share of the spotlight three years later.  On May 24 the Tribune reported “The neatest and best three answers were contributed by Edith R. Cahen, aged twelve years.”  It seems Edith was thinking of her brother when she chose her prize.  The newspaper noted that she “wishes a boy’s Tribune watch.”

By now the Carrolls were definitely leasing the house next door.  Despite an announcement in the New-York Tribune on June 4, 1902 that William had sold No. 355 to L. M. Aldrich; the deal was never completed.  In 1904 the house was being leased by Gerald Brooks, the son of Belvidere Brooks, general superintendent of the Western Union Telegraph Company; and by 1907 to newspaper broker William H. Gutelius.

Gutelius and his wife had two sons, William and Sylvester (known fondly as Buster).  The virtuous William left home in February 1907 for missionary work in China.  The younger Buster had adventures of his own in mind at the time.

Buster, 16 years old, was a student in the Preparatory Department of the College of the City of New York.  His best friend was John McWilliams Wylie, the 15-year old son of the pastor of the Scotch Presbyterian Church, next door to the Gutelius house.  The boys realized at some point that they had a “secret passage” between their homes.  An iron cover in the wall below No. 355 opened into the basement of the Scotch Presbyterian Chapel.  “From the chapel the passage led to the church basement, and from there up into the back yard of the rectory,” explained The New York Times later.  The two best friends would use the route in laying their plans for a Tom Sawyer-worthy exploit.

In April items began missing from both households. The cook in the Wylie house could not find her iron cake turner.  A brand new candlestick, tin plates and cups, candles and matches were suddenly gone.  And a broom from the Gutelius kitchen went missing.  And then on April 26 both boys disappeared as well.

After they had loaded up a crate of supplies, they realized it was too heavy to carry from the Wylie back yard.  They tried to convince an expressman to help, but he refused.  So they were forced to leave it behind.  Carrying their suitcases and using the $25 they each obtained by selling their bicycles, they boarded a train for Port Jervis, New York.

Their dreams of roughing it in the mountains seemed to be coming impossibly true when they found an abandoned farmhouse just over the Pennsylvania border.  Young Wylie later said “We bought an axe from Mr. Maloney, the storekeeper and postmaster [in Mill River, Pennsylvania], and we asked him what was good for us to cook.  He told us flapjacks and eggs and salt pork made good rations, and Mrs. Maloney, his wife, showed us how to cook.”

They had explained to the couple that they were students in a private school in New York and “were in search of some needed outdoor recreation.”  They had money and one boy carried a rifle, so everything seemed in order to the Maloneys.  Mrs. Maloney gave them some blankets for the cold nights and J. F. Maloney loaned them an old “sheet iron stove.”

Living in the old farmhouse was too civilized for the adventurers, and after a few days they moved into a “nice, warm, dry cave.”   They tried catching fish, and spent much time cutting firewood and honing their culinary skills.  They happened on a stone quarry where the boss told them he would hire them when they ran out of money.  “Breaking rocks is first class exercise,” he told the boys.

But the runaway teens’ hopes would soon be dashed.  When they had failed to come home from school that Friday afternoon, their parents had reported them missing.   By Tuesday the New York newspapers reached the Mill Rift Post Office.  Postmaster Maloney became suspicious.  When Wylie and Gutelius returned, he compared their faces with the photographs.  Rather than confronting them and risking scaring them away, he quietly mailed off a letter to Rev. David G. Wylie.  On the morning of May 3 Dr. Wylie and his other son arrived at the post office while the Gutelius family waited nervously on Central Park West for word.

Maloney sent a neighbor, Samuel Wilson, to the mountain cave with word that the postmaster needed to see him.  Leaving Buster cooking bacon and flapjacks, he rushed to the town.  When he entered Maloney’s store, he was confronted with his father and brother.  The quixotic adventure was over.

Buster Guletius was sent for, and The New York Times reported “When he learned what had happened he promptly ‘threw up the sponge,’ but it required a great deal of persuasion to induce him to return to New York with the Wylies.”  Before he would do so, he insisted that the entire party have dinner with them in the cave.  They accepted.

The Times wrote “Dr. Wylie was much impressed by the natural habitation, and was delighted to find that the boys had been living in a comfortable manner.  However, they had but $2 left.”

The following morning the New-York Tribune ran a headline reading “Cave Boys Come Home.”  The newspaper advised “The erstwhile cave men, or cave boys, did not willingly leave their subterranean retreat in a mountainside near Millville, Penn., but they came back at the earnest persuasion of Dr. Wylie.”

The Guletius family left No. 355 within the year.  William and Catherine Carroll continued to lease the house to a series of renters.  In 1912 Thomas Minal moved in; and in 1915 Charles Bloeh signed a lease.  By now the Carrolls were living in Colorado Springs.

By 1920 the Cahen family had left Central Park West.  The family of Frank Lowenfels now called No. 354 home.   Lowenfel was an executive with Julius Schmoll & Co., “dealers in hides,” at No. 150 Nassau Street. Working in the Lowenfel household seems to have been a challenge; for Mrs. Lowenfel was continuously looking for a maid.

On April 22, 1920 she placed an advertisement for a “chambermaid, waitress,” noting clearly that the family had “no children.”  The following year, in September, she placed another ad.  This one pointed out that she was looking only for a “white girl.”   Seven months later she was looking again.

On January 27, 1928 The New York Times announced that Morris Rothschild intended to erect two apartment buildings—one “on the church property, which comprises the south corner of Central Park West and Ninety-sixth Street, and the other “surrounding the north corner of Ninety-fifth Street and Central Park West.”  Nos. 354 and 355 Central Park West would have seem doomed had the article not mentioned that Rothschild had purchased No. 354 “to protect the light of the new building” on the north corner and to preserve “the view of the park for all the apartments facing south and east.”

While Rothschild’s projects wiped out three of Edward Kilpatrick’s row; they ensured the survival of Nos. 354 and 355.

The following year both houses lost their porches.  The Board of Transportation noted in 1929 that both buildings “had stoops and porches which projected over the sidewalk.  In order to construct the subway and the sewer which came under these porches the Contractor removed them. The Borough President ordered the removal of all encroachments along Central Park West and counsel advised that these porches be not restored."  Eminent apartment building architect Rosario Candela was hired to make the necessary renovations.

No. 355 was sold at auction to Catherine F. Mitchell for $29,750 on September 11, 1931.  Two years later it was leased to the Florsheim Corporation which announced it “will be altered to rent as one and two room apartments.”

The former Cahen house next door remained a single-family home for decades.  In 1936 it was home to John W. Kelly and his family.  He and his wife, the former Evelyn Armstrong, had three grown children, John R., Evelyn and Edith; all married and living elsewhere.

John and his brother Gerald ran a jewelry store in the first floor of a tenement building at No, 791 Amsterdam Avenue during the Depression years.  In business with them were their sons, John R. Kelley and Gerald Kelly Jr.  Their surprising financial success during the difficult economic times was made clear when the FBI raided the store on July 3, 1936.   The Kellys were less in the jewelry business than in distributing Irish Sweepstakes tickets—an illegal operation in the United States.

The New York Times reported that authorities “believed the raids had smashed the largest distribution headquarters in the United States for the Irish Free State Hospitals sweepstakes.”  All four of the Kellys were arrested in what the FBI called “an ostensible jewelry store.”  The agents told reporters that the shop “served merely as a blind for the widespread operations which were conducted in a suite of old living quarters behind it.”

They Federal agents then visited No. 354.  The Times reported “The Central Park West address, according to the police, served as the executive and managerial headquarters for the ring, where orders were received and the business correspondence transacted.”

Despite his run-in with the law, John W. Kelly remained in the house.  Now widowed, he was still living here when he died on December 12, 1957.  The house remained a private home until 1968 when it was converted to one apartment on each floor.

No. 355, too, contained only four apartments until 2009.  That year it was reconverted to a single family home.  The last survivors of the 1893 row have changed little since they lost their porches in 1929.  Unusual as private homes on a thoroughfare of apartment buildings nearly 125 years ago; they are delightfully even more out of context today.

photographs by the author