Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Allen and Sarah Linn House - 37 West 94th Street

 


Jessie Reynolds made a name for herself in New York City's male-dominated real estate field in the 1880's.  Focusing mostly on the developing Upper West Side, she bought and sold properties and was responsible for the construction of rows of homes.  In 1886 she hired architect W. Holman Smith to design six residences on the north side of West 94th Street, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.  His plans, filed in September, projected the cost of construction at $14,000 each, or about $392.000 today.

The 18-foot wide Queen Anne style homes, completed in 1887, were configured in a balanced A-B-C-C-B-A pattern.  No. 37 was one of the B models.  The basement and parlor levels were clad in rough-cut brownstone, while the upper floors were faced in red brick.  

Smith's innovative stoop design was two-fold.  The wide first step was protected by dramatic stone wing walls, one of which curved outward.  Whimsical iron stoop railings--the essence of the Queen Anne style--flanked the upper section.



The double-doored entrance sat within an arched opening, and a vast window flooded the parlor with sunlight.  Even more eye-catching than the pressed metal cornice with its bold swan's neck pediment and finial was the decorative ledge under the center top floor window.  Its carved support took the form of a fearsome winged demon.



The house became home to the Kinnier family.  Like all families along the block they maintained a domestic staff, among whom was Dora Wichers.  The city suffered a stifling heat wave in September 1897, prompting The Brooklyn Daily Eagle to entitle an article "Hottest Sept. 11 Since 1874."  Nearly a century before air conditioning and electric fans, conditions were especially distressing for servants who toiled in the kitchens.  In reporting on the heat the article noted that Dora Wichers had been overcome and hospitalized.

Elizabeth Bryan Kinnier died at the age of 46 in November 1902.  The house was sold to Royal E. Deane and his wife, the former Elizabeth Stuart, on July 2, 1907.

Deane was the president of the Bramhall Deane Company, manufacturer of kitchen ranges and heating and ventilating apparatus.  Born in Rockingham, Vermont in 1830, according to The Great Sound Money Parade, "At the age of thirteen he entered the trade of tin plate and sheet iron workers."

Just four months after moving into the 94th Street house, Deane died at the age of 77.  The Metal Worker, Plumber and Steam Fitter noted that he "was a member of the New England Society and other clubs."

Deane left the bulk of his estate of Elizabeth, whose granddaughter, Marguerite E. Deane, threatened to contest the will.  The women seem to have initially come to an agreement, but on March 19, 1913 The Sun reported that Marguerite had filed suit "to compel her grandmother, Elizabeth Stuart Deane, of 37 West Ninety-fourth street, to pay her $125 a month for life."  The amount would equal about $3,300 a month today.

Elizabeth remained at No. 37 until October 1919 when she sold it to Allen and Sarah N. M. Linn.  Linn was a silk manufacturer and he and Sarah had three children, Kenneth A., Helen L., and Betty.

The Linns appeared in society columns over the years, but in 1930 Betty took the spotlight.  As Barnard College's school year drew to a close, The New York Sun noted that "Miss Betty Linn of New York is president of the senior class."  More importantly, on June 2 the newspaper reported that at graduation exercises, "Acting-Dean George W. Mullins will speak, as will also Miss Betty Linn, salutatorian."


Allen Linn died in 1943.  Sarah remained in the house for five years, moving to New Jersey in 1947.  Against all odds No. 37 West 94th Street was never converted to apartments and is still a private residence.  Because of that much of W. Holman Smith's wonderful Queen Anne interior elements survive.

Original woodwork survives (top).  Colorful glazed tiles create a hearth for the parlor fireplace.  photos via StreetEasy.com

non-credited photographs by the author

Monday, April 19, 2021

Today's Post

 Somehow today's post got published as April 12.  So you'll have to scroll backwards to find it.  "The Lost Croton Cottage."  Sorry about the inconvenience.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Farrar & Thompson's 1929 200 West 16th Street

 


Henry Mandel started his career in his father's real estate development business, erecting tenement buildings.  But following World War I the Mandel Companies erected progressively larger, more elaborate projects.  His aggressive building plans culminated in 1929 when he laid plans for the block-engulfing London Terrace project on West 23rd Street and four architecturally similar apartment buildings on each of the corners of Seventh Avenue and 16th Street.

The Great Depression derailed Mandel's plans for the "Chelsea Corners" project and only three were built, all designed by Farrar & Thompson.  The architects married the Gothic and Jazz ages to create striking brick, limestone and terra cotta delights.

No. 200 West 16th Street, on the southwest corner, was 18 stories tall, plus a penthouse level, with 40 apartments per floor.  The two-story stone base, with stores along Seventh Avenue, was decorated with Gothic-style panels and whimsical tiles depicting mythical beasts.  The residential entrance was recessed within a Gothic arch and decorated with a square-headed drip molding, heraldic shields and another beast.  The upper floors rose to a set of dramatic Art Deco setbacks.



The building offered all the modern conveniences--uniformed doormen and elevator operators, a laundry in the basement, and electric refrigerators.  Prospective tenants had a variety of apartments from which to choose, from studios to larger suites.  The $40 rent for a studio apartment would equal about $670 per month today.

Among the initial studio apartment tenants were John C. Maurer, Jr. and his wife.  That they lived in a studio is somewhat surprising, since Maurer was the son of "Celery Jack" Maurer.  Maurer Sr. had begun his career as a fruit and vegetable shipper in Rochester, New York.  At a time when celery was not commonly used, he promoted it, becoming a pioneer in the celery industry and one of the largest celery distributors in the United States.  By the time he and his wife moved into the building, John Maurer, Jr. was the general manager of the firm.

The couple had not lived here long before Mrs. Maurer began noticing a peculiar recurring incident.  She would dutifully make up the Murphy bed every morning, fold it away, but then upon returning later in the afternoon would find it unfolded.  The mystery was solved when she came home unexpectedly in the spring of 1931.  She later explained, "One afternoon just about tea time I returned to our studio at 200 West 16th Street and found the bed unfolded and the lights lit, and my husband and a young woman there who was certainly not myself."

On May 7, 1931 the Daily News entitled an article "Celery Heir's Wife Sues Over Freaky Folding Bed."  According to the article she told the judge that when she walked in, her husband "was clad in gold pajamas and a lounging robe, while his fair companion had on less than a movie queen in a De Mille bathroom scene."  The couple divorced.

Another well-known tenant was Ed Frayne, the sports editor of the New York American.  He and close friends and associates Damon Runyon and Bill Farnsworth promoted boxing, most notably through the Hearst Milk Fund.  They lobbied promoters and managers to arrange fights, often at Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds, to benefit the fund. 

Frayne's apartment was the setting of Damon Runyon's wedding to actress Patrice Amati Del Grande on July 7, 1932.  Mayor James J. Walker performed the ceremony which, according to The New York Times, "took place in the presence of many sports writers and friends of the couple."  Runyon's first wife, Ellen, had died the previous year and his teen-aged daughter, Mary, was present at the ceremony.

The newlywed Runyons pose after the ceremony.  To the right of the bride is Mayor Walker and to her left is her husband's daughter, Mary.  from the collection of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

Another newspaperman living here was Lyman Worthington, an advertising representative of The Daily News.  His wife was novelist and short-story writer Marjorie Muir Worthington.  Close friends of the Worthingtons were journalist William Buehler Seabrook and his wife, Katherine.  

William Seabrook and Marjorie Worthington had met in Paris in 1926.  By 1932 when Seabrook laid plans for a new book on Africa, he had added explorer and occultist to his resume (in the 1920's he traveled to West Africa where he encountered a tribe of cannibals, later obtaining human flesh from a hospital which he cooked and ate).

When Seabrook again left for Africa to do research for a book in 1932, he took Marjorie Worthington along.  It was a hint of things to come.  On September 20, 1935, The New York Times wrote, "The marriage eight months ago of William Seabrook, author of books of travel and adventure, to Mrs. Marjorie Worthington, novelist and short-story writer, was revealed here last night.  At about the same time, it was learned, Mrs. Worthington's former husband married Mr. Seabrook's former wife."

A reporter arrived at the Worthington apartment at 200 West 16th Street, where Lyman confirmed he had married Patricia Seabrook "six or eight months ago," but would not give any other details.

Her marriage to Seabrook was Marjorie's third and this one, too, did not last.  She divorced him in 1941, citing "alcoholism and sadism."

Whimsical beasts decorate the 16th Street side.

Perhaps the most celebrated tenant of 200 West 16th Street was politician Vincent Richard Impellitteri.  Born in Sicily, he had married Elizabeth Agnes McLaughlin in 1926, two years after earning his law degree from Fordham Law School.   The couple moved into the four-room apartment 19-A in 1931.  

Impellitteri was appointed President of the City council by Mayor William O'Dwyer in 1945.  Because of his steadfast stand against organized crime and corruption, the Tammany bosses refused to back him in his run for mayor in 1950.  He forged ahead, running as an independent, with the slogan "unbought and unbossed."  He won, bucking the long established system.

On September 2, 1950, The New York Times reported that Elizabeth was being "deluged" by good wishes.  She told journalist Madeleine Loeb, "I went down to the corner grocery store to buy a quart of milk and it took me one hour.  Everyone from clerks to customers, all old friends and neighbors, wanted to congratulate me at once."

Vincent Impellitteri in his office and Elizabeth in their apartment in 200 West 16th Street.  She is displaying a tea service she said she would be taking to Gracie Mansion.  The New York Times, September 2, 1950

Helen Donaldson lived in the building by the early 1960's.  A character actress in television and on Broadway, she was as well, according The New York Times journalist Jean Hewitt, an "office manager for a leading woman's magazine, world traveler and cooking enthusiast."

Donaldson was well-known among her close friends for her homemade Genoise, a French butter spongecake, which she often served to her guests.  In an article published on June 8, 1964, Hewitt said that she "shares her apartment with a Siamese cat, prepares and serves her meals with care and entertains frequently at small dinner parties for six to eight and at large buffet parties."

Hewitt had come to 200 West 16th Street to interview the actress because her friends had finally convinced her to offer her Genoise for sale, at $8 each.  She cautioned she needed two day's notice on an order.

Donaldson's interest in cooking led her to collaborate with artist and professional dancer Jere McMahon--also an enthusiastic cook--in a cookbook, Measure for Measure.  It was written from a theatrical standpoint, with the preparatory steps of recipes labeled Act I, followed by Acts II and III.


Although the limestone base has been painted gray, 
Farrar & Thompson's playful Art Deco take on Gothic survives mostly unchanged along with its two fraternal twins on opposite corners.

photographs by the author

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Nearly-Lost 1844 Twins at 362 and 364 West 15th Street

 


Around 1842-44 the mirror-image brick houses at Nos. 232 and 234 West 15th Street were completed.  (They would be renumbered 362 and 364 in 1860.)  Three stories tall and three bays wide, they were designed in the Greek Revival style.  An unusual feature was the double horse-walk between the two stoops.  Tunneling through the houses to the rear yard, it provided access to accessory structures--small stables, shops or possibly houses for rental income--and was large enough to accommodate a cart.

In 1847 No. 362 was home to James Vandenburgh and his family.  A builder, it was possibly he who was responsible for the construction.  Thomas K. Mills, an embroidery merchant, lived next door that year.

Theodore Lavielle and his wife, the former Amelie Gervaize, followed Vandenburgh in No. 362.  Lavielle died at the age of 81 on December 7, 1853.  It was soon purchased by attorney Matthew Campbell.

Like all financially comfortable New Yorkers, the Campbells spent their summers in the country.  The unoccupied townhouses provided tempting opportunities to burglars.  
The Campbells extended their stay through September in 1857--a decision that nearly cost them dearly.

While making their rounds at around 4:30 in the morning on September 28 police officers Tuorney and Fischer noticed three "suspicious-looking men coming out of a vacant lot," as reported by the New-York Daily Tribune.  They were carrying a large bundle of "costly wearing apparel, valued at about $400."  (That amount would exceed $12,000 today.)  Upon further investigation, the officers discovered that a door in the rear of the Campbell house had been forced open.  "The house had been thoroughly ransacked, and a large quantity of goods had been packed up for removal," said the article.

The Rev. Joseph R. Mann moved into No. 364 around that year and would remain through 1861 when the McQuoid family took possession.  Robert McQuoid was a partner with his brother, William McQuoid, Jr., in Hudson River Pottery, the business started by their father in 1838.  It was located on West 12th Street and Tenth Avenue.  The brothers' widowed mother, Martha, lived in the house as well.  She died in the house on January 19, 1865 at the age of 83.

Interestingly, around that time William changed the spelling of his surname to Macquoid.    The firm's name was changed to William A. Macquoid & Co. around 1868.  In her 1879 book, The Ceramic Art, Jennie Young called it "the oldest [pottery] establishment in New York."  She explained, 

The only products, until within a year ago, were store-ware and glazed earthen-ware.  At that time the demand by decorators for terra-cotta in the choicest antique forms led the firm to add it to their list of productions.  The experiment was successful.  The paste is fine and well worked.

Mary Killmer moved into No. 362 around 1866.  She was the widow of Abiram P. Killmer, a dentist, who had died in 1857.  Living with her was her son, William G., who was employed as a clerk in the stationery manufacturing firm of J. Q. Preble & Co.

Mary took in boarders to make ends meet.  From 1872 to at least 1876 Barbara Evans lived in the house.  She taught in the Primary Department of Grammar School No. 11 on West 17th Street.  A widow, Margaret Highet, was here by 1879, as was Albert Demarest, a "boatman."  Given the female population of the main house, it is possible that Demarest lived in the rear building.

For at least a decade, starting around 1876, William D. Duyckinck and his family lived next door at No. 364.  He owned the Duyckinck & Co. gentlemen's furnishings store at No. 707 Broadway.  Like Mary Killmer, the Duyckincks took in boarders.  In 1886 William Lupton, an importer, and Matilda M. Ogden, the widow of E. D. Ogden, were boarding with the family.

Two years later No. 364 was converted to Ferdinand J. White's School of Religious Music.  He boasted the "large and fine-toned organ" and a "complete library of liturgical and musical works."  The school offered instruction not only in "every branch of choir and church music work," but in the "ceremonies of the church, the relation of the choir to the altar, chanting, [and] the liturgy."

Sadlier's Catholic Director, 1888 (copyright expired)

It appeared that the twin houses would not survive past the first decade of the 20th century.  On March 2, 1910 the New York Produce Review reported that Conron Bros. had purchased the entire block on Ninth Avenue from 14th to 15th Street, extending east to No. 357 on West 14th Street, and 362 on West 15th Street.

But if Conron Bros. had envisioned a large commercial structure on the site, it did not come to pass.  The two houses were converted for business, with the stoops being removed and the entrances lowered to street level.  The Ireland & Nelson Paper Company operated from No. 362 and the Park Trucking Company, Inc. was in No. 364.  

The double horsewalk is protected by heavy doors today.

The upper floors were rented as apartments.  In 1915 Fitz McCorney, an elevator operator at the Hotel McAlpin, and Dr. James T. Manchester, live in No. 362, for instance.

Manchester found himself in legal trouble in the summer of 1916.  A terrifying epidemic of infantile paralysis, or polio, swept the city that year.  On August 23 The New York Times reported that the 70-year-old had been arrested "on the charge of selling a fake cure for infantile paralysis."  He sold his mixture of alcohol, capsicum and sassafras for $1 a bottle (about $25 today), promising that it was a "sure cure for infantile paralysis and various other diseases."

Living in No. 362 during the Depression years was the Rioz family.  They received a shock on July 28, 1935.  The New York Post reported, "A ten-day-old baby girl with blue eyes and blonde hair was found last night outside her door by Mrs. Guadalupe Rioz...Mrs. Rioz turned the baby over the the New York Foundling Hospital."


In the summer of 2020 the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a hearing regarding a proposed glass and steel tower which would replace all but the facades of the Greek Revival structures at 351-355 West 14th Street and along Ninth Avenue.  The discussion included the comment "a pair of non-landmarked Greek Revival houses at 362-364 West 15th Street would likely not survive."  The proposal to gut the historic structures and to demolish the 15th Street twins was declined.

photographs by the author

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The 1889 Hornthal & Co. Building - 31 Bond Street



The brick-faced former mansion at No. 31 Bond Street was nationally infamous in 1887.  It had been the scene of the brutal murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell in 1857 and 30 years later no one had forgotten.  It was perhaps its gruesome reputation that resulted in a rapid turnover of owners.

On January 15, 1887 the Mutual Life Insurance Co. sold the property to Siegmund T. Meyer for $22,500.  Within four months he reaped a tidy profit by reselling it to John N. Hayward for $35,000.  The game of realty hot potato came to an end the following year, on  September 5, 1887, when Abraham Wolff purchased it for $36,000--just over $1 million in today's money.  Wolff was a founder of the investment banking firm Kuhn, Loeb & Co. and he recognized the changing personality--and opportunity--of the Bond Street neighborhood.

He hired the recently-organized firm of De Lemos & Cordes to design a replacement building.  The partnership of Theodore de Lemos and A. W. Cordes would go on to produce massive commercial buildings, like the Siegel-Cooper department store building on Sixth Avenue and the Macy's department store on Herald Square.  But their commission to replace the Bond Street house for Abraham Wolff would be significantly less grand.

Completed in 1889 the six-story loft and store building was faced in beige brick above a granite-and-iron base.  The upper floors were trimmed in brownstone and color-matching terra cotta.  The arched openings at the second and sixth floors and delicate decoration prompted the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide to deem the structure "a fine business building."

Federal style former mansions, with marble stoops and trim, survived on either side of the new building.  Real Estate Record & Guide, May 10, 1890 (copyright expired)

The initial tenant was Hornthal & Co., manufacturers of "coffins and caskets."  The firm was run by Joseph Hornthal, his brother-in-law Moses Hatch, and William J. Noble.  It held a patent on the innovative "ice casket."  Decades before air conditioning, when bodies lay for two days in the parlors of their former homes, conditions could become unpleasant in hot months.  The casket held a compartment to hold ice, helping to cool the body and slow decomposition.

This model also came with the amenity of a fold-up viewing window over the corpse's face.  (copyright expired)

Interestingly, before many years Hornthal & Co. would change from manufacturing coffins to building hearses.

Following the departure of Hornthal & Co., there were several tenants in the building at the century, all of them involved in the millinery or apparel trade.  In the first decade of the 20th century it was home to firms like Dauziger Bros., skirt manufacturers; A. Smith, hat "ornaments';" women's hat maker H. Seller; W. Tompkins & Co., makers of flowers and feathers for women's headgear; and the Paris Millinery Supply Manufacturer.

A. Smith manufactured accessories for apparel makers here.  The Illustrated Milliner, July 1910 (copyright expired)

Nothing changed until the Depression years when around 1935 Max Goldberg, a "dealer in rags," and Goldseal Textiles took over the building.   The two firms remained for four decades, until 1975 when Yasuko Harada purchased the building for the newly-organized Kampo Cultural Center, a branch of the Japan Calligraphy Education Federation.

The organization initiated a renovation, completed in 1987.  It resulted in a multipurpose gallery and recording space on the first floor, a recording studio on the second, a video room and classrooms on the third and four floors, and artists' joint living-working quarters on the two upper floors.

The first floor venue was the scene of presentations, like the concert in October 1987 by Japanese koto (Japanese zithers) player and composer Tsutomu Sakamoto.

A subsequent renovation, completed in 2019, resulted in offices throughout.  De Lemos & Cordes's handsome commercial building, which erased the memory of a grisly murder, survives with little change.

photograph by the author

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The 1919 William Ziegler, Jr. Mansion - 2 East 63rd Street

 


William Conrad Brandt was born in Muscatine, Iowa in 1891.  His father, George Washington Brandt, was a half brother of William Ziegler, described by the courts as being "childless, and a man of large estate."  On January 30, 1896, Ziegler adopted William and his sister, Florence.  It was a move that would drastically change the course of the five-year-old boy's life.


William Ziegler, by now, had amassed a fortune in the baking powder business.  He legally changed his adopted son's name to William Ziegler, Jr. 

The younger William attended Columbia University and Harvard.  Like his father he became a yachtsman, and was equally passionate about horses and pedigree dogs.  A superb athlete, he participated in the 1912 Summer Olympics in the hammer throw and the shot put.

When William Ziegler, Sr. died in 1905, William received half of his father's $30 million (nearly $900 million today) estate.  He was by then president of the Royal Baking Powder Company and sat on the boards of several corporations.  He heavily invested in New York real estate, as well.

William Ziegler, Jr. from the collection of the Library of Congress

On December 11, 1912 William married Gladys Virginia Watson.  The couple had two daughters, Elizabeth Virginia and Barbara, and lived in a lavish apartment in one of William's Park Avenue apartment buildings.  But then on September 10, 1919 the New-York Tribune entitled an article, "Ziegler Tires of Flat Life, Will Erect Private Home."  He had purchased the three high-stooped brownstone houses at Nos. 2 through 6 East 63rd Street.   

The Sun reported that for several years Zeigler "has cherished the ambition to own a palatial private residence in the vicinity of 'Millionaires row.'"  The New-York Tribune explained that his delay in building a private home was his desire "to see the [Henry] Frick house completed and to study its lines before undertaking the building of his own home." 

Ziegler hired the architectural firm of Sterner & Wolfe to design a replacement mansion on the site.  There is almost no question that the design was handled solely by Frederick J. Sterner.   Plans, filed in November 1919, estimated the cost of construction at $200,000, or about $3 million today.

Completed the following year, Sterner had created a neo-Italian Renaissance palazzo--in some ways a larger version of the Cyril Hatch mansion he had designed a few years earlier at 153 East 63rd Street.  Like that house, it was low and understated, just three floors high at the front (a fourth floor to the rear is invisible from the street).  And like the Hatch residence, its architectural statement was the entrance and second floor window--a marriage of Italian Renaissance and Spanish Colonial.

The American Architect, January 3, 1923 (copyright expired)

Sterner made interesting use of the plot, extending the structure to the back of the property line.  Instead of providing a small rear yard, he designed the house around a central courtyard, providing air, light and privacy.

Architecture, December 1921 (copyright expired)

The first floor contained the living room, library and dining room.  The entire second floor was dedicated to the Zieglers' bedrooms suites.  The New York Times reported that some of the architectural elements were imported from vintage European homes--the library walls came from a 16th century English house, one Renaissance period mantel came from Florence, and a marble floor was brought from Tuscany.

Two views of the living room, with windows onto the courtyard.  Architecture, December 1921 (copyright expired)

The Zieglers seem to have spent as much time away from their 63rd Street palace as they did in it.  Their summer estate, Great Island, was a 63-acre private island in Darien, Connecticut.  And the couple traveled extensively.  On January 23, 1921, for instance, the New-York Tribune called the Zieglers "newcomers" to Palm Beach, Florida, where they had just "leased the great house of the Hon. Mrs. Frederick Guest, of London, for the season."

The main house on Great Island.  (original source unknown)

Perhaps shocking some people in society, on July 16, 1925, just five years after the Zieglers moved into No. 2 East 63rd Street, The New York Times reported, "The William Ziegler Jr. house at 2 East Sixty-third Street, one of the show places of upper Fifth Avenue, is about to be converted into a hospital for the exclusive use of actors and actresses."  Corporation papers had been filed the previous day for a $2 million "theatrical hospital" to be conducted by Dr. Max Rohde.  The Times Union added, "It is expected the hospital will be in operation in six months."

Gladys Ziegler's bedroom (top) and the Spanish-style family dining room.  Architecture, December 1921 (copyright expired)

The stunning announcement most likely had much to do with domestic tensions between William and Gladys.  Although the hospital plans never came to pass, almost a year to the day later The New York Times reported that Gladys had filed for divorce in Paris.  "Friends of the family said last night that incompatibility was the reason for Mrs. Ziegler's action," said the article. 

"Incompatibility" was apparently a polite term for "another woman."  Within a few months of the divorce Ziegler married Helen Martin Murphy.  They moved into a house on East 55th Street where a baby, William Ziegler III, was born in June 1928. 

Architecture, December 1921 (copyright expired)

The 63rd Street house had sat shuttered in the meantime.  Then, the same month his son was born, Zeigler gave the mansion as part payment for the Hotel Belmont.  In reporting on the transaction, The Yonkers Herald noted that it was "said to have been built and decorated at a cost of $1,250,000."

Later that year the mansion was resold to Norman Bailey Woolworth and his wife, the former Pauline Elizabeth Stanbury.  Bailey was the son of Fred Moore Woolworth and Velma Bailey Woolworth.  Fred had been the head of the Great Britain branch of the Woolworth stores.  His cousin, F. W. Woolworth, headed the American end of the business.

The Woolworth country estate was Birchwood, a 28-acre property in Locust Valley, Long Island.  The main house was originally designed for Anson Wood Burchard by architect Howard Greenley.  According to The New York Times, the estate included "a twenty-eight-room and ten-bath house, garage, stable, kennels, greenhouse, dairy, poultry houses and cottages."

The main house at Birchwood.  photo from the brochure "Locust Valley Long Island," 1931.

The Woolworths entertained lavishly, Pauline's dinner parties and receptions routinely appearing in the society columns.  She was perhaps better known, however, for her work with the blind.  On October 23, 1946, for instance, The New York Sun reported, "The Seeing Eye organization launched its annual drive today for 1,000 new members with a meeting of 200 volunteer worker at the home of Mrs. Norman B. Woolworth, 2 East 63d street."


In 1949 Woolworth donated the mansion to the New York Academy of Sciences for use as its headquarters.  The New York Times commented, "Its rooms faced a central garden court and it had floors of black and gold marble."

A renovation completed the following year resulted in a "council chamber" and offices throughout the building.  And then, after operating from the former mansion for half a century, the academy placed the house for sale in 2005.  It was purchased by billionaire financier Leonard Blavatnik for $31.25 million.  According to a spokesman, he bought it not as a residence, but as an investment.  

It was not until 2010 that plans were filed to return the mansion to a private residence.  Those plans have never been completed and the opulent mansion, once the scene of glittery parties, is apparently unoccupied.  A doormat at the servants' entrance (tagged by the Academy of Sciences, "Main Entrance") is still emblazoned with the letters NYAS.


photographs by the author

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The 1892 Dr. Samuel Wood Dana House - 162 West 94th Street

 


In May 1891 the Record & Guide reported that Walden P. Anderson was erecting a row of 13 three-story dwellings on  the south side of West 94th Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues.  The cost of constructing the row would cost the architect-developer $195,000--or about $5.65 million today.


Anderson created three different designs which were mixed with no apparent pattern along the row.  The "C" design, of which No. 162 was an example, was a little less flamboyant that the others, yet managed to meld three architectural styles--Romanesque Revival, Renaissance Revival and Queen Anne.

The parlor floor sat above a high stone stoop.  Here the arched openings were decorated with carved keystones.  The keystone above the entrance depicted an owl.  A delicate double row of dentils ran below the second floor, where grouped windows sat above a base of Queen Anne style tiles.  Applied rosettes decorated the bracketed cornice and stepped gables--a nod to Flemish Renaissance Revival--separated the attic level from the adjoining houses.

Anderson's three designs were mixed with no apparent pattern along the row.  No. 162 is behind the maroon automobile.

No. 162 briefly became home to the Harris family, whose son, Leo Pinner Harris, was attending the Free Academy of the City of New York in 1891.  The family lost the house in foreclosure and it was sold by the bank in January 1897 to Dr. Samuel Wood Dana and his wife, Helena R.  As was customary, the title to the property was put in Helena's name.

Dr. Dana was born in West Lebanon, New Hampshire in 1827.  He studied at Dartmouth Medical College and graduated from the College of Physicians in New York City in 1858.  He and Helena were married in 1865.  Their only son, Russell Raymond, had married Hattie Amanda Styles in 1892.  Both of their daughters, Helen Edith and Emma Lilian, were unmarried and also moved into the 94th Street house.

Emma (who went by E. Lilian) had graduated from Normal College in 1894.  She had been not only a remarkable student but an accomplished pianist.  On the same day, June 21, 1894, she had won the $20 gold prize for her essay on Patriotism and the esteemed Steinway Prize for piano.  She was now serving on the Normal College faculty as an instructor in the Training Department.

Dr. Samuel Wood Dana, Where Greek Meets Greek, 1907 (copyright expired)

The erudite Dr. Dana filled his library with classical literature.  In 1898 a former classmate, Rufus O. Mason, said of him, "now, more than forty years out of college, he reads with facility and enjoyment the Latin and Greek authors, and also the standard authors in German, French, Italian and Spanish."  In addition to his private practice he was connected with the New York Dispensary.

On June 2, 1905 Helena Dana died in the 94th Street house.  Her funeral was held in the parlor on June 5.  Dr. Dana retired three years later, and died on September 1, 1915.

On January 26, 1918 the Record & Guide reported that the Dana estate had sold No. 162 West 94th Street to William G. and Catharine L. Dunn.   The couple had one son, William Kipson Dunn.  

Dunn was a partner in the liquor and wine firm of Kerin & Dunn.  He was no doubt deeply concerned about the Temperance Movement which had been gaining strength across the nation.   And those concerns were well founded.  Exactly a year after moving into his new home Prohibition was ratified and a year later, on January 17, 1920, the Volstead Act went into effect. 

That year, on May 8, Catherine Dunn died.  Her funeral was held in the Holy Name Church at 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue two days later.

It was possibly the financial effects of Prohibition which prompted William and his son to soon leave No. 162.   By 1923 it was home to Harold Jones and his wife, Dr. Mary Cover Jones.  Born in 1897, Mary had attended Vassar College where she studied psychology, and completed her graduate work at Columbia University in 1920.  She and Harold met at Columbia and were married in 1920.  They had two daughters, Barbara and Leslie.

The family moved to California in 1927 where Dr. Jones had accepted a position as research associate at the Institute for Child Welfare at Berkeley.  She would eventually be called "the mother of behavior therapy" for her pioneering work in behavioral therapy.

The West 94th Street house was purchased by Joseph and Alta Brady Armengol in July 1930 for $25,000 (about $383,000 in today's money).  The New York Sun noted, "The purchaser, a physician, will occupy the premises."

Born in Spain in 1896, Dr. Armengol's had anglicized his name from Jose Maria to Joseph M.  The couple had two children, Joseph, Jr. who was 5-years-old when the family moved into the 94th Street house, and Dian, who was 3.  Living with them were a housekeeper and an "attendant."  The family maintained a summer house in Long Branch, New Jersey.

In June 1936 Alta was looking for a new housekeeper.  Her ad read "Wanted--Girl for general housework and cooking.  Fair [wages] paid.  Mrs. A. Armengol, 162 West 94th St."


It is unclear how long the Armengol family remained in the house; although census records show them here as late as 1940.  Perhaps because of its narrow proportions--just 17-feet wide--the house has never been converted to apartments and remains a private home today.

photographs by the author