Monday, October 15, 2018

Scandal & Scoundrels - The Lost 1887 208 West 54th Street

By the time this shot was taken on March 19, 1916, the block had significantly changed.  from the collection of the New York Historical Society
In the spring of 1887 Samuel McMillan, a prolific developer in the 1880's and '90's, commissioned architect F. A. Minuth to design a flat building at No. 208 West 54th Street.  It was not the first time the two had worked together.  Minuth, as a matter of fact, had designed an apartment building on the same block just a year earlier.

Minuth filed plans for the 25-foot wide structure on March 25.  They were vague, calling only for a "five-story flat" with a tin roof to cost $26,000 (just over $691,000 today).  The results were much more exciting.

Minuth's design had all the bells and whistles of the Queen Anne movement.  The understated brownstone basement and first floor upheld four stories of red brick, ruddy terra cotta and stone.  The artistic stoop "floated" from the sidewalk to the entrance.

The entire plan was (typically Queen Anne) asymmetrical.  Instead of being executed in cast metal, as would be expected,the four-story angled bay was of brownstone.  It encompassed a riot of giddy decorations--polished granite columns at the second floor, carved pediments and panels, a make-believe roof, complete with carved shingles, above the fifth floor openings.  Not to be outdone, the single windows to the side grew progressively showier with each subsequent floor, until the topmost wore a terra cotta seashell.   The third, fourth and fifth floors openings sat above half-bowl Juliette balconies with swirling iron railings.

Topping it all off was a steep gable and ornate terra cotta rondel.  The elaborate pressed metal cornice upheld a tall parapet.

Somewhat unexpectedly, McMillan retained possession of the building for several years.  Apartment buildings, or flats, of this type were operated nearly as boarding houses, with a proprietor keeping close watch on things.  McMillan leased No. 208 to a proprietor, or manager.

Among the first tenants were actress Maude Granger and her husband, playwright Alfred Cecil Calmour.  Born as Anna E. Brainard on Christmas Day 1849, she was highly popular with theater audiences and would eventually appear in several silent films.

In addition to her beauty, Maude Granger was among the the top box office draws of her day.  photograph from the collection of the New York Public Library
Like most other women in the building, Maude a maid.  She was wealthy enough to own her own carriage, a team of horses, and to employ a full-time groom.  It may be that she was leaving New York on an extended tour in the fall of 1889 that prompted her to sell her horses.

On October 11 that year she instructed the groom, Edward R. Lloyd, to go to "Van Tassell & Kearney' sell a team of brougham horses," according to The New York Times a few days later.  Van Tassell & Kearney's was Manhattan's premier horse and carriage auction house.  Lloyd did what he was told, received a check for nearly $9,000 today, but then forged her name and disappeared.  Five days later he was tracked down by detectives and arrested in Ontario, Canada.

Living in the building about the same time was stock broker Charles T. Schlesinger.  The well-to-do bachelor was a man's man, or as The Sun described him, "a well-known athlete of the New York Athletic Club."  Schlesinger was a member of that club's water polo team and its football team.

At noon on October 30, 1891, he left his apartment and walked down Broadway to meet his two sisters who were out shopping.   The women had previously mentioned to Schlesinger that a man had harassed them on the street.  He no sooner met them, than they told him the same man had been trying to "force himself on their attention."  They pointed out John F. Walker.  Schlesinger told his sisters to continue their walk and that he would follow discreetly.

Sure enough, Walker "again made himself obnoxious to the ladies," as described by The Sun.  Schlesinger caught up with them, told his sisters to keep walking, and demanded an explanation from the cad.  Walker delivered "an insulting response" which earned him a punch in the face from Schlesinger.  Walker retaliated with his heavy cane.

A well-known lacrosse player, Lionel Moses, was passing by and jumped in.  He advised Schlesinger to move along before things got out of hand while he detained Walker.  He rejoined his sisters and at 33rd Street they boarded a Sixth Avenue streetcar.  But Walker did the same.

When the car was about at 42nd Street, Walker sat down opposite Schlesinger and pulled out a "large self-cocking revolver" and said "I'll finish you right here."  The athletic broker balanced himself on the seat with his palms and thrust his feet into Walker's stomach.  "Then he sprang upon Walker and they fought for possession of the pistol."

Understandable chaos and panic ensued.  The Sun reported "The car stopped and conductor, driver, and all the passengers deserted it, leaving the two men struggling...A colored boy, who sat next to Schlesinger, holding in his arms an immense floral horseshoe, dropped the flowers like a hot potato, and jumped out the window, carrying the sash with him."

Policeman Farley jumped onto the stopped streetcar and tried to disarm Walker, "but had to use his club before Walker would drop the weapon."  At the police station, Walker said he was a graduate of West Point and former officer of an Ohio regiment.  Insisting he had acted in self-defense, he demanded that a letter be send on his behalf to Grover Cleveland.

The case took a surprising turn when it came to court on December 7.  As it turned out John Walker was indeed a former captain in the U.S. Army.  The New York Times reported "It was shown in the Court of General Sessions yesterday that he was subject to fits of insanity, and had often annoyed women."   Judge Cowing dismissed all charges providing that the United States Army would take charge of him.  Walker was taken to the Military Insane Asylum in Washington D.C.

Not long after McMillan sold the building to Mary G. Barrymore Valentin in January 1892, a shadier type of tenant began taking flats.  Falling into that category was former actress Lilyon Beardsley.  Minnie C. Warren's suit for absolute divorce from her husband, attorney Lyman E. Warren, landed in Superior Court on January 10, 1894.  In addressing the jury, Judge Dugro said that the only question they needed to decide upon was:

Did defendant at any time between Oct 30, 1890, and May 27, 1893, live in improper relations with Lilyon Beardsley, otherwise Lilyon Daniels, otherwise Donna Madixxa, otherwise Mrs. Smith, otherwise Mrs. Abbot?

The jury apparently decided that Lilyon and the attorney had, indeed, had improper relations.  Minnie was granted her divorce.

In 1905 Susan Merrill took over the operation of the building.  She had earlier run a boarding house where, in 1902, she had a terrifying roomer--Harry Kendall Thaw.  Susan later testified that repeatedly girls would call, thinking they were to audition for a stage play.  After Thaw took them to his rooms, the landlady would hear screams as Thaw took a whip to the bound girls.  She tried to evict him, but he threatened her, promising to kill her if she said anything about his behavior.

Susan was horrified when Thaw appeared at No. 208 West 54th Street and rented a three-room apartment.  She testified at his trial for murdering Stanford White, "In West Fifty-fourth street I heard the same screams and when I ran up to Thaw's three rooms I found him with two girls.   The back of one of the girls was all black and blue and her arms bleeding.  Thaw's face was red, as I have described.  She told me she was twenty-two years old."  Thaw was already married to Evelyn Nesbitt at the time.

In April 1916 the estate of Mary Valentin sold the property to Mary I. Smith.  She immediately made improvements, including a new bathroom.  But modern plumbing did not improve the respectability of the tenants.

Mrs. Margaret Hill lived here at the time.  Although born of a good family, according to newspapers, she had nefarious leanings.  It seems that she was expecting an influx of cash in the beginning of June 1916, when, according to The New York Times, she arranged "for an elaborate renovation of her apartment."

But two weeks later she was nowhere to be found.  Police descended on her apartment on June 22 to find only her maid, Frida Johnson, who said she did not know where Margaret had gone, and only that "before leaving had ordered her furniture to be put into storage."

Margaret, as it turned out, had gained the trust of the multi-millionaire spinster Gertrude Claypool, the niece of former Governor Bookwalter of Ohio.   Over a period of days she drugged the elderly woman, hoping that she would not notice the increased doses.  Then, when Gertrude was essentially incapable of reason, Margaret and her cohorts abducted her to a Newark hotel where they had her rewrite her will.  Included in Margaret's share would be $4,000 outright (around $120,000 today).

But the scheme fell apart when Gertrude later realized what had happened and notified police,  Now they were on the trail of all the participants.  Detectives carefully combed through Margaret's belongings, finding the same drugs that were used on the victim, photographs and other evidence.

Gertrude had named names and identified Margaret Hill as one of the main figures.  Assistant District Attorney Dooling, did not hold back, saying, according to the New-York Tribune, "this band of blackmailers, card swindlers, opium users and smugglers lies at the end of so many lanes of evidence that he is not sure yet just which of these crimes will form the basis of the indictments."

Louis Levy was a tenant in the 1920's.  His motives were, perhaps, well intended, but his means of resolving a problem were more than questionable.  On February 13, 1922 he and another man strode into the office of theatrical booking agent Walter B. Sheridan in the Gaiety Theater Building on Broadway and 46th Street.   According to Sheridan, they accused him of putting "scantily draped women on the stage" at a show he was arranging in the Bronx.  Sheridan assured them everything would be according to the law.

Both men reacted by pummeling Sheridan, breaking his nose.  With blood pouring from his face, Sheridan followed the fleeing duo down the stairs, hollering for help.  According to The New York Herald, "with the memory of the recent holdup in the office of the Morrison Pen Company fresh in their minds, occupants of the other offices began running into the corridors shouting for the police."

On the street things got chaotic.  As workers from the building shouted that robbers were at work, the crowd on Broadway stopped and jammed the street.  Traffic could no longer move and the tie-up lasted until police could finally restore order.

Levy had been seen running from the building and was arrested for felonious assault.  His alibi was not convincing.  "He said he had gone into the building with a friend whose name he could not recall and that he had run because he saw everyone else running," reported the article.

The building, now owned by Margaret Mills, was described as "furnished-room house."  Among her tenants in 1924 was 35-year-old divorcee Susie Nelson.  Susie was carrying on a sexual affair with 29-year-old married police officer James J. Sullivan.  The dead-end romance not only nearly ended her life, but landed Officer Sullivan in more than his share of hot water.

Sullivan worked nights and on December 8 at about 3:40 in the morning, he reported sick at the station house.  He then went to Susie's apartment at No. 208 West 54th Street.  Five hours later he went into the hallway to use the restroom and, while there, heard a gunshot.

Susie had taken his service revolver and shot herself in the chest.  The wound was not fatal and she told police at the West 68th Street Station that she was "discouraged with life."  James J. Sullivan was suspended from the force pending an inquiry, and had much explaining to do when he got home to Queens.

The old apartment building was convenient for Thomas Healey, who lived here in 1926.  Although he worked as a finance company collector, he was also part-owner of the nightclub next door at No. 210, the Club Biarritz.   During Prohibition, questionable activities went on in such places, and the Club Biarritz was no exception.

In December that year McKewn Whitcomb came into Manhattan from his home in South Orange, New Jersey for a night on the town.  According to his complaint later, he "bought three bottles of ginger ale and received a bill for $21, which he protested."  (The ginger ale was admittedly pricey, the three bottles equal more than $290 today.)

He went on to claim that the waiter directed him to Healey's partner, Frank Timpone, who "beat him."  Then both Healey and Timpone took Whitcomb "to a room on the floor below the club, which was on the third, and beat and robbed him of $42, all he had."

Before they released him, according to Whitcomb's testimony, "Timpone seized me by the throat and threatened to crush in my skull.  Healey told me he was a detective and threatened to him me on the head with a blackjack."  They put him in a taxicab and "Healey told me if I made a complaint it would go hard with me."  He made a complaint.  The men appeared in court on December 16.

Dr. Alvin Bakst owned the building in 1967 when it was eyed along with other surrounding properties as the site for a major structure.  Bakst sold and the following year the massive 42-floor 1700 Broadway was completed; ending a rather sordid history for the 25-foot wide slice of West 54th Street.

photo via

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The M. Rowan "Ice Cream Saloon" - 668 Sixth Avenue

In 1850 William Johnson began construction of six brick-faced homes on the east side of Sixth Avenue, between 20th and 21st Streets.  At 20-feet wide the four-story homes were intended for well-to-do families decades before the avenue would become a major shopping thoroughfare.

No. 334 in the middle of the row, became home to Catharine Danforth.  She remained until early in 1862 when she moved to No. 57 West 24th Street.  On March 18 that year an advertisement in The New York Herald offered "To Let--The house 334 Sixth Avenue, near Dr. Muhlenberg's church, in complete order; gas fixtures, bath, range &c; suitable for a physician."

It was not a physician who leased the house, but the New-York Ladies' Educational Union.  With civil war raging in the south, they rented the property for their Institution for the Children of Deceased or Disabled Soldiers in the house.

On June 7 The New York Times described the institution's goals in dramatic Victorian prose:

First, that of the care-worn, war-made widow, who is thankful to leave her little one under the kind auspices of Mr. and Mrs. Davis, the Superintendents, while she seeks perhaps for the first time a day's employment.  Again, it is a refuge for the young girl of intelligence and capacity, who would fain accept instruction to fit her to combat unwonted trials in a commercial sphere; and a home for the little girls and boys, some of whom wear garments of mourning that should be looked reverently upon by every loyal American, especially those who in tranquility of luxurious homes, entertain but faint visions of the battlefield.

The article described the house as being "large, and will require much to make it the home-place that is intended."  To fund the furnishing and renovations, the New-York Ladies' Education Union held week-long fairs in places like the Cooper Institute.  And as Thanksgiving approached, a "Thanksgiving Donation Visit" was advertised.  On the holiday the doors were opened to visitors from 3:00 to 8:00.

A few weeks earlier Rev. Stephen H. Tyng, rector of the fashionable St. George's Church on Stuyvesant Square, had heard unflattering rumors about the institution.  On November 17 he took out an ad that said in part "Having been informed that certain statements unfavorable to the character of the 'Institution for the Benefit of the Children of Deceased or Disabled Soldiers'...have been presented to the press...I desire personally to certify that this institution has been established by ladies of the most indubitable excellence of character and dignity of social position."

Soon after the end of the war the Institution was dissolved.  In 1869 owner Mary McKenna converted the first and second story to storefronts.  The shop space was leased to ice cream manufacturer M. Rowan & Co. while the upper floors became home to another institution, the Shelter for Respectable Girls.  It was run by the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion, connected with the Church of the Holy Communion on the corner.

On February 23 1873 The New York Herald noted that "during the past two years it has received and provided with situations over five hundred homeless, but respectable women.  The majority of these were Christian women, many of them communicants in various Christian churches, some of them persons reduced from affluence to poverty, and cast, from no fault of their own, without a friend upon the world."  The Shelter for Respectable Girls remained at least through 1876.

Three of the original row, including 668, retain much of their domestic appearance.

In April 1875 Rowan & Co. renewed its lease.   By now Sixth Avenue was transforming into a major shopping district as small buildings from the 1840's and '50's were demolished to be replaced by lavish emporiums.  It had proved to be a perfect location for an "ice cream saloon."

Michael Rowan had come from his native Ireland in 1851 and established his ice cream business in 1866.  He manufactured his ice cream in the cellar.  The firm supplied bulk treats to restaurants and hotels and for large events like excursions.  The "saloon" (a term later changed to the more benign "ice cream parlor"), was a favorite stopping point for the women shopping along Sixth Avenue.

Sales were brisk on the hot Saturday afternoon of August 26, so when the shop was broken into that night the safe was full.  On August 31 The New York Times reported "The ice-cream establishment of Messrs. Cowan [sic] & Co., at No. 334 Sixth avenue, was entered by burglars on Sunday morning.  They broke open a small safe and carried off the contents of the money-box, consisting of $1,500 in cash and a check on the Bank of the Metropolis for $14.40."  The take would equal about $35,700 today.

Rowan, his wife Theresa, and their sons, Joseph Charles, Francis (known as Frank), Ambrose, Marten and Edmond, lived above their other ice cream shop at No. 742 Sixth Avenue at the time of the break-in.

In the 1878 Journal of the Fair for the New St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rowan advertised his ice cream as "The only old fashioned cheap hand made Ice Cream in the city."  (The term "cheap" would be substituted with "affordable" today.)  Ice cream was priced at $1 per gallon and "French & Italian Creams" at 60 cents per quart.  A gallon would cost $25.50 today.  The ad noted "Liberal discount to Church Festivals, etc."

A separate article in the Journal promised "Lovers of ice-cream in its purity, charlottes that are delicious, French and Italian creams surpassing any house in the city in quality, will find at M. Rowan's establishments, 334 Sixth avenue...and 742 Sixth avenue...everything to suit the most fastidious taste."

Joseph Charles apparently had no interest in going into his family's business.  In 1884 he enrolled in Columbia College as a law student.  By now the Rowans had given up the other store and moved into the upper stories of No. 334.

In 1888 Illustrated New York gushed about the store saying "Few among the many inviting and excellent establishments devoted to the manufacture and sale of ice-cream and kindred toothsome products on Sixth Avenue have secured a more enduring hold on popular favor than the well-known and flourishing ice-cream depot and refreshment parlor of Mr. Rowan."

The article described the 20- by 70-foot saloon as "neatly appointed and well kept"  It added "Five polite and efficient assistants are employed while a delivery wagon is in steady service."

In 1897 the estate of Mary McKenna enlarged the store space for Rowan.  It hired architect P. F. Brogan to design an extension to the rear, costing $3,500.  The increased business also necessitated more than the single delivery wagon mentioned in 1888.  On July 10, 1900 the Confectioners' and Bakers' Gazette noted "many wagons [are] kept going constantly to supply the demand."

Above the second story show window the name M. Rowan is announced in cast iron.
The McKenna estate brought P. F. Brogan back in January 1901 to design an new storefront.  Michael Rowan died around 1907.  The business was continued under Frank, Ambrose and Edmond.  While Joseph Charles continued to live above the store at least through 1912, he was not involved in the business, having followed his legal career.

By the end of World War I the retail stores had abandoned Sixth Avenue, moving north to Fifth Avenue and Herald Square.  Nevertheless, the Rowans stubbornly stayed on.  On August 26, 1919 The Sun reported that Edmond Rowan had renewed the lease on the building for another ten years.

The enlarged windows of the 1920 renovation can be seen in this May 9, 1940 photo.  from the collection of the New York Public Library
The ice cream parlor remained downstairs, but the upper floors were converted for business by architects Gronenberg & Leuchtag in 1920.  At the time the windows of the two top floor were enlarged.  Simon Waist & Dress Co. moved in that year, headed by Michael Simon.

In 1925 Sixth Avenue was renumbered and No. 334 became No. 668.  At the end of Edmond Rowan's lease the ice cream store was gone, ending its 60-year history in the space.

Passersby could have no clue that the top story windows are not historic.
The Sixth Avenue neighborhood suffered decline and neglect for decades, only to be rediscovered as "The Ladies' Mile."  The massive retail emporiums, many of which had stood essentially vacant, were repurposed as residential and commercial buildings.  A surprising renovation of No. 668 restored the residential-style windows on the upper floors, complete with pressed metal cornices matching the historic examples next door.

photographs by the author

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Gertrude and Michael Gavin Mansion - 12 East 65th Street

In June 1906 Minnesota railroad magnate James J. Hill purchased the sumptuous mansion at No. 8 East 65th Street.  The New York Times remarked that he was the "second of the Western railroad magnates to reach the decision recently that he spends enough time in New York to justify his buying a house here."  Another member of the Hill family would, too, be moving to the block before long.

On September 21 that same year a Minnesota newspaper reported "The engagement of Miss Gertrude Hill, daughter of James J. Hill, to Michael Gavin, a lawyer of New York, was announced last evening at a dinner given at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Theron Slade."  Noting that Gertrude had made her debut two years earlier, the article added that she "is musical in her tastes."

Gertrude Hill Gavin on her wedding day.  from the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society 
The wedding took place in St. Paul later that year.  The couple received a handsome wedding gift from James J. Hill; a Manhattan mansion.

Next door to the Hills' New York home, at No. 12 East 65th Street, was the 22-foot wide brownstone residence of Judge Charles H. Truax, built in 1876.  The Traux family had lived in the house since the mid 1890's.  In 1907 the judge sold the now out-of-fashion brownstone to Hill.

The architecturally outdated Traux house, left, contrasted with the ebullient Beaux Arts mansions of James J. Hill and William Bliss.  from the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society
The title to the property was put in Gertrude's name.  When the couple returned from their honeymoon trip, they set about planning their new home.  On August 29, 1908 the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide reported that architect Walter B. Chambers had been hired to design a five- and six-story brick and stone dwelling.  The projected cost was placed at just over $1 million today.

The New York Times explained the "five- and six-story" issue.  "The design is unusual, the house being five stories high in front and six stories in the centre, and three at the rear.  It will have a mansard and a second-story balcony, and be finished with a central stair hall and foyer."

Chambers carefully melded the new house to its neighbors to the west.  He matched the rusticated base, and lined up the second floor balconies and cornices.  A quieter presence, the design was nonetheless harmonious and elegant.

Although educated in law, Gavin was a junior partner in the investment banking firm of Moore & Schley when the couple moved in.  In 1915 he joined the brokerage firm of Montgomery & Company; and before long became a full partner in the financial firm Montgomery, Clothier and Tyler.

The Gavins were highly visible in society, traveling to Europe regularly and entertaining both in the Manhattan home and their Bernardsville, New Jersey estate.  On August 19, 1910 The New York Times advised "Mr. and Mrs. Michael Gavin will sail on the Adriatic next week for France, where they expect to visit friends and spend considerable time motoring.  They will return to New York in October."

Gertrude was highly active in charities and activities related to the Roman Catholic Church.  In 1920 she was elected the first president of the National Council of Catholic Women.  She was awarded the papal medal Pro Ecclesia and pontifical diploma in 1924.  Her religious interests spilled over into the entertainments in the 65th Street house.  On January 16, 1923, for instance, she hosted a lecture by Father Clifford, Professor of Scholastic Philosophy at Columbia University, on "faith, faith cures and the doctrine of the miraculous."

In 1920 the Gavins gave up the Bernardsville summer home after Graenan, their French Renaissance-style mansion designed by John Russell Pope, was completed on their 50-acre Oyster Bay, Long Island estate.  In 1926 Gertrude had Chapelle de St. Martin de Sayssuel, a medieval chapel in the French village of Chasse, dismantled and shipped to the Oyster Bay estate.  John Russell Pope was brought back to oversee the careful reconstruction on the grounds.   The project sparked the legend that Graenan, too, had been imported stone-by-stone from France; a rumor that survives.

The charming chapel was removed to Marquette University in Wisconsin, in 1966 following the destruction of Graenan by fire.  photo by Sulfur
In the meantime, Gertrude may have surprised some when she announced in November 1924 that she would be stepping down from the presidency of the National Council of Catholic Women.  She had been selected by Cardinal Patrick Joseph Hayes to "work among Catholic immigrants landing at New York."

Quoted in The New York Times on November 10, she explained "Many of these Italians as well as Catholic immigrants from other countries become confused in the struggle for existence in the new country and from lack of information sometimes make mistakes."

Michael Gavin retired in 1928.  His time was not idle.  The Gavins traveled almost every year to the Saint John River where Gertrude loved salmon fishing.  Along with the Hills, they were members of the exclusive Jekyll Island Club.  They eventually acquired a third home in Boca Grande, Florida.

Wealthy socialites gave their assistance during World War II to relief work and to military support--like the Soldiers' and Sailors' Clubhouse.  Gertrude did her part by helping to organize and run the Cathedral Canteen of New York.  Both the Departments of the Army and the Navy awarded her certificates of appreciation following the war.

In 1949 the Gavins sold the 65th Street house to the Dominion of Pakistan.  They moved to an apartment at No. 760 Park Avenue where, within six months of one another, the couple died in 1960.

The Republic of Pakistan purchased the James Hill mansion in 1951 and today still owns both properties.

photographs by the author

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Religious Scandal, Military Towels, and Designer Handbags - 106 Franklin Street

By the 1830’s the block of Franklin Street between Church Street and West Broadway was lined with handsome Federal-style residences.  No. 106 reflected the fashionable nature of the neighborhood.  Faced in brick it rose three full stories to a pitched roof with prominent dormers.  At 25-feet wide, it was on par with the homes of the city’s most prominent citizens.  The upscale tone of the home was also evidenced by its resident, the Episcopal Bishop of New York.

Benjamin Treadwell Onderdonk was born on July 15, 1791.  After graduating from Columbia College he studied theology under Bishop John Henry Hobart, eventually succeeding him as Bishop in 1830.  Onderdonk and his wife, the former Eliza Handy, had two children, Elizabeth Caroline and William Handy Onderdonk.

Benjamin Tredwell Onderdonk photo via 
Although grown, both Caroline and William were living with their parents in 1844 when the family looked for a summer place.  The Onderdonks, like all well-to-do families, left the city in the warm months for the country.  With their parishioners out of town, most fashionable churches closed for three months.  On March 26 William placed two advertisements in the New-York Daily Tribune.

The first offered the Franklin Street house for lease:  “To let—The three story basement House No. 106 Franklin st.  Two parlor pier glasses, a Nott’s stove for the hall, and an entry oil cloth will be let with the house.”  (The two parlor pier mirrors were a clear indication of the upscale furnishings.)

The second ad read: “Country Residence—Wanted, a large and commodious dwelling house situated in a healthy part of the State, near an Episcopal Church, and of convenient access to the city.”

At the time scandal rocked the Episcopal community and it centered on Bishop Onderdonk.  When a candidate for the ministry, Arthur Carey, was interviewed by Rev. Dr. Hugh Smith of St. Peter’s Church, he expressed views sympathetic to Roman Catholicism.  It was a serious matter in 1843—Roman Catholics were called "Papists" (and worse).  Rev. Smith called for an inquiry by Bishop Onderdonk.

In 1887 Valentine's Manual depicted Franklin and Church Streets as it would have appeared in the early 19th century. copyright expired 
When Onderdonk deemed Carey suitable for ordination a backlash erupted.  Now the Bishop too was accused of pro-Catholic sentiments.  During the uproar, the Bishop of Virginia, William Meade, suddenly produced a number of affidavits from women who alleged Onderdonk had “engaged in improper touching” and had made inappropriate advances.   (It was an astonishingly early precursor to today's #MeToo movement.)

Onderdonk fought the charges valiantly; proposing that the women were paid to make the charges so his enemies could get rid of him.  But a resulting trial before the House of Bishops ended in Onderdonk’s suspension.  While he retained his position—at least in title—he was unable to celebrate mass or any other of his priestly duties.

Further tragedy came to the family when Elizabeth died at the age of 37 on Saturday morning, May 14, 1853.  Her funeral was held in the parlor of the house on Franklin Street two days later.

Although he was no longer able to perform his duties, Onderdonk and his family continued to live quite comfortably in their fine home.  On September 1, 1854 an advertisement in The New York Herald sought a new servant.  “Cook Wanted—To go a short distance in the country.  She must understand milking, baking, washing and ironing, and come well recommended.”  The notice reveals that the family still maintained a country home.

Bishop Benjamin Onderdonk died on April 30, 1861.  Despite more than a decade of public humiliation, he received full honors at his Trinity Church funeral.  The interior of the church was draped in black and several hundred clergymen attended the service.  His body lies today within a stone sarcophagus in Trinity Church that depicts him lying with his foot crushing a serpent labeled “Scandal.”

By the time of Onderdonk’s death commerce was inching closer and closer to Franklin Street.  Its once fine homes were being razed or converted for business purposes.  In September 1866 the Trustees of the Episcopal Fund were authorized to buy a new Episcopal Residence on East 22nd Street and to sell “the house 106 Franklin Street, formerly the Episcopal Residence.”

The property was purchased by Hugh Doherty.  Rather than demolish the old house, he altered it to a store and loft building.  The renovations were completed before 1868, resulting in an up-to-date Italianate-style structure.  In April 1868 he advertised “To Let—A First Class Loft, suitable for the fancy goods trade; terms moderate.”  And two months later an advertisement offered “To Let—A fine office, with room for sample counter, at a moderate rent.”

Among the first tenants was Fairbanks & Martin, dry goods merchants.  And in 1872 the newly-formed R. D. Wood & Sons moved in.  Originally an iron dealer, firm would totally remake itself before the end of the century.

One employee of Fairbanks & Martin in 1873 stepped off his commuter train before realizing he had left his important papers on the seat.  He placed an advertisement in The New York Herald on September 20 offering “$10 Reward will be paid to any person returning a Letter Case, with contents of papers and memoranda, lost by the subscriber on the Stongington line Wednesday night.”  The papers were apparently important, for the reward R. Hazard offered would be more than $210 today.

The South was devastated by a yellow fever epidemic that year.  On October 10 The New York Herald reported that a fifth priest had died after administering last rights to the sick and that 39 victims had died in Memphis alone the previous Wednesday.  Fairbanks & Martin donated $25 to the relief effort (about $525 today).

Fairbanks & Martin moved to 78 Franklin Street the following year.  In their place Giffin & Wilde, commission merchants moved in.   The firm, headed by Charles H. Giffin, Jr. and Charles E. Wilde, remained in the building until its bankruptcy in 1879.

The estate of Hugh Doherty sold 106 Franklin to Samuel H. Frisbee in January 1881.  Described in the sale documents as a “five story brick store,” it sold for about $908,000 in today’s dollars.  Just over four years later, in August 1885, real estate operator Thomas S. Clarkson purchased it for the equivalent of $1.45 million today.

Clarkson hired the architectural firm of W. A. & F. E. Conover to renovate the structure.  Their plans, filed in February 1888 called for “front alterations.”  A new storefront and, most likely at this time, the broad openings with their metal lintels decorated with rosettes were included in the renovations.

By now R. D. Wood & Sons had become George Wood, Sons & Co. and no longer dealt in iron, but in textiles.  The firm operated a cotton mill and the Millville Manufacturing Company in Millville, New Jersey.   

As other tenants came and went, the firm stayed on.  The broad array of textiles it handled was evidenced in the 1913 American Trade Index, which listed “Sateens, cambrics, linings, buntings, silesias, long cloths, crashes, diapers, napkins, [and] towelings.”  During World War I the firm landed lucrative contracts with the Government, supplying the United States Marine Corps with towels.  

Following the war, as the dry goods district inched further uptown, a different type tenant called 106 Franklin Street home.  Korona Spice Co. was headquartered, here, dealing in spices like its Korona Hungarian Paprika.

During the Great Depression, the Government once again purchased from George Wood, Sons & Co.  On November 21, 1935 The New York Times reported the firm had bid on “cotton huck towels” for the Army, and 394,652 yards of cotton linings, felt and padding “to be used in the army clothing factory.”

George Wood, Sons & Co. stayed on at 106 Franklin Street through mid-century.  In the 1980’s the Tribeca renaissance was transforming the once gritty neighborhood as galleries, restaurants and trendy shops replaced the old factories.  By 1983 Calligraphy Studios leased space in the building, providing the meticulous hand-lettering necessary for upscale place cards and invitations.   Its services were recommended by Tiffany & Co.’s stationery department.

In 2000 Bu and the Duck offered its own baby items to shoppers —clothing, toys and accessories.  And in August 2012 the six-year old handbag line known as Gryson opened a boutique here.  The Times said the shop, “decorated with steel pipes and brass lighting fixtures, reflects the downtown aesthetic of the label and stocks pieces like suede tote bags [priced at] $695.”

Pedestrians passing by 106 Franklin Street today could have no idea that industrial building started life as a luxurious home.  The most astute of observers, however, might notice a nearly hidden clue at the second floor.  The Flemish bond brickwork is original to the 1840’s residence of one of New York City’s earliest Episcopal Bishops.

photographs by the author

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The 1911 Naugle's Stable - 271 West 10th Street

The old 27-foot wide building at No. 271 West 10th Street had housed multiple tenants for years when the Oneill estate sold it on January 13, 1911.  The Real Estate Record & Guide reported "The buyer, David Naugle, will erect on the site a 3-sty stable."  Negotiations for the sale had apparently been on-going, for two weeks earlier Naugle's architect, Charles H. Richter, had filed plans.  They called for a brick and concrete stable to cost $8,000, or around $213,000 today.

Naugle did not have to look far for a builder.  He was the principal in the David Naugle Construction Company.

Richter followed the routine design of stable buildings--a wide, centered carriage bay flanked by a doorway and window on the first floor, and central loft openings on the second and third floors for receiving bales of hay and other supplies.  In the yard behind the original building a small structure had stood, a small house or shop.  Now it held a manure pit, an odorous but necessary component of horse stables.  The stable's no-nonsense brick design included simple stone lintels and a wooden cornice and fascia board not unlike those on buildings of half a century earlier.

While some modern historians speculate that Naugle used the stable for his construction business, there is the possibility that it was instead a side business--a boarding stable.  The David Naugle Construction Company was at No. 67 Warren Street, significantly to the south, making the West 10th Street location inconveniently remote.

Horses on New York streets were all but gone on July 26, 1921 when the New-York Tribune announced that the David Naugle Construction Company had sold what was now described as a "three-story garage."    A month later the New York Herald finally named the buyer as David Walsh.

Walsh ran the D. Walsh Trucking & Rigging Corp.  Like Naugle, its business office was on Warren Street, but its main operations were at Nos. 704-706 Greenwich Street.  No. 271 West 10th would serve several purposes, including garaging some of the Walsh trucks.  Following renovations, Walsh's painted advertisements on the brickwork offered "Horses and Trucks to Hire" and "Gasoline For Sale."

Walsh's renovations resulted in what the Department of Buildings deemed a "3 story Garage & Stable."  The ground floor was used for the storage of "four motor trucks," and the upper two floors were for "stable" purposes.  Walsh used No. 271 for those purposes until 1935, when he leased it.   In 1941 it was home to the York Storage Warehouse and later to the A. Lindenbaum Trucking company.

Although the York Storage Warehouse was in the building when this shot was taken in 1941, the Walsh signage remained.  The projecting pulley hoist survived as well.  photograph from the collection of the New York Public Library.
The A. Lindenbaum Trucking company moved out around 1966.  The building was unofficially converted to studio and living spaces.  Hans Van de Bovenkamp was here at least by 1968.  Born in Garderen, Holland in 1938, he had moved to New York City following his graduation from the University of Michigan in 1961.  He would be integral in what was termed the 10th Street Gallery Co-op movement.  (It was a collective term for co-operative galleries operating mostly in the East Village, run with little or no staff on nearly non-existent budgets.)

Van de Bovenkamp's modern sculptures were not well-received by The New York Times art critic John Canaday.  He stopped by No. 271 in April 1968 to see the artist's limited edition fountain sculptures.  He  reported "Most of these ill-designed, ill-made sculptures in sheet metal seem planned to disfigure pools.  The studio is kooky-cute, what with a faceless clock ticking away, a barber's chair in the modified conversation pit, and other arch oddments."

Canaday got another shot at Van de Bovenkamp that month when he reviewed a show by ten artists on April 28.  He said in part "The sculpture of Roger Jorgensen, Julius Tobias and Charles Ginnever I thought was as distinguished as that of Hans ven de Bovenkamp was tacky."

In the end Van de Bovenkamp prevailed.  His large scale metal sculptures have won numerous awards and have been exhibited world-wide.

Sharing the old stable building with Van de Bovenkamp was Bill Barrett, an artist whose focus was also on abstract sculpture executed in steel, bronze and aluminum.   Four years younger than Van de Bovenkamp, he too had graduated from the University of Michigan.  He would go on to include painting and jewelry design to his artwork.

After Stephanie Wise purchased the building in 1976, she initiated another commercial renovation.  Department of Buildings certificates described the use of the ground floor as for "storage of two (2) motor trucks, light braising and soldering," and the upper floors to remain vacant.  (The "light braising and soldering" may well have been the metal sculpturing.) 

Wise, it seems, rethought the potential of the structure and two years later initiated another conversion.  This one resulted in a single-car garage and an apartment on the ground floor.  A duplex "apartment and studio" on the upper floors shared the second floor with one smaller apartment--resulting in a total of three apartments in the building.

In an April 27, 1968 article Grace Glueck of The New York Times reported on an art show by the "10 Downtown" artists.  Bill Barrett had exhibited in that show, as did Eugene Tulchin.  By 1996 Tulchin was an associate professor of art at Cooper Union.   That year he purchased No. 271 from Stephanie Wise.  An enamel plaque over the bay doors suggests the two had already operated a gallery form the garage area, although it does not appear anywhere in print.

Tulchin's purchase triggered a rapid-fire turnover in ownership.  He sold it two years later to actor Wesley Trent Snipes, who filed plans to convert it to a single family residence; but changed his mind.  He withdrew them in 1999 and sold the property within the year.

The century of neighborhood change was graphically evidenced when No. 271 was purchased for just under $15 million in 2005.  Within months plans, approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, were filed with the Department of Buildings to convert it to a private residence.

Although the renovations all but removed the remnants of Walsh's signage; ghosts of the lettering can still be made out.
photographs by the author

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Starr Family Houses - 309-313 West 75th Street

Clarence True was among the most prolific of architects working on the Upper West Side in the 1890's.  His inspiration was almost always drawn from  historic periods, resulting in structures that ranged from charming, romantic or elegantly grand.

When he designed three upscale townhouses at Nos 309 to 305 West 75th Street for developer Charles G. Judson in 1892, he gave them his own take on the Francois I style.  Completed the following year, each home had its own personality; yet the trio were unmistakable architectural siblings.  Carved decoration, expanses of multiple-paned windows, prominent dormers (one clad in copper) and projecting gargoyles successfully blended 16th century France with 19th century America.

Judson sold No. 309 on November 7, 1895 to Edward S. Hatch for $41,000--just over $1.2 million today.  He quickly resold it to Pauline Starr, who almost simultaneously (on November 27) purchased No. 311.  Another relative, Walter D. Starr, had purchased No. 313 on January 3, 1894.

Pauline's parents moved into No. 309.  Daniel Ebbets Starr was 51-years old and his wife, the former Pauline Gilsey, was 42.  Her father, Peter Gilsey, was the well-known hotelier and owner of the Gilsey House on Broadway.

Pauline's motivation to purchase the two homes may have had to do with her impending marriage.  On December 2, 1896 she married William Watson Caswell in the Church of the Transfiguration.  The moneyed couple would construct a Newport-worthy summer home, Willmount, in Westchester County and by World War I would have a third home in Boston.

Next door at No. 313, Walter D. Starr changed his focus from lumber to real estate.  In 1895, shortly after purchasing the house, he dissolved the Walter D. Starr lumber company.  He formed the Long Island Sand Co., a contracting company, and was also involved in buying and selling Manhattan real estate.

The house contained 14 rooms and three baths.  It was sumptuously furnished; the parlor being decorated in the Empire style.  The Starrs' art collection was noteworthy.  There were more than 100 oil paintings, including works by esteemed artists like George Inness.  The artworks, including life-sized Cararra marble statuary and bronze sculptures comprised what dealer Benjamin S. Wise called "a collection that few private houses possess."

Starr raised the ire of Oyster Bay estate owners in 1900 when he purchased "Cooper's Bluff" near Sagamore Hill.  The bluff was composed of what was described as "the finest building sand."  But when Staff announced his intentions to build a dock to facilitate the removal of the sand, the wealthy property owners revolted.  The New York Times reported on September 10, 1900 that "The objection to the building of the dock is based on two grounds.  One is the destruction of a picturesque section of the shore, and the other is that the digging of sand there will mean the establishment of a colony of Italians in huts or barracks close to the finest places in Oyster Bay."

While Walter Starr wheeled and dealt in real estate, his wife was active in social circles.  In January 1896, for instance, she was a manager of the "tea and bazaar" for the benefit of the Association for Befriending Children and Young Girls.

Daniel Ebbets Starr died at No. 309 on December 27, 1898.  His funeral was held in the Church of the Transfiguration, where his daughter had been married just two years earlier.

The windows of No. 309 originally had many small panes.  Note the gargoyle projecting over the service alley.
Pauline leased the house to Charles A. Nones.  In the winter of 1902 he and his brother, Alexander, who lived on Fifth Avenue, were involved in a horrific accident.  They and W. F. Carlton, who lived in the Waldorf-Astoria, were the passengers in broker Edward R. Thomas's high-powered automobile on February 12.

His Damier Phoenix was an impressive and famous vehicle, first purchased two years earlier by William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. for $10,000 (more than $300,000 today).   Vanderbilt called the car the "White Ghost" and he reveled in the speeds its 23 horsepower engine could attain.  The New York Times remarked it had "gained much notoriety on the Long Island roads."

The White Ghost above was involved in the tragic accident of February 1902. photo via Vanderbilt Cup Races 
Thomas showed off the car's power, speeding along Convent Avenue near 125th Street.  The road was paved with wooden blocks and The Times said it "has long been a favorite speeding ground for the large automobiles owned by private individuals."  The road had several vacant blocks which were used by neighborhood children as playgrounds.

February 12 was a holiday, so there was an especially large crowd of children out playing.  Three boys, James Dillon, John Riley and Henry Theiss were in the street as the powerful automobile approached.  The article said "they did not see the machine until it was fairly upon them, and the first they knew of its presence was when the horn sounded hoarsely in their ears."

The boys scattered but 7-year old Henry Theiss tripped and fell.  The White Ghost ran over his head and stomach, killing him.  The Times dramatically reported "When the clothing was removed a religious medal was found driven into the flesh by the weight of the machine."

Despite witnesses reporting that Thomas was driving at about 40 m.p.h., he was exonerated in court on February 17.  He testified that he was not going at a high rate of speed, that the roadway was wet, and that the boy "jumped right in front of the machine."  Alexander Nones corroborated his story, saying he saw the boy dash into the street.

Later that year, on July 24, Walter D. Starr sold No. 313 to real estate operators Ottinger & Brother.  The end of the Starr family presence on West 75th Street came in 1908 when Pauline sold No. 309 to Francis P. Bent in August 1908.  She had already sold No. 311 three years earlier to Hyman Berkowitz.

Ottinger & Brother sold No. 313 to Arthur R. Freedlander and his wife Lilly in 1906.  The coupled appeared in court over a bizarre legal tug-of-war with artist Arthur R. Freedlander in 1909.   Full-length portraits of well-heeled women had been fashionable since the 1880's.  The problem with Lilly's was that her husband refused to pay for it.

Valued by the artist at the equivalent of $14,000 today, he told the courts on November 23, 1909 that Freedlander had commissioned him to paint the portrait.  Arthur Freedlander, on the other hand, insisted that Wieburgh "asked to be allowed to paint his wife and that it was understood that he would not pay any money unless the portrait was entirely satisfactory."  He told the judge it "does not truly or accurately represent a likeness" of his wife.

A parade of well-known artists, art instructors and critics took the stand.  The New York Times reported that they agreed the portrait was "a fine work of art" and worth the amount asked for it.

Arthur R. Freedlander personally handled the sale of No. 313 in the spring of 1912.  His lengthy advertisement in The Sun noted that it sat within "the most restricted section on the West Side" and said "artistically, this is one of the most beautiful homes in New York City."  "It is the sort of home that appeals irresistibly to a person of culture and refinement."

Before long the "restricted section" began to fall from fashion.  No. 309 was operated as a rooming house by 1935 and its Depression Era tenants were not all respectable.  Charles Spies was among them in January 1935 when he was arrested with four cohorts for the burglary of the home of architect Gerald Holmes on East 19th Street.  The gang made off with silverware and jewelry valued at $3,000, almost 18 times that much today.

No. 311 had been converted to apartments in 1920.  An advertisement on May 23 that year offered "Magnificent 2, 3, 4 room apartments, bath and kitchenettes, electric light, gas; maid service free; $1,500 to $3,600."  The least expensive rent would equal about $1,525 a month today.  No. 313 was converted to a total of two apartments around 1922.

The most celebrated tenants in any of the three homes would be a still struggling Woody Allen and his wife, Harlene.  In his book Woody: The Biography, David Evanier recounts Elliott Mills description of the space.

I visited them at West Seventy-fifth Street.  It was a divided crazy apartment.  It had a monster chandelier that must have [once] been at the center of somebody's living room.  In their apartment it was right on the edge of the wall.

Evanier  quoted Elliott's description of a hilarious incident. "A huge water bug came up in the bathroom  Woody was terrified of those things  And he had this huge insecticide can.  He was furiously spraying it, jumping around  He was waltzing around with this spray gun trying to get this bug.  Harlene was making fun of him.  She went into the bathroom and smashed the bug with a broom.  "Later, in Annie Hall, he transformed the bug into a lobster, then a spider 'the size of a Buick.'"

Despite the alterations and the inexcusable entrance doors of No. 311, Clarence True's stately threesome still evoke the time when this block of West 75th Street was "restricted" and wealthy homeowners filled them with valuable artworks and furnishings.

photographs by the author

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Lost 2nd Trinity Church - Broadway at Wall Street

Handsome brick Georgian-style homes lined the Broadway neighborhood.  from the collection of the New York Public Library
In 1697 the first Trinity Church was constructed at the head of Wall Street, with its back to Broadway.  Parishioners leaving services were greeted with sweeping views of the North (later renamed the Hudson) River.  As the population of the city mushroomed, Trinity Church was enlarged in 1737.

Two men in tricorner hats stand behind the enlarged structure in 1737.  print by John Evers, from the collection of the New York Public Library 
Disaster came on September 20, 1776 when fire broke out in the Fighting Cocks Tavern near Whitehall Street.  The city had been occupied by the British for five days and colonists blamed the red coats for setting the blaze.  The British blamed the rebels.  Whatever the cause the inferno burned all night, destroying hundreds of structures including Trinity Church.

Vestryman Thomas Barrow made a set of etchings, including this one, of the ruins.  His name survives as Barrow Street in Greenwich Village.  from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
Rebuilding would have to wait.  Many of the parishioners were now homeless and essentially the entire congregation, including pastor Rev. Charles Inglis, evacuated the city.

In 1788, five years after the last shot in the war was fired, construction began on the second Trinity Church.  It was not completed in time for the inauguration of President George Washington in 1789, who prayed instead at St. Paul's Chapel.

The structure, now facing Broadway, was finished in 1790.  The name of its architect is unknown, but his fieldstone structure was elegant.  Larger than its predecessor, its stone steeple rose 200 feet above Broadway.  An elegant half-round portico sheltered the entrance.

Famed architect Alexander Jackson Davis, Jr. created this depiction around 1830. from the collection of the New York Public Library
The New York Herald described the interiors decades later.  "It had galleries on the two sides, and on the east end, a part of the last of which formed the organ loft, in which was placed a fine organ, built in London soon after the church was finished.  The galleries were supported by square pannelled [sic] columns; directly over each of which rose a clustered Gothic column of the roof."

From the center of the three arches above the nave hung "three large and elegant cut glass chandeliers" and four smaller versions hung below the galleries.  The Gothic-pointed windows were extremely early examples--the Gothic Revival style would not be fully embraced in America until the 1840's.  Each of them contained "very small panes."  The largest, in the sanctuary, was considered "one of the largest windows in the United States," according to The New York Herald.  The newspaper said it contained 1,039 panes.

On March 27, 1790 the Gazette of the United-States reported "The new Church lately built in Broadway on the site of the old Trinity Church, was on Thursday last solemnly consecrated and dedicated to the service of God, by the Right Reverend Father in God, Samuel, Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church...A great number of people were assembled on this occasion.  The President of the United States, together with the Rev. Clergy of the different denominations in this city, and many other persons of distinction were present."

The Society of Iconophiles re-published this early print by William Strickland in 1908 from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
The symbolic importance of Trinity Church made it a central point for gatherings.  Public announcements were posted on its fence and assemblies were held on its sidewalk.   None, perhaps, were more notable than those following France's declaration of war against Britain--America's recent enemy--on February 1, 1793.

France had been a strong ally and played a vital role in the United States' victory over the British.  Understandably, the French Government now looked to America for military support.  In 1793 a proclamation of neutrality by a doubtlessly conflicted George Washington was affixed to Trinity's fence.  It was followed by a large gathering at the spot on August 13 to support his decision.

The Gazette of the United-States reported "Citizens of all parties, and every class were present; their unexampled unanimity it is hoped will discourage the few, the very few, turbulent men among us, and cannot fail to instruct foreigners, that however we may disagree in our local politics, we stand united and firm, in our decision to maintain our neutrality."

For whatever reason, The Herald occasionally took editorial swipes at Trinity Church, often making reference to the church's great wealth; other times printing somewhat sophomoric jabs.  On January 14, 1837, for instance, it wrote "The Rev. Mr. Higby from Washington, preached in Trinity Church on Thursday evening, before a congregation consisting of the silver haired Trustees--the venerable matrons--the amiable aunts--and a choice collection of the young and fascinating among the intellectual and refined."

And on October 16 that year the newspaper complained "Who painted the inside of Trinity Church?  He must have been a disciple of Alexander, the copper-smith, for such a botch we never saw.  We can't say our prayers quietly there till it be repainted."

The trustees would soon have more to worry about than a bad paint job, however.  On September 25, 1839, the Telegraph and Texas Register reported "The old Trinity Church, in New York is about to be pulled down, and a new edifice erected in its stead.  It was discovered by workmen employed in repairing the roof, that the walls were out of plumb, and were in some places cracked from the cornice to the base."  The newspaper added "Indeed the whole structure seems to have been miserably built."

print by J. Evers from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
The trustees had brought in architect Richard Upjohn to assess and correct the problems.  But the structural defects were deemed irreparable.  Part of the problem was the mortar, which the Bulletin explained did not have "its due proportion of sand [and] never formed a cement, and now crumbles at the touch.  In consequence, it has become necessary to raze the old church, to make room for a more substantial, and perhaps a more magnificent temple."

What might have seemed a straightforward project of demolition and rebuilding was not.  On August 2, 1839 the Morning Herald strongly proposed that the razing of Trinity Church opened the opportunity to extend Wall Street to the North River.  As for the burial ground that filled the churchyard, the newspaper was dismissive.

The grave yard of Trinity Church is utterly useless, in these latter days, for its original purpose.  All the saints, savans and beauties of the last and virtuous age are buried there; but of late years roguery has so much increased in the world that few deserve to be buried in Trinity Church yard.  In the meantime what improvement would more adorn the city, or benefit the public health, than the elongation of Wall street from Broadway to the North River?

The newspaper accused Trinity Church of "bribery and corruption" to fight the proposal.  "We know very well that this sainted corporation can expend $100,000 in quieting the press and the people's servants about this improvement."

The Morning Herald struck again on August 31, saying "if we could so far overcome folly, bigotry, and hypocrisy, as to get the street cut through to the North River, (which must soon be done) and a splendid square laid out, or Cathedral built on the site of Trinity Church, it would far surpass in beauty, and utility any street in the known world."

The editors of the Morning Herald did not get their way.  There would be no "cathedral square" and Wall Street would not be cut through.  Instead, Trinity Church was demolished and construction of Richard Upjohn's replacement began over the venerable site.  The eight bells of the old steeple were distributed to churches throughout the city.

The Morning Herald sounded conciliatory on October 1, 1840 when it wrote "The Episcopalians are rich, gay, and pious as usual.  This is the richest and most respectable sect in the country.  They are not numerous--but influential and powerful.  Their new Trinity Church is making great progress.  It is a beautiful building."

The Bulletin, in 1837, had hoped for "perhaps a more magnificent temple."  And that is what Manhattan got.  Upjohn's glorious Gothic Revival structure, which survives, is a masterpiece.

Richard Upjohn personally created this depiction of his new church.  from the collection of the New York Public Library