Standing before the Federal-style house at 45 Grove Street today, it is hard to imagine it surrounded by grounds and gardens, its carriage house in the rear facing what is now Christopher Street. Now, crowded in by later 19th Century structures this once-grand home goes almost unnoticed and it's incredible history is largely forgotten.
Samuel Whittemore was a successful manufacturer of textile equipment as well as an important property holder when he chose the bucolic site for his home in the village of Greenwich in 1830. Whittemore moved his family of nine into the two-story brick residence along with two "free colored persons." The house reflected his wealth -- the rich sculptured plaster ceiling moldings, woodwork of burl walnut and fine Federal detailing. The grounds included a stables and greenhouse.
The family lived at 45 Grove until 1851 when Whittemore sold the property that, before long, became a boarding house. It was here in 1865 that actor Samuel K. Chester was living as the Civil War was coming to an end. Early that year there was a knock on Chester's door that could have changed American history.
When Samuel Chester opened his door that evening John Wilkes Booth stood before him. Booth visited the actor, in Chester's words, to enlist his help with a "conspiracy to take over the government." This included kidnapping the President.
Chester refused to cooperate; however he notified no one. In April of that year John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln.
|photo NYPL Collection|
photographs by the author