The Mexican-born architect was trained in the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts and had worked in the studios of both Richard Morris Hunt and George B. Post. His works would include the impressive Hoffman House Hotel, the Lincoln Club and Brooklyn’s 13th Regiment Armory.
Built for wealthy wine importer Julius N. Jaros, the 28-foot wide limestone home was completed in 1896. A juliette balcony at the third floor and another, full-length pierced and carved limestone balcony on the fourth floor added dimension to the otherwise flat façade. An especially lacy dormer rose from the tiled roof and elaborate carvings extended the entrance above the second story level.
On the day after Christmas in 1912, Doelger had the deed to the property transferred to his wife’s name.
“Yes, I thought Mrs. Doelger would like the house so I gave it to her for Christmas,” he told reporters. At the time the house was assessed at $70,000.
As World War I was coming to a close the mansion was home to Misha E. Applebaum and his wife, Irma. Born in Russia, Applebaum made his fortune as a copper and metals merchant but became famous by founding The Humanitarian Cult. The Cult, which held meetings in the house at No. 266, was a somewhat Socialist organization that fought for a variety of social causes including the fight against capital punishment, poverty, the war, and for women’s suffrage. Instead of dues or membership fees, aspiring members were directed to pay grocers’ and butchers’ bills for impoverished families.
Irma sued Applebaum for divorce in 1917 on the grounds of mental cruelty and two years later the house was sold. Subsequently, Applebaum married singer Helen Yorke in April of 1920 and later that year, in October, the couple were poisoned with bichloride of mercury. While the new Mrs. Applebaum recovered quickly, Misha was near death for some time.
Having spent over $650,000 of his own money for The Humanitarian Cult causes, Applebaum was in serious financial condition and in 1921 began a vaudeville act in an attempt to pay off his creditors.
By the 1930s, Beverly West, the sister of Mae West, was living in the house. West End Avenue lore insists that the screen and stage siren was also living here at the time, and quite possibly it is true. Certainly the interiors were of Miss West’s taste, mirroring her Los Angeles apartment that dripped with rococo curls and nude floating cherubs.
|The proposed restored entranceway -- rendering provided by Andrew J. Hickes (Rendering.net)|
|The house today during renovation (left) and a detail of the proposed restored entrance -- renderings provided by Andrew J. Hickes (Rendering.net)|