Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Wooden Charmer at No. 128 E. 93rd Street

 In 1866, the year after the end of the Civil War, East 93rd Street was still part of the sleepy hamlet of Yorkville, well north of the established city. Small frame houses dotted the gently rolling landscape and the open, clean air made the area an attractive alternative to the congestion of New York.

It was here that Henry W. Shaw hired Edmund Waring to design a modest but comfortable wooden home. The house was a speculative project for Shaw, whose main profession was the manufacture of artificial limbs but who dabbled in real estate.

Edmund Waring, who was listed in Trow’s New York City Directory as Edmund Waring & Son Architects at 20 Chrystie Street, drew on the latest architectural fashion of the day – the French Second Empire style. Born in Paris, the elegant style was just reaching New York and the wooden house would be the last word in residential design.

Three robust, hooded dormers graced the mansard above a heavy, bracketed cornice. A steep stoop rose to the entranceway at the parlor floor above a deep English basement.

Woodworker Bernhard Flach purchased the completed house.  Flach, who worked far downtown near City Hall would have had a long daily commute.

Edwin Henes bought the house in 1879. Although Henes and his family owned it for decades, he was apparently renting the home to Mrs. K. E. Fitch by 1915. That year her 30-year old suffragist daughter , Isabel, noted as an expert in outdoor sports, married the Commissioner of Public Works, Ralph Folks.

By now, East 93rd Street was no longer part of a quiet village, but had been swallowed up by the Carnegie Hill neighborhood which included grand mansions that lined 5th Avenue and spilled onto the side blocks. The house continued to be rented after millionaire brewer George Ehret purchased it in 1920.

Two years later as 93rd Street was widened, the stoop was removed and the entrance moved to the sidewalk level, sadly marring the charm of the overall design.

When, in 1966, the house was nominated for landmark status owner Dorothea Fiske Page Darlington opposed the designation.  In 1989 it was purchased by Bradley Reifler, CEO of investment firm Pali Capital, and his wife Ashley for $2.5 million.

An owner's opposition in 1966 resulted in the charming house being one of the few wooden structures not landmarked.
Interior renovations had been done in the 1980s and again by the Reiflers in 1995 which resulted in the removal of walls and the loss of many of the interior details; however the exterior appearance of the building remained relatively unaltered.

Although, in 2008 the house was put on the market for $12.5 million, it was purchased for just $6.8 million two years later by Geraldo Rivera’s former wife C. C. Dyer. A major selling point for Ms. Dyer’s three children was the large treehouse in the backyard.

The treehouse that helped sell a house -- photo Corcoran Realty
Athough when writing about No. 128 East 93rd the AIA Guide to New York City lamented that “too much restoration can put out the flame,” the rare wooden house is a charming residential survivor of the Civil War period in New York.

non-credited photographs taken by the author


  1. Are there no photos of the house when it had the stoop rising to the entranceway? What a shame, but it's still a beauty!

    1. The earliest photograph I have seen is dated 1932; after the stoop was lost.