Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The 1901 Edward K. Dunham House -- No. 35 East 68th Street

The Dunham house in 1910.  A traditional brownstone still remains next door -- Architectural Record (copyright expired)
Early in his career, Edward Kellogg Dunham made his mark in the medical community. Having earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1886, he traveled to Berlin where he studied at Koch’s Laboratory and, while there, discovered the “cholera-red” reaction.

Having already established himself as a leading figure in the medical community, the 33-year old Dunham married Mary Dows in 1893. One of four daughters of the fabulously wealthy David Dows – the head of David Dows & Company, among the largest grain dealers in the United States—she had suffered from polio in her childhood and was still partially disabled.

The intrepid Mary, however, had traveled extensively and was an avid and competent amateur photographer.

The couple was residing in Litchfield, Connecticut with their baby daughter Theodora when Kellogg obtained the position of professor of pathology at New York University’s Bellevue Medical College. In 1898 they moved to New York and started plans for a new home.

By this time the streets stretching from Central Park eastward were lined with grand residences of the well-to-do. At 35 East 68th Street stood the brownstone mansion of Mr. and Mrs. John Wesley Love; a four-story structure above a traditional English basement.

photo by Alice Lum
The Dunhams were fond of the location, but not the outdated style of the house. In its place they commissioned renowned architects Carrere & Hastings to fashion a French townhouse in the very au currant Beaux Arts style. Erected between 1899 and 1901, it was a frothy confection dripping with carved garlands and extenuated brackets above the third floor. The house rose three floors over a rusticated base to a mansard roof with two projecting oculi – or round windows.

Two arched French windows at the second story sat behind stone balustrades. French doors opened to ornate bronze grills, creating pseudo-balconies, at the third floor, under an eye-catching stone balcony.

Details that the Architectural Record termed "florid" included elaborate carvings and French grills -- photo by Alice Lum

The Architectural Record tossed its expected jabs at the design, using terms like “florid” and “pretentiousness;” however it allowed that “the exuberance of ornament is handled with skill and discretion, and very clearly avoids defects of over-muchness inevitable in this sort of work produced by designers of less experience.”

Indeed, compared to the massive limestone or marble palaces the firm was producing on Fifth Avenue, this commission was rather modest, yet they managed to impart a richness of architecture here without appearing too grandiose.

photo by Alice Lum
Nearly a decade later, in 1910, the Architectural Record would revisit the Dunham house as an example of Carrere & Hastings' skill.  It urged young architects to follow the firm's lead when designing fashionable homes for the moderately wealthy.

“Yet, [the house] must not be planned on too grand a scale, because in that case it falsifies the lives of its inhabitants.” The magazine applauded the “distinction and style" of the Dunham residence, "without being pretentious or grandiose.”

Edward Dunham was not only a member of several medical associations, but belonged to the Century Club, the Harvard Club, and the University Club.  Yet, whether because of Mary’s partial physical disability or because of the doctor’s extensive research, the Dunhams never immersed themselves in the whirl of New York’s inner social circles.

That changed briefly, however, in 1914, Theodora’s debutante year. Mrs. Dunham hosted teas, dinners and receptions to “introduce” her daughter. And the following year, she gave “a large dinner” for the debut of Theodora’s friend Mary E. Opdycke.

During World War I Dr. Kellogg worked in U.S. Army hospitals, treating meningitis and researching the disease. Through this research he became involved with soldiers suffering from the lung disease empyema.

Kellogg died in the house on April 15, 1922 from heart disease. After his death Mary published his empyema research, with a group of his colleagues.

Mary Dunham remained at No. 35 East 68th until her death in 1936. The house was leased a year later to banker William A. Read by her estate.

By the time this photograph was taken in 1945, the neighboring brownstone was gone as were the delightful round windows in the mansard -- photo NYPL Collection
In 1977 the dignified home was converted into duplex apartments. 

Where once charming French round windows poked through the mansard roof, a clumsy and obtrusive addition destroys the design -- photo by Alice Lum

Today, at least from the exterior, No. 35 East 68th Street remains much as it was in 1901 – what the AIA Guide to New York City calls “extravagant ornament on a ‘modest’ Carrere & Hastings palace.”

4 comments:

  1. When I lived at the Phoebe Warren House (women's residence) back in the early 1960's the address was 8 East 68th Street. I'm not sure why this article is now placing the address at 35 East 68th Street which would place the property on the North side of 68th Street (odd numbers) and we were located on the South side (even numbers). The address was definitely 8 not 35!

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    Replies
    1. The reference to the Phoebe Warren House I used definitely placed it at this address. Although it is possible that the Phoebe Warren House relocated and, therefore, was at both locations; I cannot substantiate the original reference. Based on your comment I removed it. Perhaps another reader has additional information.

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    2. Mrs. Rosie Keisha:
      I writing a Biography and Genealogical History of Phebe Warren.. I wanted to know if your interested in this information. Can you send me your e-mail .
      David Cuesta
      2819 Gunther Ave.
      Bronx, New York 10469
      email:-dcuesta@att.net

      Delete
  2. In his book Caveat Emptor "The Secret Life of an American Art Forger" by Ken Perenyi, on page 82, he mentions attempting to rent a room in this building. Probably was in the 70s (guess). It was then known as the "Ferguson Club." There is a photo of the building in the book and the address is 35 E. 68th.

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