|photo by Alice Lum|
By now the Upper East Side had filled with the comfortable homes of Manhattan’s upper class and 73rd Street between 3rd Avenue and Lexington was a “stable block.” The private carriage houses reflected the wealth and status of their owners, and esteemed architects like Richard Morris Hunt were commissioned to design handsome homes for horses.
William Baylis purchased Stellmeyer’s stable and immediately had it razed. The banker and tax expert commissioned Charles W. Romeyn to design a more impressive replacement. And that he did.
Completed within the year, in was a neo-Flemish Renaissance eye-catcher. At a time when many Manhattan buildings—especially across Central Park on the Upper West Side—were being designed in the neo-Flemish style, Romeyn gave a nod to the city’s Dutch roots with a stepped gable and other Flemish Renaissance touches: keyed window enframements, voussoirs and quoins among them.
The gray Roman brick was accented by stark white terra cotta decoration. A steep Spanish-tiled mansard roof behind the elaborate gable was flanked by tall Flemish Renaissance-inspired chimneys.
|photo by Alice Lum|
The Baylis family used the carriage house for two decades, as automobiles slowly replaced horse-drawn vehicles on the streets of New York. Then on December 19, 1919 The New York Tribune noted that “Adelaide Baylis has sold the three-story stable” at No. 168 East 73rd Street. The buyer was Charles Russell Lowell Putnam.
Putnam was a respected pediatric surgeon with an impressive colonial pedigree. His mother’s uncle was the poet James Russell Lowell. Putnam received his lengthy name in honor of his Civil War hero uncle, Charles Russell Lowell, Jr., who, although fatally injured, continued to lead a cavalry charge at Cedar Creek, Virginia in 1864. .
Dr. Putnam and his wife were admired in the community for their compassion for foundling babies. The Sun reported that for years the couple searched “the children’s hospitals for little boys and girls with bodies so thin and weak that the hospital physicians had little hope that they would grow to be healthy children. Mrs. Putnam took a number of these puny infants to her home and her husband, who is a specialist in children’s diseases and attending physician in the babies’ ward at the Post-Graduate Hospital, gave them professional attention and even engaged a nurse for them.”
When nearly all prospective adoptive parents insisted that the babies would be returned if they proved sickly, the Putnams sought out those babies who were most in need of medical attention. “In the case of the Putnam foster children,” said The Sun, “they were taken because they were sickly.” By the time the Putnams purchased Baylis’s carriage house, they had already adopted five children which the newspaper termed “puny and weak.”
Dr. Putnam kept the building for only two years, selling it in 1922 to George Grant Mason. Mason lived in the magnificent mansion at No. 854 Fifth Avenue built by R. Livingston Beeckmen in 1905. Mason hired architect B. Bancroft to convert the carriage house to a private garage and single family dwelling.
Twenty-three years later Mason sold No. 168 to a realty company which, in turn, sold it a year later in 1946 to financier William Armistead Moale Burden.
In 2007 William Baylis’s private carriage house was converted to a luxurious single-family residence. Once home to horses and coachmen, the residence now boasted six bedrooms, an elevator, six bathrooms, a terrace and outdoor basketball court. The home sold in 2012 for $15 million.
Charles Romeyn’s distinctive Flemish Renaissance carriage house remains wonderfully intact. It sits on a block of equally-handsome private stables. Many of these are now residences like No. 168, creating an especially charming urban enclave.