Saturday, July 19, 2014

The James Cox Brady Mansion - No. 10 East 76th Street

In 1881 construction began on a row of ten four-story brownstone-fronted houses on East 76th Street off Central Park.  Stretching from No. 10 through 28, they were designed by architect John G. Prague for speculative developer William Noble.  Completed a year later, they reflected the high-tone flavor of the neighborhood where already the mansions of Manhattan’s wealthiest citizens were rising along nearby Fifth Avenue.

By the early 1890s No. 10 would be home to the Charles Cleveland Dodge family.  A member of the extended Phelps and Dodge families who had made their immense fortunes in copper mining, Charles had distinguished himself during the Civil War as one of the youngest Brigadier Generals in American military history.  Now he was a partner in the Phelps Dodge Co. and President of the New York and Boston Cape Cod Canal Co.

On February 23, 1892 the house was the scene of a significant society wedding.  Daughter Ethel Cleveland Dodge was married to William Cary Sanger of Brooklyn.  The large wedding party included some of society’s most prominent names—among the bridesmaids were Edith Morgan, Helen Stokes, Juliana Cutting, and Lelia Alexander. 

The New York Times reported on the event saying “The ceremony took place under a large bunch of Easter lilies suspended from the ceiling.  To reach this spot, the bride and groom walked between the fourteen bridesmaids who formed an aisle.  The seven on one side wore pink gowns and those on the other wore white.”

In January 1895 the house was sold for $48,000 (about $1.3 million today) to Michael Coleman.  Coleman almost immediately turned it over to the recently-widowed William S. Scarborough.  The 82-year old retired lawyer was living in Connecticut; yet upon the death of his wife that year he moved to New York City.   As a young lawyer in Cincinnati, Scarborough had given help to another young attorney, Rutherford B. Hayes.  Later, the New-York Tribune would remember “When Hayes became President, he offered Mr. Scarborough a mission to the Sandwich Islands.”

Scarborough lived here for just under five years.  The elderly man died in the house on East 76th Street in November 1900.  Private services were held in the parlor on November 28 before the funeral in Connecticut two days later. 

Among William Scarborough’s five sons was Charles, described by The Evening World as “a prominent clubman and paper merchant.”  Around the time his father moved into the house on East 76th Street, Charles was being seen with Mrs. Anna V. Gibbs.  Now Mrs. Gibbs moved into the Scarborough house.

Charles R. Scarborough, himself, lived further south at No. 234 West 42nd Street.  He was in business with his brother at No. 27 Beekman Street. And if friends and neighbors saw Charles come and go from No. 10 East 76th Street, they thought little of it.  Mrs. Gibbs was a respectable widow and Charles had a reputation as a well-bred businessman. 

But since June 6, 1895 the pair had a close-held secret that only Anna’s two sisters and three of Charles’ brothers knew about.  

On October 16, 1902 The Evening World spilled the beans.  “To the doubter who thinks woman is not capable of keeping a secret reference can be made to Mrs. Charles R. Scarborough, who for seven years has given her friends the impression that her name was Mrs. Anna V. Gibbs.”

The newspaper hinted that the secret marriage had to do with the will of Anna’s former husband.  “The story most frequently told deals of a will in which it is stipulated that the beneficiary must not remarry.”  But if clarification was to be had, it was not coming from Charles nor Anna at the moment.  The wealthy paper merchant “has stepped out of the city until his friends recover from the shock of the announcement,” said The Evening World, adding “Mrs. Scarborough is a partial invalid and will not see visitors at her home, No. 10 East Seventy-sixth street.”

By the time of Charles and Anna’s shocking revelation the neighborhood was quickly changing.  The brownstones, while only two decades old, were architecturally out of fashion.  Moneyed buyers snatched up the Victorian homes to either raze or transform into modern mansions.

Dora and Alfred Schiffer had lived next door at No. 12 since 1898.  Now, in 1903, they purchased No. 10 and three years later, on March 31, 1906, the Real Estate Record & Builders’ Guide announced their intentions of melding the two structures into one lavish mansion.  The periodical stated that architects Schwartz & Gross would design five-story “brick and stone front and rear extension” to the two buildings along with redesigning the floorplan at a cost of $100,000. 

Apparently the Schiffers rethought their grand scheme.  Scaling down, they focused on No. 10 and a year later remodeling along the designs of Schwartz & Gross began.  The old brownstone reemerged in 1908 as a grand Beaux Arts mansion that held its own with its exclusive neighbors.

Four floors of limestone rose to a slate-covered mansard.  French doors and multi-paned windows on the second through fourth floors created a refined presence on the block.  Tragically, Alfred Schiffer died without seeing his home completed.  And Dora never moved in.  She sold the completed mansion to financier James Cox Brady.

The young banker had graduated from Yale University just two years earlier, the same year he went into business with his well-known father, Anthony N. Brady.  In 1905 he had married Elizabeth Hamilton, daughter of Judge Andrew Hamilton. 

The young and wealthy newlyweds moved into the new mansion in 1908 and things for the couple seemed idyllic.  Then, on March 3, 1912 Elizabeth boarded a New York, New Haven & Hartford express train.  She would not return home.  The train crashed and Elizabeth Brady was among the fatalities.

Society was surprised two years later when, on October 15, 1914, Brady married Lady Victoria May Pery, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Limerick.  The New York Times remarked “Outside of the relatives and a few intimate friends of Mr. Brady and Lady Pery the couple’s engagement had been kept secret, and the announcement of the wedding…came as a surprise to most of their friends.”

They were married at Sea Verge, the summer estate of Brady’s brother, Nicholas in Monmouth Beach, New Jersey.  Because of the war, the original wedding plans which called for the ceremony to be held at the bride’s family’s Dromore Castle were scraped.  Newspapers made note of the difference in ages—Brady was 32 and his new wife was 20.

The Bradys divided their time between the East 76th Street house and what The New York Times called their “elaborate Summer home known as Hamilton Farms” near Gladstone, New Jersey. “It is one of the show places of the Somerset Hills,” the newspaper would later say.  Shortly after the wedding he purchased the yacht Atlantic and the late Alfred W. Vanderbilt’s stable of coach and harness horses.  He also purchased No. 12 East 76th Street, next door, from Dora Schiffer that same year.

As time passed, James Cox Brady was not only co-executor of his father’s $70 million estate; but was a trustee and director in nearly a dozen firms, including the Chrysler Corporation and Central Union Trust Company of New York.

But tragedy would also end Brady’s second marriage.  Just two years after the wedding Victoria contracted influenza and died.   A widower for the second time, James Cox Brady lived on in the 76th Street mansion with his children and staff.

Then on October 3, 1920 word was received from London that Brady had married again.  

In 1913 The Times had launched a contest to find “the typical American girl of today.”  Hundreds of photographs poured into the newspaper and a jury of seven artists selected one to publish on the front page of the December 7, 1913 edition.  The winner was 18-year old Helen McMahon from Long Island.

Now the former American Girl of Today had been married in Westminster Cathedral to one of America’s wealthiest men.  Unlike Brady’s former wives, she was neither titled nor rich.  “Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. T. McMahon, are both dead and she has been living with her brother, J. T. McMahon, and sister, Florence, in Twentieth Street, Flushing," reported The Times.

The newlyweds arrived in New York on November 14, 1920 on the Cunader Imperator.  The passenger list included Countess Jacques de Lesseps, sculptor Jo Davidson, and Theresa Oelrichs (who was sick throughout the voyage).  But it was Brady and his wife who had the Imperial Suite on the liner.  The New York Times noted “Mr. Brady and his bride had the biggest declaration of dutiable articles on the Imperator, amounting to nearly $17,000.”  The new Mrs. Brady was undoubtedly preparing for her new life in society—the dutiable purchases would amount to about $185,000 today.  And as she departed the ship reporters made note that she “wore a long fur coat with toque to match.”

Helen Brady took up the role as mother and socialite and in 1924 the debutante entertainments for Jane Hamilton Brady stretched on for months.  They climaxed on December 26 when the Bradys hosted “one of the largest of the holiday dances at Pierre’s.”  Prior to the dance a dinner for 50 guests was held in the mansion.

Three years later Jane’s marriage to Frederick Strong Moseley Jr. of Boston was one of the years prominent social events.  The wedding took place at the Hamilton Farms estate on June 23, 1927, and was conducted by the Bishop of Trenton.  Among the high-powered guests were Mr. and Mrs. Walter P. Chrysler, the Alexander Van Rensselaers and Mr. and Mrs. Charles E. Merrill, Jr.

Only five months later James Cox Brady was dead.  He had become ill the first week of November and his condition worsened to pneumonia.  He died in the 76th Street house at the age of 45 at around 2:00 in the afternoon of November 10.  “His passing was so sudden that one of the children, Miss Ruth Brady, who was visiting a relative in Albany, was able to reach the bedside only a few minutes before the end,” reported a newspaper.

Prior to the funeral two days later dozens of friends and former associates paid their respects.  “Four rooms of the house were banked high with hundreds of floral designs,” reported The Times the following day.  Brady’s bronze coffin was transported to the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on Park Avenue and 84th Street where more than 2,500 mourners awaited.  Following the procession into the church, along with the family, were Governor Al Smith, Major General William N. Haskell, and 96 nuns from Villa Marie Convent in Trenton, founded by Brady.

The service was conducted by Cardinal Patrick Joseph Hayes, assisted by a delegation of fifty priests, including the Bishop of Trenton; Bishop John J. Dunn of the Diocese of New York; and clerics as far away as Boston.  “The funeral cortege consisted of more than a hundred automobiles and was headed by a motorcycle police escort en route to the Grand Central Station,” said The Times.  A special funeral train carrying 1,500 persons, including the Cardinal, took the body to Albany.  “Three truckloads of flowers were also taken on the train.”

Helen McMahon Brady shared the more-than $20 million estate with her husband’s three daughters and son.  Among the real estate he left Helen were the two houses on East 76th Street and Hamilton Farm.  She remained in No. 10 and a year later in November announced the engagement of Ruth Brady to the Hon. Michael Simon Scott, son of the Viscountess Encombe and brother of the Earl of Eldon.

In 1946 the Brady family sold the house.  It was the end of the line for the distinguished mansion as a private home.  Later that year it was converted to two apartments per floor, with a doctor’s office at ground level.  In the mid 1950s it housed an art gallery.

From the street, however, the Brady mansion is little changed—a handsome relic on a (mostly) beautifully preserved block.

photographs by the author

1 comment:

  1. Cox Brady was planning to move from the mansion in late 1927/early 1928. He had purchased a very large cooperative apartment of 16 rooms- the penthouse unit at 960 Fifth Avenue, at 77th Street.The same apartment was sold recently for 70 million...