Friday, May 8, 2015

The George Warner House -- No. 300 Elizabeth Street

As wealthy New Yorkers built elegant mansions on Bond and Lafayette Streets in the 1820s and ‘30s, developers erected merchant class homes nearby.   Around 1828 George Warner erected a two-and-a-half story residence at No. 300 Elizabeth Street with the architectural bells and whistles to lift it a step above the norm.

The two stories of Flemish-bond red brick house sat upon a rusticated brownstone basement.   The entrance featured fluted columns, a generous transom and a paneled door.  Most eye-catching of all the Federal-style building’s appointments were the unusual carved, paneled brownstone lintels.  Geometric lines running either way from the centered panel terminated in a stylized Greek key motif—foreshadowing the architectural rage on the horizon.

In 1841 banker and politician Richard F. Carman was doing well for himself.  That year he ran for Assemblyman as a Democratic Whig.  He owned a summer estate north of the city in the Fort Washington area where two years later, in October, he discovered he was missing a horse.

Carman posted an advertisement in the New-York Daily Tribune that announced his “dark bay Mare” had strayed or was stolen from his pasture.  He offered a $25 reward (a significant $825 today) for any information “where she may be found.”

In 1845 Richard F. Carman had a new town home—No. 300 Elizabeth Street.  The high regard with which he was held within the community was reflected in Doctor Kellinger’s 1848 horse liniment advertisement.   The ad touted that 700,000 bottles of the “wonderful Liniment have been sold without a murmur.  It heals all manner of galls and bruises upon the horse, also strains and callosities of every description, and work the animal every day.”  Kellinger said his “mild, fragrant and agreeable” liniment had caused “thousands of the best and most skillful men in the country to lay down all other remedies used by many of them from 30 to 40 years.”  Among those, he said, was Hon. Richard F. Carman.

Carman was President of the North American Mutual Loan & Accumulating Fund Association, a sort of home loan organization.  In 1852 he added another presidency to his resume—that of committee organized to fight the proposed railroad line up the middle of Broadway.   On August 3 the group--which included high-powered names like Cutting, Whitting, Mortimer, and Munn—met and drafted resolutions to be presented to the Common Council.

The high-end tone of the neighborhood was reflected in one of the clauses.  It complained that the train tracks would deprive “the citizens of the use of that fine promenade now so much sought after, and enjoyed with so much zest.”

In 1855 Carman sold his country estate.  Realtor Rosewell G. Pierce described “the Country Seat formerly belonging to Richard F. Carman” as “consisting of 46 Acres, with abundance of Fruit and ornamental Trees, Spacious Mansion, Green-House, Coach-House, Ice-House filled, &c.  The location is unrivaled for a summer residence.”

The historic, paneled door from around 1828 was replaced in the early 21st century.

Carman died in 1863 and the house became home to John R. Hamilton and his wife Martha.  They lived here until 1890.  Following the Hamiltons was the family of 49-year old millinery salesman Charles F. Taylor.  The patriotic man joined the thousands who traveled uptown for the cornerstone laying of Grant’s Tomb on April 27, 1892. 

The enthusiasm for the event was understandable.  The New York Times reported “President Harrison handled the gold trowel with which this office was performed.  The ceremony was witnessed by an immense gathering of people.  Several members of he Cabinet, diplomats, officers of the army and navy, and a company of special guests distinguished in civil and social life took part in the event.”

When the ceremonies were over, the crush of the crowd trying to leave caused part of a grandstand to collapse, trapping Taylor.  The Times reported “In the movement of the crowd, one of the ground seats gave way, pinioning Charles H. Taylor of 300 Elizabeth Street under it.”  An ambulance from Manhattan Hospital arrived and a surgeon found that Taylor had sustained “what is known as Pott’s fracture, but he thought no serious result need be feared.”  (The same ankle injury is often seen in athletes today.)

Taylor and his wife, Harriet, had a daughter, Mabel.  She enrolled in New York University in 1905; it was the planting of the seed of a most unusual professional life for an early 20th century female . 

Harriet A. Taylor died on Thursday, May 31, 1917.  The door to No. 300 Elizabeth Street would have been hung in black crepe for the funeral services here on Saturday, June 2 at 1:30 p.m.

The following year Mabel was listed in the American Physical Education Review as a member.  She would never marry and eventually rose to the position of Head of the Department of Physical Education at the Bronx Campus of Hunter College.

In 1921 another funeral was held in the house.  Charles F. Taylor died at the age of 80 on Sunday, January 9.  His friends and neighbors arrived for the funeral the following Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

The following year, on September 10, the New-York Tribune reported that Mabel had sold the house which had been home to the family for over three decades.  The buyer, Egidio Pelletiere had plans for the antiquated residence.

He commissioned architect Ferdinand Savignano to raise the attic to a full floor.  Interior renovations resulted in a “club room” in the cellar; a doctor’s office on the parlor level; and “dwelling” above.   It was most likely at this time that the stoop railings were removed and brick-and-concrete wing walls installed.  Amazingly, while Savignano capped the house with a sleek curved parapet consistent with 1920s taste; he carefully copied the dimensions of the lower windows and reproduced the paneled lintels.

The Pelletieri family remained in the house through 1960, finally selling it in 1966 to Rose Cianci.   She retained possession for over a decade. After China Mott Associates purchased the house in 1977, it was converted to an artist studio in the basement and one apartment on each of the upper floors.

The august dwelling, now surrounded by industrial lofts, was renovated again in 1988.  The upper two floors contain a duplex apartment, the parlor level is a single residence, and the basement is now office space.   Sometime after 2003 the historic Federal door was removed.   Although the red brick and brownstone are covered in gray paint; No. 300 looks much as it did following its 1922 make-over.

photographs by the author

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