Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Moses Baumgarten House -- No. 136 East 95th Street

On January 29, 1887 the Real Estate Record & Builders’ Guide reported that “William J. and John P. C. Walsh intend to erect twelve homes on the south side of Ninety-fifth street, 100 feet east of Fourth avenue, from plans by C. Abbot French.”  The newspaper added that they would be “Queen Anne private residences.”

Since the opening of the Second and Third Avenue elevated trains a decade earlier, development in the area had burgeoned.  The Walsh brothers would get into the act with their dozen upscale homes which stretched from No. 116 to 138 East 95th Street.

The men may have slightly overextended themselves; for while the homes were under construction, in October 1887, they took out a 6-month $10,000 mortgage with M. C. Henry & Co. intended to “secure building materials.”

The houses were completed in 1888.  C. Abbott French’s picturesque row was a visual delight of Queen Anne oriels, quirky openings and terra cotta ornaments.  No two homes were exactly alike, yet they worked together to form a pleasing whole.

Buyers began to take interest; but not quickly enough for the Walsh brothers.  There was the issue of that $10,000 loan.  On November 30, 1889 the Real Estate Record & Builders’ Guide noted that two of the homes, No. 136 and 138, were taken in foreclosure by Matthew C. Henry and his partners, Joseph A. Weeks, Jr. and John Gaynor.  It was a splendid turn of events for them—the two vacant houses were valued at $14,000 each.

Nevertheless it would be a year and a half before M. C. Henry & Co. found a buyer for No. 136.  On June 30, 1891 Moses Baumgarten purchased the house for $17,500—about $470,000 in 2015 dollars.

The 18-foot wide house was faced in yellow brick.  A stone dog-legged stoop rose to the parlor floor.  The second floor was dominated by a massive arched opening, its keystone sprouting the base of a Juliette balcony.  On either side somber faces stared down from large terra cotta medallions.  Above it all was a Flemish stepped gable, supported by a brick corbels.

The Baumgarten family was well respected and well-to-do.  Moses owned a successful bakery and dabbled in real estate.  He and his wife, the former Louisa Schlossheimer, were married in 1872 and had three children, Benjamin, Rae and Carrie.  Their place in Jewish society was highlighted when Rae married Adolph Levy on November 9, 1897.

The New York Times reported “A wedding that aroused considerable interest in Hebrew social circles was that of Miss Ray [sic] Baumgarten…and Adolph Levy of this city, which took place in the Madison Square Garden Concern Hall.”  A reception dinner for 250 guests followed.

The Baumgartens remained in the house at least through 1919, before selling to Gustave Dauer.  Incidentally, while Moses Baumgarten died in 1929, Louisa lived until 1958 having reached the age of 104.

Dauer resold No. 136 to Isaac Cohen in 1921, who made “alterations.”  It may have been at this time that the stoop was removed and the entrance lowered to the basement level. 

An iron railing most likely finished the tiny balcony at the third floor.
By the late 1920s it was home to the family of trial lawyer Albert Stickney.   Daughter Elizabeth Weston Stickney was educated in the prestigious Chapin School and was a member of the Junior League. 

On March 12, 1929 the Stickneys announced Elizabeth’s engagement to investment broker William Ogden McCagg.  The McCagg family had homes in New York and Newport, and William (he would later be known as W. Ogden McCagg) had attended St. George’s School in Newport.

W. Ogden McCagg left the firm of Winslow, Lanier & Co. and became well known as a historian and educator, focusing on Central and Eastern Europe.  In June 1940 the McCaggs purchased the 95th Street house “for cash” according to the New York Times.  The newspaper noted “The house has a dining room opening onto a private garden and will be altered.”

In 1946 the McCaggs moved to Providence, Rhode Island, selling the 95th Street house to Francis Adams Truslow.   The 40-year old had returned the year before from Brazil where he had headed the Rubber Reserve Company, a US Government agency set up, according to The Times, “to exploit South American rubber production to make up for the severe losses to the Allies in this field when the Japanese overran Southeastern Asia.”

Truslow and his wife, the former Elizabeth A. Jennings, had four children.  They maintained a summer estate in Cold Springs Harbor, Long Island.  In December 1946, five months after moving into the house, he was elected President of the New York Curb Exchange. 

Francis Truslow was as well known for his athletic and outdoors activities, as in his diplomatic and professional skills.   The New York Times later said of him, “besides being a mountain climber, fisherman and skier, [he] was interested in carpentry, photography and book collecting.”

The family closed the 95th Street house on July 1, 1951 as they boarded the liner Argentina headed for Rio de Janeiro.  Truslow had been appointed head of the United States-Brazil Joint Commission for Economic Development by President Truman. Francis Truslow would never make it to South America.  Eight days into the voyage Elizabeth found her husband dead in their cabin.  The athletic 45-year old had died in his sleep.

No. 136 East 95th Street continued to be a single family residence; becoming home to Robert Yost Hinshaw and his wife Lillias.   Hinshaw was a public relations executive and consultant.  The religious dynamic of the Hinshaw household was interesting.  Robert was a Quaker.  And Lilias (who, incidentally, was the daughter of John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State) was graduated from the Union Theological Seminary in 1958 as a Presbyterian minister.

The Hinshaws had four children—two sons and two daughters.  Daughter Janet met and married Hyon Yoo while she was studying at Columbia University.   Yoo, 22-years old, landed a job as Professor of Economics at Seoul University in 1959.  He moved to Korea and Janet, pregnant with their first child, planned to join him later.

Janet moved into the East 95th Street house with her parents and in January 1960 gave birth to David Hinshaw Yoo.  By December little David was old enough to undertake the long trip to Korea to join the father who had never met him.

After midnight on December 2, just two days before Janet and her son were to depart, she put the baby in his crib.  Because of a chill in the room, she placed an electric blanket over him.  At around 10:45 she checked him and, according to The New York Times, “she saw something was wrong and called for her father who telephoned for an ambulance.”

Tragically, little David Yoo was dead.  Chief Medical Examiner Milton Helpern performed an autopsy and said “that burns had been found.”

In 1968 the Hinshaws moved to Ithaca, New York.  The house remained little changed throughout the rest of the 20th century.  In 2014 it was sold for $5.8 to “a couple that plans to renovate it for their own use,” according to NY Curbed on September 2.  It added “Hopefully they don’t go too modern with it, because if that façade is any indication there are some nice details lurking inside.”

photographs by the author

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