Monday, July 25, 2016

The Lost Patrick King House -- No. 107 East 77th Street

The remarkable survivor sat amid a bustling urban landscape in 1932.  photograph by Charles Von Urban, from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
By the time Patrick King moved into the wooden, two-story house at No. 107 East 77th Street, it was already sorely out of place and time.  The clapboard structure had, apparently, always housed a shop on the ground floor.  The residential space under the peaked roof was accessed through an exaggeratedly-tall four-panel door to the side.  No doubt the work of a local carpenter-builder, its six-over-six windows on the second floor and overall frontier-type appearance spoke of an Upper East Side of two generations earlier.  The property extended through the block to 78th Street, where a modest stable stood. 

The King family was living here by, at least, the mid-1880s. Patrick was, interestingly, a real estate operator who owned several properties, most of which were uptown.  Why he chose and continued to live in the humble house is a mystery.   With him here were his wife, Elizabeth, sons Owen, Patrick and Joseph, and daughter Elen.  Patrick King died sometime before 1898; however the family stayed on.  Owen continued his father’s real estate business.

In 1893 the family seems to have had one horse too many in the backyard stable.  An advertisement in The Evening World offered “A light, serviceable horse for sale; reasonable price.”

Elizabeth King was born in Sheetrim, County Monaghan, Ireland in 1834.  She died in the house on October 23, 1902, at the age of 68.  Within a few years the King brothers were selling off the properties their father had accumulated two decades earlier.

Seen here in 1927, ramshackle shutters still cling to the upper windows. To the left is the original Eighth Church of Christ, Scientists.   from the collection of the New York Public Library
By 1920 the once-rural block between Lexington and Park Avenues, just two and a half blocks from Central Park and Fifth Avenue, was a fashionable address.  The quaint wooden relic was, to some, charming; but to most an eyesore.  That year the Eighth Church of Christ, Scientists erected a church and reading room next door at Nos. 103-105 East 77th Street.
In 1936 the once-straight lines of the clapboards were sagging and the door noticeably off-skew.  from the collection of the New York Public Library
Quite remarkably, the venerable clapboard structure survived until around 1940.  When the church purchased the “plot” in 1945, it seems that the old King home had been quietly demolished.  Its site was used as a garden of sorts until 1952 when a new church building was constructed on the three plots.

The mid-century structure, designed by C. Dale Badgeley and seen here in 1952, stood in stark contrast to the rustic house it replaced.  photo from the collection of the Library of Congress

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