Saturday, March 31, 2018

Edward Judson's 1895 97 Crosby Street



In the 1840s the block of Crosby Street between Prince and Spring Street was still upscale.  Commodious brick houses built in the 1820's and '30's were still occupied by well-to-do families.

George Loder and his wife lived in the 25-foot wide, three story home at No. 97 Crosby Street in 1845.  A choir and concert master, he introduced America to Mendelssohn's symphonic cantata Lobgesang, or Hymn of Praise on February 22 that year.  Among the three soloists that night was Loder's wife.

Tickets to the concert were not cheap.  Single admission cost $1 (about $30 today); although family tickets, which admitted five, were a discounted $3.  An advertisement in The New York Herald advised that they could be purchased at the Broadway store of Scharfenberg & Luis; "or at the residence of Mr. Loder, 97 Crosby street."

But the respectability of the neighborhood would erode by the time of the Civil War.  No. 97 was owned by Andrew Campbell and his wife in 1864; and living with them was nine-year old Jane Ivers.  When the girl's father, Joseph Ivers, attempted to regain custody that September, court papers revealed a disturbing situation.  The Campbells insisted that "the child had been given them by its parents, and they had reared it and provided for it."  Ivers, in turn, charged them with being "keepers of a house of assignation"  (a brothel) where Jane was "exposed to improper and evil associations and companions." 

Things did not improve as the years passed.  On November 25, 1883 newspapers nationwide reported on the raid on the opium den which operated from the first floor here.  The New York Times described the "opium joint" as being run by "an old Chinaman named 'Jim' Doo."  It was a considerable operation.  The California newspaper the Sacramento Daily Union reported that "twenty-six inmates" were arrested.  Included were were actresses and a 15-year old bootblack, James Sullivan, who "admitted to the police that he was a frequent visitor to the place."

The residents on the upper floors were often no less susceptible to arrest.  On December 1, 1886 Rosa Rosea was arraigned "for sending children out ragpicking."  When she appeared before the judge, she carried a six-month old baby in her arms.  Following the hearing (during which Rosa was committed to six months in jail) a court doctor inspected the baby.  He found it was "dying of diphtheria," according to The Sun.  The newspaper lamented "About a dozen women with infants in their arms had been sitting near Mrs. Rosea in the court room."

But the days of opium dens and brothels were drawing to a close as commerce engulfed the neighborhood.  In the 1890s Edward Judson was highly involved in replacing vintage structures with modern loft buildings.  He not only owned his own construction company, he acted as his own architect.

In 1894 he turned his attention to Crosby Street--purchasing the old house at No. 97 and filing plans for a seven-story "brick warehouse" to cost $22,000--about $890,000 today.  Within a few months he could replace Nos. 45 and 47 Crosby Street with another seven-story loft building.

Completed early in 1895, Judson's brick-faced factory sat atop a cast iron storefront.  He toned down the often beefy elements of the Romanesque Revival style with delicate stone eyebrows above the arched openings.  Regimented stone quoins ran up the sides.  An attractive cast metal cornice crowned the structure.


Judson was a builder and developer, not a landlord, and he immediately sold the new building in March 1895.  It quickly filled with apparel and trimmings firms.  In 1896 Alexander Spitzer's embroidery factory was here, employing 25 women; Trube & Isaacs produced "embroidered novelties; Hirschberg & Co. was also engaged in producing embroideries; while The Deutsch Bros. Mfg. Co. made dress trimmings and Joel I Hart & Co. manufactured men's trousers.


Cloaks and Furs, May 1897 (copyright expired)

Although the building remained filled, the tenants appear to have come and gone rather quickly.  Just a year later The Columbia Cloak Co., was here, M. Oppenheim & Co. moved into the top floor with a new two-year lease, and in 1899 men's and boys' clothing retailers Chorosh & Rogers had its factory in the building.

Clothiers' and Haberdashers' Weekly, July 7, 1899 (copyright expired)

An interesting tenant at the turn of the century was the Strasburger Wax Figure Co.   Department stores had begun using wax mannequins in their window displays only a few years earlier.   The figures gave window-shoppers a realistic idea of how gowns and hats would look on the wearer.  Strasburger Wax Figure Co. employed just two men and three teen-aged girls in 1901.

Within the next few years other non-apparel firms moved in, including the Art Novelty Co., makers of teddy bears; toy makers Holmac Mfg. Co.,. and in 1914 the newly formed Jeffs & Co., "makers of hand bags and leather novelties."

John McDonald had purchased No. 97 in November 1902 for $60,000.   In 1917 he put in on the market; but no one was interested.   The Sun noted "Nearly every broker in town has had the property for sale and no doubt offered it to many."  But no one was interested until finally operator Daniel H. Jackson bought it in December for the cut-rate price of $15,500--essentially one fourth of what McDonald had paid 15 years earlier.  And to seal the deal Jackson put down just $3,500.

Immediately McDonald was slapped with a fire code violation requiring him to install additional exits.  Fatal tragedies in factory fires were not uncommon and the new requirements were not unreasonable.  But McDonald had his architect, Louis A. Sheinart, petition the City to accept an exterior fire escape instead.   Somewhat surprisingly, the City agreed to the much less expensive alternative.

McDonald's reticence to put more money into his investment soon became clear.  Within the month he flipped the property, making a profit of more than $30,000--nearly half a million today.  Later that year, on October 27, The Sun reported "Mr. Jackson...said that no property he ever purchased returned him greater profit than this neglected Crosby street building."

The post World War I years saw an even broader range of tenants.  In 1922 The Combusto Chemical Co. moved into the ground floor store and Harry Walitsky, makers of leather goods, took the third floor.  In 1929 the Novelty Case Company and the Elgin Silversmith Co. leased floors.

Change in the industrial neighborhood would come as the 20th century drew to a close and Soho's personality became one of artist studios and galleries.  In 1987 the Roger Jazilex art gallery was in the building, and two years later the upper floors were converted to joint living and working quarters for artists--one spacious loft per floor.


The retail shop became home to Tess Giberson on May 5, 2011, where the designer's collection was sold.  Giberson renamed the shop "No. 97" in 2016.   Although the buildings on either side were razed in the late 20th century; No. 97 somehow survived--a conspicuous, suddenly free-standing relic of the 1890s when Crosby Street was changing from a neighborhood of drug dens and brothels to factories.

photographs by the author

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Samuel McMillan House - 327 West 42nd Street




On August 20, 1881 the New-York Tribune reported that four young children had been "rescued from a place called 'Hell's Kitchen'" at No. 551 West 39th Street.  Calling the wooden building a "shanty," the article went on to say "The block in which this place is situated is considered one of the lowest and most dangerous localities in New York; across the street from 'Hell's Kitchen' is 'Battle Row,' and not far distant is 'Sebastopol,' two notorious resorts for criminals.  It is made up of miserable huts and shanties built among the rocks."

While many of the ramshackle wooden buildings were given such monikers by the locals, it was Hell's Kitchen that would lend its name to the entire crime-ridden district from approximately 34th Street to 59th, and Eighth Avenue to the Hudson River.

But even as the Tribune printed its disturbing article, an effort to upgrade the living conditions of the poverty-stricken residents was underway.  Among those involved in the charge was builder and developer Samuel McMillan.  He was the president of the New York Building and Land Appraisement Co., a vice-president in the Mutual Bank, and the owner of his own construction firm, Samuel McMillan & Co.

McMillan not only purchased old structures throughout the district and replaced them with brick tenement buildings--a major step up for the residents--but in 1882 he made a move that no doubt astonished other well-to-do businessmen.  He proved his confidence in the potential of the gritty area by deciding to move his family to Hell's Kitchen.

The block of West 42nd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues was marginal at best.  A few blocks to the east were banks and businesses; but here only the brick Holy Cross Church offered visual relief from the squalor.  Peter F. Crouch owned the wooden house and store at No. 327 West 42nd Street in 1882.  But the following year, on November 3, the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide announced that Samuel McMillan "is about to tear own the frame dwelling at No. 327 West Forty-second street...and to erect on the site a five-story brick and brown stone dwelling and store."  The article added "Mr. McMillan will occupy the new building, both as a residence and for business purposes."

For his architects McMillan chose the firm of Thom & Wilson, who were currently busy producing rows of houses on the Upper East and West Sides.  For McMillan's structure, projected to cost $25,000 (more than $580,000 today), they turned to the highly popular Queen Anne style.  Ignoring the sordid surroundings, they produced a handsome structure that would have comfortably fit into any other Manhattan neighborhood.

Above the two-story commercial front, where McMillan would install his business offices, the building was faced in red brick and trimmed in brownstone and terra cotta tiles.  Each of the windows was provided a balcony--a means of relief on sticky summer nights.  Thom & Wilson crowned it with a triangular pressed metal parapet and cornice containing a geometric sunburst, a common Queen Anne motif.

If McMillan intended the upper portion of the building to be his private residence as the Record & Guide suggested, he changed his mind.  His wife's sister and her husband, Leon E. Baily, appear to have been living in an apartment here when Mrs. Baily died on Friday, August 24, 1888 (newspapers announced that she died "at the residence of her brother-in-law").   Leon E. Baily was a funeral director.  His wife's funeral was held in the apartments on August 27 before proceeding to Holy Cross Church nearly next door.

By the mid-1890s Patrick F. Trainor and his wife were living in an apartment here.  An American success story, he was born in Scotland in 1863 and brought to America as a child.  After his public school education he worked for the American District Telegraph Company, later becoming manager of the Baltimore and Ohio Telegraph Company in Baltimore, then assistant general manager for that company in Washington.

Patrick F. Trainor was an Assemblyman when he lived here.  New-York Tribune December 26, 1902 (copyright expired)
When he returned to New York in 1888 he turned to politics.  He was elected in 1893 to the 17th Assembly District and was repeatedly reelected.  He was well-known in political circles while living in the building.  Later, in 1900, he would be elected State Senator.  He died in Albany on Christmas Day 1902 at just 38 years old.

In the meantime there was trouble at ground level at No. 327.  Samuel McMillan had two partners in Samuel McMillan & Co.--James W. Pacey and William Young.  Pacey also ran Pacey & Whipple from the address, a finish carpentry firm that manufactured interior trim, window frames, sashes and doors.  It may have been that perceived conflict of interest which resulted in what appears to have been a messy parting of the ways.

On July 29, 1899 the Record & Guide reported that not only had Samuel McMillan & Co. been dissolved, but "the 42d street property has been sold by Mr. McMillan."   James Pacey and William Young partnered to form the general contracting firm of Wm. Young Co.  Seemingly ignoring McMillan, the Record & Guide concluded, "Mr. Pacey has a host of friends, and his long experience and successful work are sure to secure him numerous contracts and success."

McMillan had sold the building to his brother-in-law, Leon W. Baily, who moved his funeral parlor into the ground floor.  It was a short-lived arrangement and when Baily sold the building to William D. Grant in 1905, he moved his funeral parlor to No. 671 Eighth Avenue.

The apartments were rented to families of modest means in the first years of the 20th century.  At least two of them sought secure city jobs.  In 1907 Peter J. Smith passed the Civil Service test for "office boy," with a grade of 81.2, placing him 188th on the list of eligible applicants.  And William R. McAuley, who was here at least by 1914, had been a Civil Service clerk since January 1, 1898.  He was making the equivalent salary in 1914 of around $50,000 today.

William Melligan lived here in 1910 when he became a hero of sorts.  He was far north at 131st Street and Third Avenue on the afternoon of May 29.  Three men were in a runabout (a light, open buggy) when the driver lost control of the spirited horse.  All three were thrown out, one seriously injured.

Melligan, described by newspapers as "a youth," was apparently as physically fit as the horse.  He chased the rig to 157th Street, where it grazed and nearly overturned another vehicle containing three women.  The New York Times reported "The horse continued to 164th Street and Washington Avenue, where Melligan overtook it and seized the animal by the bridle."

If the young man was winded by the long chase, he did not show it.  "He threw it to the ground and sat upon its head until several policemen arrived."

In 1920 the building was purchased by the Zanesville, Ohio based Mosaic Tile Co.  In reporting the sale, the Record & Guide announced "The structure will be remodeled and made into a permanent sample and show room for the company's exclusive use...The interior will be arranged in a manner to display the company's line of ceramic specialties to the best possible advantage."

Architect John H. Knubel remodeled the storefront with a two-story arch faced in Faience tiles.  Its arcade show windows displayed the firm's ceramic tiles and drew the passerby in.   Mosaic Tile Co. used the ground floor as its showroom, the second floor as its offices, while the top floors were listed as a "tenement."

Mosaic Tile Co.'s remodeled ground floor space can be seen at the far right of this 1931 photo.  from the collection of the New York Public Library.

Mosaic Tile Co. remained in the building for 25 years, selling it in 1945 to the Schliftman Real Estate Corporation.  For decades, at least until 1990, the store would be home to the Eagle Supply Co., dealers in art supplies.

In the meantime, the building's most interesting occupant since Patrick F. Trainor was Edward P. May.  Better known as "Teddy," he had been Manhattan's Superintendent of Sewers and in 1903 he made the first comprehensive Manhattan sewer survey.  One columnist said of him "A small man, Mr. May could get into a small pipe.  He got to know every foot of the sewer network, even of the amazing brick sewers put down before 1850."

Throughout his more than 50 years in the position, he had helped the police repeatedly in retrieving guns and loot stashed in the sewers by gangsters and murderers.   The New York Times purported on April 24, 1960 "Once Mr. May led a squad in clearing the sewers of a number of live alligators that, discarded in the sewers as tiny pets, had survived and grown large."

May retired in 1954 and was still living at No. 327 when he died at the age of 85 in April 1960.

As the end of the 20th century approached the 42nd Street block had greatly changed.  The Port Authority Bus Terminal had opened directly across the street in 1950; and by the 1990s the neon-fronted restaurants and clubs of Time Square were spilling west.  In 1999 a conversion of the lower floors commenced.  The second floor was ripped out to create a mezzanine for a restaurant.  The tiled storefront installed by Mosaic Tile Co. in 1920 was annihilated.


The ground floor space was home to B. B. King's Blues Club before Burger King took it over and added its own questionable storefront in 2015.   A glance above reveals Thom & Wilson's handsome Queen Anne design that must have seemed so out of place in 1883.

photographs by the author

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Mary Kingsland Mansion - 1026 Fifth Avenue


A delightful juliette balcony clings to the bowed bay.
Opened in October 1864, The Sheltering Arms received homeless children between 6 and 12 years old.  The older children were trained to make their way in the world as servants or by crafts like woodworking.  By the 1890's William M. Kingsland was its president.

In its October 1897 Annual Report the orphanage noted that "A delightful excitement was caused in September by the gift of one hundred dollars from Mr. and Mrs. William M. Kingsland to celebrate their Golden Wedding.  First a feast of ice cream and cake was in order on the 16th, the wedding-day itself; afterwards each family of children made an excursion, the destination whereof was left to their own choice."

The $100 gesture was, of course, not the only celebration for the wealthy couple's 50th anniversary; yet there seems to have been no lavish entertainment.  While they summered in Newport or in their country estates (Belaire was outside of Lenox, Massachusetts, and Incleuberg was near Scarborough-on-the-Hudson, New York), spent months abroad and hobnobbed with the socially elite; they apparently led relatively quiet lives.

Mary J. Macy was the daughter of William H. Macy, the president of the Leather Manufacturers' National bank and vice-president of the United States Trust Company.   Her husband's ancestors had arrived from England around 1665.  His uncle, Ambrose C. Kingsland, had been mayor of New York City from 1851 to 1853, and was a partner with William's father, Daniel C. Kingsland, in the importing firm of D. A. Kingsland & Co. (later D. A. Kingsland & Sutton).  The company did "a large business with England, china and the East Indies, the firm's vessels being constantly employed between those countries and the United States," according to the Portrait Gallery of the Chamber of Commerce years later, in 1890.

William M. Kingsland was a trustee of the Seamen's Bank and the Leather Manufacturers' Savings Bank.  His social position and interests were reflected in his memberships, including the Metropolitan, Union and Knollwood Clubs, the New York Yacht Club and the St. Augustine Yacht Clubs, the Ardsley Club and the Newport Casino.  He was also a member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Botanical Gardens, the American Geographical Society and the St. Nicolas Society.

The Kingslands lived at No. 116 Fifth Avenue at the corner of 17th Street, in what for decades had been one of Manhattan's most exclusive neighborhoods.  The mansion had been in the Kingsland family since 1848.  But as the turn of the century arrived, commerce was infiltrating the blocks of brownstone and brick mansions, prompting moneyed families to move further north.

In June 1902 speculator Benjamin W. Williams purchased the two empty lots at Nos. 1026 and 1027 Fifth Avenue from John W. Simpson.  He commissioned the architectural firm of Van Vleck & Goldsmith to design two Beaux Arts-style mansions on the plots.  Completed in 1903, they formed a striking ensemble with the other residences on the block, especially the Jonathan Thorne mansion on the northern corner, at No. 1028, designed by C. P. H. Gilbert and constructed concurrently.

No. 1026 (right) was the stepsister of sorts to the marble-fronted No. 1027.  With the Thorne mansion (left) which faced the side street., the homes formed a striking grouping.
Viewed separately, No. 1026 presented a majestic bearing.  Faced in limestone, it featured a two-story bowed bay that sprouted a charming cast iron balcony.  Three tightly-grouped dormers punched through the copper-clad mansard.   But Williams had focused more money and attention on its sister house.   No. 1027 was faced in white marble and at 40-feet was wider by about four feet.  The Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide called No. 1027 "the finest dwelling house ever erected in this city."

All this, coupled with the Financial Panic of 1903, caused No. 1026 to sit vacant for nearly three years.  Finally, on February 7, 1906, it was announced that the Kingsland had purchased the mansion.  The Record & Guide quoted the sale price at $510,000," or about $14.3 million today.

The couple sold No. 116 on February 21 and moved into their sumptuous new home.  William would not enjoy it for long.  Three months later, on May 30, he died at Incleuberg at the age of 86.  His funeral was held at St. Mary's Chapel in Scarsborough, New York, three days later.

Kingsland's death resulted in a feeding frenzy of relatives.  When his father died in 1873, he left his $3 million estate to William "for his lifetime."   Now that that lifetime was over, "his will was declared invalid," according to the New-York Tribune.  A court battle ensued that dragged on until January 21, 1910.

The following day the New-York Tribune reported "There will be divided at once among 147 beneficiaries $2,000,000."  Mary, it explained, "inherits no part of the estate outright, but throughout her life will receive an income of $8,000 a year."   The yearly stipend, worth about $213,000 today, added to Mary's own fortune and the substantial inheritance she had received from William directly.


Like her husband, Mary held memberships in exclusive organizations.  She belonged to the Colonial Dames and the Mayflower Descendants' Club, for instance.  While the aging widow continued her philanthropic activities, she lived quietly within the 32 rooms and 9 baths of the spacious Fifth Avenue mansion.  She continued to spend her summers at her country estates.

It was at Belair on August 10, 1919 that Mary died at the age of 91.  Her friendly relationship with her next door neighbor, George C. Clark at No. 1027, was evidenced in his being named the executor of her estate.  But when he died on February 24, just six months before Mary, turmoil ensued.

Mary's estate was valued at just under $10.6 million.  The Sun reported on November 25 "Soon after her death last August certain cousins filed objections to her will."  While Mary had named "relatives, friends and old family retainers" in the will, she had overlooked two grand-nephews, Oliver J. Macy and T. Ridgeway Macy.  They alleged that they "are entitled to a share in the estate."

Even while the estate was tied up in court, an attempt was made to sell mansion directly.  The price was $10,000 less than the Kingslands had originally paid. New York Herald, March 14, 1920 (copyright expired) 
The battle was finally settled in July 1922, with the disgruntled nephews unsuccessful.  The original bequests went to specifically-named relatives, and large amounts went to institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Association for the Blind, and the Society for the Relief of Ruptured and Crippled.  Interestingly, The Evening World pointed out that "The furnishings of Mrs. Kingsland's home at No. 1026 Fifth Avenue were valued at $52,741"--more than three quarters of a million dollars today.

In the meantime, in order to liquidate the estate's assets the Fifth Avenue mansion was sold at auction on June 17, 1920.  While the heirs hoped to realize half a million dollars, it sold for what was most likely a disappointing $351,000.

The buyer, Dunlevy Milbank, was a member of the law firm Masten & Nichols.  The son of Joseph and Ella Dunlevy Milbank, his family's fortune came from railroads and the dairy industry (his grandfather was a founder of the Borden company), and from banking.

Dunlevy was a chief supporter of the Children's Aid Society.  His wife, the former Katherine Fowler, was a patron of the musical arts and a benefactor of young working women.  Prior to moving into No. 1026, the family had lived at No. 39 East 68th Street, a wedding president from Katharine's parents in 1876.  The couple had two children, Thomas and Ella.

Many of the entertainments in the Milbank house centered around music.  On November 26, 1922, for instance, The New York Herald reported that Katharine would be hosting the a "lecture-recital, 'La Musique Russe'" given by Jeanne de Mare in the house the following Tuesday.

The vocalist was back three years later.  On November 16, 1924 The New York Times reported "The first of a series of lecture musicals now being arrange for the Winter will be held early in January at the home of Mrs. Dunlevy Milbank, who has just returned to 1,026 Fifth Avenue, after having spent most of the Summer at Ridgelands, her country place at Port Chester.  Jeanne de Mare will speak on modernist music."

When The People's Chorus of New York was organized in 1927, Katharine became its first chairman.  The organization provided vocal training for the poor.  She was a supporter of the summer outdoor Stadium Concerts, as well.  But music would take backstage to debutante entertainments in the winter season of 1931-32.  Ella had attended the exclusive Chapin School in New York City and the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, Connecticut, before spending a year in Paris studying sculpture.  Among her coming out fetes was a dinner dance at the Ritz-Carlton.

The demolition of No. 1025 Fifth Avenue revealed the depth of the Kingsland mansion.
Ella slipped into hostess mode along with her mother.  On December 2, 1937 she opened the mansion for  a tea for "a large group of the season's debutantes."  Ella was chairman of the debutante committee for the annual December Ball at the Ritz-Carlton and her guests would be assisting in the arrangement for the event.

The heiress and her mother had other things on their mind at the time.  On December 14 Ella's engagement to William Ward Foshay was announced.  The wedding took place in the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas on Fifth Avenue at 48th Street on February 24, 1938.

Katharine's entertainments continued to surround music.  In December 1938 she hosted a reception and tea for Metropolitan Opera soprano Muriel Dickson.

In 1926, six years after the Milbanks purchased No. 1026, the former Thorne mansion was sold to the newly-founded Marymount School of New York.  In 1935 the institution purchased No. 1027.

Dunlevy and Katharine lived on at No. 1026 until 1950, when they, too, sold to the Marymount School.  Interestingly, they moved back to No. 39 East 68th Street where they had started out their married lives.  Dunlevy died in 1959 and Katharine in April 1967 at the age of 82.

As the Fifth Avenue palaces fell to be replaced by modern apartment buildings, the Marymount School properties survived as a stunning slice of Gilded Age New York.

photographs by the author

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

King & Keller's 1859 388 Broadway



By 1851 the brick house at No. 388 Broadway was both the home of George Maul, and the location of his guitar-making business, Schmidt & Maul.   But he would have to relocate before long,  In 1858 David A. Wood began construction on a modern  replacement building.

The wealthy investor held, among his other positions, a directorship in the Broadway Bank.  He commissioned the Brooklyn-based firm of King & Kellum to design the new building.   Together and individually, Gamaliel King and John Kellum were highly responsible for changing the face of lower Broadway over the years.

While King & Kellum would create several structures using the increasingly popular cast iron facades; for No. 388 Broadway that material was reserved for the storefront.  The four stories above were clad in white marble.  Paneled piers, decorated between the third and fourth floors with carved medallions, ran the full height.  The openings were grouped into two sets of double-story "sperm-candle" arches (taking their name from their similarity to the thin candles made from the fat of sperm whales).   The spandrel panels of each arch were carved as blind balustrades; and leafy fronds formed the column capitals.  Above a rhythmic corbel table was a bracketed stone cornice.

The building was completed in early in 1859 and soon filled with several businesses.  Ten angry executives of the various firms joined scores of others in signing a petition to the State Legislature that year entitled "Remonstrance of the Business Men of New-York."  The men were upset over proposed legislation that would regulate the railroads and their fees.  It said in part it "is grounded on false principles of legislation, tyrannical in its provisions, and subversive of the best interests of this State."

Among those signing the petition were brothers William L. and James S. Wilde.  Their firm, James Wilde, Jr. & Co., produced and sold men's furnishings--coats, trousers, shirts and such--on the second floor.  Two other signers, William H. and Frederic S. Kirtland, ran Kirtland Brothers on an upper floor.  The ground floor and basement were home to the Bliss, Wheelock & Kelly, a dry goods store.

The firms had barely moved in before trouble was narrowly averted.  At around 7:00 on the evening of February 15 James Wilde, Jr. & Co. was still open; but Bliss, Wheelock & Kelly had closed shop.  Three men standing shoulder to shoulder in front of the door raised the suspicions of a private watchman, Peter Noony.  As he approached they ran off, abandoning their accomplice whom they had been shielding from view as he worked on the locks.  The would-be burglar ran down White Street, but Noony was faster than he.  He was arrested and turned over to the police.

Oddly enough, just a year after Bliss, Wheelock & Kelly moved into their new space, they left, moving next door to the just-completed No. 390.

James Wilde, Jr. & Co. was a pioneer of sorts in that it had opened a branch operation in Chicago at a time when most Easterners and, perhaps, New Yorkers in particular, considered that city a cow town.  The firm's business was enormously increased when, with the outbreak of the Civil War, it was awarded contracts to supply uniforms to the Union Army.

Seven months after the firing on Fort Sumter the firm placed help wanted advertisements which reflected the immense amount of garments being made here.  One read "50 cutters wanted--On Pantaloons" and another read "1,000 tailors wanted--On Army frock coats and pantaloons.  We pay the highest prices and will have work the whole year."

Another firm in the building which realized high profits at the time was the dry goods house of Harris, Hartley & Co. which did $1 million in sales in 1864.   It was not the war, however, that was solely responsible for the huge sales.  Two years after the war had ended, in the first quarter of 1867, it realized $287,000 in sales; an even higher annual percentage than during wartime.

By then the firm had been renamed Wentz, Hartley & Co.  Although its business seemed exceptional, the firm dissolved on December 31 1870.  Members of the firm, including Phillip S. Taggart who had been with it since 1867, reorganized it as J. M. Wertz & Co. and remained in the building.

James Wilde, Jr. & Co. moved to No. 314-316 Broadway around that time.  The Great Chicago Fire a year later wiped out its Chicago store and factory; but it rebuilt.  The firm continued on until the death of James D. Wilde (son of James Wilde, Jr.) in 1899.

No. 388 continued to house dry goods and apparel firms, like Meyer Jonasson who, in addition to "a number of suit finishers and pressers," needed 150 sewing machine operators making "ladies' linen suits" in May 1874.  His ad promised that "experiences hands can make $12 to $15 per week." (As high as $300 today.)

Jonasson had just come to New York from San Francisco where he had opened a cloak and suit business in 1861. His stay in No, 388 would not be long.  His business grew rapidly, requiring him to repeatedly find larger space before the end of the century.  In 1897 he was doing $3 million annually (nearly $85 million today) and decided to "move uptown," as he described it.  "But our new location was unfortunate," he later admitted.

Janosson's business failed and in 1911 the 82-year old shot himself in the head in his Central Park West apartment.

Seth B. Robinson, "importer and wholesale dealer in buttons," was here in the 1880s.  The marble-fronted building was sold at auction in 1881; and resold in February 1886 to Sarah A. Starr, who paid the equivalent of $3,3 million today for the property.

Sarah's tenants continued to be apparel-related firms.  In 1888 Bohm Brothers & Greenfield, cloak manufacturers were in the building, as was Charles Falkenberg & Brother, shirt manufacturers.  When Charles Falkenberg tried to help out another businessman that year, he found himself behind bars.

Israel Levy's Excelsior Cloak Company did business nearby at No. 370 Broadway.   When it became obvious that his company would fail that year, Falkenberg and three other businessmen signed notes saying they had loaned Levy significant amounts of money--Falkenberg's "loan" was $4,016.  In fact, there was no money exchanged at all.  The loans were fictitious.

So when the bankruptcy was settled, the men were awarded the money due them.  They promptly handed it over to Levy.  The scheme was uncovered and all four men involved arrested in October, 1890.

Also doing business here by 1890 was the wholesale apparel firm of Indig, Berg & Co.  The company, composed of Benjamin Indig, Hart E. Berg and Max M. Schwarcz, employed 30 men by 1895 and manufactured an array of women's clothing.  On advertisement on April 14, 1891 hinted at the many items made here, including "cloth box coats, tight-fitting and hip seam, single and double-breasted jackets, reefers and blazers; short and long capes with and without sleeves; V shape and Round-back wraps, with and without tabs--all of the above in every desirable style with and without silk linings; also an elegant variety of exclusive styles in lace wraps."

Charles Falkenberg & Brother remained in the building making its "fire shirts, flannel shirts and linen shirts," until 1905 when it moved to No. 840 Broadway; and Indig Berg & Co. was here at least through 1897.

That year John E. Parsons purchased the building from Sarah Starr.  A well-known attorney and a founder of the Bar Association, he had already invested in several properties in the district.   He quickly made a significant change by remodeling the ground floor retail space to a restaurant.

Naething Brothers had operated a restaurant in the Financial District since 1870.  Now brothers Herman E., Arthur R., and Charles Frederick Naething opened another at No. 388 Broadway when they signed a 15-year lease in September 1898.

Parsons seems to have courted a different type of tenant as well.  By the turn of the century attorneys' offices were replacing factories.  In 1901 lawyer James Morgan was listed here, joined soon by attorney William Gratz.  In 1903 the Building Trades Employers' Association had its offices in the building.

The Sun, March 7, 1909 (copyright expired)

In 1908, when Charles F. Naething went to court, New Yorkers were treated to what The Evening World called "a romantic story."  Charles was asking the courts to declare John Philip Naething dead.

Newspapers retold the story of the brothers, saying "The boys lived with their mother at No 191 William street, when in 1872 John Philip went away."  The boy was still in his young teens at the time and Charles described him as "always of a roving disposition."

The Evening World went on "An occasional letter came from the wanderer to his mother during the next year, and each letter dated from a different town.  Then they ceased."

In 1861 John Philip, "a mere lad," had enlisted in the Union regiment known as "The Lost Children," but he was discharged when his father found out and complained that he was too young to fight.  Undaunted, the boy joined the navy and his ship sailed before the family could find out.  He served in that capacity throughout the war.

He briefly returned home, but soon "was restless."  Charles testified "He went away without a penny, and being reckless, fearless and daring, it is believe he undertook some hazardous occupation, and so lost his life.  All efforts to find him were futile."

The issue now was that when the Naethings' father died, "the nomad became heir to $2,634.52."  Since no one knew where he was, that amount had been sitting in the City Chamberlain's office for years.  The courts agreed to declare John Philip dead, and his inheritance was shared equally by the three surviving brothers and their two sisters.

Before long, the family would appear in print for more tragic reasons.  Worried about the business, in 1912 Arthur R. Naething killed himself in his White Plains home.   It was a shock because, as the New-York Tribune said, "For many years Naething Brothers' restaurant prospered."

But the brutal reality became evident a year later when Charles died.  The brothers had invested heavily in mining ventures which did not pan out.  They borrowed money from acquaintances to keep the restaurants going.  An accounting of Charles's finances showed that "he had impoverished himself for his friends and his estate was insolvent."  In June 1915 the Naethings Brothers' business was declared bankrupt.

Once again John Parsons made renovations.  The following month architect Robert A. Fash began $6,000 in upgrades that included moving the location of interior stairs, installing new fireproof doors and relocating partitions.

The former restaurant space became home to the Walker Safe Company showrooms.  The same day that company signed its lease, Bliss Laboratories, Inc. took space on an upper floor. 

In March 1918, following John Parson's death, his estate sold the building to the Lawyers Realty Mortgage Company for $157,000, just over $2.5 million today.  The firm quickly turned the property over, reselling it on December 7 to the Noyes Company.

The new ownership caused a potential conflict of interest when, four months later, it leased the store and basement to the Schulte Cigar Stores Co.  The Walker Safe Company's leased was due to expire the following year and Noyes Company jumped the gun, more or less, in making the deal with Schulte Cigars.

Walker Safe Company, however, had only been in its location for three years and fully intended to renew its lease.  In April 1919 a compromise was reached whereby Walker sublet the space from Schulte Cigar Stores for ten years.  Walker Safe Company stayed on at least through 1927 and it does not appear that the cigar store ever did open in the space.

The building, in the meantime, had a variety of tenants in the upper floors.  By 1917 G. J. Malloy, "woolens and dress goods," was here and in 1922 the Enegletaria Medicine Company, Inc. moved in.  Run by Jose de Jesus, the firm was a "manufacturer of patent medicines."  (Patent medicines, before the crackdown of the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission, were over the counter products like liniments and tonics, highly touted by their makers as miraculous cures, but often with no medicinal properties at all.)

By the time the Textile Jobbers Company purchased the building in 1939 as its headquarters, the Merlin-Keilhoz Paper Company occupied a floor, as did Silvertex Mercantile Co., dealers in textiles.  In 1940 another fabric company, Scheffres Textile Company leased a floor.

The decline in the lower Broadway neighborhood was obvious in the assessment of No. 388 at the time of the purchase.  The New York Times reported it "is assessed for $69,000, of which $57,000 is on the land."  Fully 87 percent of the value of the property was the site, not the structure.

In the 1960s Guild Electronics, Inc. and Dalamal & Sons, exporters and importers of Indian goods, were in the building.  But change was on the near horizon.

By 1979 the Theater for Bodies and Voices had opened.  Run by choreographer and modern dance instructor Beverly Brown along with Roger Tolle, the venue not only offered classes, but staged productions.  Brown's Danensemble performed here as well as throughout the country.

On January 15, 1979, for instance, Alan M. Kriegsman of the Washington Post reported "The Beverly Brown Dancensemble: Theater [sic] for Bodies and Voices made its Washington debut at the Marvin Theater last night in a program that was fascinating in concept, elegant in its plastic contours, often beguiling, and withal somewhat wispy in emotional impact.  As the group's name suggests, the dancers utter sounds as they move--chanted vocalizations and non-verbal syllables."


The Theatre for Bodies and Voices would remain until 1991 when a conversion of the upper floors to residential space began.   The cast iron storefront, manufactured by Dandiel D. Badger's Architectural Iron Works 160 years ago has suffered understandable (albeit insignificant overall) damage and alteration.  But, above, King & Kellum's handsome white marble facade survives virtually intact.

photographs by the author

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Moguls and a Movie Star--19-21 West 68th Street


The yellow brick Nos. 17 through 21 stand in stark contrast to No. 23 (left) built concurrently.  The round fifth floor openings of No. 21 have been extended to become more functional, albeit less charming.
On April 28, 1894 the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide announced that architect George F. Pelham was preparing plans for seven townhouses on West 68th Street for developer Peter Wagner.  While four of the homes would be faced in brownstone and have high-stoops; the other three would be "American basement homes" of "buff brick."  The American basement--whereby the houses were entered nearly at street level--was becoming increasingly popular.  The Guide noted "all of the houses will be finished in a high-class manner.

The project was completed within the year.  Nos. 17 through 21 sat on stone bases which supported four floor of beige brick.  The circular openings of the fifth floors were handsomely framed in carved limestone.  They trio was shockingly similar to a row of homes completed that same year on West 70th Street, designed by Clarence True.

Comparison to George Pelham's row and Clarence True's houses on West 70th Street (above) is unavoidable.  photograph by Wurts Bros. from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York 
No. 21 was purchased by real estate operator Beverley Ward and his wife, Caroline.  It would be conveniently close to his new branch office at No. 344 Columbus Avenue, which he had opened earlier that year.  In reporting on his new location The Record & Guide pointed out that he was "well known among the real estate men of 125th street during the building up of that thoroughfare into the handsome business street it now is" and presumed he "will undertake new business with the same are and courtesy that he has handled the old."

The original configuration of the low stoops can be seen in this 1936 WPA photograph.  from the collection of the New York Public Library 
No. 17 would become the home of Charles A. Baudoine, Jr. and his wife, Annie.  The son of the wealthy and famous cabinetmaker, he took over his father's extensive real estate business following his death in 1895.  His and Annie's romance were fodder for society gossip for years.

In 1894 he married Agnes M. Rutter, daughter of Thomas Rutter, president of the New York Central Railroad.  That same year the pair became friendly with writer Casper W. Whitney and his wife, Annie, who lived nearby the newlyweds on West 58th Street.  In December of that same year the Baudouines were divorced and a month later the Whitneys separated.
Six months later Charles and his new love were married and sailed off to Europe.  Upon their return they found that Casper Whitney had sued to have his wife’s divorce decree set aside and he filed for his own divorce.  Since the original divorce was no longer legal, neither was Charles’ and Annie’s wedding.  The couple was remarried amid the glare of newspaper and society attention.
They remained in No. 17 until February 1902 when they sold the house to Judge Irving Lehman and his wife, the former Sissie Straus.  Lehman was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1908, disappointing Tammany Hall which had lobbied hard for its own nominee.

No. 19 had been the home of Rosa E. Wormser until September 1903, when she sold it to Henry Silcocks.  The well-to-do businessman was a partner in the United States Waste Company, which manufactured and dealt in "wool and cotton waste, lubricants and machine supplies," according to Steel and Iron magazine.

In the meantime, Otto Loengard had garnered a substantial fortune in, among other ventures, the Comstock Tunnel Company of which he was an officer.  The firm provided drainage to the famous Comstock Load mines, where the blue mud had originally hampered miners' progress.

In February 1899 the Wards sold No. 21 to Otto and Emma Loengard.  Emma wasted no time, apparently, in decorating her new home in the latest vogue.

Emma Loengard's decorating taste was the height of turn-of-the-century fashion.  A machete would be helpful in navigating through the entrance hall (above).  A glimpse of the carved details of the reception room mantel can be seen under layers of hangings.  photos by Maugans N.Y., from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
The Loengards remained in No. 21 for over a decade, selling it on April 4, 1900 to William Hawkins Clarke.  His $30,000 mortgage--more than $900,000 today--hints at the substantial selling price.

The Loengards' dining room (above) featured velvet wall coverings, carved woodwork and handsome plaster ceilings.  Below is the living room.  photos by Maugans N.Y., from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

Clarke and his wife, the former Virginia Vilas, had two daughters, Dorothy and Lois, and a son, Percival Vilas.  Following the death of Virginia's father, Henry Chapman Vilas, in 1908, her mother Sophia moved into No. 21 with the family.

The engagement of Dorothy to Columbia graduate Clinton Gilbert Abbott on February 20, 1915 caused a stir in society columns.   Following the wedding in St. Stephen's church in May, a reception was held in the 68th Street house.

Joy turned to grief six months later when Sophia Vilas died in her room on November 19, 1915.

Two years later, in February 1917, Clarke sold No. 21 to broker Joseph L. Lilienthal and his wife, Edna Arnstein Lilienthal.  The couple had three children, Joseph, Jr., Philip and Ann.    When Henry Silcocks sold No. 19 in 1922, the Lilienthals purchased that property as well, leasing it to Jared Flagg.

The Lilienthal family would remain in No. 21 until Lilienthal's death at the age of 55 on May 22, 1936; by which time the upscale tone of the neighborhood had eroded.  Within two months Edna had moved out and on July 13 it was announced that she had leased Nos. 19 and 21.  The New York Times reported "The lessee plans to remodel the buildings into one and two-room apartments."

By now No. 17 was home to Alfred H. Caspary, principal in the stock brokerage firm A. H. Caspari & Co. and world-renowned philatelist.  While the Great Depression prompted owners along the block like Edna Lilienthal to convert their homes to apartments; Alfred and Margaret Caspary were little affected.

The couple's country estate was in Livingston Manor, New York.  While they amassed a notable collection of ceramics, it was Alfred's stamp collection for which he would be remembered.   Some items in his collection were unique--he owned, for instance, the only two 5-cent red Annapolis Postmaster's provisional stamps known to exist.

Mary died in 1953.  Although Alfred remained in No. 17, he was by now nearly bedridden.  In 1954 he donated $1 million to erect the Margaret H. Caspary Clinic at the New Hospital for Special Surgery.  When he died the following January at the age of 77, he left an estate estimated at between $10 and $15 million to his friend, George Murnane "for distribution in his discretion."

Within the year No. 19 was converted to apartments like its neighbors.  Do doubt the most celebrated of the tenants within the row was young actor James Dean, who moved into the top floor of No. 19 in 1953.

Famed photographer Roy Schatt snapped Dean walking in the middle of West 68th Street, in front of his home...
...and in the circular window of his apartment, #5-F.  original sources unknown
Dean was still renting the 68th Street apartment when he died on September 30, 1955 in the now-famous California car crash.  Despite the passage of more than half a century, fans still make the pilgrimage to West 68th Street to see the house where he once lived.

Dean's bachelor pad was perfectly 1950's in decor.  His hi-fi speaker fits perfectly into the nook created for it in the bookcase.  It would have been, nevertheless, shocking to Mrs. Henry Silcocks.  original source unknown
The homes have undergone some distressing alterations, including gruesome entrance doors.  Nevertheless the George Fred Pelham's 1894 elegant design subsists; a reminder of the time when the block west of Central Park was home to wealthy, prestigious families.



photographs by the author

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Lost Bush Terminal Building - 100 Broad Street


A number of children play in the street around the recently completed building.  Note the gargoyles that line up along the first and third floor cornices.  from the collection of the New-York Historical Society

Irving T. Bush came up with an unexpected solution to shipping, storage and distribution costs in 1895.  Under the name of The Bush Co., he organized six warehouses and a steamship pier on the South Brooklyn waterfront as a freight-handling terminal.   The operation was successful despite of-- and, in fact, because of--its location outside of Manhattan.  Directly accessible to railways and ships, the terminal was able to offer storage, receiving and shipping services to wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers.

The name of the firm name became the Bush Terminal Company in 1902.  As the business grew, so did the complex.  Bush built a railroad, added factory lofts and warehouses to what was becoming a massive operation.

On May 2, 1903 the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide reported that Grace C. Snelling had sold the seven old buildings "at the junction of Broad, Bridge and Pearl sts."  The historic location, directly across from Fraunces Tavern, had once been the site of Manhattan's first church, erected in 1633.

The unwieldy pie-shaped property would now become the new headquarters of the Bush Terminal Co., which commissioned the firm of Kirby, Petit & Green to design the structure.  Completed in 1905, the completed edifice was like nothing in the Financial District.  The architects had produced a striking brick-and-stone Jacobean style building that would have been more comfortable in 16th century England than 20th century Manhattan.   Diapered brickwork, Gothic-arched openings, and diamond-paned windows, some with stained glass, added to the picturesque appearance.  The narrow Broad Street elevation featured a two-story angled bay which supported a stone balcony.

Not all architectural critics approved.  While The Architectural Record found no fault in the design itself, a June 1906 article derided the choice of styles for the location.  It complained in part, "there can be no doubt at all as to the impropriety of turning an office building in a busy thoroughfare into a Jacobean manor-house.  A house of this character, no matter how good it may be in itself, must necessarily look affected and out of place in the midst of a lot of office buildings; and when the offices of the Bush Terminal Company are surrounded, as they eventually will be, by skyscrapers, the impropriety will become still more conspicuous."

The Architectural Record, June 1906 (copyright expired)
J. Parker B. Fiske was kinder, focusing on the handsome brickwork.  Writing in the the same periodical on January 4, 1908 he said in part that "The new office building of the Bush Terminal Company, at 100 Broad street, constructed of the dark rich red 'Devonshire' stretchers with 'Gun Metal' headers" exemplified "the beautiful soft effects which may be produced by brick with an extremely rough texture."

The New York Times, April 19, 1911 (copyright expired)
The Bush Terminal Company leased extra space in the building.  The largest tenant was most likely the Jolly Mariner's Club.   Like other downtown clubs, its membership was composed of businessmen and it offered a respectable venue for quiet luncheons.  In the evenings the clubhouse restaurant was routinely used for meetings and dinners.  On November 23, 1908, for instance, the American Institute of Architects held its "folly dinner" here; and five days earlier it had been the scene of a dinner and meeting of the Merchants' Association during which Senator Nelson W. Aldrich spoke for more than an hour on European banking.

The fact that the Merchants' Association exclusively held its dinners and meetings in the Jolly Mariners' Club was, no doubt, not a coincidence.  Irving T. Bush was the chairman of the Association's Committee on Currency.

By 1911 a subsidiary company, the Bush Terminal Buildings Company, had been formed to handle the firm's vast real estate holdings.  On June 16, 1911 The New York Times reported that the Bush Terminal Buildings Company intended to remodel the three old buildings behind No. 100 Broad Street into "a highly improved office building;" creating an annex of sorts.

"At the present time the various floors are being used for miscellaneous purposes, but it is the company's intention to equip them for the most pretentious office needs, and in doing so the Tudor-Gothic style of architecture, employed both in the exterior and interior construction of the Bush Terminal Building proper, will be carried out."

The article explained that the 19th century facades were being stripped off, "to be replaced by ornamental terra cotta, embellished with leaded glass windows and other accessories in keeping with the general style."  The tallest building, No. 30 Bridge Street, would receive an "ornamental cupola" to match the Terminal Building.  The cost of the renovations were projected at upwards of $100,000--more than $2.6 million today.

from the collection of the New York Public Library
In September that same year No. 100 Broad Street got a new tenant with a ponderous name: the newly-organized New York State Branch of the National Citizens' League for the Promotion of a Sound Banking System.  The Branch boasted high-powered officers, including John Claflin, William Sloane, Isidor Straus, and George A. Plimpton.  Perhaps not unexpectedly, Irving T. Bush was also an officer, serving as chairman of the Executive Committee.

The group had been formed partly in reaction to the devastating Financial Panic of 1907.  Clafin told reporters on October 8, 1911, "The panic of 1907 was an unnecessary panic.  It has disclosed certain weaknesses in our banking system which can and must all be corrected."

By 1928 skyscrapers were rising along the downtown skyline.  from the collection of the New York Public Library
Another financial panic, the Stock Market crash of 1929 would hit closer to home for the Bush Terminal Company.  On September 29, 1936 The New York Times reported that the directors of the firm had adopted a resolution "for a reorganization of the company" under the National Bankruptcy Act.

Happily for the company and for its thousands of customers, the plan worked and the Bush Terminal Company survived.  And true to The Architectural Record's 1906 prediction, by the second half of the 20th century the Bush Terminal Building was hemmed in by towering skyscrapers.

In June 1961, three years before the demolition of Pennsylvania Station sparked New York City's historic preservation movement, the Bush Terminal Buildings Company sold No. 100 Broad Street.  Raymond F. Ryan, the real estate broker who brokered the deal, told reporters "the Bush Building with its gargoyles and leaded windows will be replaced by a two-story-and-penthouse structure."

The Bush Terminal Company announced it would move its headquarters to Brooklyn.  The New York Times headline on June 24 read simply "Bush Sells A Landmark."

The unique structure was demolished, to be replaced by the New York Clearing House Association's new building, designed by Rogers & Butler.

The newly completed New York Clearing House building in 1962. photograph via El Imperio Moderno 
The building as it appears today.  Real Estate Weekly, March 20, 2013

Friday, March 23, 2018

William S. Hunt's 1861 327 and 329 West 20th Street





As the Chelsea district developed around him, William S. Hunt lived in a narrow house at No. 211 West 20th Street, just west of Eighth Avenue, and operated his shop next door at No. 213.
 
Hunt advertised his finish carpentry and construction business in the 1851 edition of New-York; Past Present, and Future.  (copyright expired)
In 1860 he demolished both buildings in order to erect two private dwellings.  Somewhat surprisingly, at a time when some upscale homes in the neighborhood topped 30 feet in width, Hunt chose not to combine his 12.6-foot wide plots.   Instead he erected two handsome but unusually skinny houses.

There is little doubt that Hunt acted not only as the builder, but the designer.  The sometimes-architect was responsible for designing the nearby Eighteenth Street Methodist Episcopal Church, built in 1835-36 in the popular Greek Revival style.

Completed in 1861, the matching homes were clad in brownstone and were his own take on the Italianate style.  The upper three floors wore expected Italianate details, like the elliptical arched openings and foliate-bracketed cornice.  The parlor floor drew its in inspiration from the recently popular Anglo-Italianate style, doing away with the fussy entrance enframements in favor of keystoned arches and deep rustication.

Anglo-Italianate homes routinely were entered nearly at sidewalk level; their doorways sitting above two or three shallow steps.  But Hunt continued his hybridization by placing the parlor floors above a deep English basement and utilizing the Italianate high stoop.

No. 213 became the parsonage of the Eighteenth Street Methodist Episcopal Church, home to Rev. J. F. Richmond.  The family who moved in next door, like so many homeowners in the neighborhood, rented their extra space in the house.  An advertisement in September 1865 announced "A private family can accommodate a gentleman and wife with a large pleasant Room and Bedroom and Closet adjoining, with Board."

In 1865 West 20th Street was renumbered.  The houses received their new addresses of 327 and 329 West 20th Street.  Throughout the rest of the century residents came and went, drawing no unwanted attention to themselves.  By the 1870s No. 329, no longer a parsonage, was home to the Denman family.  Asahel Homes Denman attended New York City College beginning in 1877.

No. 327 was lost in foreclosure in May 1905, and purchased by Susan H. Cudner for $8,000--about a quarter of a million dollars today.  She rented rooms in the house, which was home to architect G. R. Joslin by 1907.  Michael Duanno lived here in 1921, earning a living as a "painter and decorator."

Duanno was headed home on the 9th Avenue elevated train on the night of December 30 that year when disaster occurred.   At around 7:05 a local train was stalled with motor trouble between stations at 40th Street.   The next southbound train rammed into the stationary train, the two telescoping into one another.

"The impact was terrific," wrote The New York Times.   Passengers were "thrown in heaps, the floor, ceiling, walls, seats and parts of the metal work shattered and twisted into a continuous mass of wreckage."  One passenger was killed and at least 40 were injured, one losing a foot.  Among the dead was 27-year old Michael Duanno.

Another roomer in No. 327 was James Nelson, who rented a furnished room in the late 1930s.  A retired longshoreman, the 70-year old died in his room in June 1939.  A policeman went to the scene and searched Nelson's pockets.  He found two worn leather tobacco pouches containing "$3,300 in old, large size, gold-back treasury notes, mostly of $10 and $20 denomination," according to authorities.  The surprising hoard would be equal to about $57,000 today.

In the meantime No. 329 saw renters come and go as well.  Raymond Rufino Huna, who was a member of the United States Merchant Marines, left the West 20th Street house to fight in World War II.  His wife received the terrifying news on April 17, 1943 that he was missing in action.

Perhaps because of their narrow proportions, neither house was significantly altered.  In 1965 No. 329 was converted to a duplex at the basement and parlor level with a triplex above; and the following year No. 327 was altered to a single family home with one apartment in the basement.

Throughout their more than 150 year histories, both of William S. Hunt's hybrid homes retained their 1861 personalities--even retaining their elegant entrance doors.

photograph by the author

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The 1901 Theodore Luling House - 118 East 70th Street




Theodore W. Luling, born in 1875, was admitted to the banking firm of the Fifth Avenue Trust Co. in 1898.  He was, as well, a director in the large dry goods firm James H. Dunham & Co.   John H. Dunham was the father of Luling's wife, Grace Louise Lathrop Dunham.  The couple were living with the Dunhams in their comfortable rowhouse at No. 37 East 36th Street at the time.

It was most likely the arrival of their first child, Rosamund Elena, on November 23, 1899, that prompted the couple's search for a new home.  In June 1900 they purchased the old three-story brownstone house at No. 118 East 70th Street from the estate of David Babcock. 

The block between Lexington and Park Avenues had recently seen an influx of moneyed families; several of whom transformed the outdated Victorian houses into modern, upscale residences.  The price the Lulings paid for the property, about $660,000 in today's dollars, reflects the growing exclusivity of the block.   As was common at the time, the title was put in Grace's name.

The Lulings hired the architectural team of Trowbridge & Livingston to remodel the house--adding a floor, and expanding the building to the front and rear.  The extensive renovations would cause a standoff of sorts between the architects and the Department of Buildings.

According to the New-York Tribune, "The plans for the improvements were submitted to the Department, and as they called for the practical rebuilding of the structure the architect was told to file plans for a new building."   On September 15 the architects submitted the revised plans--now calling for a completely new structure.

It may be that the Lulings were reticent to advertise what they were paying for what had become an extremely expensive project; but for whatever reason when the Department official asked the Trowbridge & Livingston associate to insert the construction costs, which had been left blank, he refused.  The Tribune reported "He refused to fill in the cost at first, but on being told that his plans would otherwise be rejected he placed the cost at $100."  To this day the construction cost on record for No. 118 East 70th Street is a mere $100.

The 20-foot wide neo-Federal style residence was completed in 1901.  With no stoop hogging real estate, the architects could have pulled the facade to the property line, thereby increasing interior floor space.   Instead they used the former entrance to the basement as a fenced areaway which contributed to the stately tone of the house.

The entrance of the five-story residence sat with a planar limestone base.  Leaded sidelights flanking the single door and an over-sized fanlight admitted sunlight into the foyer.  A full-width iron balcony fronted the pair of French doors at the second floor, the tympana of which were decorated with delicate carved wreaths and ribbons.  Burned headers of the Flemish bond brickwork, splayed lintels and double keystones added to the colonial flavor of the style.  The top floor took the form of a steep mansard above a stone cornice.

It appears that one of Grace's maids came up with a clever way of seeing the world; or at least of getting free passage on a liner.  On June 2, 1902 her advertisement appeared in the New-York Tribune:

Maid--A young, intelligent girl, going to Europe, desires position as maid to ladies or children while crossing.  Apply to H. Sullivan.  118 East 70th-st.

If Miss Sullivan was unsuccessful in finding children to tend to on the Atlantic, she would have had a newborn to take care of on 70th Street.  Theodore Dunham Luling was born on October 30, 1902.

Four months later the Lulings hired architect H. Davis Ives to design a two-story addition in the rear.  This time the architect and the Department of Buildings did not butt heads.  Ives filled in the construction costs at $5,000--around $145,000 today.

The Lulings had a summer estate in Ridgefield, Connecticut when the 70th Street house was constructed.  By 1905 they had a "villa" in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  And while they continued to maintain that home at least through 1908, on August 6, 1905 The New York Times reported that they were building in Lenox, as well.

"Theodore W. Luling of New York, who last season bought a fine building site on the Cone estate, is preparing to build a costly Summer residence.  Plans have already been prepared.  Mr. and Mrs. Luling are in Stockbridge for the Summer."

Interestingly, while Theodore and Grace were busy with  summer estates and garden parties, they appear to have been highly interested in the education of black children, as well.  At the time both were writing back and forth with Booker T. Washington.  While Washington enjoyed the patronage of several Manhattan philanthropists--John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Collis Huntington among them--the relationship between him and the Lulings appears have been personal.

Following the formation of the Union of South Africa, E. B. Sargant was appointed South African Commissioner of Education by Lord Milner.  Charged with developing a "system of Public School education among the natives," he turned to Grace Luling to help in connecting with Washington for advice.  Grace enclosed a list of Sargant's questions in a letter to the author and educator, which he answered.   On February 12, 1909 she followed up, sending Washington a letter saying in part that "Mr. Sargant has successfully accomplished this work."

The Lulings sold No. 118 in September 1910 to Francis Leonard Kellogg and his wife, the former Emilie Baker.  The couple paid the equivalent of $1.3 million for the house.

The Kelloggs had three sons and a daughter; Alexander, John, F. Leonard Jr., and Virginia.  F. Leonard Kellogg had graduated from Princeton University in 1894 as an electrical engineer.  By now he managed the Electric Storage Battery Company, and was a member of the prestigious Ivy Club of Princeton, the Union Club and the University Club.

Emilie was an accomplished artist, having studied at the Art Students' League as a teenager.  She now immersed herself in charitable causes, like the vaudeville entertainment at Sherry's in December 1912 for the benefit of the Convalescent Home for Babies.

The Sun reported that one act, which involved children, also relied on Emilie's artistic bent.  "A series of Dickens tableaux in which young people will pose after illustrations of Cruikshank will be given under the direction of Mrs. F. Leonard Kellogg and will be accompanied by English glee songs."

On August 22, 1916 the funeral of Francis's widowed mother, Josephine Kellogg, was held in the house.  Five years later, in November 1921, it was the scene of the funeral of Emilie's father, William Edgar Baker.

Much happier events would come as the children neared adulthood.  The winter season of 1927 saw Virginia's debutante entertainments, the first of which was "a large luncheon," as described in The New York Times on December 9, at the Savoy-Plaza.  The extensive guest list inluded the daughters of some of Manhattan's most prominent families.

Virginia's education reflected her privileged upbringing.  She had graduated from the exclusive Spence School, and later studied at the Miss Sheldon and Miss Nixon's School in Florence, Italy.  Like most debutantes, she was a member of the Junior League.

On June 15, 1928 the house was the scene of a double wedding.  Virginia was a bridesmaid for her cousins Josephine Leonard Kellogg Reeve and Imogen Jewell Kellogg Reeve.  The engagements of sisters had been announced just weeks apart and now they were married together in the Kellogg house.

F. Leonard Kellogg retired in 1929 after two decades with Electric Storage Battery Company.  Two years later, on New Year's Day 1931, he and Emilie announced Virginia's engagement to William Kemble.  The New York Times noted "Both Miss Kellogg and her fiancé come of distinguished ancestry," reminding readers that her great-grandfather was Cornelius Baker, the philanthropist and founder of New York University.

Virginia's wedding took place in Bedford Village, New York, where the family maintained their country home.  It was there on December 20, 1941 that F. Leonard Kellogg died at the age of 74.

Francis L. Kellogg, Jr. would go on to an illustrious career.  He would serve as special assistant to two Secretaries of State, William P. Rogers and Henry A. Kissinger, earning him the title of Ambassador.  He was also chairman of the Executive Committee of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and head of the United States Delegation to the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration in Geneva.

Emlie Kellogg sold the 70th Street house in the mid-1940's.  It was home to Mrs. Charlotte Coursay Kulka in 1948.   She was the victim of 38-year old George Feld, called the "Celluloid Burglar" by newspapers because he favored motion picture actresses as his targets.   He was arrested after breaking into the apartment of actress, comedienne and actress Gertrude Neison on October 16 that year and making off with $10,000 worth of jewelry.   The grand jury charged him at the same time with burglarizing the homes of actress Gene Tierney, Kay Long, and Charlotte Coursay Kulka.

While many of the mansions on the 70th Street block were converted to apartments in latter part of the 20th century, No. 118 remained a private house.  It was purchased by the multi-talented director, screen writer, actor and musician Woody Allen in 2005 for $22.62 million.



Outwardly, the home which the Theodore and Grace Luling never really intended to build essentially unchanged.

photographs by the author