Saturday, October 13, 2018

The M. Rowan "Ice Cream Saloon" - 668 Sixth Avenue




In 1850 William Johnson began construction of six brick-faced homes on the east side of Sixth Avenue, between 20th and 21st Streets.  At 20-feet wide the four-story homes were intended for well-to-do families decades before the avenue would become a major shopping thoroughfare.

No. 334 in the middle of the row, became home to Catharine Danforth.  She remained until early in 1862 when she moved to No. 57 West 24th Street.  On March 18 that year an advertisement in The New York Herald offered "To Let--The house 334 Sixth Avenue, near Dr. Muhlenberg's church, in complete order; gas fixtures, bath, range &c; suitable for a physician."

It was not a physician who leased the house, but the New-York Ladies' Educational Union.  With civil war raging in the south, they rented the property for their Institution for the Children of Deceased or Disabled Soldiers in the house.

On June 7 The New York Times described the institution's goals in dramatic Victorian prose:

First, that of the care-worn, war-made widow, who is thankful to leave her little one under the kind auspices of Mr. and Mrs. Davis, the Superintendents, while she seeks perhaps for the first time a day's employment.  Again, it is a refuge for the young girl of intelligence and capacity, who would fain accept instruction to fit her to combat unwonted trials in a commercial sphere; and a home for the little girls and boys, some of whom wear garments of mourning that should be looked reverently upon by every loyal American, especially those who in tranquility of luxurious homes, entertain but faint visions of the battlefield.

The article described the house as being "large, and will require much to make it the home-place that is intended."  To fund the furnishing and renovations, the New-York Ladies' Education Union held week-long fairs in places like the Cooper Institute.  And as Thanksgiving approached, a "Thanksgiving Donation Visit" was advertised.  On the holiday the doors were opened to visitors from 3:00 to 8:00.

A few weeks earlier Rev. Stephen H. Tyng, rector of the fashionable St. George's Church on Stuyvesant Square, had heard unflattering rumors about the institution.  On November 17 he took out an ad that said in part "Having been informed that certain statements unfavorable to the character of the 'Institution for the Benefit of the Children of Deceased or Disabled Soldiers'...have been presented to the press...I desire personally to certify that this institution has been established by ladies of the most indubitable excellence of character and dignity of social position."

Soon after the end of the war the Institution was dissolved.  In 1869 owner Mary McKenna converted the first and second story to storefronts.  The shop space was leased to ice cream manufacturer M. Rowan & Co. while the upper floors became home to another institution, the Shelter for Respectable Girls.  It was run by the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion, connected with the Church of the Holy Communion on the corner.

On February 23 1873 The New York Herald noted that "during the past two years it has received and provided with situations over five hundred homeless, but respectable women.  The majority of these were Christian women, many of them communicants in various Christian churches, some of them persons reduced from affluence to poverty, and cast, from no fault of their own, without a friend upon the world."  The Shelter for Respectable Girls remained at least through 1876.

Three of the original row, including 668, retain much of their domestic appearance.

In April 1875 Rowan & Co. renewed its lease.   By now Sixth Avenue was transforming into a major shopping district as small buildings from the 1840's and '50's were demolished to be replaced by lavish emporiums.  It had proved to be a perfect location for an "ice cream saloon."

Michael Rowan had come from his native Ireland in 1851 and established his ice cream business in 1866.  He manufactured his ice cream in the cellar.  The firm supplied bulk treats to restaurants and hotels and for large events like excursions.  The "saloon" (a term later changed to the more benign "ice cream parlor"), was a favorite stopping point for the women shopping along Sixth Avenue.

Sales were brisk on the hot Saturday afternoon of August 26, so when the shop was broken into that night the safe was full.  On August 31 The New York Times reported "The ice-cream establishment of Messrs. Cowan [sic] & Co., at No. 334 Sixth avenue, was entered by burglars on Sunday morning.  They broke open a small safe and carried off the contents of the money-box, consisting of $1,500 in cash and a check on the Bank of the Metropolis for $14.40."  The take would equal about $35,700 today.

Rowan, his wife Theresa, and their sons, Joseph Charles, Francis (known as Frank), Ambrose, Marten and Edmond, lived above their other ice cream shop at No. 742 Sixth Avenue at the time of the break-in.

In the 1878 Journal of the Fair for the New St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rowan advertised his ice cream as "The only old fashioned cheap hand made Ice Cream in the city."  (The term "cheap" would be substituted with "affordable" today.)  Ice cream was priced at $1 per gallon and "French & Italian Creams" at 60 cents per quart.  A gallon would cost $25.50 today.  The ad noted "Liberal discount to Church Festivals, etc."

A separate article in the Journal promised "Lovers of ice-cream in its purity, charlottes that are delicious, French and Italian creams surpassing any house in the city in quality, will find at M. Rowan's establishments, 334 Sixth avenue...and 742 Sixth avenue...everything to suit the most fastidious taste."

Joseph Charles apparently had no interest in going into his family's business.  In 1884 he enrolled in Columbia College as a law student.  By now the Rowans had given up the other store and moved into the upper stories of No. 334.

In 1888 Illustrated New York gushed about the store saying "Few among the many inviting and excellent establishments devoted to the manufacture and sale of ice-cream and kindred toothsome products on Sixth Avenue have secured a more enduring hold on popular favor than the well-known and flourishing ice-cream depot and refreshment parlor of Mr. Rowan."

The article described the 20- by 70-foot saloon as "neatly appointed and well kept"  It added "Five polite and efficient assistants are employed while a delivery wagon is in steady service."

In 1897 the estate of Mary McKenna enlarged the store space for Rowan.  It hired architect P. F. Brogan to design an extension to the rear, costing $3,500.  The increased business also necessitated more than the single delivery wagon mentioned in 1888.  On July 10, 1900 the Confectioners' and Bakers' Gazette noted "many wagons [are] kept going constantly to supply the demand."

Above the second story show window the name M. Rowan is announced in cast iron.
The McKenna estate brought P. F. Brogan back in January 1901 to design an new storefront.  Michael Rowan died around 1907.  The business was continued under Frank, Ambrose and Edmond.  While Joseph Charles continued to live above the store at least through 1912, he was not involved in the business, having followed his legal career.

By the end of World War I the retail stores had abandoned Sixth Avenue, moving north to Fifth Avenue and Herald Square.  Nevertheless, the Rowans stubbornly stayed on.  On August 26, 1919 The Sun reported that Edmond Rowan had renewed the lease on the building for another ten years.

The enlarged windows of the 1920 renovation can be seen in this May 9, 1940 photo.  from the collection of the New York Public Library
The ice cream parlor remained downstairs, but the upper floors were converted for business by architects Gronenberg & Leuchtag in 1920.  At the time the windows of the two top floor were enlarged.  Simon Waist & Dress Co. moved in that year, headed by Michael Simon.

In 1925 Sixth Avenue was renumbered and No. 334 became No. 668.  At the end of Edmond Rowan's lease the ice cream store was gone, ending its 60-year history in the space.

Passersby could have no clue that the top story windows are not historic.
The Sixth Avenue neighborhood suffered decline and neglect for decades, only to be rediscovered as "The Ladies' Mile."  The massive retail emporiums, many of which had stood essentially vacant, were repurposed as residential and commercial buildings.  A surprising renovation of No. 668 restored the residential-style windows on the upper floors, complete with pressed metal cornices matching the historic examples next door.

photographs by the author

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Gertrude and Michael Gavin Mansion - 12 East 65th Street




In June 1906 Minnesota railroad magnate James J. Hill purchased the sumptuous mansion at No. 8 East 65th Street.  The New York Times remarked that he was the "second of the Western railroad magnates to reach the decision recently that he spends enough time in New York to justify his buying a house here."  Another member of the Hill family would, too, be moving to the block before long.

On September 21 that same year a Minnesota newspaper reported "The engagement of Miss Gertrude Hill, daughter of James J. Hill, to Michael Gavin, a lawyer of New York, was announced last evening at a dinner given at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Theron Slade."  Noting that Gertrude had made her debut two years earlier, the article added that she "is musical in her tastes."

Gertrude Hill Gavin on her wedding day.  from the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society 
The wedding took place in St. Paul later that year.  The couple received a handsome wedding gift from James J. Hill; a Manhattan mansion.

Next door to the Hills' New York home, at No. 12 East 65th Street, was the 22-foot wide brownstone residence of Judge Charles H. Truax, built in 1876.  The Traux family had lived in the house since the mid 1890's.  In 1907 the judge sold the now out-of-fashion brownstone to Hill.

The architecturally outdated Traux house, left, contrasted with the ebullient Beaux Arts mansions of James J. Hill and William Bliss.  from the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society
The title to the property was put in Gertrude's name.  When the couple returned from their honeymoon trip, they set about planning their new home.  On August 29, 1908 the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide reported that architect Walter B. Chambers had been hired to design a five- and six-story brick and stone dwelling.  The projected cost was placed at just over $1 million today.

The New York Times explained the "five- and six-story" issue.  "The design is unusual, the house being five stories high in front and six stories in the centre, and three at the rear.  It will have a mansard and a second-story balcony, and be finished with a central stair hall and foyer."

Chambers carefully melded the new house to its neighbors to the west.  He matched the rusticated base, and lined up the second floor balconies and cornices.  A quieter presence, the design was nonetheless harmonious and elegant.

Although educated in law, Gavin was a junior partner in the investment banking firm of Moore & Schley when the couple moved in.  In 1915 he joined the brokerage firm of Montgomery & Company; and before long became a full partner in the financial firm Montgomery, Clothier and Tyler.

The Gavins were highly visible in society, traveling to Europe regularly and entertaining both in the Manhattan home and their Bernardsville, New Jersey estate.  On August 19, 1910 The New York Times advised "Mr. and Mrs. Michael Gavin will sail on the Adriatic next week for France, where they expect to visit friends and spend considerable time motoring.  They will return to New York in October."

Gertrude was highly active in charities and activities related to the Roman Catholic Church.  In 1920 she was elected the first president of the National Council of Catholic Women.  She was awarded the papal medal Pro Ecclesia and pontifical diploma in 1924.  Her religious interests spilled over into the entertainments in the 65th Street house.  On January 16, 1923, for instance, she hosted a lecture by Father Clifford, Professor of Scholastic Philosophy at Columbia University, on "faith, faith cures and the doctrine of the miraculous."

In 1920 the Gavins gave up the Bernardsville summer home after Graenan, their French Renaissance-style mansion designed by John Russell Pope, was completed on their 50-acre Oyster Bay, Long Island estate.  In 1926 Gertrude had Chapelle de St. Martin de Sayssuel, a medieval chapel in the French village of Chasse, dismantled and shipped to the Oyster Bay estate.  John Russell Pope was brought back to oversee the careful reconstruction on the grounds.   The project sparked the legend that Graenan, too, had been imported stone-by-stone from France; a rumor that survives.

The charming chapel was removed to Marquette University in Wisconsin, in 1966 following the destruction of Graenan by fire.  photo by Sulfur
In the meantime, Gertrude may have surprised some when she announced in November 1924 that she would be stepping down from the presidency of the National Council of Catholic Women.  She had been selected by Cardinal Patrick Joseph Hayes to "work among Catholic immigrants landing at New York."

Quoted in The New York Times on November 10, she explained "Many of these Italians as well as Catholic immigrants from other countries become confused in the struggle for existence in the new country and from lack of information sometimes make mistakes."

Michael Gavin retired in 1928.  His time was not idle.  The Gavins traveled almost every year to the Saint John River where Gertrude loved salmon fishing.  Along with the Hills, they were members of the exclusive Jekyll Island Club.  They eventually acquired a third home in Boca Grande, Florida.

Wealthy socialites gave their assistance during World War II to relief work and to military support--like the Soldiers' and Sailors' Clubhouse.  Gertrude did her part by helping to organize and run the Cathedral Canteen of New York.  Both the Departments of the Army and the Navy awarded her certificates of appreciation following the war.

In 1949 the Gavins sold the 65th Street house to the Dominion of Pakistan.  They moved to an apartment at No. 760 Park Avenue where, within six months of one another, the couple died in 1960.



The Republic of Pakistan purchased the James Hill mansion in 1951 and today still owns both properties.

photographs by the author

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Religious Scandal, Military Towels, and Designer Handbags - 106 Franklin Street




By the 1830’s the block of Franklin Street between Church Street and West Broadway was lined with handsome Federal-style residences.  No. 106 reflected the fashionable nature of the neighborhood.  Faced in brick it rose three full stories to a pitched roof with prominent dormers.  At 25-feet wide, it was on par with the homes of the city’s most prominent citizens.  The upscale tone of the home was also evidenced by its resident, the Episcopal Bishop of New York.

Benjamin Treadwell Onderdonk was born on July 15, 1791.  After graduating from Columbia College he studied theology under Bishop John Henry Hobart, eventually succeeding him as Bishop in 1830.  Onderdonk and his wife, the former Eliza Handy, had two children, Elizabeth Caroline and William Handy Onderdonk.

Benjamin Tredwell Onderdonk photo via anglicanhistory.org 
Although grown, both Caroline and William were living with their parents in 1844 when the family looked for a summer place.  The Onderdonks, like all well-to-do families, left the city in the warm months for the country.  With their parishioners out of town, most fashionable churches closed for three months.  On March 26 William placed two advertisements in the New-York Daily Tribune.

The first offered the Franklin Street house for lease:  “To let—The three story basement House No. 106 Franklin st.  Two parlor pier glasses, a Nott’s stove for the hall, and an entry oil cloth will be let with the house.”  (The two parlor pier mirrors were a clear indication of the upscale furnishings.)

The second ad read: “Country Residence—Wanted, a large and commodious dwelling house situated in a healthy part of the State, near an Episcopal Church, and of convenient access to the city.”

At the time scandal rocked the Episcopal community and it centered on Bishop Onderdonk.  When a candidate for the ministry, Arthur Carey, was interviewed by Rev. Dr. Hugh Smith of St. Peter’s Church, he expressed views sympathetic to Roman Catholicism.  It was a serious matter in 1843—Roman Catholics were called "Papists" (and worse).  Rev. Smith called for an inquiry by Bishop Onderdonk.

In 1887 Valentine's Manual depicted Franklin and Church Streets as it would have appeared in the early 19th century. copyright expired 
When Onderdonk deemed Carey suitable for ordination a backlash erupted.  Now the Bishop too was accused of pro-Catholic sentiments.  During the uproar, the Bishop of Virginia, William Meade, suddenly produced a number of affidavits from women who alleged Onderdonk had “engaged in improper touching” and had made inappropriate advances.   (It was an astonishingly early precursor to today's #MeToo movement.)

Onderdonk fought the charges valiantly; proposing that the women were paid to make the charges so his enemies could get rid of him.  But a resulting trial before the House of Bishops ended in Onderdonk’s suspension.  While he retained his position—at least in title—he was unable to celebrate mass or any other of his priestly duties.

Further tragedy came to the family when Elizabeth died at the age of 37 on Saturday morning, May 14, 1853.  Her funeral was held in the parlor of the house on Franklin Street two days later.

Although he was no longer able to perform his duties, Onderdonk and his family continued to live quite comfortably in their fine home.  On September 1, 1854 an advertisement in The New York Herald sought a new servant.  “Cook Wanted—To go a short distance in the country.  She must understand milking, baking, washing and ironing, and come well recommended.”  The notice reveals that the family still maintained a country home.

Bishop Benjamin Onderdonk died on April 30, 1861.  Despite more than a decade of public humiliation, he received full honors at his Trinity Church funeral.  The interior of the church was draped in black and several hundred clergymen attended the service.  His body lies today within a stone sarcophagus in Trinity Church that depicts him lying with his foot crushing a serpent labeled “Scandal.”


By the time of Onderdonk’s death commerce was inching closer and closer to Franklin Street.  Its once fine homes were being razed or converted for business purposes.  In September 1866 the Trustees of the Episcopal Fund were authorized to buy a new Episcopal Residence on East 22nd Street and to sell “the house 106 Franklin Street, formerly the Episcopal Residence.”

The property was purchased by Hugh Doherty.  Rather than demolish the old house, he altered it to a store and loft building.  The renovations were completed before 1868, resulting in an up-to-date Italianate-style structure.  In April 1868 he advertised “To Let—A First Class Loft, suitable for the fancy goods trade; terms moderate.”  And two months later an advertisement offered “To Let—A fine office, with room for sample counter, at a moderate rent.”

Among the first tenants was Fairbanks & Martin, dry goods merchants.  And in 1872 the newly-formed R. D. Wood & Sons moved in.  Originally an iron dealer, firm would totally remake itself before the end of the century.

One employee of Fairbanks & Martin in 1873 stepped off his commuter train before realizing he had left his important papers on the seat.  He placed an advertisement in The New York Herald on September 20 offering “$10 Reward will be paid to any person returning a Letter Case, with contents of papers and memoranda, lost by the subscriber on the Stongington line Wednesday night.”  The papers were apparently important, for the reward R. Hazard offered would be more than $210 today.

The South was devastated by a yellow fever epidemic that year.  On October 10 The New York Herald reported that a fifth priest had died after administering last rights to the sick and that 39 victims had died in Memphis alone the previous Wednesday.  Fairbanks & Martin donated $25 to the relief effort (about $525 today).

Fairbanks & Martin moved to 78 Franklin Street the following year.  In their place Giffin & Wilde, commission merchants moved in.   The firm, headed by Charles H. Giffin, Jr. and Charles E. Wilde, remained in the building until its bankruptcy in 1879.

The estate of Hugh Doherty sold 106 Franklin to Samuel H. Frisbee in January 1881.  Described in the sale documents as a “five story brick store,” it sold for about $908,000 in today’s dollars.  Just over four years later, in August 1885, real estate operator Thomas S. Clarkson purchased it for the equivalent of $1.45 million today.

Clarkson hired the architectural firm of W. A. & F. E. Conover to renovate the structure.  Their plans, filed in February 1888 called for “front alterations.”  A new storefront and, most likely at this time, the broad openings with their metal lintels decorated with rosettes were included in the renovations.


By now R. D. Wood & Sons had become George Wood, Sons & Co. and no longer dealt in iron, but in textiles.  The firm operated a cotton mill and the Millville Manufacturing Company in Millville, New Jersey.   

As other tenants came and went, the firm stayed on.  The broad array of textiles it handled was evidenced in the 1913 American Trade Index, which listed “Sateens, cambrics, linings, buntings, silesias, long cloths, crashes, diapers, napkins, [and] towelings.”  During World War I the firm landed lucrative contracts with the Government, supplying the United States Marine Corps with towels.  

Following the war, as the dry goods district inched further uptown, a different type tenant called 106 Franklin Street home.  Korona Spice Co. was headquartered, here, dealing in spices like its Korona Hungarian Paprika.

During the Great Depression, the Government once again purchased from George Wood, Sons & Co.  On November 21, 1935 The New York Times reported the firm had bid on “cotton huck towels” for the Army, and 394,652 yards of cotton linings, felt and padding “to be used in the army clothing factory.”

George Wood, Sons & Co. stayed on at 106 Franklin Street through mid-century.  In the 1980’s the Tribeca renaissance was transforming the once gritty neighborhood as galleries, restaurants and trendy shops replaced the old factories.  By 1983 Calligraphy Studios leased space in the building, providing the meticulous hand-lettering necessary for upscale place cards and invitations.   Its services were recommended by Tiffany & Co.’s stationery department.

In 2000 Bu and the Duck offered its own baby items to shoppers —clothing, toys and accessories.  And in August 2012 the six-year old handbag line known as Gryson opened a boutique here.  The Times said the shop, “decorated with steel pipes and brass lighting fixtures, reflects the downtown aesthetic of the label and stocks pieces like suede tote bags [priced at] $695.”

Pedestrians passing by 106 Franklin Street today could have no idea that industrial building started life as a luxurious home.  The most astute of observers, however, might notice a nearly hidden clue at the second floor.  The Flemish bond brickwork is original to the 1840’s residence of one of New York City’s earliest Episcopal Bishops.

photographs by the author

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The 1911 Naugle's Stable - 271 West 10th Street





The old 27-foot wide building at No. 271 West 10th Street had housed multiple tenants for years when the Oneill estate sold it on January 13, 1911.  The Real Estate Record & Guide reported "The buyer, David Naugle, will erect on the site a 3-sty stable."  Negotiations for the sale had apparently been on-going, for two weeks earlier Naugle's architect, Charles H. Richter, had filed plans.  They called for a brick and concrete stable to cost $8,000, or around $213,000 today.

Naugle did not have to look far for a builder.  He was the principal in the David Naugle Construction Company.

Richter followed the routine design of stable buildings--a wide, centered carriage bay flanked by a doorway and window on the first floor, and central loft openings on the second and third floors for receiving bales of hay and other supplies.  In the yard behind the original building a small structure had stood, a small house or shop.  Now it held a manure pit, an odorous but necessary component of horse stables.  The stable's no-nonsense brick design included simple stone lintels and a wooden cornice and fascia board not unlike those on buildings of half a century earlier.

While some modern historians speculate that Naugle used the stable for his construction business, there is the possibility that it was instead a side business--a boarding stable.  The David Naugle Construction Company was at No. 67 Warren Street, significantly to the south, making the West 10th Street location inconveniently remote.

Horses on New York streets were all but gone on July 26, 1921 when the New-York Tribune announced that the David Naugle Construction Company had sold what was now described as a "three-story garage."    A month later the New York Herald finally named the buyer as David Walsh.

Walsh ran the D. Walsh Trucking & Rigging Corp.  Like Naugle, its business office was on Warren Street, but its main operations were at Nos. 704-706 Greenwich Street.  No. 271 West 10th would serve several purposes, including garaging some of the Walsh trucks.  Following renovations, Walsh's painted advertisements on the brickwork offered "Horses and Trucks to Hire" and "Gasoline For Sale."



Walsh's renovations resulted in what the Department of Buildings deemed a "3 story Garage & Stable."  The ground floor was used for the storage of "four motor trucks," and the upper two floors were for "stable" purposes.  Walsh used No. 271 for those purposes until 1935, when he leased it.   In 1941 it was home to the York Storage Warehouse and later to the A. Lindenbaum Trucking company.

Although the York Storage Warehouse was in the building when this shot was taken in 1941, the Walsh signage remained.  The projecting pulley hoist survived as well.  photograph from the collection of the New York Public Library.
The A. Lindenbaum Trucking company moved out around 1966.  The building was unofficially converted to studio and living spaces.  Hans Van de Bovenkamp was here at least by 1968.  Born in Garderen, Holland in 1938, he had moved to New York City following his graduation from the University of Michigan in 1961.  He would be integral in what was termed the 10th Street Gallery Co-op movement.  (It was a collective term for co-operative galleries operating mostly in the East Village, run with little or no staff on nearly non-existent budgets.)

Van de Bovenkamp's modern sculptures were not well-received by The New York Times art critic John Canaday.  He stopped by No. 271 in April 1968 to see the artist's limited edition fountain sculptures.  He  reported "Most of these ill-designed, ill-made sculptures in sheet metal seem planned to disfigure pools.  The studio is kooky-cute, what with a faceless clock ticking away, a barber's chair in the modified conversation pit, and other arch oddments."

Canaday got another shot at Van de Bovenkamp that month when he reviewed a show by ten artists on April 28.  He said in part "The sculpture of Roger Jorgensen, Julius Tobias and Charles Ginnever I thought was as distinguished as that of Hans ven de Bovenkamp was tacky."

In the end Van de Bovenkamp prevailed.  His large scale metal sculptures have won numerous awards and have been exhibited world-wide.


Sharing the old stable building with Van de Bovenkamp was Bill Barrett, an artist whose focus was also on abstract sculpture executed in steel, bronze and aluminum.   Four years younger than Van de Bovenkamp, he too had graduated from the University of Michigan.  He would go on to include painting and jewelry design to his artwork.

After Stephanie Wise purchased the building in 1976, she initiated another commercial renovation.  Department of Buildings certificates described the use of the ground floor as for "storage of two (2) motor trucks, light braising and soldering," and the upper floors to remain vacant.  (The "light braising and soldering" may well have been the metal sculpturing.) 

Wise, it seems, rethought the potential of the structure and two years later initiated another conversion.  This one resulted in a single-car garage and an apartment on the ground floor.  A duplex "apartment and studio" on the upper floors shared the second floor with one smaller apartment--resulting in a total of three apartments in the building.

In an April 27, 1968 article Grace Glueck of The New York Times reported on an art show by the "10 Downtown" artists.  Bill Barrett had exhibited in that show, as did Eugene Tulchin.  By 1996 Tulchin was an associate professor of art at Cooper Union.   That year he purchased No. 271 from Stephanie Wise.  An enamel plaque over the bay doors suggests the two had already operated a gallery form the garage area, although it does not appear anywhere in print.


Tulchin's purchase triggered a rapid-fire turnover in ownership.  He sold it two years later to actor Wesley Trent Snipes, who filed plans to convert it to a single family residence; but changed his mind.  He withdrew them in 1999 and sold the property within the year.

The century of neighborhood change was graphically evidenced when No. 271 was purchased for just under $15 million in 2005.  Within months plans, approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, were filed with the Department of Buildings to convert it to a private residence.

Although the renovations all but removed the remnants of Walsh's signage; ghosts of the lettering can still be made out.
photographs by the author

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Starr Family Houses - 309-313 West 75th Street



Clarence True was among the most prolific of architects working on the Upper West Side in the 1890's.  His inspiration was almost always drawn from  historic periods, resulting in structures that ranged from charming, romantic or elegantly grand.

When he designed three upscale townhouses at Nos 309 to 305 West 75th Street for developer Charles G. Judson in 1892, he gave them his own take on the Francois I style.  Completed the following year, each home had its own personality; yet the trio were unmistakable architectural siblings.  Carved decoration, expanses of multiple-paned windows, prominent dormers (one clad in copper) and projecting gargoyles successfully blended 16th century France with 19th century America.


Judson sold No. 309 on November 7, 1895 to Edward S. Hatch for $41,000--just over $1.2 million today.  He quickly resold it to Pauline Starr, who almost simultaneously (on November 27) purchased No. 311.  Another relative, Walter D. Starr, had purchased No. 313 on January 3, 1894.

Pauline's parents moved into No. 309.  Daniel Ebbets Starr was 51-years old and his wife, the former Pauline Gilsey, was 42.  Her father, Peter Gilsey, was the well-known hotelier and owner of the Gilsey House on Broadway.

Pauline's motivation to purchase the two homes may have had to do with her impending marriage.  On December 2, 1896 she married William Watson Caswell in the Church of the Transfiguration.  The moneyed couple would construct a Newport-worthy summer home, Willmount, in Westchester County and by World War I would have a third home in Boston.

Next door at No. 313, Walter D. Starr changed his focus from lumber to real estate.  In 1895, shortly after purchasing the house, he dissolved the Walter D. Starr lumber company.  He formed the Long Island Sand Co., a contracting company, and was also involved in buying and selling Manhattan real estate.

The house contained 14 rooms and three baths.  It was sumptuously furnished; the parlor being decorated in the Empire style.  The Starrs' art collection was noteworthy.  There were more than 100 oil paintings, including works by esteemed artists like George Inness.  The artworks, including life-sized Cararra marble statuary and bronze sculptures comprised what dealer Benjamin S. Wise called "a collection that few private houses possess."

Starr raised the ire of Oyster Bay estate owners in 1900 when he purchased "Cooper's Bluff" near Sagamore Hill.  The bluff was composed of what was described as "the finest building sand."  But when Staff announced his intentions to build a dock to facilitate the removal of the sand, the wealthy property owners revolted.  The New York Times reported on September 10, 1900 that "The objection to the building of the dock is based on two grounds.  One is the destruction of a picturesque section of the shore, and the other is that the digging of sand there will mean the establishment of a colony of Italians in huts or barracks close to the finest places in Oyster Bay."

While Walter Starr wheeled and dealt in real estate, his wife was active in social circles.  In January 1896, for instance, she was a manager of the "tea and bazaar" for the benefit of the Association for Befriending Children and Young Girls.

Daniel Ebbets Starr died at No. 309 on December 27, 1898.  His funeral was held in the Church of the Transfiguration, where his daughter had been married just two years earlier.

The windows of No. 309 originally had many small panes.  Note the gargoyle projecting over the service alley.
Pauline leased the house to Charles A. Nones.  In the winter of 1902 he and his brother, Alexander, who lived on Fifth Avenue, were involved in a horrific accident.  They and W. F. Carlton, who lived in the Waldorf-Astoria, were the passengers in broker Edward R. Thomas's high-powered automobile on February 12.

His Damier Phoenix was an impressive and famous vehicle, first purchased two years earlier by William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. for $10,000 (more than $300,000 today).   Vanderbilt called the car the "White Ghost" and he reveled in the speeds its 23 horsepower engine could attain.  The New York Times remarked it had "gained much notoriety on the Long Island roads."

The White Ghost above was involved in the tragic accident of February 1902. photo via Vanderbilt Cup Races 
Thomas showed off the car's power, speeding along Convent Avenue near 125th Street.  The road was paved with wooden blocks and The Times said it "has long been a favorite speeding ground for the large automobiles owned by private individuals."  The road had several vacant blocks which were used by neighborhood children as playgrounds.

February 12 was a holiday, so there was an especially large crowd of children out playing.  Three boys, James Dillon, John Riley and Henry Theiss were in the street as the powerful automobile approached.  The article said "they did not see the machine until it was fairly upon them, and the first they knew of its presence was when the horn sounded hoarsely in their ears."

The boys scattered but 7-year old Henry Theiss tripped and fell.  The White Ghost ran over his head and stomach, killing him.  The Times dramatically reported "When the clothing was removed a religious medal was found driven into the flesh by the weight of the machine."

Despite witnesses reporting that Thomas was driving at about 40 m.p.h., he was exonerated in court on February 17.  He testified that he was not going at a high rate of speed, that the roadway was wet, and that the boy "jumped right in front of the machine."  Alexander Nones corroborated his story, saying he saw the boy dash into the street.

Later that year, on July 24, Walter D. Starr sold No. 313 to real estate operators Ottinger & Brother.  The end of the Starr family presence on West 75th Street came in 1908 when Pauline sold No. 309 to Francis P. Bent in August 1908.  She had already sold No. 311 three years earlier to Hyman Berkowitz.

Ottinger & Brother sold No. 313 to Arthur R. Freedlander and his wife Lilly in 1906.  The coupled appeared in court over a bizarre legal tug-of-war with artist Arthur R. Freedlander in 1909.   Full-length portraits of well-heeled women had been fashionable since the 1880's.  The problem with Lilly's was that her husband refused to pay for it.

Valued by the artist at the equivalent of $14,000 today, he told the courts on November 23, 1909 that Freedlander had commissioned him to paint the portrait.  Arthur Freedlander, on the other hand, insisted that Wieburgh "asked to be allowed to paint his wife and that it was understood that he would not pay any money unless the portrait was entirely satisfactory."  He told the judge it "does not truly or accurately represent a likeness" of his wife.

A parade of well-known artists, art instructors and critics took the stand.  The New York Times reported that they agreed the portrait was "a fine work of art" and worth the amount asked for it.

Arthur R. Freedlander personally handled the sale of No. 313 in the spring of 1912.  His lengthy advertisement in The Sun noted that it sat within "the most restricted section on the West Side" and said "artistically, this is one of the most beautiful homes in New York City."  "It is the sort of home that appeals irresistibly to a person of culture and refinement."


Before long the "restricted section" began to fall from fashion.  No. 309 was operated as a rooming house by 1935 and its Depression Era tenants were not all respectable.  Charles Spies was among them in January 1935 when he was arrested with four cohorts for the burglary of the home of architect Gerald Holmes on East 19th Street.  The gang made off with silverware and jewelry valued at $3,000, almost 18 times that much today.

No. 311 had been converted to apartments in 1920.  An advertisement on May 23 that year offered "Magnificent 2, 3, 4 room apartments, bath and kitchenettes, electric light, gas; maid service free; $1,500 to $3,600."  The least expensive rent would equal about $1,525 a month today.  No. 313 was converted to a total of two apartments around 1922.

The most celebrated tenants in any of the three homes would be a still struggling Woody Allen and his wife, Harlene.  In his book Woody: The Biography, David Evanier recounts Elliott Mills description of the space.

I visited them at West Seventy-fifth Street.  It was a divided crazy apartment.  It had a monster chandelier that must have [once] been at the center of somebody's living room.  In their apartment it was right on the edge of the wall.

Evanier  quoted Elliott's description of a hilarious incident. "A huge water bug came up in the bathroom  Woody was terrified of those things  And he had this huge insecticide can.  He was furiously spraying it, jumping around  He was waltzing around with this spray gun trying to get this bug.  Harlene was making fun of him.  She went into the bathroom and smashed the bug with a broom.  "Later, in Annie Hall, he transformed the bug into a lobster, then a spider 'the size of a Buick.'"


Despite the alterations and the inexcusable entrance doors of No. 311, Clarence True's stately threesome still evoke the time when this block of West 75th Street was "restricted" and wealthy homeowners filled them with valuable artworks and furnishings.

photographs by the author

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Lost 2nd Trinity Church - Broadway at Wall Street


Handsome brick Georgian-style homes lined the Broadway neighborhood.  from the collection of the New York Public Library
In 1697 the first Trinity Church was constructed at the head of Wall Street, with its back to Broadway.  Parishioners leaving services were greeted with sweeping views of the North (later renamed the Hudson) River.  As the population of the city mushroomed, Trinity Church was enlarged in 1737.

Two men in tricorner hats stand behind the enlarged structure in 1737.  print by John Evers, from the collection of the New York Public Library 
Disaster came on September 20, 1776 when fire broke out in the Fighting Cocks Tavern near Whitehall Street.  The city had been occupied by the British for five days and colonists blamed the red coats for setting the blaze.  The British blamed the rebels.  Whatever the cause the inferno burned all night, destroying hundreds of structures including Trinity Church.

Vestryman Thomas Barrow made a set of etchings, including this one, of the ruins.  His name survives as Barrow Street in Greenwich Village.  from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
Rebuilding would have to wait.  Many of the parishioners were now homeless and essentially the entire congregation, including pastor Rev. Charles Inglis, evacuated the city.

In 1788, five years after the last shot in the war was fired, construction began on the second Trinity Church.  It was not completed in time for the inauguration of President George Washington in 1789, who prayed instead at St. Paul's Chapel.

The structure, now facing Broadway, was finished in 1790.  The name of its architect is unknown, but his fieldstone structure was elegant.  Larger than its predecessor, its stone steeple rose 200 feet above Broadway.  An elegant half-round portico sheltered the entrance.

Famed architect Alexander Jackson Davis, Jr. created this depiction around 1830. from the collection of the New York Public Library
The New York Herald described the interiors decades later.  "It had galleries on the two sides, and on the east end, a part of the last of which formed the organ loft, in which was placed a fine organ, built in London soon after the church was finished.  The galleries were supported by square pannelled [sic] columns; directly over each of which rose a clustered Gothic column of the roof."

From the center of the three arches above the nave hung "three large and elegant cut glass chandeliers" and four smaller versions hung below the galleries.  The Gothic-pointed windows were extremely early examples--the Gothic Revival style would not be fully embraced in America until the 1840's.  Each of them contained "very small panes."  The largest, in the sanctuary, was considered "one of the largest windows in the United States," according to The New York Herald.  The newspaper said it contained 1,039 panes.

On March 27, 1790 the Gazette of the United-States reported "The new Church lately built in Broadway on the site of the old Trinity Church, was on Thursday last solemnly consecrated and dedicated to the service of God, by the Right Reverend Father in God, Samuel, Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church...A great number of people were assembled on this occasion.  The President of the United States, together with the Rev. Clergy of the different denominations in this city, and many other persons of distinction were present."

The Society of Iconophiles re-published this early print by William Strickland in 1908 from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
The symbolic importance of Trinity Church made it a central point for gatherings.  Public announcements were posted on its fence and assemblies were held on its sidewalk.   None, perhaps, were more notable than those following France's declaration of war against Britain--America's recent enemy--on February 1, 1793.

France had been a strong ally and played a vital role in the United States' victory over the British.  Understandably, the French Government now looked to America for military support.  In 1793 a proclamation of neutrality by a doubtlessly conflicted George Washington was affixed to Trinity's fence.  It was followed by a large gathering at the spot on August 13 to support his decision.

The Gazette of the United-States reported "Citizens of all parties, and every class were present; their unexampled unanimity it is hoped will discourage the few, the very few, turbulent men among us, and cannot fail to instruct foreigners, that however we may disagree in our local politics, we stand united and firm, in our decision to maintain our neutrality."

For whatever reason, The Herald occasionally took editorial swipes at Trinity Church, often making reference to the church's great wealth; other times printing somewhat sophomoric jabs.  On January 14, 1837, for instance, it wrote "The Rev. Mr. Higby from Washington, preached in Trinity Church on Thursday evening, before a congregation consisting of the silver haired Trustees--the venerable matrons--the amiable aunts--and a choice collection of the young and fascinating among the intellectual and refined."

And on October 16 that year the newspaper complained "Who painted the inside of Trinity Church?  He must have been a disciple of Alexander, the copper-smith, for such a botch we never saw.  We can't say our prayers quietly there till it be repainted."

The trustees would soon have more to worry about than a bad paint job, however.  On September 25, 1839, the Telegraph and Texas Register reported "The old Trinity Church, in New York is about to be pulled down, and a new edifice erected in its stead.  It was discovered by workmen employed in repairing the roof, that the walls were out of plumb, and were in some places cracked from the cornice to the base."  The newspaper added "Indeed the whole structure seems to have been miserably built."

print by J. Evers from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
The trustees had brought in architect Richard Upjohn to assess and correct the problems.  But the structural defects were deemed irreparable.  Part of the problem was the mortar, which the Bulletin explained did not have "its due proportion of sand [and] never formed a cement, and now crumbles at the touch.  In consequence, it has become necessary to raze the old church, to make room for a more substantial, and perhaps a more magnificent temple."

What might have seemed a straightforward project of demolition and rebuilding was not.  On August 2, 1839 the Morning Herald strongly proposed that the razing of Trinity Church opened the opportunity to extend Wall Street to the North River.  As for the burial ground that filled the churchyard, the newspaper was dismissive.

The grave yard of Trinity Church is utterly useless, in these latter days, for its original purpose.  All the saints, savans and beauties of the last and virtuous age are buried there; but of late years roguery has so much increased in the world that few deserve to be buried in Trinity Church yard.  In the meantime what improvement would more adorn the city, or benefit the public health, than the elongation of Wall street from Broadway to the North River?

The newspaper accused Trinity Church of "bribery and corruption" to fight the proposal.  "We know very well that this sainted corporation can expend $100,000 in quieting the press and the people's servants about this improvement."

The Morning Herald struck again on August 31, saying "if we could so far overcome folly, bigotry, and hypocrisy, as to get the street cut through to the North River, (which must soon be done) and a splendid square laid out, or Cathedral built on the site of Trinity Church, it would far surpass in beauty, and utility any street in the known world."

The editors of the Morning Herald did not get their way.  There would be no "cathedral square" and Wall Street would not be cut through.  Instead, Trinity Church was demolished and construction of Richard Upjohn's replacement began over the venerable site.  The eight bells of the old steeple were distributed to churches throughout the city.

The Morning Herald sounded conciliatory on October 1, 1840 when it wrote "The Episcopalians are rich, gay, and pious as usual.  This is the richest and most respectable sect in the country.  They are not numerous--but influential and powerful.  Their new Trinity Church is making great progress.  It is a beautiful building."

The Bulletin, in 1837, had hoped for "perhaps a more magnificent temple."  And that is what Manhattan got.  Upjohn's glorious Gothic Revival structure, which survives, is a masterpiece.

Richard Upjohn personally created this depiction of his new church.  from the collection of the New York Public Library

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Much Altered Daniel M. Edgar House - 862 Broadway




New York City residents and doctors were no strangers to yellow fever in 1793.  The most recent outbreak of the disease, two years earlier, had claimed 100 lives.  Now Philadelphia suffered an epidemic that would grow to terrifying proportions.  Five-thousand people, one-tenth of that city's population, would succumb.

New York went on the defensive, refusing ships from Philadelphia into its harbor and placing 24-hour watchmen along the riverfront on guard against fugitives.  But the insidious disease found its way in anyway.  The first death came in July 1795.   Within about a one-week period in August twenty-one people died.

Those who could afford to leave the city did so, moving the fresh air of remote hamlets like Greenwich Village.  Some businesses moved north, following their patrons, or opened what were considered temporary branch offices.   Realizing that if the epidemic was not gotten under control it would have to move, in 1806 the Manhattan Bank Company purchased a rural plot of land, one acre square, from Edward Williams.   Facing Broadway at the southeast corner of what would become 17th Street, the land would remain vacant for decades.

By the 1830's the expansion of the city was nearing the area.  Another banker, Samuel Ruggles, spearheaded the creation of Union Square in 1832,  to be an exclusive enclave of upscale homes surrounding a tranquil fenced garden with a central fountain.   After the park was completed in 1842 the surrounding lots filled with handsome residences of moneyed families.

The Manhattan Bank Company began construction of four speculative brick-faced homes in 1847.  Completed the following year, the Greek Revival style houses were an ample 25-feet wide and four stories tall.  The southernmost, at what would be renumbered No. 862 about a decade later, slightly angled away from its neighbors, following the curve of Broadway.

It was purchased by Daniel M. Edgar in 1849.  Edgar had married Julia Lorillard nine years earlier, on December 4.  The socially-prestigious couple had six children.  Edgar's substantial wealth was hinted at by his subscription to John J. Audubon's Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.  On March 11, 1843 the New-York Daily Tribune had remarked "It is to be issued in about thirty numbers, at intervals of two months...Each number will contain five plates, and be sold for ten dollars."  The total outlay in today's dollars would be about $10,300 today.  (When completed the "numbers" were consolidated into three handsomely-bound leather volumes.)

The relentless northward march of commerce pushed the wealthy homeowners away surprisingly soon.  Around 1851 the Edgars were gone and the ground level of their once-elegant home was converted to a drugstore owned by Thomas Merceau.  The upper floors were conducted as a boarding house by Margaret Gombault and Sarah Monfort, two respectable widows.

The women's reputations became somewhat tarnished following the death of a boarder, James Bach on October 31, 1856.  Bach was not only advanced in years--his age was estimated at between 68 and 70 when he died--he was deaf and apparently suffering from dementia.

Following a fall in December 1855, he had been confined to the house.  On April 28, 1856 he executed a will which left his entire estate to his landladies.  Although Bach had no known relatives, the Public Administrator of the City of New York was suspicious of foul play.  He intervened, holding up the settlement of the estate until a hearing took place in March 1857.

The Public Administrator charged the women with "undue influence" and pointed out to the judge that Bach could "neither speak, nor write, nor signify his wishes to such an extent of detail as would seem reasonable."  In addition, he described Bach as suffering from "softening of the brain."

On the other hand, several witness spoke on the women's behalf.  They testified that Bach had been close friends with Mr. Gombault and had promised him on the latter's deathbed that he would see that Margaret was taken care of.  Several witnesses said he had told them that "Mrs. Gombault and Mrs. Monfort should have what he had to leave."  At the end of the case the judge ruled that the execution of the will "was a reasonable act" and the widows were vindicated.

In the first years after the end of the Civil War the Merceau drugstore had become home to Charles Cogneron's saloon.  Although the neighborhood was still upscale and the saloon was no doubt stylish, catering to a refined class of gentlemen, Cogneron continually disregarded the Sunday liquor laws.  The courts had had enough on June 16, 1868 when he appeared once again.  The following day The New York Times reported that his liquor license had been revoked.

The saloon was made over into a restaurant, Daprato & Gati's Eating Place, which remained into the 1870's.  Meanwhile, the second floor was home to the elegant millinery and accessories shop of M. Miles.  In 1871 the business was purchased by Imogene Walton, who renamed it Maison Walton.  Here well-to-do women shopped for the latest in European accessories.

Mme. Walton, as Imogene styled herself, routinely sailed to London and Paris to shop for the latest fashions.  Her advertisements stressed that her latest offerings were au courant.  On June 11 1871 she advertised "have just received a choice and recherche assortment of English Round Hats, imported expressly for the races; among them are copies of hats worn at the late Derby, received from Brown, 13 and 14 New Bond street, London."

Victorian women were expected to dress in black for a year following the deaths of a near relative, such as a father or husband.  "Widows' weeds" could nevertheless be modish and Imogene Walton offered "a choice selection of Mourning Suits received from leading houses" of Europe.

The New York Herald described the stock at Maison Walton on September 29, 1875, saying the display of fall fashions "was as complex as even the most variable feminine mind.  The head gear of the ladies being the principal question among the fair ones at present, a few specimens of the leading styles...will be of interest."

On February 14, 1880 an unusual paragraph appeared in The New York Times:

I bear testimony unsolicited to the wonderful curative powers of the Holman liver pad treatment.  Suffered years with liver complaint, pain in right and left side; have not had a good night's rest for the last year.  My little girl was cured from alarming symptoms of headache.  Both well.
H. A. Beach
No. 61 & Chestnut-street, Philadelphia

Exactly one month later another insertion appeared in the newspaper:  "No medicine, no bleeding, no torture, in the use of the Holman Liver Pad Company's remedies.  Consultation free.  No. 862 Broadway."

Dr. George W. Holman had established his firm just months before.  He advertised Holman's Fever and Ague and Liver Pad saying "Cures without medicine, simply by Absorption...The only true cure for, and preventative of Malaria, in all its forms.  Liver Complaint, Jaundice, Dyspepsia, Rheumatism, Yellow Fever, Sea-Sickness, Neuralgia, Bilious Disorders, &c., &c."

He boosted the effects of his panacea by plastering a shirtless picture of himself on the label and on the mandatory U.S. Internal Revenue tax stamps.  He also produced and sold "Spleen Belts, Abdominal Pads, Pectoral Pads and Absorptive Medicinal Foot Plasters."  The foot plasters, sold for 25 cents per pair, were promised to cure "cold Feet, Headaches and Sluggish Circulation."

Holman's tax stamp and label featured the doctor shockingly shirtless.
Newspapers in the 19th century were unapologetic in their political biases.  The New York Sun was vehemently pro-Republican and when Dr. Holman ran for public office in 1883 it attacked.  In a scathing editorial on October 16, it said the candidate "weights about 140 pounds," suggesting that his remedies did not result in the robust results he claimed.   Additionally, the newspaper dug up a photo of the Rev. Luke Smith, a Methodist minister who had murdered his wife about 15 years earlier, and passed it off as Dr. Holman.

The New York Times was quick to react, charging The Sun with purposefully derailing Holman's political chances.  Not only did The Sun mention his weight, but "It was unnecessary, and hence sheer cruelty, to publish an alleged portrait of Holman, which cannot fail to fill every beholder with a wild desire to vote against him at once and forever."

The article went on to say "Mr. Holman may not be as handsome as the published portraits of the inventor of the Holman Liver Pad represent him to be, but it really passes the limits of permissible joking to depict him as he is represented in the Sun's alleged portrait."  It called the photo "absurdly libelous."

Clearing snow in the 1890's was an arduous job requiring an army of workers.  In the background No. 862 sports a massive second-story show window and cast iron storefront.  photo from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

In 1882 the newly-formed Germicide Company had moved into the building.  The firm made and marketing one product, described by Finance and Industry in 1886 as a "simple, effective apparatus for counteracting the poisonous emanations from sewers and the drainage system."  The Germicide Company did not sell its apparatus, but only rented it.  Its employees regularly maintained the devices, a service included in the rental fee.

The mechanism was attached to the toilet and when the lid was raised and lowered, it released a solution of chloride of zinc.  Finance and Industry stressed "at a mere nominal expense, without care or annoyance, the dwelling, store or office is effectually and permanently protected from that lurking, deadly danger, sewer gas poisoning."

The Germicide Company remained at No. 862 Broadway at least through 1888.  In the mid-1890's the store became home to Errico Brothers, run by Joseph A. and Vincent A. Errico.  Their gallery, established in 1859, catered to the carriage trade which still haunted the Union Square neighborhood shops.  One advertisement boasted that Errico Brothers "are now showing Italy's grandest productions in Marble Statuary, Glassware, Falence, Carved Furniture, &c. and an exceptionally fine and large assortment of Tortoise Shell goods.  This is the finest import that ever came to this country."

Oddly enough, in 1897 Errico Brothers moved the business almost directly across the street, to No. 867 Broadway.  The shop became home to a similar business, the antiques store of Herbert L. Greenbaum.

At about 6:00 on the evening of September 11, 1901--only about half an hour after firemen had extinguished a blaze in the Everett House hotel around the corner--smoke was seen coming from the basement of No. 862.  The New-York Tribune noted "the ground floor and basement of the building are occupied by Herbert L. Greenbaum, dealer in antiques, silks, embroideries and rugs."  Firemen rushed into the basement when suddenly "a gas pipe broke and gas escaped freely and mixed with the other odors in the cellar, overcoming the firemen."

Every one of the fire fighters fell to the floor, the last one being Captain Shea who was able to yell "Help us out!" just before he lost consciousness.   Police and fire fighters pulled out the half a dozen victims and laid them on the sidewalk while ambulances from the New York Hospital were called for.  One by one they came to.  But one, Francis McGuire, awoke irrational.

The New York Times reported "He went from unconsciousness into delirium.  He seemed to  believe that his mates had been killed and he jumped up suddenly, hit the fireman next to him in the face, and rushed to the cellar hole.  He peered down and cried out, 'Too bad,' and then ran up and down the street, shouting wildly."  Five fire fighters restrained McGuire while a doctor administered a sedative.  After the blaze was extinguished, McGuire was taken back to the fire house where he recovered.

The fire had reached to the back of the store, but never made it higher into the building.  Much of Greenbaum's stock was damaged or destroyed.  Losses were estimated at about $75,000 today.

The repaired building was barely changed in 1909. photograph by George F. Arata from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York 
When repairs were completed, C. E. Riker leased the store and basement in May 1903.  A manufacturer of surgical instruments, it would remain here until about 1910.

C. E. Riker sold an early cure for snoring.
In 1910 Peter M. Reilly rented the store for his cigar shop.  He subleased half of it to the New York Barber Co.  William Miller, a trunk manufacturer, leased the second floor by 1913.

After being in the family for 71 years, the Daniel M. Edgar estate sold No. 862 Broadway in February 1920.  The new owner, Benjamin Morse, made immediate renovations.  The storefront was replaced and the fourth story windows were enlarged.  A barbershop, possibly the New York Barber Co., took over the second floor and the street level store was leased to a men's furnishings shop.  The upper floors were used for light manufacturing.

Erma Kraemer was employed by the barber shop in 1927 as a manicurist.  The New York Times described her as "a former dancer" after she was questioned about a high profile burglary in Great Neck, Long Island in November the previous year.  Erma was involved with James F. Monaghan, alias "Boston Billy" Williams.  Police described him as an "alleged second-story man and society burglar."  

Monaghan had been in the process of looting the mansion of Nathan Jonas when the owner and his wife surprised him.  The Times explained "Mr. and Mrs. Jonas said that they were dining alone when they heard a noise upstairs, and when Mr. Jonas went to investigate he was confronted by Monaghan, who held him up with a pistol."

On July 13, 1927 Erma was summoned to police headquarters for questioning.  She remained true to her boyfriend; District Attorney Elvin N. Edwards saying she "did not divulge any information of importance."  She was nevertheless subpoenaed as a witness at Boston Billy's trial.
Photographed in 1935, the top floor windows are now noticeably larger and an unsightly fire escape has been added.  from the collection of the New York Public Library
The Depression years saw the Family Shoe Corp. headquarters in the building.  In 1934 the property was sold at auction.  It was most likely not long after that the brick parapet was installed, replacing the 1848 cornice.

The Depression Era parapet replaced the old cornice.
 Throughout the 20th century the building remained little changed.  By 2008 the top two floors had been converted to rental apartments--one per floor.  The property was offered for sale that year for $15 million.  The first and second floors at the time were occupied by a shoe store and a yoga studio.


Somewhat amazingly No. 862 and the other three houses retain much of their 1848 domestic appearance above the lower floors--their mere survival after 170 years nearly miraculous.

photographs by the author