Around 1859 developers Arnold & Mowbray completed a row of five 20-foot wide homes on East 37th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues. Faced in brownstone, they rose four stories above a rusticated English basement level. The latest word in domestic architectural taste, the Italianate-style homes featured arched pediments over the double-doored entrances, molded enframements around the elliptically arched openings, and complex cornices.
William Gale, Jr. purchased No. 118. In 1850 he had become a partner in the renamed William Gale & Son, the silverware manufacturing firm founded by his father, William Gale, Sr. Around 1821 his father was perhaps the largest silverware manufacturer in the country. His 1826 invention of roller dies that impressed full designs on flatware put him at the front of the industry.
|This chased silver tea service from 1866 is stamped William Gale Jr. on the bottom; indicating it was produced after Wm. Sr.'s retirement. photograph via Heritage Auctions|
Born in 1825, Gale was a young man, about 34 years old, when he purchased No. 118. Upon the retirement of William Gale, Sr. in 1866 the running of the firm was passed to him. That same year he left East 37th Street. On March 3 he placed an advertisement in The New York Herald reading:
For Sale on Murray Hill--A four story and basement high stoop brown stone House, in thorough order, on south side of Thirty-seventh street, between Park and Lexington avenues. Inquire of William Gale, Jr., 487 Broadway
The house was offered for sale again in April 1888. Two months earlier the 88-year old widow living here had died. It was purchased by Gardner Greene Howland, Jr. His father Gardner G. Howland, Sr. and uncle, Samuel Shaw Howland, had formed G. G. & S. S. Howland in 1816, which became one of New York's most prominent shipping firms. The brothers could boast that their family had arrived in America on the Mayflower.
Gardner, Jr. was an attorney and member of Howland & Aspinwall, the successor of G. G. & S. S. Howland. He was apparently able to balance his legal practice with the shipping company demands. When publisher James Gordon Bennett negotiated repairs on his country house in 1887, Howland was listed as his attorney.
His family's social importance was evidenced in the 1885 edition of What To See and Where To Buy in New York City. Howland's name and the 37th Street house were listed under "Select List of Prominent People."
No. 118 was sold on August 1, 1895 to Bayard Tuckerman, who paid $38,000 (about $1.17 million today). He and his wife, the former Annie Osgood Smith, had four children, May, Elizabeth, Bayard, Jr., and Joan. Their country home, Sunswick, was in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
Born on July 2, 1855, Tuckerman was schooled in Switzerland at the Pension Roulet, graduated from Harvard University in 1878, and then studied in Paris. An author and historian, by the time he purchased No. 118 he had written the History of English Prose Fiction, the Life of General Lafayette, The Diary of Philip Hone and William Jay and the Constitutional Movement for the Abolition of Slavery. His memberships in the Century, the Sons of the Revolution and the Society of Colonial Wars reflected his academic interests and family heritage.
In 1898 he accepted the position of lecturer on English Literature at Princeton University. He would retain the post through 1907.
Social columnists reported on the movements of the family. On December 16, 1901, for instance, The New York Herald reported "Mrs. Bayard Tuckerman and Miss Elizabeth W. Tuckerman, of No. 118 East Thirty-seventh street, have cards out for Wednesdays in December." The announcement informed socialites that the women would be "at home" on those days and available to receive.
On June 10, 1905 the New-York Tribune reported "Two prominent families of New-York and Philadelphia were united to-day by the marriage...of Miss Elizabeth Wolcott Tuckerman to George McIntyre Elkins." The wedding took place in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and the article noted "Among the guests were many from Philadelphia, New-York, Washington, Newport, Boston, Albany and summer residents from many other places who are now at the North Shore."
The Tuckermans announced the engagement of Joan to Evans R. Dick, Jr. on August 14, 1910. The New York Times reported "The engagement was announced at Ipswich, where the Tuckermans are spending the Summer." This would be another socially-important match. The article added "Mr. Dick's sister, Miss Mildred Dick, lately married Stuyvesant Fish, Jr., of New York."
The wedding took place in Sunswich on July 22, 1911, "in the presence of a large gathering of relatives and friends," according to The Times. "The couple left after the ceremony on a wedding tour." As with many wealthy newlyweds, it was a long honeymoon. On July 17, 1912 the New-York Tribune reported "A daughter was born a few days ago to Mr. and Mrs. Evans R. Dick, jr., at their place in Cheshire, England."
In 1914 the Tuckermans began spending the winter seasons elsewhere. That year and the following season they leased the furnished house to Col. F. N. Lawrence. The winter season of 1916-1917 saw Winthrop Burr taking the residence.
Bayard, Jr. had graduated from Harvard in 1911. On June 20, 1916 he married Phyllis Sears, whom The New York Times rather brashly called "one of the richest heiresses on the North Shore" at Beverly, Massachusetts. The article said that she was "daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert M. Sears, with millions in her own right and heiress to many more."
Bayard Tuckerman published his latest book that year, A Sketch of the Cotton Smith Family of Sharon Connecticut." It would be his last work from the 37th Street house.
On February 2, 1917 The Sun reported that Tuckerman had sold the house to Eugene Hale, Jr., "who will occupy." The announcement noted "The property is subject to the Murray Hill restriction," which prohibited commercial use of the house.
Born in 1877, Hale was an 1898 graduate of Yale University. He was by now a member of the stock brokerage firm of Pendergast, Hale & Co. He had married Eunice Terry on November 15, 1906. Hale came from a political family--his father was a former senator from Maine and his brother, Fred Hale, was currently a senator from that state.
The Hales moved into the Murray Hill house at a time of worldwide conflict. Two months later, on April 6, the United States entered World War I and a month after that the 41-year old Eugene Hale shocked society and Wall Street when he joined the Army.
It was not a rash decision. On May 4, 1918 The Sun explained "More than a year ago he went to France at his own expense and in the interest of making things more comfortable for the fighting men he established and conducted right under the German guns a canteen for the soldiers in the trenches." Hale had taken over the "one remaining room of a the only remaining house" in a destroyed French village as a "free restaurant." He brought in two Frenchmen as cooks, and served coffee and cocoa, hot soup and sandwiches to the soldiers. He stayed there five months before turning the operation over to the two Frenchmen.
The article noted that the new private "will be sent at once to Camp Devens at Ayer, Mass., because in the opinion of the War Department officials he will have better opportunity there to associate with the New England rookies." Left alone, Eunice spent time with her family. On June 30, 1918 the New-York Tribune reported "Mrs. Eugene Hale, jr., whose husband is a member of the National Army, is to spend part of the summer with her parents, the Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Roderick Terry, at Linden Gate."
The end of the line for No. 118 as a private home came in 1949 when architect Ralph E. Leff designed alterations for owner Joseph Aronson. Completed in 1950 they resulted in a triplex apartment in the basement through part of the second floor, one apartment on the remainder of that level, and one apartment each on the third and fourth floors.
photographs by the author