Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Josephine Shaw Lowell House - 120 East 30th Street






In 1870, three years before he would become head of the piano firm J. & D. Walker, William H. Walker looked to lease his charming brick-faced dwelling in the Rose Hill neighborhood.  His ad on April 4 in The New York Herald offered:

To Let--furnished, Three-Story House No. 120 East Thirtieth street, near fourth avenue; all the modern conveniences.  Apply to W. H. Walker, at Piano Warerooms of J. & D. Walker, 47 East Twelfth street.

A mix of Greek Revival and Italianate styles, the house was one of a string of six similar homes designed with minor differences.  Handsome Italianate ironwork fencing protected the areaway and continued up the double-wide brownstone stoop which it shared with No. 118.  Paneled pilasters flanked the double doorway and upheld the corniced entablature.  A three-sided oriel at the parlor level not doubt provided a charming, pleasant window seat inside.  Molded architrave frames, slightly arched at the second floor, surrounded the upper openings.

The houses shared a stoop and entrance frame.  The Philanthropic Work of Josephine Shaw Lowell, 1911 (copyright expired)

Seven years earlier Josephine Shaw had married railroad executive Charles Russell Lowell III.  Born into a wealthy Massachusetts family, she had lived both in France and Italy.  Her parents urged her and her four siblings to study and to work to improve their communities.  

Remarkably, when her husband was called into military service during the Civil War, Josephine refused to leave his side.  She followed his division, aiding wounded soldiers at the front.  On October 19, 1864, a year into their marriage, Josephine was eight-months pregnant.  Yet she stayed on with the Union Army and her husband, now in Virginia.  That morning Lowell was wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek.  His wounds were such that General Sheridan ordered that he be promoted to brigadier general that day.  On October 20 he died at the age of 29.


Josephine Shaw Lowell.  The Philanthropic Work of Josephine Shaw Lowell, 1911 (copyright expired)
The 21-year old widow and mother-to-be returned to Staten Island.  Josephine focused on the rearing of her daughter, Carlotta Russell Lowell, born a month later.  She also turned to public works, working for "the alleviation of human misery," according to historian William Rhinelander Stewart in 1911.

Because she wanted Carlotta to attend Miss Brackett's School in New York City, in 1874 Josephine's father, Francis George Shaw, purchased No. 120 East 30th Street for her.  She continued her tireless work here and in 1876, at the age of 32, she was appointed the first woman commissioner of the New York State Board of charities by Governor Samuel J. Tilden.  She was reappointed by Governor Alonzo B. Cornell in 1881.

Josephine's father died the following year.  The New York Herald reported "To his daughter Josephine Shaw Lowell he gives the house at No. 120 East Thirtieth street, New York."  Although her mother, Sarah Blake Shaw, inherited the Staten Island mansion, she soon opted to rent the house next door to her daughter at No. 118.  In May 1887 the women hired architect H. R. Marshall to connect the two dwellings internally.  His plans called for altering walls and a "door cut through between front halls."  

William Rhinelander Stewart commented "there was constant going and coming; the three women, Mrs. Shaw, Mrs. Lowell, and her daughter were one family.  A friend said of them 'I had never before been with people who talked over the affairs of city and State exactly as they would those of their own family, and on Decoration Day, when the flag hung across the doors of those two houses, one knew what it meant to the women within.'"

Josephine's work in state-wide reform organizations did not distract her from causes closer to home.  She was enraged during the 1889 Christmas shopping season as department store proprietors kept counter employees working late with no compensation.  A reader of The Sun wrote to the editor on December 18, saying in part "The movement undertaken by Mrs. C. R. Lowell of 120 East Thirtieth street...for the employees in dry goods and other establishments that keep open late during  the holiday season, is one that should have the support of the public generally...Wishing Mrs. Lowell and her associates 'God speed' in their humane and equitable task."

Her name consistently appeared in newspapers as she lobbied for improvements in the lives of the underprivileged.  On October 18, 1890 the Record & Guide reported that she had originated a petition for "establishing a park and children's playground" in the infamous Hell's Kitchen neighborhood.

Josephine's parlor was the scene of a notable political meeting on June 16, 1893 following the signing of the Russian Extradition Treaty.  Many Americans feared that it threatened the safety of Russian political exiles who had sought refuge in America.  The New York Times reported "A number of well-known ladies and gentlemen of this city who believe that the extradition treaty recently entered into by the United States and Russian was signed because of misunderstanding and misrepresentation, met yesterday afternoon at the home of Mrs. C. R. Lowell, 120 East thirtieth Street."

The Evening World called it "a small but earnest gathering of patriotic men and women" who hoped "to plant the seeds of protest against the new Russian treaty, which is threatening the liberties of more than one good citizens of this republic."  Before the meeting was over the Society for the Abrogation of the Russian Extradition Treaty had been formed.

Josephine was equally intent on women's rights.  On April 23, 1894 The New York Herald reported "Mrs. Charles Russell Lowell, of No. 120 East Thirtieth street, has long figured in the ranks of New York's ardent suffragists, and though she had held a 'parlor meeting' at her house several weeks ago, she again on Saturday bade her friends to partake of her hospitality and listen to the remarks of Mr. Frederick Hollis in opposition to the arguments that have been advanced by the City Woman Suffrage League and the orators of the many drawing room meetings during the last few weeks."

Carlotta followed her mother's lead in civic involvement.  On December 14, 1896 Mayor William Lafayette Strong appointed her a School Inspector.  She was also involved in the New York Kindergarten Association.

Sarah Blake Shaw died at No. 118 in December 1902.  In reporting on her death, The Sun mentioned "Mrs. Shaw was a member of the famous group of Abolitionists who lived in and about Boston.  William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips and Theodore Parker were among her personal friends."  It added that Josephine "has written extensively on subjects pertaining to charitable and humanitarian work."  Sarah's estate was valued at about $4.58 million in today's money.

Josephine continued her sometimes controversial work.  On November 28, 1903 she held a meeting in the 30th Street house "to arrange for a mass meeting at which protests will be made against the deportation of John Turner, an English labor organizer and social reformer," according to the New York Evening Post.  The Government had labeled Turner "an anarchist."

Josephine was juggling her work for Turner with her determined efforts as part of the Women's Municipal League to have Mayor Seth Low reelected.  On October 18 The New York Herald said Josephine's house "is like one of the old houses of the aristocratic literary set on Beacon or Charles street in Boston.  One almost expects to see the Charles River as he looks out the rear windows.  It is this house that Mrs. Lowell has converted for the time into a campaign bureau...Porters come and go carrying materials of the campaign into downtown tenements or into uptown mansions, wherever there is a possibility of winning a vote."

Josephine Shaw Lowell died on October 12, 1905.  Carlotta immediately left the house she had grown up in and she and her aunt, Ella S. Barlow, leased it within weeks of Josephine's death.  On November 7, 1905 The New York Press reported "when they return from their honeymoon Mr. and Mrs. Bryce Metcalf will reside in No. 120 East Thirtieth street.  Mrs. Metcalf, who was Miss Susie Hall, was married last week."

Unlike Josephine Lowell, Susie Bryce's name appeared in newspapers not for any activism, but for purely social reasons.  On January 24, 1906, for instance, The New York Press announced "Mrs. Bryce Metcalf, No. 120 East Thirtieth street, will be 'at home' to-day."  Society columnists followed the Metcalfs as they moved between their townhouse and country place, Cedarwild, in Ardsley, New York.

Following the Metcalfs in No. 120 in 1917 was Mary Fanton Roberts, "known to the world of letters as editor of 'The Touchstone,' a magazine of art," according to the New-York Tribune.   She moved her editorial office into the house and focused tremendous attention on the rear garden.

Two years later the New-York Tribune said that backyard had been "the same sad little patch of world-be grass that usually forms the groundwork for an overhead laundry line in places where the owners are not the practical dreamers we find Mrs. Roberts to be.  It had a homely, rickety fence alongside, and, worse of all and almost discouraging even to Mrs. Roberts, it backed up directly against a great factory from which pasteboard boxes had a way of crashing down on tender plants and getting lost in the branches of the few trees that then ornamented the grounds."

A corner of Mary Fanton Roberts's garden.  New-York Tribune, July 6, 1919 (copyright expired)
Landscaping, shrubs and flowering plants, statuary and an Italian birdbath transformed the unattractive space into an urban oasis.  "Already neighbors in that block who have heard of the fame of Mrs. Roberts's gardening...have engaged landscape gardeners to 'fix their yards up' because the spirit of competition has set in," said the article.

Carlotta Lowell and Ella Barlow sold No. 120 in 1921.  John Nelson Cole paid $60,000 for the house, just under $845,000 today.  He most likely purchased it in anticipation of his impending marriage.  His engagement to Helen Dodd was announced on January 14, 1922.


The houses still shared a stoop in 1941.  The entrance pilaster of No. 118 was salvaged to create the new single entrance frame in 1972.  photo via the NYC Department of Records & Information Services.

George Eghyan was living in the house in 1933 when he was a victim of a high profile swindler.  Edward Jockin convinced him to pay $840 "in the belief that Jockin has smuggled a large quantity of silver bars out of Mexico and had cached them in Germany."  He promised Eghyan a share "of the booty" for helping retrieve it.  Eghyan was not the only victim of the shady proposition.  Former General Motors Corporation head William C. Durant and former New York Police Commissioner Richard E. Enright also lost "substantial sums of money," according to The New York Sun on April 3.


The charming house with its significant history was converted to offices in the basement and first floor in 1972, with one apartment each on the upper floors.  In 1980 the offices were renovated to a duplex apartment.

photographs by the author

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Charles T. Dillingham House - 320 West 88th Street


The windows of the upper bay were originally curved.

Clarence True was arguably the most prolific architect working on the Upper West Side in the 1880's and '90's.  He notably played with historic styles, often blending them to create whimsical hybrids but always adapting vintage architecture for modern use.  In 1890 he was commissioned by William E. Lanchantin to design five 20-foot wide rowhouses on West 88th Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive.  Completed in 1891, each of the residences was individual yet they flowed together as a grouping.  In their design True had brought the Elizabeth Renaissance into the 19th century.

Like its neighbors, the center house, No. 320, was faced in brick and brownstone.  It was distinguished by a bay--faceted at the basement and parlor levels and then rounded above--which rose the full height to the attic level.   A complex carved frieze of back-to-back griffins ran along the roofline of the entire row.  The roof was shingled in slate tiles and the single pointed dormer was given a checkerboard motif of brick and tile.


Each of True's houses was individual, but harmonious with its neighbors.  No. 320 is in the center.
On April 2, 1891 Fanny C. and Charles T. Dillingham purchased No. 320 for $22,750--just under $660,000 in today's money.  Dillingham was the principal in the large publishing firm and book store, Charles T. Dillingham & Co.  He was described by The Sun that year as "the leading book jobber in the United States, a smart, active, and energetic business man."

Dillingham had been in the book business since 1870 when he co-founded Lee, Shepard & Dillingham.  Five years later he took over the business.  Until the year before purchasing the 88th Street house he had been perhaps as well noted for a much different enterprise--baseball. 


Winged griffins standing back-to-back form the carved frieze.

Dillingham was a stockholder and director in the New York Amusement Company which owned the New York Baseball Club.  But upheaval within the ranks of the players, exacerbated by a catastrophic losing season in 1890, left the club hemorrhaging cash.  It resulted in what The Sun called "the disastrous baseball war" and in Dillingham's resignation after he "soon became tired of putting his hand in his pocket."


In 1889, a year before its disastrous season, the club it took what today would be the World's Series.  original source unknown
The financial losses in his baseball club investment came at a time of what what Dillingham described as "dull trade, low prices, [and] strong competition."  Only months after moving into his new house, his business failed.


The Sun, December 11, 1892 (copyright expired)
After more than two decades in business, Charles T. Dillingham & Co. held a liquidation sale in December 1892.

The 88th Street house next became home to confectioner Alex E. Cohen and his wife, Catherine.   The couple apparently lived happily here until the summer social season of 1899.  They leased a cottage at Long Branch, New Jersey and on the evening of July 28 they and friends went to "a hop" at the Ocean Hotel.  Apparently unaware of a heart ailment, Catherine overexerted herself.

The New York Press reported "She had danced for some time when she complained of feeling ill.  Almost immediately she fell to the floor, and before physicians could be summoned she was dead."  The newspaper somewhat coldly entitled the article "Finished Waltz: Fell Dead."

Alex Cohen retained ownership of the 89th Street house for a while, but moved out soon after the tragedy.  He leased it to Miles M. O'Brien and his family.


Miles M. O'Brien, History of The Tammany Society, 1901 (copyright expired)

O'Brien's wife was the former Thomasine Leahy.  The couple had four sons, Miles Jr., Jay, Thomas and Tivar.   O'Brien had come from Limerick, Ireland in 1868 at the age of 26.  He obtained a job as a clerk in the H. B. Claflin Company store, working his way up within the organization.  After twenty-five years with Claflin, he went into banking and, after his appointment in 1885, simultaneously served on the Board of Education.  In 1900 he was made president of the Board.

Because of his responsible position and public reputation, O'Brien was no doubt somewhat humiliated when he had to appear in the West Side Court on April 9, 1901 following his son's arrest.  The following day The Morning Telegraph entitled an article "Love Songs Bring Rich Boys to Grief" and detailed how Thomas O'Brien and four friends had been arrested "because they sang a few Spanish love songs under their sweethearts' windows in Riverside Drive."

The article explained "The young men have been in the habit of serenading, and complaints have been made to Capt. Schmittberger, of the West 100th street station, by residents in the district, on the grounds that the singing disturbed them."  After the young Romeos told their story to the judge, he dismissed their cases "on the promise that they would sing no more."

On May 25, 1903 Alex E. Cohen sold the house to real estate operator Mabel Suydam.  She continued to lease it to the O'Briens.



It was Miles O'Brien who came up with the idea of free baths for poor children in the tenement districts.  He also initiated night schools and free lecture courses within the public schools.  Perhaps because of his own humble beginnings, he constantly worked for the underprivileged and was an ardent supporter of the High School of Commerce.  He lobbied for adequate pensions for teachers and, according to the Irish-American Advocate later, "in countless smaller says raised the standard of the city's educational system."

In September 1910 O'Brien became ill.  Three months later, on Christmas Eve, he died in the 89th Street house from intestinal disease.

No. 320 was purchased by Alderman William C. Towen.  As was common at the time, the title was put in the name of his wife, Mary.  Towen's name was often preceded by the title Commodore in the newspapers. He had been Commodore of the Brooklyn Yacht Club (for which he his sloop yacht the Tammany was flagship in the Lipton Cup race in 1908).  The couple's only daughter, Florence Tarbell Towen, had married Vincent Stuyvesant Lippe in April 1909.

The couple's residency would be relatively short-lived.  On March 19, 1912 William Towen died.  Three months later, on June 26, the New-York Tribune reported that Mary had sold No. 320 to Elizabeth A. Cohen.

Elizabeth, who was familiarly known as Eliza, was the wife of Thomas J. Colton, president of Behrman & Colton.  Their only son, Louis, was a director in the firm which Millinery Trade Review said was involved in "the importation and manufacture of artificial flowers and fancy feathers."    

Like his predecessors in the house, Thomas J. Colson was as well a highly visible Tammany Hall associate.  On May 23, 1909 the New-York Tribune had entitled an article "Plums For Tammany" which reported on the "fat commissionerships" formed "to condemn lands for the Askokan dam water supply system for New York."  Included in the list of commissioners was Thomas J. Colton.

A year before the couple purchased No. 320, on July 12, 1911, Mayor William Jay Gaynor had appointed Colton president of the board of the newly formed Board of Inebriety.  

The well-intentioned group was charged with establishing "a hospital and an industrial colony for the care and treatment of inebriates."  It was a bit far-reaching in its powers.  Whenever any "male person" was arrested for intoxication, "the board must be notified by telephone and the name and address of the person arrested noted," explained The New York Times on July 13, 1911.  If a second arrest happened within twelve months, the board had the power to commit the offender to the hospital or colony "for a period of not less than one year nor more than three years."

The Board of Inebrity fell apart in March 1918 after squabbling between its directors and the Mayor and two other city officials resulted in Colton and four other directors walking off the job.  With only two directors left, Gaynor simply dissolved the group.

On April 28, 1920 Elizabeth Colton died.  Her funeral was held in the house two days later.  Louis, his wife, and their daughter Mary Elizabeth (known as Betty), continued to live at No. 320 with Thomas.

Betty was introduced to society during the 1924-25 winter season.  On January 20, 1925 The Evening Mail reported that "Mrs. Louis M. Colton will give a luncheon next Saturday at Sherry's for her debutante daughter, Miss Betty Colton."

Thomas J. Colton died on March 9, 1935.  He left an estate of just under $775,000--or about $14.5 million today.  Of that Louis received $5,000 outright and "life estate in $443,557," as reported by the Buffalo Evening News.

The Coltons left 89th Street soon after.  In 1936 Harold Arneson was living here when the New York Post's drama critic Vilas J. Boyle stopped him outside the Longacre Theatre to get his opinion of the new play Howdy Stranger.  She mentioned in her review that "The applause was pretty terrific at the end, but there was a lot of undertoned scoffing."  Apparently one of those scoffers was Arneson, who commented simply "A couple of good gags still don't make a farce comedy."

By the mid-1950's the house had been converted to four apartments.  Rose Raymond lived in one of them from at least 1953 through 1955.  An accomplished pianist, she gave private lessons in her apartment.




There are still four apartments in the residence.  Other than replacement windows and the sad loss of the dormer tiles, it has fared much better than its siblings, all of which have lost their stoops.

photographs by the author

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Lost Lewis M. Rutherfurd House - 175 Second Avenue


The stylish mansard roof was added in 1884.  photo from Old Buildings of New York City, 1907 (copyright expired)

Peter Stuyvesant, the Director General of the West India Company in New Netherlands, purchased land for his farm, or bouwerij, far to the north of the settlement on March 12, 1651.   The deal included, actually, two properties—Bowery (as the Dutch word became anglicized) #1 on which Stuyvesant constructed his home, and a portion of Bowery #2.   In the first decades of the 19th century the Stuyvesant family had retained a large portion of the original farm and several Stuyvesant homes dotted the area.

In 1845 Peter Gerard Stuyvesant, a grandson, erected an imposing mansion on the northwest corner of Second Avenue and East 11th Street, directly opposite the burying ground of St. Mark's Church.  Two stories of red brick rested upon a rusticated limestone base and lacy Italianate cast iron balconies clung to the openings of the second story.  The entrance was centered on the Second Avenue side behind a commodious grassy lawn.

Stuyvesant apparently entertained grandly.  The January 7, 1846 entry in Mayor Philip Hone's diary read:

I dined yesterday with Peter G. Stuyvesant in his splendid new house in the Second Avenue, near St. Mark's Church.  Our party consisted, beside the host and hostess, of David B. Ogden, John A. Stevens, Herman Thorn, Hamilton Fish, Henry Barclay, John T. Brigham, George Laurie, John C. Hamilton, Mr. Kean, and myself.


Peter G. Stuyvesant from Portraits of the Presidents of The [Saint Nicholas] Society of the City of New York, 1914 (copyright expired)

The hostess mentioned by Hone was Stuyvesant's second wife, Helena Rutherfurd.  The couple had no children, but had reared their grandniece, Margaret Stuyvesant Chanler,  who was married to the respected lawyer and astronomer Lewis Morris Rutherfurd.  Their toddler son, Stuyvesant Rutherfurd, was a favorite of his great uncle.

As The New York Times later wrote, "Peter Gerard Stuyvesant did not live long to enjoy his palatial residence."  He died at the age of 69 on August 16, 1847.

The terms of his will forced Margaret and Lewis Rutherfurd to make a difficult decision.  Apparently concerned about the continuance of the family name, Stuyvesant had left one-third of his substantial estate to their four-year old son on the condition that his name be changed from Stuyvesant Rutherfurd to Rutherfurd Stuyvesant.  

And so it was.  The boy and his family would move into the Second Avenue mansion.

Lewis Morris Rutherfurd was born on November 25, 1816.  He was a direct descendant on his mother's side to Lewis Morris, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  He practiced law with John Jay and, following Jay's death, with Hamilton Fish.  But his interest in science drew him away from law and he spent several years in Europe studying optics under Professor Amici.  


photo via Popular Science magazine, January 1893 (copyright expired)
Decades later, in 1893, Popular Science magazine wrote "After his return home he built upon the lawn of his home at Eleventh Street and Second Avenue, New York, an observatory which has been called the finest and best-equipped private astronomical observatory in the country."  Later he invented another telescope especially converted for photography.  His pioneering astronomical photographs were ground breaking.


This photograph by Rutherfurd appeared in the 1873 book by Hermann Wilhelm Vogel, Die chemischen Wirkungen des Lichts und die Photographie: in ihrer Anwendung in Kunst, Wissenschaft und Industrie (copyright expired)

Rutherfurd Stuyvesant was 18-years old when the Civil War broke out.  Many of the sons of the wealthiest families stayed home, away from the dangers of battle.  It was a situation that would result in a three-day rampage of carnage within the city in 1863.  It is unclear whether Rutherfurd purposely avoided military service or, if he were truly unable to serve as he said.  In either case, just three weeks after the firing on Fort Sumter, he made public apologies and gave financial support.   His letter to Marshal Lefferts dated May 3, 1861 was published in The New York Times:

Sir:  Being deprived, by ill health, of the great pleasure of sharing in the dangers and fatigues so well endured, and in the credits, so well merited, of the Seventh [Regiment], I desire to testify my admiration for them as soldiers, and any affection for them as comrades, as well as my devotion to the sacred cause for which they are armed.  With this intent, I have procured and forwarded to your address a pair of mountain howitzers, with their equipments and ammunition, which I desire to present to the Regiment, with my best wishes.
                                           I am, very respectfully yours,
                                                        Rutherfurd Stuyvesant

Two years later, on October 13, 1863, Rutherford Stuyvesant married Mary Pierrepont.  She was the daughter of the prestigious and wealthy Henry Evelyn and Anna Jay Pierrepont of Brooklyn. 

Following the war the Rutherfurd family resumed their lives as members of fashionable society.  On December 10, 1868, for instance, the Evening Telegram reported "Lewis M. Rutherford [sic] and family, No. 175 Second avenue, will spend the winter in Savannah."  The newspaper updated its readers a month later, getting the name of the esteemed scientist even more wrong.  "The family of Louis Rutherford, Esq. of 175 Second avenue, are travelling for pleasure through the Southern cities.  They will probably return home in the spring."

On New Year's Eve 1879 Mary Stuyvesant went into labor.  Tragically, neither she nor the infant survived childbirth.  

Five years later Rutherfurd Stuyvesant hired the architectural firm of Renwick, Aspinwall & Russell to alter his childhood home to an apartment house.  The massive alterations included a nearly seamless 22-foot addition on 11th Street, a handsome full-height mansard with "fire-proof slate roof," as detailed in the plans, and the relocation of the entrance to 11th Street.


The original entrance had been located below the pedimented window to the right.  photo by George F. Arata from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
Although now an apartment house, the former mansion was still upscale.  The New York Times reported "There are eight apartments in the house, each having eight rooms, and their size, with fourteen-foot ceilings and old-fashioned carved work around the ceilings, in addition to the ample halls, is not equaled in any of the expensive modern apartments."

It appears that Rutherfurd's parents lived on here until Lewis Morris Rutherfurd's death on May 30, 1892 at the family country estate, Tranquility, in New Jersey.  Other family members took lavish apartments, as well.  Rutherfurd's brother, Lewis Morris Rutherfurd, Jr., and his wife the former Anne Harriman, were living here in 1898.  (Following Rutherfurd's death in 1901 Anne married William Kissam Vanderbilt in London on April 29, 1903.)

George E. Waring, Jr. and his wife had an apartment here by 1897.  A sanitary engineer and civic reformer, he had designed the drainage system for Central Park--considered the largest project of its kind at the time.  When more than 5,000 citizens of Memphis, Tennessee died from yellow fever in 1878, Waring had been sent there to design the sewer system which ended the epidemic.  

Following the Spanish-American War in 1898, President William McKinley appointed Waring to study the sanitary conditions in Cuba.  This time the engineer became a victim.  He returned to New York carrying yellow fever.


George E. Waring, Jr.  from Life of Col. George E. Waring, Jr. (copyright expired)
Waring showed symptoms during the last week of October 1898.  Only a few days later, according to The New York Journal on Sunday, October 20, "It was not until Friday afternoon that Colonel Waring himself knew the nature of his malady."  By that evening the end was near.  Mrs. Waring and her son sat in an adjoining room throughout the night.  Then, according to Albert Shaw's 1899 Life of Col. George E. Waring, Jr., "His death took place at 7:35 o'clock at his home, the Rutherford apartment house, at 175 Second Avenue."

The Health Department descended on the building.  On November 1, 1898 The Sun reported "Col. Waring's widow, her son, John P. Yates, and the nurse who attended Col. Waring up to the time of his death, returned yesterday afternoon to the apartment house at 175 Second avenue...The work of disinfecting the house was completed yesterday morning by a corps of men from the Health Department."


The Renwick, Aspinwall & Russell addition, in the foreground, was nearly seamless.  photograph from the collection of the New York Public Library
Another Rutherfurd relative living in the building at the time was Helena Rutherfurd Ely and her family.  Helena Rutherfurd had married attorney Alfred Ely II in June 1880.  The couple maintained a 350-acre country estate, Meadowburn Farm, in New Jersey.

Their sprawling apartment was the scene of three receptions in December 1900 to introduce their daughter, also named Helena Rutherford Ely, to society.   Five years later, on December 3, 1905, The Sun reported "Miss Helena Rutherford Ely and Richard Worsam Meade will have a big wedding at Trinity next Saturday afternoon."  A reception followed in the Second Avenue apartment.

Congressman William Sulzer would garner more attention than any other resident.  He was living here on the top floor in 1912 when he was elected Governor of New York.  Shortly after the election The New York Times reminded its readers, "Congressman William Sulzer's home, at 175 Second Avenue, is one of the famous old residences in the city...The Sulzer home is famous in the history of New York as having been for years the residence of Lewis Morris Rutherfurd, the eminent scientist and astronomer."

Rutherfurd Stuyvesant had died three years earlier.  "Winthrop Rutherford [sic] a son, now takes general charge of the property," said the article.  But the writer had a gloomy prediction for the future of the old mansion.  "It is not likely that this interesting Stuyvesant and Rutherfurd landmark will remain much longer.  The fashionable Second Avenue of half a century ago has gone, and the changing conditions of the neighborhood are already having an effect upon the old place."


In 1935 signage on the corner of the building tells of its impending demolition.  photo from the collection of the New York Public Library
On March 2, 1917 the heirs sold No. 175 to St. Mark's Hospital for $82,500--more than 1.6 million in today's dollars.  The hospital remained in the converted dwelling until 1935 when it was razed to make way for a six-story apartment house that survives.



Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Pompeo Coppini Studio - 210 West 14th Street


Essentially nothing other than the brick facade and stone sills of the 1848 house survive.

When the row of 25-foot wide Greek Revival homes were completed on the south side of West 14th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues in 1848 the neighborhood was filling with equally high-end residences.  Just over three blocks west of the new Union Square, West 14th Street would be a fashionable residential thoroughfare for a few decades to come.

During the Civil War years the family of Edmund Murray Young lived in No. 88 West 14th Street (soon to be renumbered 210).  Young and his wife, the former Josepha Matilda McDonald, had seven children, the eldest being Elizabeth, born in 1844.  One of them, Alexander McDonald Young, died in infancy in 1863 and another, Edmund, Jr., died at the age of 18 a year later.

Elizabeth Bleecker Young's wedding in Trinity Chapel on May 17, 1870 drew attention within society; not only for its brilliance, but because of the groom's position with "our wealthy Cuban society," as worded by The New York Evening Telegram.  Major Don Carlos Francisco Loynaz was, said the article, "a member of General [Emanuel] Quesada's staff and a gallant and brave soldier" and added "The bride, an exquisite beauty, [is] noted as well for her beautiful characteristics as for her beautiful form and features."

The wealth of the Young family was evidenced in Elizabeth's white satin gown.  "The bride's robe was one of the most elegant we have seen this season," said the journalist.  "The groomsmen were attired in full evening dress, as were also the polite ushers."  Following the ceremony a reception was held in the 14th Street house, which The New York Evening Telegram deemed "an exceedingly select and elegant affair.

The newlyweds moved into the house.  Elizabeth continued to work for worthy causes and in 1878 she focused on establishing a lodging house for unemployed working women.  On July 5, 1878 the New-York Daily Tribune reported on her success.  "Mrs. Loynaz of No. 210 West Fourteenth-st., obtained enough subscriptions to warrant the undertaking, and then hired the large dwelling house at No. 148 West Twenty-fourth-st.  The building...can easily accommodate thirty persons with comfortable lodgings in the Summer time."

In the spring of 1882 the 14th Street house became home to another Cuban national.  It was purchased by Cayetano de Socarras on April 20, 1882.  The title was placed in the name of Angela de Socarras.   The couple remained until October 1890.

By then the West 14th Street neighborhood had become greatly commercialized.  Many of the once grand homes were being operated as boarding houses, several of them with shops now in the former basement levels.   No. 210 escaped being converted for business for years; however its glory days were most definitely behind it at the turn of the century when it was run as a boarding house and then as a rooming house.  

The tenants were shady at best.  One of them, Alfred J. Jarman, described by the The Daily Long Island Farmer as "an Englishman advanced in years," seemed an unlikely roomer.  He was employed in the patent department of a scientific journal, had a wife, "several grown daughters," and a house in Newark, New Jersey.  

But when police entered his rooms on December 22, 1911, it all made sense.  "At Jarman's rooms they found a complete counterfeiting outfit, consisting of a lithographic press, ten plates for making ten dollar notes, a quantity of ink and paper, several molds and a supply of white metal."  Jarman not only produced fake bills, but coins.  "Captain Flynn's men found a hundred bogus dimes and quarters."

Another tenant was 21-year old James Redmond.  He was a member of the dangerous Hudson Dusters gang.  On Sunday July 28, 1912 he was part of a violent confrontation with another gang, the Neighborhood Sons, at Horatio and Washington Streets in Greenwich Village.   Several dozen young thugs scattered when police descended on the scene where one tough lay dead and another critically wounded.

While police were questioning the dying William Jenks at St. Vincent's Hospital, Redmond staggered in, saying "I'm very sick and want to be cared for."  The Evening World reported "A doctor examined Redmond and found a bullet hole in the back of his coat and a wound in his back."

"You have been shot," he said.

"Yes, I suppose I have," Redmond replied.  

Neither Jenks nor Redmond admitted any knowledge of the street fight before they died.

By 1913 No. 210 was termed a "lodging house," the lowest form of accommodations.  Lodging house tenants received no amenities, merely a bed or cot, and paid on a day-to-day basis.  Mary Reilly was the proprietor in the first days of 1914 when things got out of hand even for the seasoned landlady.  

On January 14 The Evening Telegram reported "Mrs. Mary Reilly telephoned to the police that there was a band of gunmen in her house...and that they refused to leave.  She said they were firing their revolvers out of the windows and threatened to kill her if she told the police."  When a police lieutenant and two detectives arrived, they found a group of men barricaded in two rooms on the top floor.  They broke down the doors.

The hooligans resisted arrest.  It did not go well for them.  "In the melee the four men in the room suffered painful abrasions and contusions by 'falling against the furniture,'" said the article.  Also arrested was a 16-year old boy, Peter Haape, who was wanted for burglary.  

The early 1920's brought another change to the West 14th Street neighborhood as artists created studios in the former homes.  In 1923 sculptor Pompeo Coppini and his wife, the former Elizabeth di Barbieri, purchased No. 210.  They hired architect Albert S. Gottlieb to convert it with a store and studio in the basement level, offices on the former parlor level, a duplex apartment for the Coppinis on the second and third floors, and three artist studios on the top.

Coppini was born in Italy on May 19, 1870 and emigrated to the United States in March 1896.  His career in New York started out humbly sculpting figures for a wax museum.   While working on his commission to create a memorial to Francis Scott Key, he fell in love with his model and the couple married.  By the time they moved into No. 210 West 14th Street, he had established himself as a respected artist.

Albert S. Gottlieb removed the stoop and moved the entrance to the street level.  Although it is not signed, there is little doubt that the carved tympanum above the new entrance is the work of Coppini.  The bas relief of an artist with brush in hand doubled as an advertisement of sorts for the studios on the top floor.


Given Coppini's artistic status, the work is most likely marble.  It is difficult to tell for sure, because someone decided that painting the sculpture highway yellow would be a good idea.  It wasn't.

On March 17, 1932 The Pelham Sun reported on the "delightful studio tea on Sunday afternoon at Mr. Coppini's studio, 210 West Fourteenth street, New York City."  About 125 guests were entertained by a "delightful musical program."  The article ended "Mr. Coppini is a sculptor of note."

The event took place in the Coppini's duplex.  While the original plans intended for his studio to be in the ground floor, in 1929 it was leased to Spanish-born Carmen Barañano, the widow of Jesús Moneo.  In his memory she named her store Casa Moneo.  Here she sold imported Spanish foods and other products to the residents of Little Spain that was emerging along West 14th Street.

Coppini's most celebrated tenant was French Dadaist artist Marcel Duchamp who took one of the top floor studios in October 1943.  He was paying Coppini $40 per month rent in 1952, just over $375 today.  Duchamp lived in the studio until 1959 when he moved to No. 28 West 10th Street; but continued working here until his death in Paris on October 2, 1968.  

It was here that Duchamp worked quietly on what the Philadelphia Museum of Art describes as "the fabrication of a large and complex tableau to which he gave the title Étant donnés: 1. La chute d’eau, 2. Le gaz d’éclairage."  The English translations of the two works are The Waterfall and The Illuminating Gas.

Music critic Winthrop Sargeant visited the artist in his studio in 1952.  He described it in his article entitled "Dada's Daddy" in Life magazine on April 28:

He lives four flights up in a little garretlike studio on 14th Street, one of Manhattan's most blatantly commercial thoroughfares.  It seems a strange place for a high-brow to live, but that is probably the very reason Duchamp has chosen it--to outwit anyone who might expect him to compromise his individuality by doing the obvious thing.

His studio is dominated by its chess table.  Here Duchamp sits by the hour, sometimes actually playing against an opponent.  
Marcell Duchamp poses over his chess board in the 14th Street studio in 1952.  Life magazine, April 28, 1952 
The Coppinis sold No. 210 to Joseph Torch in 1956.  On May 24 The New York Times reported that he "plans to occupy the store for the sale of artists' supplies."  But if those plans involved evicting Casa Moneo, they soon changed.  The 14th Street fixture remained until 1988.



Today a nail salon occupies that ground floor space.  Above it are one apartment per floor other than the top, which still holds three furnished rooms as Pompeo Coppini envisioned in 1923.  And hundreds of pedestrians pass the yellow painted sculpture without a glance.

photographs by the author