Monday, October 12, 2020

The 1899 Hotel St. Pierre (later Hotel Anderson) - 102 West 80th Street

 


On March 1, 1899 sisters Ada E. and Mary A. Bingham purchased the single-story wooden building at No. 102 West 80th Street.  The women were active in real estate circles throughout the city.  They commissioned the Chicago architect Alfred M. Hedley to design an apartment hotel on the site.  (Hedley is perhaps best remembered for his designing of the Chicago El stations a few years earlier in anticipation of the opening of the Chicago World's Fair.)

Construction was completed on the eight-story structure in 1901.  The airiness of Hedley's Beaux Arts design was heightened by his use of white limestone and beige brick.  He avoided the overuse of ornamentation, so tempting in the style.  The entrance sat behind a columned portico which provided a stone-railed balcony to the second floor.  Two fluted pilasters (reminiscent of those used in Hedley's neo-Classical El stations) and wreath-enclosed oval windows flanked the doorway.  Rounded bays at either side rose seven stories to iron-railed balconies.  At the fourth and sixth floors were stone balconies adorned with decorative urns.

The balconies and portico are evident in this early photo.  from the collection of the New-York Historical Society 

The new building was leased from the Bingham sisters for one year by the Hotel Orleans as an annex.  In 1902 the women sold the building to Lawrence and Anna R. Mead who named it the Hotel St. Pierre, a "Modern Family Hotel."  Suites were not as sprawling as in some of the residential hotels in the neighborhood.  The largest apartments had three rooms and a bath.  The residents, therefore, were upper-middle class rather than wealthy.

Among the early tenants were Augustus Linden and his wife, Emily.  The couple had been married on July 28, 1888 and Linden was now a commission merchant.  

Anna Mead announced alterations in November 1906.  The Sun reported that they involved "the addition of a new story of ornamental iron to the eight story apartment hotel" and placed the cost at $9,000, or about $264,000 today.  Before she chose an architect for the project, it appears that Mead changed her mind.

The New York Times, October 18, 1908 (copyright expired)

The extended Stern family was living in the St. Pierre by 1908.  Although Henry Stern was retired, he still owned a significant portion of the Gibbs Tailor Parlors on West 34th Street.  He and his wife lived on the second floor and their son, Henry Sidney Stern, and his wife lived on the floor above them.

Early in 1909 the Gibbs Tailor Parlors were experiencing business troubles.  The problem weighed so heavily on Henry Stern's mind that his wife convinced him that they should go to Europe for the summer to get away.  Preparations for the trip were being made in March.

After having lunch with her husband on March 28 Mrs. Stern went to call on friends in Harlem.  They agreed that if she had not returned by early evening, she would call and he would meet her at their friends' home.  At 6:00 she called the St. Pierre and asked to be connected to the apartment.  The Sun reported "The boy rang the Stern telephone several times and reported that there was no answer."

Mrs. Stern was positive her husband would not have left and finally instructed the boy to use a passkey and wake him since he must have fallen asleep.  The Sun noted "His family had noted a somewhat morose condition on the part of Mr. Stern for some time, and it is more than possible that his wife was considerably alarmed when he failed to answer the telephone.  However, she said nothing to the telephone operator about that at the time."

Walter Pondon obtained the passkey from Lawrence Mead and went up to the Stern apartment.  "He immediately returned frightened to Mr. Meade [sic] and the manager went back to the apartments with him.  They found Mr. Stern undressed in the bath room lying in the tub, which was partly filled with water.  The water came up about to the man's mouth, and in his mouth was a gas tube which had been detached from a small stove and attached to the gas jet."

Shortly after the incident the Meads leased the property to Minnie L. Anderson as proprietress and manager.  She renamed it the Hotel Anderson.  Among her changes was the acceptance of transient guests.  An advertisement in the Fall River Line Journal in 1912 listed a single room and bath, including meals, at $2.50 per day.  The largest suites, containing a parlor, two bedroom and bath with meals could be had for $2.50 per day, or about $68 in today's dollars.

The ad touted, "Ladies traveling alone and families wishing a quiet inexpensive place will find this a very desirable refined hotel; conveniently located between Central Park and Riverside Drive."  Minnie Anderson's sister, Flory, was involved in the operation, the advertisement noting that the proprietors were "The Misses Anderson."

Blank gaping scars testify to the lost portico.


Living here in 1914 were John N. Ryan, his wife and their new-born baby.  He was an accountant with the Equitable Life Insurance Company.  In September that year he was invited to spend a few days at the summer cottage of a co-worker Dr. Matthew S. Borden in Deal Beach, New Jersey.  Also invited were J. Harvey Wood, a bond salesman, and his wife.  Ryan's wife, most likely because of the month-old baby, remained home in the Hotel Anderson apartment.

On September 8 the entire group got in the Borden's large automobile and headed to Cape May.  They stopped for dinner at a hotel in Lakewood, New Jersey.  The Evening World reported "It was their intention to make a moonlight ride down through the pine woods to the Cape."   Borden's chauffeur was traveling at about 40 miles per hour when they approached a railroad crossing near Palermo, New Jersey.  The Evening World noted that the thick pine trees screened the tracks from the road and that there were no gates at the crossing.

As the Borden vehicle entered the tracks, a freight train slammed into it.  The heavy automobile was lifted into the air and "hurled against the side of the box station."  The bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Woods were found "clasped in each other's arms."  Dr. Borden's body had been "literally cut to pieces" and was found 600 feet from the collision.   The chauffeur, who had been thrown 40 feet, suffered a broken back and soon perished.  Only Ryan survived.  The article said "Ryan, whose life, the physicians hope to save, was removed to the Oceanic Hotel."  He was suffering shock and "had only a few lucid moments."  

The Woods had intended to return to Manhattan the following morning.  Ryan's wife and Mrs. Wood had plans to go shopping that day.  The Evening World reported "When Mrs. Wood failed to appear, Mrs. Ryan called on the Wood apartment...on the telephone, to discover that Mrs. Wood's mother, Mrs. Clark, was there, waiting for her daughter's return."  They were not informed of the tragedy for several more hours.

Happier press coverage revolved around weddings, births and similar events.  The 1918 Yearbook of the Third U. S. Volunteer Engineers reported the engagement of Eleanor Topliff, the daughter of Frank Gilmur Topliff and his wife, to Lieutenant Cornelius C. Jadwin.  A West Point graduate, the prospective groom was the son of Brigadier General Edgar Jadwin.

It may have been the ongoing war or the illness of the bride's mother than postponed the ceremony.  It took place on February 25, 1920 in the Topliff apartment.  The New-York Tribune reported "owing to the illness of her mother only relatives and a few intimate friends were present."

The Meads sold the Hotel Anderson to Bendheim Brothers, Inc. in May 1920.  It caused a months-long battle over the operation of the building.  The Anderson sisters, who had been the proprietors for just over a decade, were told their lease was cancelled.  (Minnie, who had married, was now Mrs. Emmons Pervear.)  The New York Times reported on September 3 "Miss Anderson and Mrs. Pervear, who own about $40,000 worth of furniture in the seventy-nine rooms, wanted an extension of time so that they might sell their furniture."   The new owners refused to allow an on-site auction and a stand-off ensued.

When their lease expired on midnight, August 31, the women barricaded themselves and the tenants inside.  The New York Times said they "maintained an all-day and all-night vigil behind the locked front door, and ingress and exit were permitted only to tenants and their friends."  Finally, on September 3, the New-York Tribune reported "After the apartment house at 102 West Eightieth street had been in a state of siege for nearly twenty-four hours, during which the new owners had attempted to take possession and the tenants had refused them admittance fearing eviction, a temporary truce was signed."

Among the residents who experienced that siege was the widowed Thomas Kenworthy, principal in the dry goods firm of Thomas Kenworthy's Sons.  On May 28, 1921 his daughter, Ethel C. Kenworthy, was married in St. Paul's Methodist Church to Wolodja I. Hagelin of Stockholm, Sweden.  Hegelin was connected with the Standard Oil Company.  His wedding party was quite impressive.  The New York Herald announced "The ushers will be the Swedish Vice-Consul, K. Y. Vendel, Sven Bendel, Count G. Moerner, Sven Erik, Edward Sageman and Lieut. Lester M. Greff."

Also living at the Hotel Anderson was Joseph C. Levi.  Born in Cincinnati, he was one of the founders of the New York Bar Association in 1870.  He was now, according to The New York Times, "one of the oldest practicing lawyers in New York City." 

In 1922 Levi and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  More than 50 judges paid their respects at the event.  The indefatigable attorney worked on, refusing to retire.  An associate noted in 1925 "Mr. Levi ate his lunch every day at a lunch room in the Equitable Building, where he stood at the lunch counter.  He would not condescend to eat his lunch at a table."

Mrs. Levi died in June 1924.  Later that year, in December, Levi was hit by an automobile on Broadway at 123rd Street.  He was not seriously hurt.  But that was not the case a few weeks later.  On the night of January 17, 1925 the 86-year old was heading home to his apartment, crossing Amsterdam Avenue at 80th Street.  He was struck by a taxicab and died of a fractured skull in the hospital two hours later.  The driver was held on a charge of homicide.

The seeds of a bizarre incident were planted when young John Harris got a summer job as a counselor at Kyle Camp in the Catskills in 1934.   John, who was attending Columbia University, lived in the Hotel Anderson with his divorced mother.  Catherine Harris, who was 38-years old, visited her son at the camp several times and became passingly acquainted with its founder, 78-year old Paul Kyle.

Kyle Camp was an offshoot of the Kyle School which Kyle had founded in 1890.  The Times Union said "Among those he taught were Ogden L. Mills, former Secretary of the Treasury; Cornelius Vanderbilt, General Tasker H. Bliss, Admiral George Converse and Mrs. Frederick W. Vanderbilt."  

The same summer that John Harris worked in the camp, Kyle's wife died.   In December 1934 he began sending letters to Catherine which turned disturbing.  By April she had received more than two dozen, "some of them of a vicious nature, others couched in endearing terms and requesting her to marry him," according to The New York Times on April 25, 1935.  Catherine sued him for libel and charged him "with writing annoying letters."  The complaint added "the teacher had written to Mrs. Harris's son and to her friends."

The suit ended unexpectedly.  On May 7, 1935 Catherine Harris waited in the courtroom for Paul Kyle to arrive for the hearing.  Unknown to anyone there, the previous day Kyle had sold all "books, furniture and other equipment of the school" to an academy in Munsey, New York, according to the Times Union.  As Catherine and the lawyers assembled within the Manhattan courtroom, Dr. Paul Kyle walked onto the lawn of the Kyle School for Boys in Irvington-on-Hudson carrying a shotgun.  The Irvington police chief, Bernard F. McCall, later explained "Dr. Kyle had apparently...put the butt of the weapon on the ground and the muzzle against his left jaw, and then pushed the trigger, possibly with his foot."


In 1947 a renovation resulted in nine apartments and an office on the ground floor and eight apartments on each of the upper floors.  At some point the striking stone balcony railings and the dignified portico were removed, possibly in an effort at modernizing the building's appearance.  

photographs by the author

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