Leopold Tilman and his wife lived in the upper floors in 1862. To the left a sliver of the marble "Colonnade Houses" can be seen, and to the right a portion of the once-sumptuous Chesterman house is visible. photo by Maurice Stadtfield, from the collection of the New-York Historical Society.
What would be known as the Bond Street District vied with St. John's Park as the most exclusive residential district in New York City in the early 1830's. In 1833 Elisha Bloomer began construction of two lavish marble mansions at Nos. 714 and 716 Broadway. They would be mini-versions of LaGrange Terrace a few blocks away on Lafayette Place. At the time William Bickford Burgoyne and his family had lived at No. 712 Broadway for at least a year.
The brick-faced Burgoyne house was typical of the upscale Federal style residences in the Bond Street neighborhood. Three-and-a-half stories tall and 25-feet wide, its entrance featured fluted columns and an exquisite leaded fanlight. Gibbs surrounds framed the basement openings and marble lintels and sills graced the windows of the upper floors. The peaked roof was pierced by two prominent dormers.
Burgoyne was a trustee of The Croton Insurance Co. He and his wife, the former Eliza Moser, had nine children. Three of them were still toddlers when the family moved in.
In 1832 Eliza looked for help, placing two advertisements in The Evening Post. On February 8 she sought "a Chambermaid, and a young woman to do housework. Americans or coloured would be preferred." And eight months later she advertised for: "A nurse to take charge of three children. A middle aged woman, either American, English or Scotch would be preferred. Good reference required."
Slavery had been abolished in New York City in 1827. The same, of course, was not the case in the South--a situation that would cause problems within the Burgoyne household in 1842.
That spring the family had houseguests from New Orleans, Mrs. Terenea Burke and her brother, Mathew Morgan. Wealthy ladies routinely traveled with their personal maids and Terenea Burke brought along Julia Green. It was not long before abolitionists got word that a slave was being held in the Burgoyne house. On May 28 a writ of habeas corpus was served on Mrs. Burke to produce the young woman in court.
Mathew Morgan took Julia to the Chambers Street courthouse where a partial hearing was heard, according to The Evening Post. The case was temporarily adjourned and Morgan and Julia headed back to No. 712 Broadway. "When nearly opposite the City Hall he was attacked by a gang of black and white men," reported the newspaper, "and the slave taken from him by force and conveyed, contrary to her wishes, to a house in Church street."
Morgan sought the help of police and officers went to that house to retrieve Julia. "They were assaulted very violently, but finally gained admittance into the house. The slave, however, had been spirited away." Whether it was "contrary to her wishes" or not, Julia Green had been liberated.
Two sons, Benjamin and William M. Burgoyne, took advantage of the California Gold Rush by relocating to San Francisco in 1849 and opening a banking business which provided loans to prospectors. It was about this time that their parents left No. 712 Broadway.
What had been a block of luxurious mansions was increasingly becoming commercial. In 1852 Jules Delcroix moved his upscale shop into the former Burgoyne residence. On May 3 he announced:
Rich Laces Only--the depot of the manufacturers of Chantilly and Brussels Laces is transferred from No. 16 Park place to 712 Broadway, opposite Washington place. Shawls, Scarfs, Caps, Berthas, Flounces, Sleeves, Mantillas, Veils, Handkerchiefs, &c., &c.
The following year Madame Augusta relocated her studio into an upper floor. The ability of the daughters and sons of well-heeled families to dance was crucial before they were introduced to society. An announcement appeared in the New York Daily Herald on January 21, 1853 that read: "Madame Augusta has re-opened her dancing classes in her commodious house, No. 712 Broadway. A reduction will be made to parties having a number of children to be instructed."
It was most likely Leonard Tilman, here by 1862, who fancifully decorated the façade. Although he may have been responsible for the removal of the intricate wrought iron basket stoop newels, little else of the original detailing was destroyed. Nevertheless, a first-rate artisan was commissioned to plaster and paint the façade to resemble veined marble blocks. A wooden partition was erected in front of the peaked roof to mimic a mansard. It deftly incorporated the original dormers into its design. Tasteful painted window shades served as additional advertisement, as did the oversized replicas of the awards Tilman had received at the London Exposition of 1851 and the Paris Exposition of 1859.
Leopold Tilman's trade card illustrated his decorated building. The complex fan light was carefully detailed. from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
Tilman and his wife moved into the upper floors and ran their extensive millinery and artificial flower business downstairs. The business catered to the carriage trade, as evidenced in this advertisement from December 7, 1862:
At Tilman's, 712 Broadway. Great Sale of bonnets and headdresses. For fifteen days to commence on the 8th of December, Mr. Tilman will sell a splendid stock of rich Bonnets and headdresses, the best articles at the very lowest price. Bonnets, in French black silk velvet, from $12. Headdresses with bouquet de corsage, from $8
The sale price of $12 would be equal to about $315 today.
By 1868 Tilman shared the building with Dietrich & Co., dealers in silver plated items, which occupied the basement and parlor floor. The Tilmans were not at home at around 11:00 on the night of April 16, 1868 when a fire broke out on the second floor. The New York Herald reported, "The firemen, as usual, were very prompt, and put out the fire before it spread much beyond its place of origin." Nevertheless, Tilman suffered about $5,000 in damages--just under $93,000 today. Dietrich & Co. suffered smoke and water damage of about $500. The Evening Post mentioned, "The building is owned by Theodore Burgoyne."
Tilman left No. 712 Broadway around 1870. The former house was briefly used as a sensational exhibition space. On May 25, 1870 an advertisement in the New York Daily Herald touted:
See the Japanese Mermaid
The long Lost Link of the
Simian Tribe Discovered
Thousands have already visited 712 Broadway to see this rare and remarkable prodigy.
THE JAPANESE MERMAID
HALF WOMAN AND HALF FISH
Now on exhibition at 712 Broadway from 10 A.M. to 10 P.M.
Admission 25 cents; children 15 cents
That venture was short-lived and by 1872 the building was home to F. Leypoldt's publishing business, founded in 1847. He was editor and publisher of the trade journal, The Weekly Trade Circular, which served the publishing and stationery industry, as well as the annual The American Book-Trade and The Shippers' Monthly Circular.
When Leypoldt's long time partner retired in 1872 he sought a replacement. On October 10 he advertised for a partner, "either special or active, with a capital of twenty-five to thirty thousand dollars." He promised the potential associate that "The investment is a strictly first-class one."
Leypoldt's publishing business reflected the change along this section of Broadway from fashionable stores to more industrial tenants. The same year that he was looking for a partner, William H. Nicols signed a lease for space for his sewing machine store. The following year the American Buttonhole, Overseaming & Sewing Machine Co. moved in.
By the dawn of the 1890's the Burgoyne house was possibly the last relic of the 1830's along the block. The Folding Trunk Company and the Pickens & Co. real estate office occupied spaces in the building that year. But they would soon have to relocate.
On February 22, 1890 the Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide reported that the “three-story brick store” had been sold “Mssrs. Scholle Bros.” for the equivalent of $2.55 million today. Within two weeks the Record & Guide reported that architect Alfred Zucker "has prepared plans for a handsome store building" on the site.
That building, completed in 1893, survives.