Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The 1906 Dr. Jos. Archibald Robertson House - 6 West 74th Street


Brothers William W. and Thomas M. Hall were known for building often sumptuous, speculative townhouses.  In 1904 they commissioned the architectural firm of Welch, Smith & Provot to design a pair of four-story homes at 2 and 4 West 74th Street (renumbered 6 and 8 around 1930).  The firm estimated the cost of each at $30,000--just over $1 million in 2024.   

The structures were completed in 1906.  The architects placed the doorway of 2 West 74th Street to the side of a protruding bay atop a low, sweeping staircase.  The three floors of beige brick above the limestone base were given neo-Georgian splayed lintels of brick and stone, and layered keystones.  The L-shaped facade provided an abundance of natural light and ventilation.

On January 20, 1906, the Record & Guide reported that the Halls had sold 2 West 74th Street to "a prominent physician."  The purchaser was Dr. Joseph Archibald Robertson who had met his wife, the former Elise Jones, when she was a patient.  Elise came from Birmingham, Alabama.  "She is said to be wealthy, having inherited an estate of several hundred thousand dollars," said The New York Times.  The couple's summer estate was in Virginia.  According to the newspaper, it "was deeded to Dr. Robertson by his wife."

The Robertsons had lived in the new house only about a year before rumors of domestic problems spread, including a report that Elise had served her husband with divorce papers in July 1907.  In September, according to The New York Times, Robertson "denied having any domestic trouble.  He said that his wife was at their Summer home in Virginia, but owing to his professional duties he was unable to be there."

A month later, on October 13, the newspaper reported, "Until a day or so ago [Mrs. Robertson] was constantly seen with her husband, both of them taking daily afternoon trips in their motor car."  But now the pretense had ended.  The day before the article Joseph Robertson moved to the Hotel Aberdeen.  "Mrs. Robertson is still in the Seventy-second [sic] Street house," it said.

Domestic tranquility would be elusive for Dr. Robertson.  Following his divorce from Elise, he married Sarah Miller.  At 3:00 on the morning of August 9, 1919, Sarah and five detectives burst into a room in the Hotel Albermarle.  "The raiding party rushed in," reported the New York Herald, to find Dr. Robertson and his nurse, Maud Davis, together.  Maud "burst into tears" while "Dr. Robertson showed fight but was greatly outnumbered."

In the meantime, the Robertsons had sold 2 West 74th Street to another physician, Frederick W. Church.   He sold it in February 1916 to stockbroker Arthur Lipper.

Born in Philadelphia in September 1876, Lipper established the brokerage firm of Arthur Lipper & Co. in April 1899.  At 22 years old, he was the youngest head of a banking firm in the country.  He relocated to New York in 1900.  He and his wife, the former Clara Behal, had three children, Arthur Jr., Dorothy, Madeleine and Ruth.

Dorothy was the first to marry.  Her wedding to Stephen M. Ames took place in the Crystal Room of the Ritz-Carlton on October 19, 1920.  The groom had much in common with his father-in-law.  The American Hebrew noted, "He is now in the Stock Exchange and is its youngest member."

By the time the Lippers sold their home to Dr. A. J. Ginsberg in December 1938, its address had been changed to 6 West 74th Street.  In reporting the sale, The New York Sun mentioned that it "contains an automatic elevator."   Adding that "this is the first sale in twenty-three years," the article noted that Ginsberg "will use it for his private practice and research laboratories."

Ginsberg was a graduate of Columbia Medical School and had studied in Europe and at the Mayo Clinic.  The Malone, New York newspaper the Malone Evening Telegram, reported, 

Of interest to many who knew him as a young Tupper [New York] resident and a student in the local schools will be news of the purchase by Dr. A. J. Ginsberg...of the Lipper mansion at 6 West 74th St.  Dr. Ginsberg will make the four story building over into a practice and research laboratory.  Built in 1906, the mansion is one of the showplaces of that day and is now assessed for $48,000. 

The article added that Ginsberg "has built up a splendid practice in New York."

In 1940, there was still only one doorway.  The residence's 1906 sibling at 8 West 74th Street survived.  image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

In 1961, the house was converted to apartments, one each per floor above a ground floor doctor's office.   A subsequent remodeling completed in 2015 resulted in a triplex and duplex apartment and a second doorway that replaced a window next to the original entrance.

photographs by the author
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