Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Henry Harper Benedict Carriage House - No. 165 East 73rd Street

photo by Alice Lum
Most Victorian New Yorkers who could afford their own carriages and horses nonetheless relied on public boarding stables.   But the wealthiest citizens, who would need more than one type of vehicle and several horses, built expensive and well-designed private carriage houses.
As a rule the carriage houses were  built on side streets, not so far from the fashionable residences that the owners would have excessively long waits for their rides; but not so close that the odors and noises of the stables would be intrusive.   These utilitarian buildings were nearly as much a reflection of the owners' wealth as were their mansions; and by the turn of the century some lucky horses found themselves living in French Beaux Arts mini-palaces and Italianate palazzos.
Henry Harper Benedict had risen steadily within the firm of E. Remington & Sons, manufacturers of guns and rifles in Ilion, New York.  Before long he was appointed treasurer of a subsidiary company, The Remington Sewing Machine Co.  Then in 1882 he branched off, leaving the company to help it sell a new invention:  the typewriter.
Benedict moved to New York City as a member of the firm Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict whose sole purpose was the sale of Remington typewriters.  Four years later the company purchased the entire business—including the factory and all rights and franchises.  By 1895 he had amassed a fortune and was noted for his extensive art collection.
That year the editor of the New York Tribune, Henry Hall, published “America’s Successful Men,” in which he said of Benedict, “A man of refined tastes, he has made a collection of engravings and etchings by the great masters, which is of the highest quality, perhaps unsurpassed by any other of its size anywhere.  He also possesses a good library and a collection of oil paintings, mostly by American artists, which, like his prints, represent the several artists at their best.”

Benedict’s refined home with the good library and art collection Hall praised was at 5 East 75th Street, just steps from Fifth Avenue.  In 1903 construction began on his two matching carriage houses at Nos. 165 and 167 East 73rd Street; on a block lined with similar private stables.
Benedict had hired George L. Amoroux to design the buildings.   They would be the single two buildings for which the little-known architect would be remembered.   For the two-story stables, which were completed in 1904, he used yellow Roman brick and limestone.  A large, central arched carriage entrance was capped by an exuberantly-carved Beaux Arts keystone supporting a bowed stone windowsill.

photo by Alice Lum
Amoroux succeeded in creating two especially handsome carriage houses not by the use of excessive decoration; but by the skillful handling of the mass of the buildings.  The well-proportioned entrance arches, the sturdy unadorned limestone bases and the solid no-nonsense cornices exude confidence and strength.

In 1909 Benedict sold No. 167 while holding on to No. 165.   Four years later, while he retained possession, it was being used by the Veltin School for Girls which was located at Nos. 160 and 162 West 74th Street.  The school offered college preparatory and general courses to well-heeled young ladies and, according to an advertisement in 1913, “connecting with and including 165 West 73rd Street.”
Henry Harper Benedict died in 1929 and the title to the carriage house was transferred to his wife, Katherine Geddes Benedict.   Around this time the building was converted to a residence and became the scene of a sticky scandal. 

On March 20, 1931 Katherine Boyle was living here  when Mrs. Louise Roche Burkbank sued her for the alienation of her husband's affections.  The slighted woman was married to stockbroker Walter Channing Burbank in 1890; however according to her Ms. Boyle had begun an affair as early as 1922.  She sought $250,000 damages.
Two years before Katherine Benedict sold No. 165, in 1941, it was home to her niece, Mary Graham, who lived here with her husband Robert Lincoln Graham.   The Grahams had a baby girl while living in the converted carriage house.
Benedict's matching carriage house at No. 167 is a little less grimy than its twin -- photo by Alice Lum
Externally, the dignified carriage house survived throughout the 20th century virtually intact.  It was recently renovated into a two-family residence by the owner and a second street-level entrance door replaced the original window to the right side.

With little imagination, one can envision trim carriages and sleek horses being led from the East 73rd Street carriage houses-- photo by Alice Lum
In designating No. 165 East 73rd Street a New York City landmark, the Landmarks Preservation Commission called it “a reminder of an elegant lifestyle that has passed.”


  1. There are some errors here. Mrs Benedict sold the carriage house to her son-in-law Robert Lincoln Graham in 1939. On his death in 1969 ownership passed to his widow Mary, Mrs Benedict's niece. On her death in 1989 the house was left to her daughter Antoinette - the baby girl mentioned in the article. The house is still owned by Antoinette, who lived there with her husband (me) and their three children for many years before they moved to New Mexico.

    Also, the entrance door on the left has been there for at least 72 years.

    1. Thanks for your clarifications and additional information!

  2. Sorry - Mr Graham was not Mrs Benedict's son-in-law, but her beloved niece's husband!

  3. Thank you for posting this! I'm doing genealogical research on Walter Channing Burbank and this provided the missing link I had been seeking.

    All the best

  4. Thank you for posting this! I'm doing genealogical research on Walter Channing Burbank and this provided the missing link I had been seeking.

    All the best