Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The 1826 House at No. 41 Barrow Street

photo by Alice Lum
The yellow fever epidemic of 1824 hastened the development of Greenwich Village as New Yorkers wealthy enough to do so fled the overcrowded city.   Seeking refuge in the open air of the little community to the north, they built rows of brick-faced homes.

The growing population brought a need for additional working class residents as well--craftsmen, builders, grocers, carters and dry goods merchants.   The situation provided a lucrative opportunity for real estate developers.  In 1824 Charles Oakley constructed three matching Federal-style dwellings side-by-side at Nos. 47, 49, and 51 Barrow Street.   Two years later he extended the row with Nos. 39, 41, 43 and 45.
Of the charming row of Federal-style homes that survive, all have sprouted a full third story except No. 41 (far right)-- photo by Alice Lum
The two-and-a-half story wooden homes were fronted in Flemish bond brick.   Intended for working class families, they had few decorative embellishments.   The doorways and entrances were capped by plain brownstone lintels, and above the simple cornice the steep pitched roofs were each pierced by a single pedimented dormer.

photo by Alice Lum
The block quickly filled with working-class families.   Carpenter Jacob A. Roome moved into No. 51; Jacob Bogert, a carpenter, lived at No. 39 and mason Jacob Naugle leased No. 47.

No. 41 Barrow Street however would have a more white-collar resident in Dr. Virgil Thompson.  The physician was here as early as 1847 and remained in the little brick house until, at least, 1870.  Thompson was a member of the Homoeopathic Medical Society of the State of New York, as well as the American Institute of Homoeopathy.   The somewhat revolutionary premise of homoeopathic medicine, founded by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, professed that “medicines will cure such diseases as are similar to those they are capable of producing in healthy persons.”

While Dr. Thompson was still living at No. 41 Barrow Street, a young former sailor was making a name for himself in the police force.   When 28-year old Ira S. Garland was appointed a policeman on April 22, 1858 he was assigned to the river and harbor patrol--“his salt-water training being recognized by his superiors,” explained The New York Times.   Only six days later the rookie cop earned a medal for courage “for gallant conduct in repressing a mutiny on board of the ship R. F. Starer."

The young hero was rapidly promoted.  He became a roundsman (a patrolman in charge of other officers) in 1860, and a sergeant on March 16, 1861.   On March 4, 1867 he was given command of the Second Precinct.  In reporting on this stage of his police career, The Evening World would later make poetic reference to Garland’s seafaring roots, “For many years after he navigated Broadway in charge of the squad of six-footers, steering always due north and south.”

On March 4, 1867 Garland was promoted to the rank of Captain and given the command of the 14th Precinct.  By 1876 Dr. Thompson was no longer at No. 41 Barrow.  Instead, Captain Garland--who was now earning the comfortable salary of $2,000 a year (about $39,000 today)--was living here with his wife, and a daughter and son.  Alexander Murray Garland enrolled that year in the Introductory Class of New York City College’s Commercial Course.

Garland continued to make a name for himself as a hero and valiant officer.    In 1874 he arrested the notorious William J. Sharkey for the murder of Robert Dunn.   Sharkey subsequently made newspaper headlines by escaping from the Tombs—the brooding granite prison on Centre Street.    The convicted murderer made his escape by slipping into the clothing of a female visitor, Maggie Jourdan, and walking out of the institution disguised as a woman.

from "Our Police Protectors, History of the New York Police," 1894 (copyright expired)

Augustine E. Costello, in his 1884 book “Our Police Protectors,” wrote of another high-profile apprehension.  “He arrested Hugh Bogan, and William and Nellie Wilsey, for the bold robbery in the day time of Mrs. Hardy, in her house at Varick and Broome Streets, whom they tortured by burning her feet with a hot iron to make her divulge the place where she had her jewelry concealed.  They were convicted and sentenced to State Prison.”

Three days before Christmas in 1883, a German named Frederick A. Hartman made a bold attempt on the life of dry goods merchant Alexander Turney Stewart.    The millionaire lived in a white marble palace on 5th Avenue and 34th Street, across the street from Carolina Astor’s mansion.  By the time Garland arrived the would-be assassin had shot and wounded one of Stewart’s watchmen, Augustus Gardiner.  “Hartman resisted arrest, and acted like a man bereft of his reason,” noted Augustine Costello.

Two weeks later, on January 8, Hartman committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell in the Tombs.

photo by Alice Lum
On the New York Police Department’s list of regulations was its strict rule regarding retirement age.  Neither acts of heroism nor a spotless career could change that.  And so, on October 7, 1890, The Evening World reported “The statement that [Captain Garland] has crossed the age limit was submitted to the Police Board to-day.  It may retire him late this afternoon, but will probably wait till Friday.”

Captain Garland upon his retirement in 1890 -- The Evening World, Oct. 7, 1890 (copyright expired)
Garland’s retirement may have earned him some well-deserved rest; but it also cut his income nearly in half.   His captain’s pension was $1,375 and it was not enough to sustain him and his family.

Forced to supplement his income, the former Police Captain took work where no one would have expected it—in a gambling parlor.   The Evening World printed the shocking story on April 6, 1892.

“Friends of ex-Police Capt. Ira S. Garland were somewhat surprised this morning to learn that the retired Captain had for some time past been employed as a sheet-writer in Murphy’s pool-room, at 154 East forty-second street,” it reported.

A “pool-room” at the time was an ordinary appearing room in any building where a telephone or telegraph wire conveyed information from race tracks on races and results.  Illegal horse betting was carried on here and a sheet-writer was employed to register the bets made.

When the newspaper asked Garland how he reconciled his former occupation with this one, he simply said “I was in need of money and, being offered this position, accepted it.”  He added, “But if it becomes known that I am employed here I will resign.”

The scandalous revelation was not enough to stain Ira Garland’s reputation for long.   When the 72-year old died in the house in August, 1902 the newspapers printed only glowing remembrances.

While the Garlands lived at No. 41 Barrow Street they cautiously updated it.  A pressed metal cornice replaced the simple Federal-style version around the same time that the hefty late-Victorian entrance newels were installed.  At some later date the single window in the dormer was replaced by a pair of casement windows.

Little has changed in the appearance of the house between 1934 and today -- photo NYPL Collection
Throughout the 20th century the little brick house on the quiet Greenwich Village street remained essentially unchanged.   Then an Italian architect brought the interiors into the 21st century, by removing walls and adding a glass-covered “conservatory dining room.” 

photo by Alice Lum
From the street, however, No. 41 Barrow Street looks much as it did when a gallant police captain lived here with his family in the 1890s.

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