Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The 1901 Joseph Ulman House -- No. 22 E. 82nd St

photo by Alice Lum

As the Upper East Side rapidly developed in the 1870s real estate developer Robert McCafferty teamed up with architect Richard W. Buckley to develop rows of brownstone neo-Grec residences for upper middle class families.  When the pair completed a row of six such homes stretching from No. 801 to 811 Madison Avenue the Real Estate Record and Guide called Buckley a “rising young architect.”

In 1880, when the partnership was formalized with the establishment of McCafferty & Buckley, the population of the area was changing.  With the mansions of Manhattan’s millionaires creeping northward along Central Park, the side streets off Fifth Avenue grew increasingly upscale.  The McCafferty & Buckley followed suit.  By the turn of the century their speculative residences were designed for the very wealthy.   The New York Times would later say “McCafferty & Buckley produced many of the handsomest private dwellings on the east side of the city.”

In 1900 they began construction on five adjoining mansions at Nos. 18 through 26 East 82nd Street.  Completed a year later, No. 22 was a self-important Beaux Arts beauty that refused to hold back.  Sitting aloofly back from the sidewalk, an iron fence enclosed its areaway and shallow, curved steps let to the entrance.  A stone cornice, supported by heavy scrolled brackets, upholds four stories of elegantly carved limestone and grouped windows.
photo by Alice Lum

The homes were the property of Robert McCafferty whose health soon began failing.  After what was termed “a lingering illness,” he died in his Park Avenue home on February 11, 1905.  No. 22 East 82nd Street, along with many other properties, sat unsold while his estate was settled. 

In 1907 the McCafferty holdings finally began being liquidated.  On July 27, when about thirty lots comprising an entire block in the Bronx was offered, The Times remarked “The sale of the real estate owned by the late Robert McCafferty is an event of unusual interest to the older generation of real estate men in New York, among whom he was for many years a leader.”

It would not be for another year before the house at No. 22 was sold to broker Joseph S. Ulman.    The well respected Ulman was, according to the “History of the Manhattan Club” that year, “familiarly known on the Stock Exchange and in the Club as ‘Josephus.’”

Having sat vacant for seven years, the Ulmans apparently felt the house needed some sprucing up.  They contracted architect C. H. P. Gilbert to update the interior decorations and alter the interiors—a project that cost nearly $100,000.  Gilbert added what The New York Times called “all modern improvements, including electric elevators and other conveniences.”

While many of his neighbors were still riding in stylish carriages, the modern-thinking Ulman owned a motorcar.   Shortly after purchasing their new home, in October 1908, the Ulmans sailed for Europe where they embarked on a “lengthy automobile tour” that was reported in Automobile Topics.
photo by Alice Lum
Mrs. Ulman hosted the expected high-end entertainments in the house, such as the dinner on November 27, 1910 for Sibyl Grey-Wilson.  The guest of honor was the daughter of Sir William Grey-Wilson, Governor of the Bahamas.

Five years after purchasing and updating the mansion, Ulman sold it on November 8, 1913.  The New York Times called it “A private house sale of more than ordinary interest,” and deemed the house “one of the high-class private homes in that section of the city.”

The Times noted that “The name of the new owner was not divulged by the brokers, but he was said to be a prominent New Yorker who intends to occupy the house.”  The Sun was quick to trump the rival newspaper, printing “E. C. Knight is said to be the buyer of the dwelling at 22 East Eighty-second Street.”

Edward C. Knight, Jr. was the son of railroad and sugar refining magnate Edward C. Knight of Philadelphia.  The senior Knight had been famously sued by the United States Government in the first case tried under the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.  In October 1908 The New York Times announced that “Mr. and Mrs. Edward C. Knight, Jr…have given up Philadelphia for New York and Newport.”

The Knights would not stay in the 82nd Street mansion, long, however, and by 1916 it was home to Edward Motley Weld, his wife, the former Sarah Lothrop King, and their 18-year old son, Lathrop.  Weld was the president of the New York Cotton Exchange, a well-known sportsman and member of the exclusive Union, Turf and Field, and Tuxedo Clubs among others.

With the war in Europe raging, young Lathrop left East 82nd Street for the United States’ Federal Military Training Camp that year.  He went on to become a junior lieutenant in the Navy Flying Corps during the war.

With the end of the war, Lathrop Weld returned to New York and on October 20, 1920 the New-York Tribune announced his engagement to the Bostonian debutante Dorothy Wells.   Lathrop’s fiancée was the granddaughter of Colonel Thomas L. Livermore.

Following Lathrop's marriage, the Welds left No. 22 East 82nd Street.  On November 4, 1922 the New-York Tribune noted that they leased the house furnished “to Orlando F. Weber, president of the allied Chemical and Dye Corporation.”

Although Edward Motley Weld died on December 17, 1929, the Weber family would stay on in the 82nd Street house for decades.  A good friend of the Weber family was B. Lord Buckley, the founder and headmaster of the exclusive Buckley School for Boys.   Buckley lived not far away at No. 114 East 71st Street and was visiting the Webers on Monday morning, December 27, 1932.  Without warning the 61-year old educator died in the house.

Among the 700 mourners who attended the funeral in St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue were Eleanor Roosevelt with her two sons, Franklin, Jr., and John; both of whom were pupils of Buckley.

The Webers maintained a country estate, Wendanbrook, in Mount Kisco, New York and it was there on June 7, 1941 that daughter Clare Sturtevant Weber was married.   As with the Weld family before them, following the marriage, the Webers soon left No. 22 East 82nd Street.
photo by Alice Lum

The gracious mansion became home to Editorial Management Inc. which published Authentic Detective.  Throughout the 1940s it advertised for “factual accounts of actual crime cases.”   The country’s entry into World War II caused problems for the publication, however and in May 1947 it announced it had “temporarily suspended publication…will resume when paper supply is improved.  Query before submitting.”

In 1953 the house was renovated to classrooms.   The Ramaz Primary School was here through the 1970s, educating children from 4-years old through third grade.  Then in 1983 it was converted to luxurious apartments, just one per floor.

In 2001 the house appeared in the motion picture Head Over Heels when character Amanda, played by Monica Potter, took an apartment in the building.

photo http://www.elliman.com/new-york-city/museum-house-22-east-82-street-unit-4thfloor-manhattan-jziovkz
Today the Ulman mansion is known as Museum House and the full-floor apartments rent for about $16,000 a month.  While C. P. H. Gilbert’s 1908 interiors have long disappeared, the lavish limestone façade remains essentially unchanged.


  1. How disappointing it must be to enter a townhouse like this as well as others you have featured, only to discover the interiors have been renovated or gutted into plain ordinary rooms with little if any of the dramatic elegance, and period style that the facades promise. RT

  2. It does amaze me somewhat also...one has a beautiful century or older home on the outside, and all one wants is a "modern" looking home on the inside. It just doesn't go with me. Yes modern convienences are needed and wanted, but isn't the charm, the "feeling", of these old manions what draws one to them?