Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The 1869 Jube Building -- No. 97 Bowery

photo by Alice Lum
John Prosser Jube was only 31 years old when the success of his carriage materials business necessitated a move to larger quarters.   His small operation on Mechanic Street in Newark, often mistaken for a carriage maker, would move across the river to Manhattan.   The business rapidly grew and the John  P. Jube & Company would move from No. 51 Bowery to 83 Bowery before constructing its own headquarters in 1869.

No. 97 Bowery had been the home of William Dally, his wife Cynthia, and sons Tunis and William, Jr.  The Dally family ran a contracting business from the house for years here—Daly was a “builder,” William, Jr. a painter, and Tunis was the small company’s clerk.  In 1868 Jube paid Dally $40,000 for the lot and existing building – over half a million by today’s standards.

The modest home would be replaced by a much less modest structure.

Jube commissioned architect Peter L. P. Tostevin to design an up-to-date factory and store structure on the site.   The neighborhood at the time, once a fashionable thoroughfare of Federal style homes, was now the center of Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany.   Along with dry goods stores, hardware shops and other retail establishments, the bustling Bowery was filling with biergartens, and music and social halls aimed at the heavily German population.

Tostevin designed a handsome Italianate style building with a cast iron fa├žade.  The material allowed for rapid construction—the precast sections being bolted on to the masonry walls—and for affordable ornamentation.  Cast iron structures were highly touted as fireproof; an important consideration to property owners who vividly recalled devastating blazes like the 1865 Barnum Museum fire.

Because some of the cast iron elements are similar to those found on other New York buildings like the McCreery’s Dry Goods Store on Broadway it is safe to assume that the decorative components were chosen from a manufacturer’s catalog.  The building was completed within a year and in 1869 the John P. Jube & Company moved in.

By the 1870s John Jube had retired “and gave up his business to the management and control of his son William M.,” according to the Geneological and Memorial History of the State of New Jersey.  The author described John as “a genial, well-informed man, shrewd in business, active in good works, and scrupulously fair and honorable in all his dealings.”  He added that upon Jube’s retirement he had “amassed a fortune.”

Working closely with William were his brothers John H., Thomas, and Albert.  The common confusion as to the exact business of John P. Jube & Company was evident when Thomas was called to testify in a court hearing in 1875.

An attorney asked “Mr. Jube, your place of business is 97 Bowery, is it not?”
“Yes, sir.”

“You are a carriage manufacturer?”
“Carriage hardware trimmings.”

A fourth son, Charles, drew a salary from the company, but did not work.  Since he was a boy the family had noticed “mental trouble.”  In 1876 his eyesight began failing and his mental condition worsened.  The New York Times said that in 1880 “his sight had become so impaired that he was unable to write, and his father permitted him to draw an allowance that sufficed for his wants and to live where he pleased.  His mental condition did not improve, and where he lodged he was considered either erratic or eccentric.”

Charles rented an attic room in April 1882 in Mrs. Marshall’s boarding house at No. 126 East 25th Street.  His odd behavior induced Mrs. Marshall to ask him to look for another place to stay  (the landlady reported on his craning of the neck and “a peculiar stare, which made him remarkable” and that he “had an odd, quick gait that distinguished him").   The Times said “He was fussy, and left the house many times daily on errands that appeared to have no object.”

When he took a room at No. 155 Lexington Avenue, he was evicted when he shot a pistol off in his room.  His landlady there said she was unable “to get a satisfactory explanation of the circumstance.”  And so Charles Jube moved on to Dr. Thompson's where he rented another attic room.

At 12:45 in the morning on March 4, 1882, the silence of the house was broken by a gunshot.  A policeman broke open the door to find Jube dead in his bed.  A sheet of paper on a table read “I am going to die.  I am tired of living.”
Although a bulky roof addition can be seen from street level and one bay has been closed for, apparently, an elevator shaft, the cast iron details are crisp -- photo by Alice Lum

Workers in the Jube plant apparently came and went.  The newspapers regularly ran advertisements for workers, especially carriage painters.  On May 12, 1885 an ad in The Sun sought “A carriage painter; one that can stripe and finish.”  On November 21, 1887 a similar advertisement targeted a “carriage painter, good striper, and finisher;”  and on April 7, 1889 the same newspaper advertised for “Carriage painter wanted.”

The question of mental stability tarnished the Jube name once again, in 1894, when son John’s wife, Catherine, petitioned the courts to test her husband’s sanity.  A commission of two physicians was appointed by Justice Patterson of the Supreme Court to examine him.  The Times said, on May 24, “He has delusions of great wealth, and suffers from hallucinations of other kinds.”

Despite the family’s personal troubles, the carriage trimmings business flourished.  Above street level apartments shared the building with factory space.   Forty-two-year old Charles Rodgeor rented a room here until he was found dead on April 19, 1897.

The firm ran the above advertisement in The Automotive Manufacturer in December 1901 (copyright expired)
By the turn of the century the Bowery had degenerated into a neighborhood of brothels, saloons and criminal elements.  In 1910 Philip Mangold lived above the Jube operation.  On January 17 of that year he was arrested with two cohorts, “charged with procuring and selling a female to a house of prostitution,” reported The New York Times.  The men were nabbed during an investigation of “white slave traffic.”

As carriages gave way to motor cars, the Jube company adapted.  Before long a name change would reflect the expanded business:  John P. Jube Carriage Wagon and Automobile Supplies.   The family would successfully operate from No. 97 Bowery until 1931 when it moved to No. 6 Howard Street.
photo by Alice Lum
The building was sold to sisters Mrs. Helen J. P. Haile and Matilda J. Benjamin that year.  They quickly leased the entire building “for five years from June 20, 1931” to Benny Gorbaty and Louis Gorbaty.  The brothers signed a lease at $5,000 a year and The New York Times noted that “The premises are to be used for the sale and storage of office and store fixtures.”

The five-year lease would go on for half a century as the Gorbaty family sold store fixtures and display items from the building.   In 1981, fifty years after signing the first lease, the family moved its business to Queens.

Where the Jubes painted broughams and manufactured carriage cloths, Big Eat opened.  The Cantonese restaurant served “new-wave fusion dishes” in what one magazine called “an almost surreal environment.”  More recently the space became another Chinese restaurant, Full House.
Despite the garish signs, the architectural integrity of the structure survives.  photo by Alice Lum

Tostevin’s proud cast iron factory and store building survives remarkably intact; a reminder of a transitional time on the bustling Bowery.

1 comment:

  1. John Prosser Jube was my great, great, great grandfather on my mother's side. Great article on a nice building. I appreciate that you had more than just the original history, which can be found in the NYC Landmarks Commission website, you had the more recent history too. Great. John Prosser Jube lived in Newark most of his life and was a prominent citizen there. A church was named after him since he helped finance its building after the congregation moved.