In 1877 Herman Alexander founded the New York College of Music. At the time there were at least three other significant music conservatories in the city—the Grand Conservatory of Music, the Metropolitan Conservatory of Music, and the German Conservatory of Music. Alexander established his new school in a brownstone-fronted building at No. 163 East 70th Street; an area still developing with rowhouses and small commercial buildings.
The school would last here for 14 years before relocating. In July 1891 an advertisement appeared in Etude magazine announcing “New York College of Music will remove September 1st, from 163 East 70th Street, to its new and handsome building, 128 and 130 East 58th Street.” The tense competition among the music schools is evidenced in the notice pronouncing that the New York College of Music possessed the “greatest facilities to its pupils.” Directly beneath was an advertisement in which the German Conservatory boasted of being “the leading school of music in New York,” and below that the America Conservatory touted its “unsurpassed advantages.”
By now the Upper East Side was seeing its brownstone rowhouses of a generation earlier being replaced by the grand mansions of Manhattan’s millionaires. Full blocks of side streets--near enough to Madison and Fifth Avenues to be convenient yet far enough removed to be unoffensive—became “stable blocks.” Here the impressive private carriage houses serving the marble and limestone mansions sat side by side.
For a while the East 70th Street building was home to Miss Mary L. Van Wagenen’s “training class for kindergartners.” Mary Van Wagenen headed the first free kindergarten established in New York City. Her school here was connected with the All Souls’ Church. But by January 1899 the school building had been replaced by the private carriage house for Dr. Eliot Gorton who lived at No. 18 East 68th Street. Unlike the carriage houses on other “stable blocks,” this one nestled in among brownstone homes.
Steps away from Gorton’s residence lived Jules S. Bache, at No. 10 East 68th Street. In August 1900 the Evening Post Record of Real Estate Sales in Greater New York reported that both the house at No. 18 East 68th Street and its stable at No. 163 East 70th Street had been sold. Dr. Gorton was apparently giving up more than the house and stable. On December 28 an advertisement was placed in the New-York Tribune by a coachman looking for work. “By experienced city driver; first class references; leaving on account of family giving up horses. Call or address C., 163 East 70th-st., private stable.”
Within months the stable building would be the property of Jules S. Bache.
Soon mansion architect C. P. H. Gilbert would change the complexion of the East 70th Street block. Early in 1901 he began designs for three lavish carriage houses that reflected the wealth and social status of their owners. Next door to the site of the former music college; at No. 165 would rise the private stable of Henri P. Wertheim; across the street three brownstone houses were demolished for the massive carriage house of Daniel G. Reid; and the stable building at No. 163 was taken down for the new carriage house of Jules S. Bache. All three impressive structures would be completed in 1902.
For Bache, Gilbert produced a three-story limestone and brick neo-Italian Renaissance palace for his vehicles. The architect harmonized the design with that of the abutting Wertheim stables to create visual congruity. Within the rusticated base of No. 163 was the centered, arched carriage bay within a concave surround. A heavily carved cartouche adorned the keystone. Above the heavy first floor cornice, two floors of buff brick took on a residential quality. Tall second story openings were framed in carved limestone; handsome cast iron railings embellished the stone sills of the third floor; and dramatic splayed stone lintels radiated above the windows. The metal cornice was decorated with snarling lions.
|The upper stories melded with the residential character of the block.
The 41-year old Jules Bache had made his fortune in banking. At the age of 20 he was hired in his uncle’s brokerage firm, Leopold Cahn & Co. as a cashier. Five years later he was made a minority partner and in 1892 he took it over, renaming it J. S. Bache & Co. By the time he built his lavish carriage house, his firm was the second leading brokerage house in the United States and he was among Manhattan’s wealthiest citizens.
|Jules S. Bache -- from the collection of the Library of Congress
If Bache ever housed horse-drawn carriages here, they were gone by 1905 and replaced by motorcars. On the upper floors lived his chauffeur, George Deaulieu. On March 26, 1905 George was driving Bache, theatrical manager Daniel Frohman and an unidentified woman uptown. He was going a bit too fast for one bicycle policeman.
The Sun reported the following day that “A big automobile shot by Policeman Brennan of the bicycle squad on Madison avenue near 136th street at 6 o’clock last evening.” Brennan was apparently a fit cyclist, because the newspaper went on to say “Brennan gave chase and overtook the automobile at 129th street and took it and its occupants to the East 126th street station.”
While Frohman identified himself, Bache remained tight-lipped. The newspaper said that in the car with Frohman was “a man who said he was a banker, but who refused to give his name, and a woman.” The 27-year old driver had to appear before a judge on his speeding charges.
The caliber of the vehicles housed in the East 70th Street building can be judged by an advertisement placed in the New-York Tribune on June 25, 1919. Bache was selling his three-year old limo. “1916 Twin Six Packard, ran 13,000 miles, limousine body; guaranteed absolutely in best condition; price $4,000. Can be seen at private garage, 163 East 70th St.” The price the millionaire put on his used car would amount to about $50,000 today.
|Through the carriage bay passed Jules Bache's high-end limousines.
While Jules Bache conducted his business, collected art and spent much money on his limousines, his wife Florence and their two children spent most of their time in Paris at No. 38 Avenue Marceau. A 1914 investigation by the Treasury Department noted “The children were taken abroad by the mother about the year 1900 for the purpose of educating them, and from that time on the wife spent about nine months of the year with her children abroad and three months with her husband in the United States.”
She was in New York in November 1926, however; and helped out with a rummage sale for the benefit of the Florence Crittenton League. Florence was put in charge of collecting the donations and the carriage house made a good drop off spot. “Articles for this sale may be sent to Jules S. Bache’s Garage, 163 East Seventieth Street,” advised The New York Times on November 21.
Jules Bache died in 1944 in Palm Beach. The carriage house-turned-garage was purchased by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The millionaire died at the age of 86 on May 11, 1960. By now the age of private garages and had long passed. The Daniel Reid carriage house across the street had been converted to a school nearly three decades earlier, and the Wertheim stable was renovated into a residence in 1920.. The real estate taxes alone on Upper East Side properties made the luxury of a privately-owned garage unfeasible.
In 1977 Jules S. Bache’s carriage house was converted to a single-family residence with a medical office on the ground floor. Aside from the single-paned replacement windows, the structure is beautifully intact and lovingly maintained.
photographs taken by the author