Thursday, March 31, 2016

Samuel Warner's 1867 No. 112 Franklin Street

Although No. 114 (left) was constructed later and designed by a different architect, it was an identical match to No. 112.

In the 1840s James L. Waugh and his family lived in their comfortable 25-foot wide wooden house at No. 112 Franklin Street.  Within a decade the neighborhood was changing, as businesses moved into many of the Federal-style houses.  In 1854 Waugh was operating his “gold leaf and gold foil” business from his residence, while living upstairs.

Things changed for Waugh when the country was thrown into conflict.  A captain in the New York National Guard, he marched off when the Civil War erupted in April 1861.  The New York Times remarked “he will doubtless prove that he is quite able to win, in war, the laurels he has so long worn in peace.”

Waugh commanded Company H, better known as the “Tompkins Blues.”  In the spring of 1862 his son was seriously ill and, after “having with great difficulty obtained a brief furlough,” Capt. Waugh returned to Franklin Street to see him.  He placed a notice in newspapers that he would gladly take letters and small parcels back to his soldiers if their families would drop them off at his Franklin Street house.

The Civil War ended in May 1865 and soldiers returned to New York, replenishing the workforce.  Construction in the city, which had significantly slowed, ramped up as life slowly returned to normalcy.  The burst of construction projects included the demolition of James L. Waugh’s former home.

 In 1866 real estate operator Max Weil demolished the two-story house and commissioned architect Samuel Adams Warner to design a modern factory building.  Completed a year later, the structure’s upper four floors were faced in gleaming white marble.  The retail space, three steps above the sidewalk, wore a cast iron storefront with elaborate Corinthian columns and pilasters.  The upper floors were distinguished with segmentally-arched openings flanked by Doric pilasters.

On May 17, 1867 The New York Times remarked on the dramatic changes in the neighborhood.  “Although but few of those who have passed through the streets at right angles to, and parallel to, Broadway below Canal-street, can have failed to express astonishment at the extraordinary transformation going on in that locality, yet the number who have had any clear idea of the vast sums of money which are being expended there, have not been many.  This change has been going on since early in 1865.”  Included in the article’s dizzying list of new and under-construction buildings was Weil’s No. 112 Franklin Street, with construction costs at $40,000—in the neighborhood of $662,000 in 2016.

Interestingly, when Elliot C. Cowdin embarked on a similar project a year later, he hired Warner’s architect brother (Benjamin and Samuel shared an office) to design his building.  The result was a carbon-copy.  The two identical marble structures appear, obviously, as a single building.

No. 112 filled with dry goods and apparel merchants and manufacturers.  Among the first was Louis Weddigen & Company, importers and commission merchants.  The store became home to Campbell & Elliott, dealers in woolen goods.  By the early 1870s the second floor was leased to L. Solomon & Co., manufacturers of boys’ clothing; and the third and fifth stories were occupied by Gottfried August.

On the afternoon of Sunday, March 24, 1872 fire broke out in L. Solomon & Company’s factory.  With the building vacant the blaze spread upward.  By the time fire fighters extinguished the fire, L. Solomon & Company had suffered $5,000 in losses; and Gottfried August lost $1,000 in cloth.  The ground floor shop suffered water damage of about $500. 

Max Weill paid about $1,000 to repair the fire damage and things returned to normal at No. 112 Franklin Street.  The building was burglarized in 1875 by the career criminal John Richard Dolan.  The crook’s final arrest took place following the highly-publicized murder of wealthy brush manufacturer James H. Noe.  On the morning of Sunday, August 22, 1875 Noe surprised Dolan burglarizing his factory.  A violent scuffle ended in Noe’s death.

Prior to Dolan’s execution on April 21, 1876 The Times remarked “When he was arrested by Detective Dorsey he had in his possession part of the proceeds of a burglary at No. 112 Franklin street, committed a few days before, and on the night of his arrest a valise which had been stolen from No. 112 Franklin street was found in a hallway, near Dolan’s house.”

One concern not involved in the dry goods trade was F. H. Leggett, a wholesale grocery firm.  The company leased space in the building in the 1890s.  One Monday, April 1, 1895 an executive decided not to go directly to his home in Demorest, New Jersey after work.  Instead he started drinking.

Chris Johnson struck up a conversation with two women, 25-year old Josie Cole and 21-year old Annie Edwards in a saloon on the corner of 26th Street and Seventh Avenue.  The three drank until about 2:00 in the morning, and then left the bar together.  And then Chris Johnson learned what many Victorians already knew: unescorted women who frequented saloons and drank with strangers were rarely to be trusted.

On the street corner the women doubled up on Johnson, robbing him of $200 in cash and a $200 check (a significant $11,600 in 2016 dollars).  While Johnson looked for a policeman, a witness followed the women.  The Evening World reported “Josiah Julius, a colored man…saw the row on the street when the robbery occurred, and followed the women to various saloons.” 

The self-appointed private detective tailed them to Eli Pierce’s Dance Hall on 26th Street.  A man there, William McPherson, argued with Josie when she “refused to divide the spoils.”  Eventually, Johnson, Patrolman McDonald, and Josiah Julius crossed paths.  Julius told the policeman where Annie Edwards and Josie Cole were drinking.  At around 3:10 they were arrested.

Both women were held at $2000 bail.  The commendable actions of Josiah Julius garnered questionable rewards.  The Evening World reported “Julius, the colored man, was sent to the House of Detention as a witness.”

Thirty-four years after its construction, the estate of Max Weil sold No. 112 Franklin Street in November 1901 to William S. Boardman.  On August 6 two years later he transferred titles to both No. 112 and No. 114 to Blanche B. Hammill.  “The properties are a gift to her,” reported the New-York Tribune.  The generous gift became more understandable when Blanche’s surname later changed from Hammill to Boardman.

Blanche’s tenants continued to be textile concerns.  In 1905 L. S. Eaton, “white goods and handkerchiefs,” shared the building with E. I. Eisler, linens; Max Goodman, “foreign and domestic hosiery and gloves;" and linen merchant J. L. Freud.  By 1909 Switzer & Schussel, “importers and dealers in umbrellas and parasol fittings, walking canes, etc.” would also be here. 

By 1921 Ross Brothers, linen dealers, had been in the building for several years.  The cotton converting firm of Baum, Strauss & Co. moved out in January that year and, later, Blanche Boardman put the building on the market.  Ross Brothers purchased it for $44,000. 

While the Irish-based Ross Brothers were apparently doing very well, two other tenants were not.  Moe Hyman and Louis Corn, who owned the Alert Shirt Company went bankrupt that year; and in 1922 Henry Sachs & Bro. Inc., another shirt maker, declared bankruptcy.

Ross Brothers remained at No. 112 Franklin Street until 1957 when it sold the building to Kniffen Demarest Company.  The hotel supplies company had been at No. 48 Murray Street for half a century.

The last quarter of the 20th century saw the Tribeca neighborhood rediscovered by artists and celebrities.  In 1977 the Franklin Street Arts Center, a performance arts space, opened in the basement and a year later Franklin Furnace took over the first floor.

Founded by performance artist Martha Wilson, Franklin Furnace housed the nation’s largest collection of artist-produced publications.  Grace Glueck, writing in The New York Times on March 31, 1978 said “a must stop is the Franklin Furnace, a storefront space at 112 Franklin Street that serves as a museum, archive and exhibition gallery for the large number of ‘book works’ now made by artists.  In its archives the Furnace has between 2,000 and 3,000 of them…The Furnace also presents performances and readings and is altogether a joy to its drab neighborhood.”

Performances at Franklin Furnace were sometimes controversial and in May 1990 it was closed down when the New York City Fire Department received an anonymous complaint about an “illegal social club.”  It continued in the Judson Memorial Church, the New School and the Cooper Union as Franklin Furnace in Exile.

In 2003 a renovation was completed that resulted in five residences—one per floor—in the building.  Bare brick walls, pine floors and pressed tin ceilings were preserved as the former factories were transformed into high end condo-coops.  Although the once-white marble is stained to dingy beige after a century and a half of weather and pollution; the building is remarkably preserved.  Even the 19th century double doors in the cast iron storefront survive.

Shirt makers and textile converters once toiled in these spaces.  photo Town Residential
 non-credited photographs by the author

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Stanleigh P. Friedman House - No. 11 East 81st Street

In 1879 Richard Arnold and his sister, Henrietta Constable, laid plans to demolish the old Constable and Arnold family homes on West 23rd Street.  Richard was a partner in the highly successful Arnold, Constable & Co. dry goods firm.  Henrietta had married his partner, James Constable.  And while they hired William Schickel to design the modern commercial building for that site; they turned to architect Griffith Thomas for a speculative residential project uptown at the same time.

They gave Thomas the job of designing a row of ten brownstone rowhouses on the north side of East 81st Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues.   Construction started in 1878 and was competed the following year.  Richard and Henrietta retained possession of No. 11 until 1890, when they sold it to Henry Batjer.

Born in Bremen, Germany, Batjer was the senior member of Batjer & Co. of No. 45 Broadway.  He and his wife, Harriet also maintained a summer residence, Howcroft Farm, in Maywood, New Jersey.   The family included two daughters and a son.  

Young Henry Jr. was a member of the prestigious 7th Regiment, nicknamed the “Silk Stocking Regiment” because of its socially-elite members.  Another 7th Regiment member was Henry’s brother-in-law, Albert Edward Pond who had married Josephine Batjer.  The couple lived with the Batjer family in the commodious brownstone.

As the year 1894 came to a close, Henry, Jr., became ill.  His condition worsened and on Friday, January 4, 1895 he died in the house at the age of 28.  Captain Charles E. Lydecker requested the members of his company to attend the funeral in the 84th Street house at 4:00 the following Sunday.  “The usual badge of mourning will be worn thirty days,” instructed the Captain.

The mansion was the scene of a more joyful event three years later.  Following the wedding of daughter Virginia to Luther Connah Brown in St. James Protestant Episcopal Church on Madison Avenue, the reception was held in the house.  

The parlor of No. 11 East 81st Street was the scene of a funeral again, on Sunday, January 19, 1902.  Albert Pond had died of pneumonia in the house three days earlier.

In 1907 (the same year that Virginia died), Josephine remarried.   Somewhat ironically she now married Major Charles Edward Lydecker—the same 7th Regiment officer who announced the death of her brother 12 years earlier.

Lydecker’s first wife, Ella Voorhis, had died in 1889.  A graduate of the Columbia Law School, he was a member of the firm Redfield & Lydecker and the city’s Public Administrator.  A year before his wedding to Josephine he was made president of the National Guard Association.  The new family, including Charles’ three children and Josephine’s son, moved in with Henry Batjer, now widowed, at No. 11 East 84th Street.

The family received a scare when young Kenneth Lydecker, an engineer, was traveling on the Pennsylvania Limited on Thursday, February 15, 1912.  The train wrecked near Altoona, overturning cars and injuring 67 and fatally wounding three.  Seconds before the wreck, as Lydecker realized that “things were going wrong,” in his words, he reached up to pull the emergency cord.  At that instant the car turned over.

“I fell heavily against the roof of the car and my elbow broke a hole in a ventilator,” he recalled.  “The porter was thrown into the window and badly hurt.  After the car had turned over a couple more times on its slide down the thirty-foot bank I worked my way out and helped pull out the porter.  There were sixteen persons in my car, which was second from the front.”

Lydecker suffered only a badly bruised elbow and a hurt ankle.

In 1914, as war broke out in Europe, Charles Lydecker warned of the need to prepare for war.  He helped organize the National Security League that year and was its President for two years.  Then, in 1916, he was forced to step down because of ill health.   

(The same year, incidentally, on July 8, 1916 Henry Batjer died.  The 80-year old merchant had never retired, still holding the post of senior member of Batjer & Co.)

Charles E. Lydecker photo from the collection of the Library of Congress

The Lydecker family remained in the house on East 84th Street and continued to use Howcroft Farm as their summer residence.   One by one the children married and left the home.  In 1918 Warren B. Pond, Josephine’s son who was attending an Army Aviation School, became engaged to Marion Chapman.  But the wedding never came to be.

In the meantime Charles’s health continued to decline.  Finally, on the morning of May 6, 1920, he died in his bedroom.  The many obituaries paid little attention to his legal career and focused on the military man.  “During the late war his true-blue Americanism asserted itself in detection and denunciation of all forms of disloyalty,” said the Year Book of the Holland Society of New-York.  “While past the age for active service abroad his life-long connection with the Militia of the State of New York enabled him to serve his country efficiently at home.”

The New York Times
recalled “After the European war started in 1914, Mr. Lydecker was one of the earliest and most vigorous advocates of preparedness.”

Lydecker’s will left Josephine one-third of the estate.  She already owned outright the houses on 81st Street and in New Jersey.  His daughter Nathalie L. Dyer received another third; and the final share, which was made up of Lydecker’s swords, medals and awards, was to be divided equally between his sons Leigh and Kenneth.   Josephine’s son, Warren, received nothing “because he is already well provided for in other ways,” said the will.

Love finally came to Warren and he was married to Helen R. Schniewind in the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church on October 6, 1921.  It was a high-profile society wedding with names like Payne, Gardiner and Mellon in the wedding party (attendant Ailsa Mellon was the daughter of Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury).

The house, now architecturally out of style, was sold in October of 1924 to Stanleigh P. Friedman and his wife the former Rena Frowefeld.  Before moving the family in, they hired architect Julius F. Gayler to give the façade a facelift. 

Three years earlier Gayler had designed the double-wide neo-Federal mansion next door for Granville Lindall Winthrop.  The chaste architectural style had been in favor for about two decades.  He turned to it again for the Friedman house, stripping off the old brownstone front and stoop and creating a pleasing partner to its neighbor.

Instead of the more expected red brick, Gayler used brown, laid in English bond and trimmed in white marble.  Seeking harmony, he nearly duplicated both the splayed keystones and the cornice of the Winthrop house.  The main doorway, once a flight above the sidewalk, was moved to the former English basement level, a few steps below the street.

With Stanleigh and Rena in the house were their two children, Edward and Dorothy.  Friedman was a man of many talents.  Having graduated from Yale in 1905 and from the Harvard Law School in 1908, he became a partner in the law firm of Friedman & Bareford I 1912.  Active in the Association of the Bar, he served as chairman of its Committee on Courts of Limited Jurisdiction from 1921 to 1936.

And he wrote music.

In 1904 while a undergraduate at Yale University he wrote its well-known fight song “Down the Field.”  For that the school honored him with an inscription carved on the walls of Welch Hall.  He also wrote “Glory for Yale," “Whoop it Up,” and other school songs for the college.

Friedman’s talents went beyond college songs.  He wrote a cantata, “All Ye That Cleave Unto the Lord” and an anthem, “God is My Trust.”  His arrangements of Bach’s “Bist Du Bei Mir” and “Gavotte en Rondeau” were performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

Highly cultured, when the attorney was not busy with legal matters, he was President of the Schola Cantorum of New York, a Director of Ballet Associates in American, a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and a member of the Yale Club.

As if all of this were not enough, in 1931 he became a vice-president and director of Warner Brothers Pictures.  Friedman functioned as the motion picture company’s attorney.

The year 1940 was a momentous one in the Friedman house.  On April 18 daughter Mary’s wedding to Sylvan Schwartzreich was held in the house; and two months later her sister Dorothy’s engagement to Martin A. Roeder was announced.  Dorothy had graduated from the exclusive Lenox School and Finch Junior College while her fiancé was an alumnus of Columbia, Columbia Law School and had attended the Sorbonne.

After decades in the house, the amazingly diverse Stanleigh P. Friedman died here at the age of 76 on September 30, 1960.   Rena remained in the residence.  She died on June 19, 1976.

Two years later the low parapet above the cornice was removed and a story added.  While the architect admirably matched the brick and copied the lintel treatments; the addition upset Julius Gayler’s handsome proportions.  The house remains a single-family residence after nearly 140 years.

photographs by the author
many thanks to reader Phyllis Winchester for catching an earlier discrepancy 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Hamilton Fountain -- Riverside Drive and 76th Street

Robert Ray Hamilton came from one of New York City’s most esteemed families.  His father was the highly-lauded Civil War and Mexican War veteran General Schuyler Hamilton; his grandfather was the historian and attorney John Church Hamilton; and his great-grandfather was Alexander Hamilton.

Robert Ray Hamilton -- The New York Times August 30, 1889 (copyright expired)
An attorney, Robert had attended both Columbia College and Columbia Law School.  In 1881 he was elected to the New York State Assembly and remained in office until 1889.  Like the rest of his respected family members, he led an untainted life—until his last year in politics.

Hamilton had begun an affair with Evangeline L. Steele in 1886.   Unbeknownst to him, as The Sun later said, she had led “a disreputable life.”  What he also did not know was that she was already married, to “Josh” Mann.  Popularly known as Eva, she recognized the financial opportunity the affair presented and she laid plans to ensnare her lover. 

Newspapers called Evangeline Steele "a notorious woman."  photo The Evening World, December 7, 1904 (copyright expired)

In December 1888 Eva and Josh traveled to Elmira, New York.  The Evening World later reported “They decided that Eva should get a baby, and make Mr. Hamilton believe it was his.  If they succeeded they knew he would not suffer the little innocent to go through life unnamed.”  On December 17 they paid $10 for an unwanted newborn.

Hamilton believed the child was his; but Eva’s demands that he marry her were temporarily halted when the baby became ill and died.  The death certificate listed the child’s name as “Alice Mann, daughter of George and Alice Mann,” and stated the cause of death was “want of breast milk.”  Eva, who had never been pregnant, was unable to nurse the infant and it died of starvation.

Before the baby was buried, according to court testimony later, a replacement baby was purchased (also for $10).  Josh Mann’s mother, “Grandmother” Anna Swinton, moved in with the couple to ensure this one would not die. 

“Hamilton knew nothing of the death of the first one, and yielding to the persistence of Eva he married her in Paterson, N. J. on the 7th of January last,” explained The Evening World.  In February Hamilton took an apartment in the Marshall Flats on West 15th Street.  Joshua Mann rented a flat on the same street and when Hamilton was not around, he and Eva lived together as man and wife.  And she provided him with large sums of Hamilton’s money to live on.

Because Hamilton was still serving in the Assembly, he was often out of town.  The New-York Tribune reported “Before she married Hamilton, he agreed to give her $6,000 a year for pin money and to defray her expenses at home.”  A quarrel over that allowance brought an end to the marriage and to Hamilton’s reputation.

On August 26, 1889 the couple was summering in Atlantic City.   Eight months earlier, just after Hamilton learned of the baby, he had hired a nurse, Mary Anne Donnelly, to care for the child.  Donnelly traveled with the family, accompanying them to California earlier that year.

But that morning, after Evangeline repeatedly pressed Hamilton that they should live permanently in Manhattan; he told her that he would reduce her allowance if they did.  “Quick-tempered and passionate, she began to quarrel with him and threatened to leave him forever,” said the New-York Tribune a few days later.   Hamilton refused to budge on the subject.

At one point Mary Anne Donnelly tried to intervene, but she was told to leave the room.  Eva did not like the nurse and already had instructed her husband to fire her.  She demanded that Mary Anne leave the cottage.   When she was unable to move her husband, Eva turned to the whiskey bottle.

At 11:30 a. m. the nurse returned.  Now Eva upbraided her for leaving the child alone, they argued, and Eva fired Mary Anne Donnelly.  Within earshot of Hamilton the nurse took her last shot, denouncing Eva “as a faithless woman.”

A physical confrontation followed, during which Mary Anne proved to be a better street fighter than Eva.  “Mary was as strong as a bull and had the fight lasted much longer Mrs. Hamilton would have been beaten insensible,” reported the Tribune.  Hearing the battle, Hamilton rushed into the room just in time to see Eva thrust a knife into the heart of the nurse.  In trying to break up the fight he was cut in two places.  Mary ran from the room and died on the parlor sofa.

Astonishingly, Evangeline blamed the death on Hamilton.  As she was taken away she said “You know I told you before I left New-York that if you did not discharge that nurse there would be murder committed.”

The scandalous details of the affair came out during the trial.  Newspaper readers nationwide learned of the purchased baby, the other husband, and the plot to get Hamilton to leave his fortune to the baby Beatrice.   His lawyer described him as “outraged and indignant.  When he remembers all he sacrificed for that woman he can hardly restrain himself.”

Eager to escape the scandal, Robert Ray Hamilton went into partnership with John Dudley Sargent, a stage coach driver in the Rocky Mountains who proposed establishing a tourist resort in Yellowstone Park.  Hamilton funded the plan and Sargent acted as the “experience.”  They built a luxurious hotel and lodge on Jackson’s Lake in June 1890.

Three months later Hamilton was dead.  He was found drowned in the Snake River under suspicious circumstances.  He was quickly buried and when investigators from New York later disinterred his body, it was found forced into a too-small wooden crate.  The Sun reported on October 15, 1891, “Strangers found his body, and those who could not appreciate his worth knocked a few rough boards together for a coffin, wrapped the body in a dirty and ragged tarpaulin, loaded it into the box, and so without a tear or a prayer dumped it into a hole on a desolate hillside…A loyal friend, a true gentleman, and a brave man was Robert Ray Hamilton, but hundreds of dogs have been more decently interred by their master than was he by the friends to whom he was loyal.”

Sargent was arrested for his murder, but was later sent to an insane asylum. 

Hamilton’s will included the clause “I direct my executors…to expend the sum of ten thousand dollars in the purchase and erection of an ornamental fountain which I give and bequeath to…New York City, provided that such fountain may be erected in one of the streets, squares or public places in said city.”

Scandal and controversy would follow Hamilton even in his death.  His generous bequest was fought by the family.  On April 22, 1891 The New York Times ran the headline “Let Him Be Forgotten,” and explained that the Hamilton and Schuyler families petitioned the City to ignore his wishes.  “Such a memorial as the will designates would, they believe, perpetuate a name that brought dishonor to the family.”

The battle would last for years.  In the meantime Evangeline Mann had been released from prison.  She had received a settlement of $10,000 from Hamilton’s will.  But she died penniless on November 23, 1904 in St. Vincent’s Hospital.  The Evening World reported that “the body was buried in the common plot in Mount Olivet Cemetery, there being but one mourner present.”

The Park Board accepted the design for the fountain, submitted by architects Warren & Wetmore, on December 30, 1903.  Two months earlier it had approved the location—on Riverside Drive at 76th Street.  The architects’ baroque fountain featured a spread-winged eagle above a coat of arms and a shell-shaped basin fed by a dolphin.   Water from the basin spilled into a large pool.  The entire Tennessee marble fountain formed part of the stone wall separating the Drive from Riverside Park.  Along the rim of the pool was the inscription “Bequeathed to the people of New York by Robert Ray Hamilton"

Far beneath the fountain, at the base of the wall on the Park side, was a marble bowl that served as a horse trough for thirsty, passing carriage horses.  In reporting on the installation of the Hamilton Fountain, newspapers said it was “for man and beasts.” 

The marble horse fountain, seen here in 1935, was the "beast" portion.  It was eventually covered by feet of dirt and debris. photo Alajos Schuszler/New York City Parks Photo Archive 
By the second half of the 20th century the horse trough in the park was buried by accumulated soil—a total of 10 to 12 feet deep by the new century.  With the parkside marble bowl long forgotten, the “man and beast” comment resulted in the lavish ornamental fountain on the Drive being termed a “horse trough;” a reputation it still carries.  In fact, Hamilton’s will does not mention the "ornamental fountain" being used by horses, and its positioning makes that improbable.  Carriage drivers would have to direct their horses onto the sidewalk to take a drink.

Throughout the 20th century the marble fountain suffered vandalism and neglect.  The eagle’s beak was smashed off and the inscription was eroded to nearly illegibility.  Riverside Drive residents did their best, planting flowers in the no longer functioning basin. 

Then in 2008 the Riverside Park Fund and a small maintenance endowment initiated a $150,000 restoration.  The eagle’s beak was replaced, the stone restored, and the plumbing repaired.  And in November an archeological dig of sorts was undertaken to find the old marble horse trough.  It was successful.  Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said, on December 1, “the basin might be excavated and reused elsewhere, perhaps as a dog fountain” or “perhaps it will be amply documented and then simply left in place.  That will allow another parks commissioner in another era to find it again.”

In the meantime, the stunning marble fountain continues to be deemed a horse trough--an ironic similarity to the memory and reputation of its donor.

photographs by the author